Big Basin Vineyards: A Tale of Two Tasting Rooms

Melissa Hobson 0 Comments

In May, Mr. Wine Cutie and I went to the Silicon Valley Wine Auction, where we met Dushan, who works for Big Basin Vineyards as the Direct-to-Consumer Manager. While talking with him, we discovered that Big Basin has two tasting rooms, one in downtown Saratoga and another at their vineyard located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As we continued our conversation, Dushan had a great idea. We should take a day and go to both of Big Basin’s locations, to get the “full Big Basin experience.”

After researching Big Basin, we thought it best to checkout the Santa Cruz Mountain vineyard first. It is right next to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which means… no short-cuts and plenty of mountain roads. The vineyard is about forty-five minutes from downtown Saratoga.

Along the way, we pulled off onto Sempervirens Point for photographs and to enjoy the gorgeous view of the redwoods. The drive led us through the town of Big Boulder, where I felt like I was no longer in the Bay Area. This sleepy little town made me feel like I’ve gone back in time. The sheriff’s station and fire station are connected, while the main street is lined with antique shops and a local pharmacy, no big box stores here. There is even a locally owned grocery store you can stop in if you wanted to pick up lunch to take to Big Basin.

However, if you don’t have the time to drive all the way to their vineyard, it’s okay, stay in downtown Saratoga and check out Big Basin’s tasting room. Cinnabar, Lexington and Mindego Ridge Wine have tasting rooms right next door. Downtown Saratoga has plenty of wine bars and restaurants to choose from. Keep in mind that parking in downtown Saratoga can sometimes be tricky.

As we arrive at the vineyard, we are greeted by a large doggo named Beignet, who chases our car up to the parking lot. As we disembark the car, another doggo greets us named Athena. As we walk towards the winery, yet another doggo, Teddy, greets us.

Cuties, three doggos are always here! Beignet and Athena belong to Bradley Brown, the owner and winemaker of Big Basin, while Teddy belongs to Hana, our tasting hostess. If it’s not apparent, their vineyard is dog-friendly!

The downtown tasting room is also dog-friendly, but only outside on their patio.

The vineyard’s tasting room is quite laid back. We’re told that we can sit wherever we want. We decide to sit outside to enjoy the beauty of the vineyard that is directly in front of us. The patio has a few bistro-style tables, picnic tables and even a lounge area with a couch. One thing is for sure, there are no terrible tables, as the views of the vineyard and redwoods are out of this world no matter where you are sitting. Hana, our tasting hostess, likes to think of the vineyard tasting room as a “tasting experience.” She prides herself in making people who come to the vineyard feel like part of the Big Basin family.

Hana explains that Bradley opens his home to wine members who are a part of the Collectors Membership. This membership includes winery dinners and special vertical tastings. Hana jokes and says that they are always moving furniture around in Bradley’s home because he enjoys opening his home to members and getting to know them personally.

The downtown tasting room is a bit more bustling, yet still easygoing. As you walk up to the tasting bar, the friendly staff greets you. Along the back of the bar hangs black and white photographs of the fog that engulfs their vineyard each morning. After just coming from the vineyard, the photographs don’t do the redwoods justice. A slide show of their vineyard plays on a television toward the right of the bar. The scenes include harvesting the grapes, aerial views of the vineyard and the vineyard tasting room itself. The downtown tasting room has a few tables, both inside and out, where you can sit back, relax and enjoy your wine.

The music at the vineyard versus downtown could not have been more different. The vineyard blared country music, while the downtown tasting room featured vinyl records that we could choose and listen to. How awesome is that! I browsed their selection and noticed a few David Bowie albums. The personal touch of allowing guests to choose the music makes the tasting room feel homey.

While we tasted at the vineyard, Hana talked in-depth about each wine using visual aids to showcase the vineyards in front of us, along with handouts that helped us understand where the grapes were coming from.

In the downtown tasting room, we met three tasting hosts, all of which were extremely knowledgeable and fun to talk to. We introduced ourselves and mentioned that we had just come from their vineyard and tasted “The Flight of the Week.” Perusing the downtown tastings, we noticed a lot of overlap with the wines that we already tasted. The hosts thought it would be best to create a flight for us. The customer-first focus was appreciated.

One of my favorite wines was the 2018 rosé, a “C-GSM” blend–carignane, syrah, grenache, mourvedre. This is the first year that Big Basin used carignane in their rosé. It’s light and refreshing. A perfect wine to “rosé all day.”

The artwork on the rosé bottle has a story behind it. The artwork is by Matt Jones, a local artist out of Capitola. Bradley met Matt at the Art and Wine Festival many years ago. Bradley loved his art and has commissioned Matt to create the labels for many of Big Basins wines. What’s unique about Matt Jones’ artwork is that they are 3D. How cool is that?

Two of their pinot noirs also stood out to me, specifically the 2017 Dune and Mountain and the 2016 Coastview.

The 2017 Dune and Mountain had a strong initial taste of spice, specifically pepper, while the secondary taste was dark cherries. Not your typical fruit-forward pinot noir.

The 2016 Coastview pinot noir smelled like red cherries and strawberries with hints of spice. It tasted even more fruit-forward, like tart cherries, but with a hint of black pepper spice on the finish. What’s really cool about this wine is that this is the first year pinot noir was grafted on this property. Previously, that part of the vineyard was planted with syrah.

Both Big Basin locations allow you to bring your own food to have a picnic. However, if you didn’t know that beforehand, Big Basin does have cheese and crackers available for purchase.

Big Basin Vineyards was a great time. Both locations have a relaxed feel, are dog-friendly and family-friendly. The vineyard was great if you wanted a laid back, authentic winery experience, while the downtown tasting room delivered a bit more personality and simple convenience.

Until next time Cuties, keep tasting!

Melissa Hobson

I’m Melissa, a.k.a. Wine Cutie. I’m originally from the Philadelphia Area and moved to the Bay Area in 2016 with my now husband and doggo Jedi. These are my Wine Adventures.