From the Coast to the Foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains
Even on an overcast day it’s a beautiful ride from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay coast then inland through Hecker Pass across the Santa Cruz Mountains. Recently, my husband and I did just that—heading to Capitola for breakfast and wine tasting then to the Rosewood CordeValle resort in San Martin (in the Santa Clara Valley). We were gone only 24 hours and had a great time discovering sites, food, wine, and people.
We started the day in the coastal town of Capitola, with its gorgeous vistas and sandy beaches. Capitola boasts that it is the oldest beach resort in the state. In fact, 1869 saw beachfront tents in “Camp Capitola,” and the Capitola Wharf was built in 1857. The wharf is the prime spot to watch surfers, take in the shoreline scene, and if you’re lucky, catch dolphins swimming by. At the end of the wharf sits the Wharf House Restaurant. This local crowd pleaser has long been a destination any time of day; people treasure the ambience, the food, and the knockout views of Monterey Bay and Capitola. The atmosphere is cozy, friendly, and nautical (think nets, buoys, shells). Grab a seat by the window and watch the action onshore and at sea while you eat.
The Eggs Benedict is just as you would want it—savory and rich with a luscious Hollandaise. The Huevos Rancheros is heaped with black beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Kick both up with a Bloody Mary and you’re in for a delicious experience.
By early afternoon, we were driving up to CordeValle (from the Spanish, “el corazon del valle” or “heart of the valley”), the Rosewood resort in San Martin. Along the way we passed darting deer, herds of cows, and grapevines before the golf course unfolded before us with its shimmering green fairways and white sandy bunkers.
Rosewood CordeValle is a classy yet casual resort built on 1,700 physically stunning acres of what was once entirely agricultural land. (The area still produces wine, garlic, and mushrooms.) The environmentally friendly owners of CordeValle signed a land use agreement with the county to protect the natural habitat and open space. Luxurious wood dominates the California Craftsman style of the entire complex—from the vaulted and beamed ceiling lodge to the guest accommodations and Pro Shop. Earth-tone colors bring the stunning outside environment inside.
After checking in, a golf cart sped us to our bungalow. When we entered the sprawling hideaway, we were taken by the view of the hills and golf course. The bungalow’s interior mirrors the warm, soothing colors of the landscape—rich shades of beige complement the use of Douglas fir. Amenities, including a flat-panel TV, a wet bar, and a gas fireplace, were at our fingertips. The mammoth bathroom and dressing area had plenty of room for a separate Jacuzzi tub. Plush terrycloth robes, feather-top beds, and luxurious Italian sheets were perfect stress relievers. In the morning, we lingered over breakfast on the bungalow’s trellised private patio overlooking the golf course.
Much has been written about Capitola’s share of touristy shops and places to sit outside on the Esplanade and enjoy the view, but probably the most spectacular sight is the cove of brightly painted houses that envelops the town with color and warmth. And right next to this architectural rainbow is the Capitola City Beach where sunbathing, swimming, surfing, kite flying, paddle boarding, and beach volleyball are de rigueur.
Armida Winery is actually located in Dry Creek Valley, but they love the atmosphere in Capitola so much they’ve had a tasting room there for many years. With a view of the water, it’s a fun place to sample wine. We enjoyed the 2013 Bacigalupi Pinot Noir and the 2013 Maple Vineyards Zinfandel as well as the 2012 Poizin Reserve Zinfandel.
Because of the land use agreement, CordeValle must grow grapes (as was done before Prohibition), and the successful family-owned Clos LaChance Winery located on the property continues the tradition. Clos LaChance is a certified sustainable winery producing more than 80,000 cases annually. We especially liked these: the 2012 Murphy’s Choice Pinot Noir, the 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, and the 2011 Designate Joli Meritage.
The winery includes a bocce ball court and three expansive picnic and tasting areas that overlook the vineyard, golf course, and foothills.
The award-winning CordeValle Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., offers an invigorating test for both experienced players and newcomers to the game. The championship layout is set on bucolic land and challenges players to navigate changing landscapes and dramatic undulation. CordeValle takes its role in the community seriously; the resort’s Youth Golf Foundation teaches the game of golf to underserved youth in Santa Clara County.
If golf isn’t for you, the resort offers tennis, swimming, a Fitness Center, and many trails for an invigorating hike.
Once you’re done with the physical activity, head straight to the Sense® spa. Save time to luxuriate in the Jacuzzi, melt in the steam room, and relax in the lounge before your treatment. Many of the services use ingredients from the surroundings and it’s fun to choose: Should it be vinotherapy for purifying, the rain room for cleansing, or hot stones for a sensual experience? I opted for the Vineyard Vitality that uses products containing grape seed, known for its antioxidant qualities. First you’re scrubbed with grape seed oil, then massaged with vanilla body butter containing grape seed.
The One Iron Bar at CordeValle is an inviting space (inside dining and outdoor patio) to enjoy specialty cocktails, interesting wines, and contemporary cuisine. We started with the decadent Maine lobster potato skins and then went for the super moist brick roasted chicken with garlic broccolini and the creative zucchini spaghetti served with sweet shrimp and burrata. Do not pass up the warm beignets with your choice of toppings including caramel sauce, cinnamon sugar, and raspberry. Favorites from a great selection of wines by the glass include the Gruet Rosé, the 2011 Pelerin Pinot Noir, and the 2008 Leal Carnaval Meritage.
Patty Burness can be found @pattygb.