The Santa Cruz Wine Examiner was pleased to be included on a (FAM) familiarization trip to Monterey County, especially due to the availability of Santa Cruz wines served in the restaurants to be visited.
A prior conversation with sales rep Bob “Big Wine Guy” Marsh, provided some insight as to how the two wine country regions, Santa Cruz Mountains AVA and Monterey County AVA (American Viticultural Area) view each other. In fairness to the California premium wine image, Monterey County buyers include Santa Cruz wines on shelves and wine lists and the same holds true with Santa Cruz buyers in regard to Monterey wines.
Hofsas House in Carmel-by-the Sea
Hofsas House hotel, set among the pines just a few short blocks from Carmel Village, invited wine, food and travel writers to experience their unique hotel amenities and packages for 2013. The Theis family is celebrating six decades of European hospitality at its charming Bavarian-inspired inn.
Spacious rooms, many boasting ocean views, feature fireplaces, wet bars and Dutch doors to welcome in the ocean air. A heated pool is set beside a well-equipped meeting room, and a continental breakfast with French Roast coffee, juice, fruit, and pastries from a neighborhood bakery is served daily.
A proper welcome awaited photographer Seraphina Landgrebe and me in our room. A bottle of the excellent 2012 Ventana Vineyards Estate Chardonnay accompanied fine imported cheeses from the Carmel Cheese Shop. Guests may request this wine and cheese welcome package ($30) along with other special hotel offerings.
Dinner at Fandango in Pacific Grove
The European ambiance of Hosfas House continued on with our arrival at the famed Fandango European bistro, featuring several intimate dining rooms featuring Mediterranean cuisine.
Seven Santa Cruz wines joined first-rate vintages from all over the world: Chardonnay Ridge and Estate Cabernet from Mount Eden, Bonny Doon Dry Rose and Le Cigare Volante, Zinfandel, David Bruce Pinot Noir, and Cabernet from Thomas Fogarty. Staying with the European vibe, we opted for a glass of Italian Pinot Grigio which paired nicely with both my delectable sand dabs and Serapnina’s impressive presentation of rack of lamb. Our attentive server was knowledgeable about the wines and menu offerings, offering to have my sand dabs prepared without flour due to gluten sensitivity.
Checking out of Hofsas House the next day, host Carrie Theiss gave us helpful suggestions on things to do before returning to Santa Cruz. We enjoyed a fresh, healthy lunch at Carmel Belle, visited Nielsen Bros. Market to check out Santa Cruz wines, and spent time on the white sands of beautiful Carmel beach.
Dinner at Haute Enchilada in Moss Landing
We especially appreciated The Haute Enchilada Cafe and Gallery menu of sustainable seafood and local organic produce plus art galleries with local original work. With the enthusiastic assistance of server Katie, we shared fresh halibut with veggies and fried plantains and sand dabs in garlic, butter, white wine, capers and shallots with quinoa.
Several Santa Cruz wines are available, including Alfaro, Hunter Hill, Cinnabar and Storrs. After our sumptuous meal, Katie showed us the separate venue in back where Haute Social Club events like the recent Latin Dance Series take place.
The good news is that Haute Enchilada in Moss Landing is close enough to Santa Cruz for a quick get-away without having to travel very far from home. I know I'm going back!
By June Smith