La Cresta residents are known to be big fans of wine. Many are proud to engage in vineyard-growing and wine-making. Most, however, do not know that even UC Davis concurs that Plateau grapes are special, indeed!
With ample farm land on the Plateau, many property owners have ditched thirsty avocado orchards and opted for more draught-tolerant grapes. As you drive through the community, you will notice a plethora of ages and varietals, some of which have been growing here for decades – substantial and thick – an iconic symbol of the DNA of La Cresta.
Several brick and mortar wineries have also found homes here. While their tasting rooms, by code, are “By Appointment Only”, it not difficult to sample their products, either at their own special events, private parties, philanthropic events, or at local markets and restaurants.
Interest in the Plateau for grape cultivation began, not because the people on the Plateau loved wine, but because, in 1975 the University of California Davis developed a test vineyard, which, if you know what you are looking for, can be seen by driving up Clinton Keith. Continue past the entrance to La Cresta on the right and the Visitors Center on the left, and look toward a trailhead parking area with a windmill. Local historians tell of the original vine testing four decades ago, which yielded an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ from UC Davis, calling out the Santa Rosa Plateau as an officially EXCEPTIONAL place to grow wine grapes.
The history goes something like this:
- 1975: Test vineyards installed by University of California Riverside in what is now called Sylvan Meadows (vines are gone now, but remnants remain near the windmill)
- 1976: Forty vineyards were planted in La Cresta
- 1976-2010: Grapes and growing strategy evolve
- 2010 -Present: Many families grow grapes for local wineries. Some produce wine.
Per wine expert, Todd Boorman, who produced wine on the Plateau for many years: Specialty grapes (all red) grown well on the Plateau, to name a few are Pinot Noir, Malbec, Zinfandel, Barbera, Petit Verdot, and the legacy Cabernet.