What’s $650 worth these days? Four vacation days eating and drinking wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains? Promoters of the region’s local wineries hope so. The Aptos Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association and Santa Cruz Travel in hopes of attracting 50 wine lovers willing to plunk down the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Trail to the Sea tour package Sept. 7–10.

The winegrowers association is casting a wide net to attract visitors for this event. September is California wine month (news to me), and the event will be publicized through the Wine Institute of San Francisco, the wine industry’s well-heeled lobby. Santa Cruz Travel will use its resources to spread the word nationally and internationally. “Instead of helping people to book tours abroad, we want national and international travelers to come to Santa Cruz County in order to help our local economy,” says Rob Morse, Aptos Chamber president.

Participants in the wine tour package will stay in ocean view rooms at Seascape Beach Resort and will be escorted in chauffeur-driven vans to six wineries. Tours will include walking the vineyards, watching the crushing of the grapes, learning production techniques for wine and champagne making, and visiting the tasting rooms. Visitors will also take side trips to Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow-Gauge Railroad in Felton. On the final night, there will be a winemakers’ dinner. Overall, the participants will taste wines from 14 wineries.

If the initial tour goes well, the organizers hope to expand the program to the spring season with even more visitors and options. More information can be had at the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Trail to the Sea website.

Connoisseurs’ Marketplace
Menlo Park hosts its Connoisseurs’ Marketplace July 17–18. The open-air event will feature local wines, cooking demos by local chefs, artisan specialty foods and microbrews as well as live music. The event also includes works by 250 artists, a green-products showcase and home and garden exhibits. Admission is free. The event runs 10am–6pm, Saturday–Sunday, on Santa Cruz Avenue between El Camino Real and Johnson Street in Menlo Park. Call 650.325.2818 for more information.