vinehill.jpgThe countdown is on for a December 2-3 opening of the area’s newest wine tasting room, lodged—logically enough—in the midst of a suite of popular tasting boites at Ingalls & Swift, aka Surf City Vintners by way of Kelly’s.

Arms still aching from a marathon session of sanding, staining and hauling barrel staves down to the new facility, Lore James—Vine Hill’s marketing director—was happy to give me a tour of the emerging tasting room.

“This is where I hope the entire Westside will come and spend their weekends,” she said showing me the clever zig-zag counter design that architect Mark Primack devised to aid in conversation flow and space sculpting. “A stainless steel top will be set in place along the wood top,” James explained.

The new wall sconces were one of her finds on a website called “I wanted something that would be rustic industrial, but not too industrial,” she explained. Built-in bins line the wall behind the counter. “That’ my baby,” she smiled. “I’ve learnlore1.jpged from my experience up at the winery that it’s nice to have everything at hand.”

Three self-sufficient stations for pouring fill in the service area, beautifully topped with carrara marble. “That way no one needs to dash across each other to get anything and pourers need never turn their backs on the patron.”

Two offices frame the back storage area, now illuminated with a lofty skylight. “I found these antique doors on Craigslist,” she said proudly. The huge oak doors in question were coated with white and aqua paint until James worked her elbow grease and paint stripper magic on them. The doors will create the final rustic borders at the back of the tasting room. The long wall opposite the tasting bar can be quickly transformed with couches and tables into a weekend wine bar lounge.

James (above), who’s always worked for start-ups, has been with Vine Hill since 2008. “It’s going to be exciting to be based down here at the new tasting room,” she admitted, “partly because we’ll be able to serve even more wines to patrons. There will be over 14 wines to choose from.”

Framed photos and a flatscreen TV will showcases rotating images of the winery, high atop Vine Hill, as well as other source vineyards. And we’ll have an iPad station, for people to use GPS to find more of our vineyards, and to input their email addresses for future events.”

This clever re-invention of a former cannery refrigeration room manages to retain a rural California provenance, while offering high tech refinements that are bound to be a hit with new patrons.

In a few weeks you’ll be able to take a look—and a sip—for yourself. And you’ll be able to enjoy wines by the glass along with food items from a small plate menu designed by Kelly’s next door.

The Vine Hill Winery estate vineyard is located at 2300 Jarvis Road, a gorgeous 20 minute drive from Santa Cruz. The new tasting room opens at 402 Ingalls St., next to Kelly’s Bakery, on Dec. 2. It will be open from noon to 8pm on weekends, and noon to 5pm on Thursdays and Sundays.