Where to Go Wine Tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains: A Summit Road Day Trip
Here in Northern California, we don't have to go far to go wine tasting. In Silicon Valley, we are lucky to live within minutes of dozens of wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
With more than 60 wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountain wine region, it can be hard to decide where to go for a wine tasting day trip. The Summit Road winery route offers one choice, offering a selection of accessible wineries with expansive ocean views, vine-covered mountain landscapes, and redwood forest views.
About the Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Region
When the Santa Cruz Mountain wine region was first named back in 1981, it was the first American Viticulture Area (AVA) to be defined by its primarily mountainous terrain. The Santa Cruz Mountain wine region has more than 60 wineries, from the town of Woodside in the north to Watsonville in the south. The wineries are spread across diverse terrain and many are far apart so it makes sense to organize your wine tasting trip geographically.
Where to Go Wine Tasting on Summit Road, Los Gatos
One of the easiest wine tasting routes in the region takes you across several wineries all along Summit Road, off of Highway 17 in Los Gatos. This day trip offers stunning ocean views, vine-covered mountain landscapes, and a drive through cool redwood forests. The wineries up on the hill are small, family-owned operations. You are very likely to be tasting in the tasting room with the owner or winemaker.
Click the arrows above for some suggestions for where to go wine tasting in the Summit Road area. This itinerary is organized from East to West along the road, and each winery is only about a five-minute drive from the next making it easy to get from stop to stop.
Many winery hours change seasonally so contact the winery before you go to check whether they will be open.
Loma Prieta Winery
Start your trip at the far end of Summit Road at Loma Prieta Winery. Sitting at over 2,600 feet high, this hilltop winery offers some of the best views in the Santa Cruz Mountains, looking down over vineyard covered hills down to the Monterey Bay, and up the hill to Mount Loma Prieta. Early in the day, thick fog rises up from Santa Cruz, but it usually burns off by the early afternoon. Check their website's live webcam showing the current view.
The winery makes wines from Viognier, pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and a unique grape varietal called pinotage. Loma Prieta is the largest producer of Pinotage in the United States and the only one growing it in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Owners Amy and Paul Kemp discovered this unusual grape on a trip to South Africa.
The label features custom artwork by New Orlean's based artist, Martin La Borde. The label shows a magical character they call Bodo, holding a glass of wine in one hand as he flies over Mount Loma Prieta.
The winery is dog-friendly inside and out. Pets must be kept on a leash.
Loma Prieta Winery, 26985 Loma Prieta Way, Los Gatos, CA 95033. Phone: 408-353-2950.
Tasting Hours: Saturdays & Sundays, Noon to 5:00 pm
Though MJA Vineyard's Summit Road tasting room is a timber cabin buried in a redwood forest grove, the place has a very Hawaiian feel. Founder Marin Artukovich moved to Bay Area from Hawaii.
This Hawaiian history inspires the second thing this winery is known for--their coffee! When Artukovich lived in Hawaii, he worked on a coffee farm. He has brought that love of artisan coffee roasting to the mountains and now roasts his own Kona coffee at the Summit Road tasting room. Stop in during the week and you might get the chance to catch them roasting coffee and get dibs on the very latest batch.
The winery also has a second location on the Westside of Santa Cruz (328-A Ingalls St.).
MJA Vineyards - Summit Tasting Room, 24900 Highland Way, Los Gatos, CA 95033. Phone: 408-353-6000.
Tasting Hours: Monday - Thursday, noon to 5 pm; Friday, 2 pm to 5 pm; Saturday to Sunday, noon to 6 pm.
Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery
Wrights Station is the newest winery on the block. The winery makes excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from estate-grown grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown on a vineyard down the street. Winemaker and owner Dan Lokteff has been making wine for 16 years, first at Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz before founding Wrights Station.
The winery was named for Wrights Station, a 19th-century mountain town and rail station along the route from Oakland to Santa Cruz.
This winery offers an expansive, well-lit tasting room in a remodeled 1947 farmhouse, and a large dog-friendly outdoor patio.
Wrights Station Vineyard & Winery, 24250 Loma Prieta Ave., Los Gatos, CA 95033. Phone: 408-560-9343.
Tasting Hours: Friday to Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm
Burrell School Vineyard & Winery
The Burrell School is the most unique and historic tasting room of the bunch. The original owner (and namesake), Lyman Burrell grew grapes on site as early as 1854, making it some of the first commercial grapes grown in California. From 1890 to 1954 the building operated as a one-room schoolhouse.
Current owner Dave Moulton moved onto the property in 1973 and has been making wine on the property ever since.
The winery has 20 acres of grapes and offers 100% estate grown grapes. All the wines have school-themed names like their "Teachers Pet" Chardonnay and "Deans List" merlot and cab franc blend.
The winery tasting room (the original teacher's carriage house) has a gorgeous back balcony with expansive views over the vineyard and down the hill.
The schoolhouse itself is only open for special events but you can peer into the windows to check it out.
Burrell School Vineyard & Winery, 24060 Summit Road, Los Gatos, CA 95033. Phone: 408-353-6290.
Tasting Hours: Thursdays - Sundays, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Where to Eat in the Summit Road Area
The Summit Road area is isolated from other communities so if you want to spend the day, plan to bring something to eat. Many of the wineries offer picnic areas to enjoy your lunch.
Forget to bring something to eat? There is only one option right on the hill -- the Summit Store, a family-owned mountain grocery store. They carry all the staples you need for a picnic including a deli, made to order sandwiches, gourmet cheeses and other groceries, and well-stocked wine selection including local Summit Road winery wines. The little country store is a center of the small community and local event notices are posted up on the bulletin board.
If you are looking for a restaurant and other dining options, you'll have to head back down over the hill, north to downtown Los Gatos or south to Santa Cruz.
Summit Store, 24197 Summit Road, Los Gatos, CA. Phone: 408-353-2186
More Information & Other Wineries
For a full list of Santa Cruz Mountain wineries, check out this guide by the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association.