I remember over-hearing my uncles trying to outdo each other with the rallying cry: “I’ve got a bottle of Hallcrest in the closet.” Uncle Harold always made points when he played the Hallcrest card. That was the first time I heard the name, which was the family code for classy red wine. Well, that was the old Hallcrest, the experimental gleam in the eye of Santa Cruz Mountains proto-winemaker Chaffee Hall, and the wine was fabled — a tradition continued under the steady eye of current winemaker, John Schumacher. A visit to the Hallcrest winery on Empire Grade (a few blocks up the hill from downtown Felton), is a step back into the old west, complete with horses in the meadows just below the redwood-framed vineyards.
The Hallcrest I’ve recently fallen in love with — and which makes edible poetry joined with rare lamb loin and a ripe Camembert for dessert — is the winery’s 2002 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir. An exquisitely clear, ruby-hued wine, weighing in at 14.1% alcohol, from Ciardella Vineyard grapes grown on slopes facing Corralitos, it expands into a bouquet of plums and black cherries. The structure holds from the first sip to the last drop in the bottle. For well under $20 it is a liquid treasure. Go get some.