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In the vicinity of Swift and Ingalls Streets, in Santa Cruz, California, you will find a nice area for food and drink that is called “the West Side.”  On a particular sunny day in April, Elke and I visited the West Site to cross a couple of wineries off of our Wine Passport booklet.  Our first stop was MJA Vinyards.  MJA Vinyards used to have a wine tasting room in the hills of Los Gatos, but it relocated that tasting room to the Brookdale Lodge, in Brookdale, California.  Their other tasting room is located at 328-A Ingalls Street.  We dropped in with our Wine Passports, ready to taste, but they told us that our passports are 4 years old and no longer being honored.

Elke and I purchased our Wine Passports for $75 each from Integrity Wines about 4 months ago.  We’ve since learned that our book is old and expired.  I suppose we could have taken the book back to Integrity Wines and gotten our money back, but we’ve actually found that many wineries on the list have been honoring the offer to stamp our book and provide a tasting flight.  Tasting flights in this area generally cost $15.  If five of the nearly 50 wineries in the book honor the deal, then we’ve broken even.  So far, we are at eight, so we are in the bonus area.

MJA charges $25 for a tasting.  It is a popular tasting room.  They feel they can charge the higher price for a tasting because of their popularity, and maybe because they need to pay for the re-location of their other tasting room.  On that day in April, Elke and I had several other options.  I remember trying MJA wine in the hills of Los Gatos long before we had our wine passports.  This winery aligns itself with a Hawaiian vibe, selling Kona coffee and chocolate covered Macadamia nuts on the side.  You’ve heard that dark chocolate pairs well with red wine?  Try dark chocolate covered Macadamia nuts.  At that time, their wine selection wasn’t a standout for either of us.

just down the street and on the other side is the Rexford Winery!  Joe and his son, Sam, make fantastic wine!  They offer two or three different tasting flights.  We both chose the red flight for $12.

You can taste wine at the bar, or you can sit at one of a few umbrellaed tables in the parking lot.  Food is not served at this winery, but as with most wineries, you can bring your own food.  There are several good restaurants in the area.  My tolerance for wine is a lot lower than you would think, and after only one tasting, my head was a bit fuzzy when Elke suggested that she wanted to go visit the Stockwell Cellars, which is down Ingalls Street and to the left.  Stockwell Cellars is one of the first wineries that Elke and I visited together as a couple.  Though I usually favor reds over whites, I remember this superlative Chardonnay that they let us taste – cold, crisp, fruity, and very drinkable.

The Stockwell Cellars tasting room is one that Elke and I find quite nice.  The outdoor and indoor areas are both pleasant.  In addition to good wine, they also have good things to eat.  Elke and I had a board with dried fruit, cheese, olives, spiced nuts, and chocolate.  Right next door is the restaurant, Bantam, where delicious brick oven baked pizzas can be purchased and taken back to eat with your wine.  They often have good music here.  On that day, there was a singer/saxophone player who provided ambiance.  All in all, this was another perfect day in Santa Cruz, California.