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Gold standard: Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard's 2005 Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir got the only Double Gold in the $25-$35 range.


The Santa Cruz Mountains were well represented at the SF Chronicle wine competition.

By Amber Turpin

Every January, high-ranking professional judges from the food and wine industry gather in Sonoma County to taste and select the best wine Americans can make. It's the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the biggest competition of Yankee vintages in the world, and this year a record-breaking 4,235 entries made the job mind-bogglingly difficult. As lucky ticketholders to the Feb. 16 public tasting at Fort Mason found out, wines from our very own Santa Cruz Mountains did exceedingly well. Local winners include: Thomas Fogarty 2005 Chardonnay (Gold Best of Class, $20-$29.99); Storrs 2006 Chardonnay (Gold, $30+) and 2005 Zinfandel (Double Gold, $25-$34.99); Martella 2006 Viognier (Gold Best of Class); Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 2005 Pinot Noir (Double Gold, $25-$34.99) and 2004 Pinot Noir (Gold, $25-$34.99); Savannah Chanelle 2005 Pinot Noir (Gold Best of Class, $35+); Loma Prieta 2006 Pinot Noir (Gold, $35+); Muccigrosso 2005 Pinot Noir (Gold, $35+); Ahlgren 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Double Gold, $35-$44.99). Other local winners include Bargetto 2006 Gewurztraminer, Monterey County (Gold); Sonnet 2005 Pinot Noir (Gold, $35+) and Bonny Doon 2006 Roussanne Le Vol des Anges (Gold).

To get us through the winter months, Michael's on Main in Soquel offers a three-course dinner buffet and wine pairing every Tuesday evening, 6:30-8:30pm ($25 per person). Each week showcases a different themed menu along with specially chosen wines (usually from a local winemaker offering generous pours) and live music. Unfortunately we've already missed out on "Fat Tuesday" with gumbo, jambalaya, corn bread and beignets, as well as "Aphrodisiacal Affair" with oyster shooters, roast chicken, artichokes, pomegranate ice and triple chocolate cake. However, the dinner series is not even half over (last one is April 29) and the March 4 menu features a comforting menu titled "Back to Grandma's House," with pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade biscuits and apple rhubarb crisp, all paired with California zinfandels and music by Mark Harvey.; 831.479.9777.

New Leaf Markets have just announced that they are merging with Planet Organic Health Corporation, a Canada-based company that owns several health food stores, natural supplement stores, health outlets and a vitamin/supplement manufacturing company. New Leaf has stated that it will "continue to operate autonomously with no changes in management, staffing or day-to-day operations." With plans to expand on the Westside, where a big new location was just approved, and in Half Moon Bay, New Leaf was in need of additional funds. "In order to remain competitive and continue to serve our community at the high level we have been for over 20 years, we needed a partner who would provide capital and enable us to maintain who we are," co-owner Scott Roseman says.

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