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one of a kind: Bargetto Winery's new release of La Vita commemorates 75 years of fine Santa Cruz wines.


Bargetto Winery, Santa Cruz's oldest winemaker, turns 75.

By Amber Turpin

Barreling Along
LA VITA LONGA To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Bargetto Winery has unveiled the seventh release of La Vita, a special blend of dolcetto, nebbiolo and refosco grapes from its historic Regan Estate Vineyards. This year, La Vita was made from grapes harvested in 2003, aged 2 1/2 years in oak barrels and two more in the bottle (in glass from Italy, no less), making for a bold blend fitting to commemorate this diamond anniversary. This is the smallest vintage of La Vita so far--only 630 bottles are available for purchase--and insiders seem to think it's the best one yet. The June 1 release drew 180 people to a party featuring live music by Extra Lounge, hors d'oeuvres and tastings in the newly expanded creekside courtyard. Bargetto donates part of the proceeds from La Vita sales each year to a Santa Cruz area nonprofit; this year's beneficiary is the 95-year-old, all-volunteer Porter Library in Soquel. Here's to Bargetto, Santa Cruz's oldest winery and a true local asset.

OPEN SESAME In this town, we are blessed with an abundance of natural health food stores and vegetarian-friendly restaurants. At all these fabulous establishments, there is one particular condiment that shines, delivering that extra something your plate of brown rice and steamed veggies begs for: tahini. I'm not sure when this Middle Eastern staple merged into mainstream American natural foods cuisine--perhaps during the macrobiotic '70s, when nuts, seeds and grains prevailed--but I know I was raised on it and have thus developed a regular craving for its rich, fatty goodness. The thick, toasted nutty dream that is Dharma's tahini lemon dressing is, now that I think about it, on my list of desert island food picks. I've seen Dharma's devotees cruise out with tubs full of this stuff. An honorable mention should go to New Leaf for its version of tahini dressing, which is thinner, silky, a touch sweet, yet pleasantly tangy, and also makes everything taste better.

LIQUID MYSTERIES Take American History 101, James Bond, your favorite episode of CSI, absurd amounts rof money and Robert Parker's insured nose, and you might come close to the saga of the Jefferson Bottles. In 1985, a hand-blown, unlabeled dark green bottle capped with thick black wax and engraved with the year 1787, "Lafitte" and "Th.J." sold at Christie's auction in London for $156,000, making it the most expensive bottle of wine ever purchased. In the years following this sale, several more discoveries and purchases of extremely rare, collectable wines have aided the unfolding of a story that challenges even the most intricate and accomplished mystery novels. Ultimately, the supposed Chateau Lafitte Bordeaux belonging to Thomas Jefferson has blown the cover off a complex world of fraud, proving that it gets harder and harder to ascertain authenticity in this age-old trade. Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, knows the ins and outs of this secret world better than anyone. He'll be at the Capitola Book Café (1475 41st Ave.)on Thursday, June 5, at 7:30pm. CAVA wine bar will offer an informal wine tasting at the booksigning ($6 donation requested).

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