At the Mountain Winery
PHC staffer Kate Swee is on the Radio Romance Tour with Garrison, Fred Newman, Aoife O'Donovan, Sara Watkins, and The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band and will update us periodically from the road.
A Bay Area girl myself, I was glad to be back in the Redwood-forested Santa Cruz Mountains, with Silicon Valley to the East and the frigid Pacific waters to our West. Our bus drivers navigated their way up California's infamous winding roads with grace and ease, as we eyed the cliffs on either side of the buses with nervous excitement. After reaching the Saratoga Mountain Winery — our venue for July 12th and 13th — the view below us was breathtaking. We found ourselves looking down on the 101 Freeway, with various fields and vineyards spread across the golden hills to our left and right. If we stood on our tiptoes, we could even see the edge of the San Francisco Bay to the North, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
Formerly the Paul Masson Mountain Winery, the facility started out in 1892 making champagne — or "sparkling wine" to the purists. The owner, Paul Masson, purchased the Saratoga property in 1901 and was able to work through Prohibition by receiving a special dispensation to sell sacramental wines. In 1905, Masson built his house, which he dubbed "The Chateau," on a knoll above the winery and it still stands there today. John Steinbeck often stayed in one of Masson's upstairs guest rooms while writing The Grapes of Wrath, and as legend has it, Al Capone's plan to rob the famous winery was thwarted by something as simple as a log across a road!
I climbed the hill even further, walking alongside redwoods, firs, sycamores, pines, and even a few bright red Japanese maples, whose leaves lit up in the sun as if they were on fire. Old wine casks were tucked underneath stone archways, the pathways lined with foxtails, red roses, white oleander, rosemary and climbing bougainvillea, and I could just make out the low hum of bees around the many lavender bushes.
While the Mountain Winery still grows and produces Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, the extensive Paul Masson wine production stopped in 1952, with the Mountain Winery concert series beginning in 1958. Our audiences here were energetic and carefree, and it seemed to rub off on the cast and crew of this crazy tour. After our second night in Saratoga (and a very important lunch trip to In-N-Out Burger), we left ready to visit yet another wine region: Paso Robles!