If you read our December newsletter, you know that the farmers of the Santa Lucia Highlands produce some of California’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. One of their customers is Richard Alfaro of Corralitos, known locally as the founder of Alfaro’s Micro-bakery. After he sold the bread business, Richard decided to “do something different with yeast.” He and his wife Mary Kay bought 70 acres of land, started growing grapes, and embarked on a journey to create two new wineries.
Alfaro Family Vineyards makes wine using estate grown fruit. Meanwhile, Richard enlisted his childhood friend Joe Martin, a graduate of the highly regarded UC Davis viticulture school, to join him in the creation of Martin Alfaro, where they would make wine from purchased grapes. Two of my favorite Martin Alfaro wines are the Sleepy Hollow and Garys’ Pinots. The top Alfaro Family estate wines, the Lindsay Paige Pinot and Chardonnay, are among the best of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Richard also bent the rules a little by planting a block of Merlot. This is uncommon in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but Merlot was a favorite of Mary Kay’s dad, “Billy K” Kempker. The effort paid off with a silver medal in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The Hemmingway-esque photo of Billy sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico makes this one of my favorite label designs.
The Alfaros produce about 4000 cases per year, so you can find their wine in many local restaurants and markets. But the operation is small enough that if you stop by the tasting room on a Saturday, there’s a good chance you’ll meet Richard and Mary Kay, as I did this past weekend.
There are many more great wineries right here in the Monterey Bay area, but first we’ll be taking a brief detour to the Napa Valley, which you can read about in April.