Santa Cruz Mountains AVA includes high elevation territory in the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo. The AVA follows the coast line from San Francisco to Monterey with elevations from 400 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level. There are 1,500 vineyard acres and the AVA was established in 1981. Despite the challenging terrain in these rugged mountains and hills, highly esteemed wineries have been located here since the early 20th century, when Paul Masson, a Frenchman by birth, started making sparkling wine in the area. By the 1970s vineyards were growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Numerous microclimates within the AVA offer viticulturists diverse growing conditions, and many varietals are grown successfully.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.