New Santa Cruz Mountains winery is a family affair – The Mercury News


Atop a hill lined with fir and redwood trees above the tiny hamlet of Ben Lomond sits a 4-acre pinot noir vineyard with a 280-degree perspective of the Santa Cruz Mountains, all the way to the coast. Here you will find a small casita, an actual garage cellar and several outdoor tasting areas, all with views and a sense of tranquility that a peaceful mountain top can provide.

Roberts Ranch Vineyards is a family affair. Joshua Stewman, his wife Sarah and brother Tom have transformed a poison oak infested hillside off Love Creek Road into a beautiful vineyard, winery and tasting room.

Stewman is an architect by trade but a builder at heart. He grew up in Boulder Creek, off Highway 9 near the Mountain Store. His father was a building contractor and his mother provided drafting services. He is the eldest of four boys and now has three of his own.

“We grew up loving Boulder Creek,” he recalls. “Our backyard was the forest, the streams and the salamanders. Couldn’t imagine anything better. »

In 1995 Stewman went to Humboldt State University to earn a degree in history. After marrying Sarah, he spent almost five years in China as an ESL teacher, attending a graduate school of architecture. The family later moved to Sarah’s home state of Illinois, where Stewman earned a master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Eventually, he realized he really enjoyed the construction part of the business and moved to Pacific Grove, where he started Homelife Design Studio.

Being back in California meant visiting his parents in Ben Lomond, and soon they started talking about planting vines on their land. In 2008, they planted 300 vines with the help of local wine consultant Rick Anzelone. Stewman and his father built a small casita with a small cellar for storage. His younger brother Tom, who is the manager of the vineyard, now lives there with his girlfriend. His daily work is in architectural design.

Stewman considers Rhys winemaker Jeff Brinkman his mentor and, like Brinkman, uses barrels from François Frères. He also uses Alesia Viticulture Services for the management of the vineyard. Their first harvest was only 500 gallons, but that impressed Brinkman enough that he told Stewman he thought the land was special.

In 2011, Joshua and Sarah cold-called the owner of the 21-acre plot adjacent to his parents’ land, who sold it to them. More pinot noir was planted in 2012.

From 2010 to 2016, Roberts Ranch wines were made in his parents’ winery. Securing a loan from the Farm Service Agency, they began building the winery in 2017. The facility was completed in 2021, the same month they obtained their ABC license.

They started buying chardonnay from the Lieberman vineyard in Woodside in 2018 and pinot noir from the Lester family vineyard in Pleasant Valley. While 2020 was a total meltdown at the Roberts Ranch estate due to the CZU fire, they got pinot noir from Lester. The 2021 vintage – all eight barrels – looks really good, and 2022 is a work in progress.

Sarah offers beautifully prepared charcuterie platters for $15 for two and $30 for four, served on wooden platters made from madrones felled on the property.

Roberts Ranch Vineyards is at 875 Roberts Road, Ben Lomond. The winery is currently open one Saturday per month by appointment at or call 831-920-8814. They are having an open day for club members on Saturday 5th November so this might be a good time to join the club.


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