Loma Prieta Winery: America’s Largest Pinotage Producer
Well-deserving of the descriptor “boutique,” Loma Prieta makes fewer than 3k cases yearly, yet has single-handedly become the largest producer of Pinotage in North America. Set at 2600 feet on Loma Prieta Way off the Summit Road exit of Highway 17, Loma Prieta is named after the flat-topped mountain that towers to the southeast. It is here, in the shadow of this iconic peak known for being the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake that bears its name, that you will find one of the most beautiful wineries in all of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Views are mesmerizing in every direction, and you can see the entire Monterey Peninsula and watch waves crashing on the Santa Cruz coastline. It’s the only regulation bocce course in the mountains where you might spot whales.
From Pinot to Pinotage
Loma Prieta Winery was founded by original owners, attorneys Paul and Amy Kemp, in 2003. They began producing Gold medal Pinots from both the Estate vineyard and from the Saveria Vineyard in Corralitos: every single vintage of their Pinot Noir proved a winner. Then, Paul became besotted with Pinotage after discovering it in a Lodi vineyard where he was sourcing Viognier. He quickly began acquiring as much fruit as he could find, from nearly every available acre in California. So taken was he by this grape, a hybrid developed in South Africa in the 1930s by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault (a big, thick-skinned variety from the Southern Rhone), that he tore out his estate Merlot and Cabernet to plant Pinotage. Subsequently, he grafted over all of his Estate Pinot Noir to his new flame. Now, there are a whopping 52 acres of Pinotage in all of California. Compare that to nearly 95k of Cabernet Sauvignon, and you get the picture.
There are very few wineries worldwide making Pinotage, the signature grape of South Africa, where more acres of it exist than anywhere on the planet. Here in California, Loma Prieta makes more Pinotage than any other single winery and is the only one to be making single vineyard designates from the grape.
Currently, the winery is sourcing Pinotage from the Amorosa and Karma vineyards in Lodi, as well as the estate vineyard. Every vintage of Pinotage has been Golden for the winery: they have earned medals for every Pinotage they’ve ever entered in every wine competition, including a Platinum for the 2010 Amorosa Pinotage at the 2012 Monterey Wine Competition, and a Platinum award for their 2015 Pinotage Sparkling at the 2019 Monterey Wine Competition.
Loma Prieta also produces award-winning Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet, and Petite Sirah. The winery has new owners as of November 2020: Saratoga residents, Chris Arriaga, a real estate developer, and former US Marshal, and his daughter, Samantha, a University of San Diego grad and public accountant, are the new faces you will see at the winery.
Visit the winery every weekend from noon until 5 pm, and be prepared to be blown away by the scenery, the views, and the wines.