David Bruce is sort of a mystery winery, nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains between San Jose and, you guessed it, Santa Cruz. I write “mystery” even though the WC tasting crew recently enjoyed a lovely afternoon there simply because I’m struggling to learn more about the winery and its practices for this post. For some reason, my browser won’t open their official site page, which is how I usually cobble together all the random facts that I throw into stories like this. Wikipedia is back and says fairly tersely that the place was founded by a dermatologist, David Bruce MD, in 1961, that they were one of the wineries to have a bottle of their chardonnay selected for the now famous French v. California wine tasting event in Paris in 1975 (it finished last), and that these days, they’re mostly known for pinot noir.
Well, that’s a bit dry, don’t you think?
We dared the treacherous mountain roads to visit David Bruce because we’ve had and enjoyed numerous bottles in the past. I’ve seen the wine at local grocery stores and our great friend, John, has even been given some as corporate gifts. (That’s fabulous, isn’t it?) So we like the stuff. Plus we’re fairly unfamiliar with the Santa Cruz Mountain winery scene, so starting with something familiar sounded like a good way to go.
The winery tasting room itself was pleasant if a bit non-descript. We arrived towards the end of the day, so had the place virtually to ourselves. Two very enjoyable staff, Blake Upton and Michael Beck (I wrote their names down when we were there) helped us. What seemed particularly unusual were the wines that got poured. These were old. I mean “old” in quotations I should clarify. None of them were from the latest vintages—usually 2009s at most places right now, with some 2010s and 2011s, especially whites, making an early showing.
The 2004 Estate Chardonnay was particularly surprising, and delightful. In fact, they were having a promotion on their older wines. Should you buy a half case of mixed pinot noirs or their syrah/petite sirah blends from three older vintages, they’d give it away at half price and throw in a matching half case of 2003 chardonnay. Many of the other wines were half off per case. That’s quite a sale and we were perplexed. It almost made me think that they wanted to dump the wine because it was junk, though when we tasted, we liked it a lot. Blake, or maybe Michael, told us that the winery was in the process of refocusing and wanted to reduce inventory and in future produce smaller volumes. Something like that.
So it’s a good time to visit David Bruce for their super deals on unusual and exciting wines. I’m constantly hearing about the pleasures of aged California wine, and here’s your opportunity to try it without the pain of cellaring the stuff yourselves for years on end.
2004 Estate Chardonnay: a golden yellow with a powerful nose of peach and apricot jam, the ample and rich yellow fruit were balanced with some mineral notes, a hint of butter and a long finish. This was an amazing wine.
2007 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley: a beautiful ruby with strawberry notes, red fruit, particularly cherry, with hints of earth and tobacco, this was medium to full body.
2007 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley: A deep red, almost purple color, we detected Spanish moss and forest floor with some red fruit. Fuller than the RRV with lots of red and purple stone fruit—think plum and cherry—it was a bit spicier with lots of mineral. Good.
2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard: A rusty red with truffle, barnyard and mocha notes leading to strawberries, sour cherries, and caramel, this had brisk acidity and a long finish.
2002 Estate Syrah/Petite Sirah: Opaque purple with a cherry and leathery nose, this wine was nice and dense. Full bodied with red and purple stone fruit and graphite, it had a good finish and an almost creamy texture.