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Storrs of Perfection: Storrs Winery is just one of the many winemakers taking part in this year's Vintner's Festival.

Liquid Sands

Vintner's Festival fills the mountains; Crow's Nest throws a beach party

By Janet Blaser

THIS WEEKEND'S 13th annual Vintner's Festival 2000 is one of those events nonresidents come to from miles around but that may be easy for us locals to overlook. Don't, though--if you enjoy wine, good wine, you should take the time, designate a driver and visit at least some of the 35 wineries participating in this annual event sponsored by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association. And if this gorgeous weather holds up, what more could anyone ask for? For two weekends, June 3-4 and June 10-11, the doors to a myriad of wineries and vineyards on both sides of the Santa Cruz Mountains will be thrown open for visitors. Art shows, live music, yummy hors d'oeuvres and chit-chat with winemakers is also part of the fun, as well as barrel tastings and the chance to see where those grapes that make your favorite zinfandel are actually grown, anyway. The first weekend features almost a dozen winery and restaurant sites on the eastern side of the mountains, including Page Mill Winery, Cooper-Garrod Vineyards, Byington Winery, David Bruce Winery and Clos LaChance. The second weekend highlights the western side and includes Silver Mountain Vineyards, Storrs Winery, Crescini Wines, Cinnabar Vineyards (at Pearl Alley Bistro), Soquel Vineyards, River Run (at Theo's restaurant) and Ahlgren Vineyards (at Scopazzi's in Boulder Creek).

The self-guided tour is $20 per person; that gets you a commemorative festival glass, which is your "ticket" at each site. Log on to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association website at www.scmwa.com for a complete listing and description of participating wineries, directions to each and complete instructions on how to take part. Or call 479.WINE (9463).

Nesting Instinct

For a variety of reasons--the chilly evening fog not being one of them--I am sooo glad it's almost summer. And fog or no, the Thursday-night Crow's Nest Beach Parties are a decidedly good thing. Just how is this a food event, you may ask? Well, in my book, any venue that serves 400 dinners a week on the beach hurtles itself into that arena. A pretty full menu features a host of grilled-to-order items, including a fresh fish of the day (last week it was albacore--this week, I heard swordfish), turkey and beef burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak and, for the vegetarians out there, a grilled veggie platter. Dinners include corn on the cob as well as the Crow's Nest's luscious garlic bread. So, there you are with your toes in the sand, the sun setting, live music an arm's length away, surrounded by friends having fun--what more could you ask for? A cold beer? Strawberry margarita? Chilled pinot grigio? Long as you've flashed the proper ID, no problemo. You may not realize the tremendous amount of red tape involved in getting permission to have a regular event, with alcohol and live music, right on the beach--and the Gateway to the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, at that. While tourists do attend, the majority of revelers are locals having a good time, and I'd wager some of them are looking for you.

One thing to note is that parking is limited right at the restaurant. Now, you can carpool or ride your bike, or you can have even more fun by taking the free water taxi from the upper harbor. Just park in the lot at Seventh and Brommer, and look toward the water for your ride. So block out Thursdays from 6 to 9pm on for the next few months. Food prices range from $5 to $10, and there's no charge just to hang out and enjoy the scene. Note that this is a family affair, and in fact, it's usually the little ones who get to dancing first. Up-and-coming local bands include Broken English on June 1, Sambada on June 8 and Kosono on June 15. You can log onto www.crowsnest-santacruz.com if you need to know more.

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From the May 31- June 7, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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