Trout Gulch Vineyard

  • Location: Santa Cruz Mountains, California
  • Elevation: 600 feet
  • Proximity to the Pacific Ocean: 3.5 miles
  • Row Orientation: North to South
  • Clone: Clone 17 & Wente
  • Vine age: 41 Years

Helene and Ron Miller purchased a twenty-four-acre horse pasture on Trout Gulch Road in 1978.  What unfolded over the next nine years turned out to be the happiest years of their lives.  Ron was both a land developer and CPA; and at age 51, he began preparing nineteen acres of the land which was planted by Jim Beauregard to Chardonnay clone 17 on AXR rootstock in 1980.  While at the time there were no other vineyards in the area, Ron felt confident that planting at 600-650 feet elevation would ripen grapes as the property sat just above the fog belt.  While only 3.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the sandy loam soils provided a kaleidoscope of cool climate character, unique amongst other vineyards in California. From planting to growing, Ron could always be found in the vineyard, tending to the vines and the soils. 

In 1987, the property was sold to Bernard Turgeon, a decorated combat veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart.  Bernie (as he was known amongst friends) had volunteered during harvests in the 1960’s with Martin Ray and David Bruce in order to gain an understanding of winemaking and vineyard practices.  In the early 1970’s, his interest in wine was awakened when he and his business partner Jerry Lohr planted 300 acres of grapes along the Arroyo Seco, a new growing region in Monterey at the time.  Farming had become successful for the two partners as they established Turgeon-Lohr Winery in the old Falstaff Brewery in San Jose. The brand quickly grew in 1974 from the inaugural harvest of 3,000 cases to over a quarter of a million cases by the mid 1980’s. Bernie soon realized that producing wine in large quantities was highly speculative. His love for farming was soon overshadowed by marketing and moving units.  He chose to split from his partner and their business. In 1985, Bernie and his son Gerry began designing and building the Santa Cruz Brewing Co. which was the first microbrewery on California’s Central Coast since the repeal of prohibition.  Once the brewery was up and running, he renewed his love for grapes and began searching for a small plot of land where he could plant grape vines.

Bernie found opportunity in the foothills above the coastal town of Aptos on the Monterey Bay.  The Miller Ranch, on Trout Gulch Road, was for sale. The vineyard faced south on a gentle slope with about 50’ elevation gain from bottom to top.  While it needed some loving care and many vines needed replanting, Bernie had found a cold climate treasure.  UC Davis scales the climate of Trout Gulch Vineyard as a Region 1, its coldest ranking in California.  Bernie did not waste any time replanting some of the missing vines and trapping gophers which had been damaging vines.  The vineyard was dry farmed once the new vines came online, and Bernie’s son Gerry could always be counted on to help with the farming.  Spraying, discing, weeding, shoot thinning and leaf removal were all multi-day operations that required a Zen sense of concentrate on the tasks at hand.  It was a family affair.

Around the year 2000, Bernie and his wife made the mutual decision to start slowing their lives down and considered selling the property.  Their neighbors had long been interested in bothexpanding their land holding and their equestrian estate, and so in 2004, the property was sold. The new neighbors struggled with vineyard practices and management for a few years until they teamed up with local vintner Richard Alfaro of Alfaro Family Vineyards to cultivate Trout Gulch Vineyard with the loving care it needed. Bernie’s son Gerry continued to purchase grapes from Richard, producing a Trout Gulch vineyard designate, until he retired from producing wine in 2014.

Today, the fruit continues to be farmed and managed by Richard Alfaro who makes a vineyard designate from the site.  While I met Richard in 2011, it was not until several years later that the opportunity to purchase grapes from Trout Gulch presented itself.  Kutch began with just a few tons of Chardonnay in 2014 and started producing a vineyard designate in 2016.  After seven vintages, we feel fortunate for the opportunity to work with this spectacular vineyard. Richard farms the vineyard organically and it is still dry farmed today.  Picking doesn’t usually commence until October, which is very late in the season due to its frigid climate and Trout Gulch is always the last vineyard we pick.