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Although Napa Valley and Russian River Valley have gotten top billing in the wine press for the past two decades, Santa Cruz currently produces some of the most compelling wines in California. The region's wines have remarkable complexity and ageability without the overripeness and price sticker shock of their more trendy counterparts.
Santa Cruz's recent prominence is not without historical precedent. In the early half of the 20th century, winemaking pioneers like Paul Masson and Martin Ray recognized the region's viticultural potential and planted vineyards there; Paul Draper's 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from Ridge Vineyard in Santa Cruz placed 5th in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris. After the Santa Cruz Mountains were formally established as an AVA in 1978, winemakers subsequently came to appreciate the region's diverse micro-climates and growing conditions.
Kenny Likitprakong - a UC Santa Cruz graduate (mostly for surfing) and then UC Davis (for enology and viticulture) - ended up in Santa Cruz in 2008 when he took over the farming of a 10-acre vineyard owned by the Woodruff Family. He crafts small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this vineyard, as well as Pinot Noirs from Aptos Creek, Amaya Ridge, and Belle Farms, all in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA and all under his Ghostwriter label.
Kenny's recounting of the origin of the Ghostwriter name says as much about his winemaking philosophy as Santa Cruz's history: "Ghostwriter is a way of saying that the wine and the winemaker are in a sense telling a story that is not entirely their own. The subjects of the story are the sites, the vines, and the vintage and as the winemaker, my part is simply to relay the story and insert myself as little as possible.” The wines are fermented with native yeasts and aged primarily in neutral French barrels and concrete eggs with a small percentage of new oak rotating into the mix each year. All of the wines are matured sur lie for 18-20 months with minimal sulfur added, and then bottled without fining or filtration.
Kenny Likitprakong and his wife, Lynn Wheeler, bottle under a plethora of other labels (Folk Machine, Hobo Wine Co, Camp, i.e. Wine Company, Banyan), but Ghostwriter represents the full expression of his winemaking talents. The Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Cabernet are all impeccably balanced, moderate in alcohol, while balancing fruit-driven, savory and mineral elements. We're proud to offer these wines, not only to feature Kenny's astounding talents, but also the unrealized potential of Santa Cruz. And not coincidentally, they'll all pair perfectly with your 4th of July grilling plans. Jonas Mendoza
The Chardonnay comes from two separate blocks from the Woodruff Family Vineyard in Corralitos near the Monterey Bay. The grapes are whole-cluster pressed, and aged in concrete sur lie for 19 months. Rich and minerally, the Ghostwriter Chardonnay entices with preserved lemon and spearmint aromas, and expands across the palate with dried lemon peel and nectarine flavors. A California Chardonnay that would impress even a hardcore white Burgundy drinker. Jonas Mendoza
Belle Farms Pinot Noir is a perennially stunning single vineyard bottling from Ghostwriter, from 1.5 acres at 500 feet elevation, planted in 1999 to Champagne clones, just outside of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in the foothills of Mount Madonna. We recently learned from winemaker Kenny Likitprakong that Belle Farms was ripped out after the 2014 harvest and is currently planted with broccoli to enrich the soils before replanting (the vineyard had been struggling for years and ultimately failed). 2013 was a gorgeous vintage for these valiant vines, with aromas of dry earth, sweet cherry, birch bark, cardamom, and clove, which swirl onto the palate of crisp cranberry, rich cassis, black raspberry preserves, and spicy citrus oils, with a bold acidic core. This cuvée always needs some air, and flavors evolve on the second day open toward elegant, high-toned fruit with graceful florals and a fresh, salty, mineral layer. An aptly named vineyard! Please decant. Ariana Rolich
Reminiscent of old-school Cabernet from the 60’s and 70’s, the wine’s supple tannins and lustrous acidity frame sleek black cherry, plum, cassis, menthol, graphite, and licorice flavors. winemaker Kenny Likitprakong simply killed it with this inaugural vintage from Bates Ranch, which was planted in the 1970s at 2400 feet elevation in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Electric and bold, with 15% stem inclusion and 25% new oak (and many years ahead), this is a classic Cabernet to pair with grilled short ribs or a juicy steak for your 4th of July BBQ. Jonas Mendoza