Silver is Better than Gold
Silver Mountain Vineyards
Santa Cruz Mountains, California
As a 22-year-old Air Force combat pilot, Jerold O'Brien, founder and winemaker of Silver Mountain Vineyards, traveled the world experiencing diverse cultures and their food and libations. "The more I tasted the more I wanted to know, particularly about wine. What was it about the soil, climate, grape variety, and winemaking processes," he queried, "that produced the unique qualities of various wines?" After the service he spent some time as a commodities future trader. Profits from his silver trades went toward a down payment on an 18-acre abandoned orchard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This spectacular piece of land sits at 2,100 feet on a ridge overlooking the stunning Monterey Bay.
After taking some wine classes and working part time in wineries, Jerold set out to build his own winery and in 1979, Silver Mountain was born. But nothing this good comes easy. Floods and landslides in the early '80s were followed by the devastating Lexington Fire in the mid '80s. To make matters worse, the original winery was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. But Jerold's history as an Air Force pilot gave him the fortitude to pursue his dream fearlessly. In 1995 his new winery reemerged with one goal: to create premium world-class wines at reasonable prices.
To that end, Jerold has farmed organically since long before that word became fashionably commonplace. Using no chemical herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, or synthetic fertilizer, his grapes need more attention and generally produce lower yields. However, the result is vines delivering more flavor-intense fruit. Silver Mountain is proud to be certified by California Certified Organic Farmers and an industry leader in sustainability.
Once the grapes are hand harvested and de-stemmed, the winery, unlike many others, uses Old World processes to produce their premier wines, including extended maceration. Most wineries ferment their grapes for five to ten days. Silver Mountain keeps its fruit in tanks for 30 to 35 days, which extracts more flavor and color from the grapes while minimizing tannin. One quite modern state-of-the-art process at Silver Mountain, yet in keeping with Old World practices of gently handling the fruit and the wine, is a "pulse air punch down" method, that gives new meaning to "air force." This method breaks down the thick cap of grape skins formed in fermentation, which more efficiently mixes and aerates the juice underneath thereby imparting more flavor. The winery runs completely on solar power. Its 7,500 square feet of solar panels make it Santa Cruz County's largest triple green project to date.
Jerold grows Chardonnay (the Mount Eden clone), Merlot for the Alloy blend, and Pinot Noir in Silver Mountain's estate vineyards. The winery is known for its Pinot Noir sourced from additional vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in Monterey, its Chardonnay, and its Bordeux blend Alloy. The winery also offers a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Jerold O'Brien is happy to share the fruits of his labors. Wine tourers are particularly encouraged to come celebrate Silver Mountain's thirtieth anniversary this year, on the winery's high ridge with spectacular panoramic views of Monterey Bay, redwood forests, awe-inspiring sunsets, and, of course, premier wines of rich flavor and layered complexity.
What to Buy:
'06 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Muns Vineyard Cherry, blackberry, currant, nutmeg $38
'03 Alloy, Central Coast Black cherry, blackberry, ripe black plum, dark chocolate $24
'06 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, Miller Hill Vineyards Spiced peach, clove, raspberry, root beer $38
'06 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Tondre's Grapefield Red cherry, currants, clove, nutmeg $38
408.353.2278; Fax 408.353.1898
Silver Mountain Dr.
Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Tastings by Appointment Only
From Hwy 1 take Bay/Porter St. Exit. Go north 10.7 miles and turn right on Miller Cut Off. Go .9 miles and turn left on Silver Mountain Dr.
For reprints and licensing questions, click here.