Where To Go Wine Tasting Near Santa Cruz

Although Napa Valley certainly gets the most attention when it comes to award-winning wine in California, the Santa Cruz Mountain wineries shouldn’t be overlooked. The Santa Cruz Mountains are home to massive redwoods, great hiking, and as you’re about to find out, fantastic wineries.

The Santa Cruz region shines for wine lovers. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA sits south of San Jose, California, nestled between Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Soquel Demonstration State Forest. This large appellation holds over 350,000 acres, comprising mountainous areas with high elevation, ocean influence, and varied microclimates on the northwest California Coast.

While most visitors come to Sonoma or Napa to taste California wine, Santa Cruz is the right place if you are looking to combine a beach trip with a memorable day of wine tasting.

The Santa Cruz area is home to one of the oldest wine-growing areas in California. Here you will find over 200 vineyards, 75 wineries, and, maybe most importantly, no pretension or crowds. Over a dozen boutique wineries within the region produce unique growing blends rivaling larger Napa labels.

Regardless as to if you’re staying with us at one of our beach house rentals in Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Capitola, these wineries and vineyards are just a short drive away for a great day out.

Alfaro Family Vineyards + Winery

  • 420 Hames Rd, Watsonville, CA 95076
  • 20 minute drive from Downtown Santa Cruz

Tucked into the rolling, vineyard-covered hills of Corralitos, the Alfaro Family Vineyards is a stunning property that delivers a quintessential wine country experience. Sample Pinots or Chardonnays on one of their outdoor patios for an authentic tasting experience while enjoying spectacular vistas in the heart of the wine region.

Nicholson Vineyards

  • 2800 Pleasant Valley Rd, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 20 minute drive from Downtown Santa Cruz

Another stop along the Corralitos Wine Trail, Nicholson Winery, is situated in Pleasant Valley -a former apple-growing region. Acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards and Tuscan olive groves hint at the deliciousness awaiting you inside the tasting room.

Available to sample are not just Nicholson’s elegant estate wines but also their smooth, extra virgin olive oil crafted from hand-picked fruit from the Tuscan olive trees outside.

Ridge Vineyards

Photo credit: Via Instagram @ridgevineyards
  • Tastings & Wine Pick-Up: 17100 Montebello Road, Cupertino, CA
  • 1 hour drive from Downtown Santa Cruz
  • Tastings & Private Tours: 650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg, CA
  • 2 hour drive from Downtown Santa Cruz

Ridge Vineyards is an organically sustained Santa Cruz appellation winery specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay wines. This Santa Cruz mountain vineyard produces wine at two winery locations in northern California.

Founded in 1959, this central coast winery headquarters in the nearby town of Cupertino, CA. They now have a tasting room in Healdsburg CA though if you’re heading in that direction after or before your trip to Santa Cruz.

Storrs Winery & Vineyards

  • Tasting Room: 303 Potrero St SPC 35
  • Walkable Within Downtown Santa Cruz
  • Winery & Tastings: 1560 Pleasant Valley Rd, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 15 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Storrs Winery is a staple in Santa Cruz. Surrounded by eucalyptus, the organically farmed vineyard was founded by U.C. Davis grads Stephen Storrs and Pamela Bianchini-Stores in 1988-one of Aptos’ first urban wineries.

Whether you prefer the Old Sash Mill or the 6,800-square-foot concrete barn located on the couple’s Pleasant Valley estate, samplings include the area’s most prevalent varietals: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay is a crisp, refreshing sipper that’s not overly buttery or oaky.

Bargetto Winery

  • 3535 N Main St, Soquel, CA 95073
  • 10 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Bargetto Winery sits just above lush Soquel Creek. Established in 1933, Bargetto is the oldest Winery in Santa Cruz County – continuously owned and operated by one family. The Soquel River serves as a backdrop to the winery tasting room’s antique wood bar. Here visitors compare flights of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or the famous 100% natural Honey Mead.

Soquel Vineyards

Photo Credit: VIa Instagram @soquel.vineyards
  • 8063 Glen Haven Rd, Soquel, CA 95073
  • 15 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Soquel Vineyards was established in 1987 by brothers Peter and Paul Bargetto and a childhood friend Jon Morgan when they decided to develop a unique label. The three-acre hillside vineyard boasts some amazing Monterey Bay views.

