Upscale Wine Tasting Experience Opens in Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz Welcomes New Brewery

Santa Cruz County’s food and drink renaissance continues as two new spots to sip have opened in the past month. Kicking things off on the eastside, a few blocks from the Pleasure Point neighborhood, home to some of the best surf breaks in the United States, a new brewery has debuted with the intention of creating a neighborhood gathering space. A mere 15 minutes away, an upscale wine tasting room opened its first location in Santa Cruz County, expanding the tasting experience for visitors.

With a two-Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant he opened in 2009 under his belt, sommelier Mark Bright is on to his next venture, landing in a Scotts Valley location for Saison, his wine tasting concept. Already a successful restauranteur and winemaker, Mark decided to expand his knowledge of wine from the tasting room he initially opened in nearby Los Gatos and establish something closer to home. The Saison concept features two areas of the tasting room in which to learn more about wine: the front room is a wine bar, complete with couches, dining tables, bar seating, and an outdoor area, offering tastings by the flight or glass. The back room is a cellar area providing a comfy lounge where guests can linger. The cellar area is similar to a private club, but with a more relaxed, laid-back vibe. Lined with 30 temperature-controlled lockers for collectors to store their bottles, the cellar is a unique spot for like-minded individuals to gather, creating an ideal spot for wine education, events, and themed tastings.

Balefire Brewing offers American and English-style ales, with the two owners refining their brewmaster skills locally at Steel Bonnet Brewing before venturing out on their own. The philosophy here is to keep things simple, producing pared-down ales using quality ingredients. Traditional brewing methods include cask-pulled ales, which involve firkins, a different fermentation process, and natural carbonation. A regular food truck schedule supplements limited snacks at the brewery, providing a rotating menu for patrons.