A secret trail through the Santa Cruz Mountains winds past four family-owned wineries.
Turn off California’s Highway 1 at Aptos, south of Santa Cruz, then head east toward the Santa Cruz Mountains, and you’ll quickly find yourself on the Corralitos Wine Trail (see a map at corralitoswinetrail.com ). You won’t run into traffic jams or lavish estates—just four distinctive family-run wineries, where on intimate tours you get to meet the vintners as they pour impressive tastes.
- The bowl-shaped property at Craig and Cathy Handley’s Pleasant Valley Vineyards has vines on the sides and a hammock strung between shady redwoods in the middle. It’s a sweet spot to sip a rich Dylan David pinot noir, one of several wines named for the couple’s grandkids. (831) 288-0074, pvvines.com .
- “We don’t do it for a living, we do it for love,” says Marguerite Nicholson of Nicholson Vineyards. She and her husband, Brian, a ninth-generation Californian, produce mainly chardonnay and pinot noir. Sage-green trees outside the barnlike winery sustain another of the couple’s passions: farmstead olive oil. (831) 724-7071, nicholsonvineyards.com .
- After selling his bread company, Richard Alfaro set out to try a different use for yeast, launching Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery. His wife, Mary Kay—a certified sommelier—now pours serious wines at the tasting room’s granite counter. The setting is anything but stuffy: A basketball court by the vineyards is open to everyone. (831) 728-5172, alfarowine.com .
- Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery’s namesake trees stand high on a ridge overlooking the windswept Pacific Ocean. Picnic benches beneath them provide a tranquil perch as you sample Jim and Judy Schultze’s Burgundian pinot noirs and chardonnays and take in the view of Monterey Bay. (831) 786-9463, windyoaksestate.com .
Photography by Patty Hinz Imagery 
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.