Soquel Vineyards retains the history of the family vineyard, including winery doors made from an old 12,000-gallon redwood tank salvaged from the original Bargetto Winery. But the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, the terroir-expressive Nebbiolo, and Rose offerings are distinctly Soquel.

Wargin Wines

  • 5015 Soquel Dr, Soquel, CA 95073
  • 10 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Wargin Wines is a boutique family winery specializing in Italian varietals such as Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Freisa, Greco di Tufo, Merlot, Montepulciano, Négrette, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Zinfandel. Wargin Wines also partners with regional growers to produce small lots and unique blends.

Sample striking reds drink in peaceful vistas while enjoying outdoor music – bringing the Italian wine life to the Central California Coast.

Armitage Wines & Tasting Room

  • 105c Post Office Dr, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 10 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Founder and owner of Armitage Wines, Brandon Armitage believes in a genuine spiritual connection with the wine — allowing winemakers to become artists. Flights of this transformative Pinot Noir are available in the vineyard\’s intimate tasting room each weekend.

La Vida Bella Winery

  • 1624 Chardonnay Ridge Rd, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 20 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

A family-owned and operated micro-winery in the hills of Santa Cruz with a tasting room in a very well decorated, dog-friendly barn. In addition to wine, the La Vida Bella Winery grows and bottles olive oil from unique Tuscan olive trees that are available for sample.

Sante Arcangeli Family Wines

  • Tasting Lounge: 154 Aptos Vlg Wy c1, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 10 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz
  • Winery & Tastings: 79 North St, Pescadero, CA 94060
  • 40 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Handcrafted Burgundian varietals nurtured into California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. Most of the Sante Arcangeli Family Wines combine grapes from the Corralitos region, including six distinct vineyards, including the La Estancia Vineyard, Split Rail Vineyard, Saveria Vineyard, Dalardi Vineyard, Hand in Hand Vineyard, and Lester Family Vineyard.

Considered boutique in nature, these regional finds produce small crops of well-tended fruit.

Lester Estate Wines

Photo Credit: Via Instagram @brian95008
  • 2000 Pleasant Valley Rd, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 20 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Lester Estate Wines sits in the rolling hills of the Corralitos Wine Trail. Due to limited production, the wines are available exclusively through the Lester Estate Wine Club and tasting room.

Salamandre Wine Cellars

  • 108 Don Carlos Dr, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 15 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

Salamandre Wine Cellars, surrounded by redwoods, sits barely two miles from the Aptos shore. This pediatrician-owned Winery specializes in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec, Petit Syrah, and Pinot Noir and is renowned for small growings of hand-selected, hand-crushed grapes. Unfortunately, Salamandre Cellars has no tasting room and is not suitable for drop-in visits, but their wines are available via their website.

Charmant Vineyards

Photo Credit: Via Instagram @charmantvineyards
  • 800 Larsen Rd, Aptos, CA 95003
  • 20 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz Mountains are also home to Charmant Vineyards. This organically-farmed, 16-acre family-owned winery produces unique and high-quality Pinot Noir. Founded in 2014, owners Doug and Julie Theron fell in love with the region, which provides an ideal climate for growing Pinot Noir — long sunny days and cool, moist evenings.

Loma Prieta Winery

  • 26985 Loma Prieta Way, Los Gatos, CA 95033
  • 30 minutes from Downtown Santa Cruz

The 52 acre Loma Prieta concentrates exclusively on the Pinotage grape. This boutique vineyard produces fewer than 3000 cases yearly. 

The Pinotage grape is uniquely South African. It is a marriage between a Pinot Noir and a Cinsault – a large, thick-skinned grape from the Southern Rhone region. Pinotage often has ripe fruit flavors like blackberry or cherry and has a bold, sweet jam-like flavor with an earthy finish. It is a full-bodied grape with medium-high tannins.

Santa Cruz Wineries

Just south of the San Francisco Bay, the Santa Cruz wine region is a stunning juxtaposition of beach and mountain, ocean breezes, and bay mist. And the multiple microclimates created by the forests and the varied mountain elevations provide perfect growing conditions for many familiar grapes.

Not up to drive through the stunning mountains, aromatic eucalyptus trees, and rolling hills? It is still possible to go wine tasting in Santa Cruz. The westside of Santa Cruz has numerous wine bars, pop-up wine tastings, and several Santa Cruz wineries have urban tasting rooms. And hey, if you want to switch it up, Santa Cruz is also home to some great breweries, too.