California Bountiful Magazine
Heart O’ the Mountain
6 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
hideaway to thriving winery
Story by Kirsten Fairchilds • Photos by Sandr
Photo courtesy of
Hidden away in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
the Heart O’ the Mountain estate produces
award-winning wines and was once the
refuge of Alfred Hitchcock, right.
California pioneer Pierre Cornwall discovered it, Alfred
Hitchcock escaped to it and Bob Brassfield and his family first
made it their home and then eventually built an award-winning
winery on it.
If you haven’t yet heard of Heart O’ the Mountain, you’re not
alone. Located just outside the city limits of Scotts Valley in Santa
Cruz County, Heart O’ the Mountain is the name of a property
that has a long history of providing refuge to its inhabitants.
Located at an elevation of 1,100 feet on the southern slope of Mt.
Roberta in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the private estate is not
exactly visitor-friendly, which may be one of the reasons that many
of Scotts Valley’s own residents have never heard of it.
That all has begun to change in recent years as Bob Brassfield,
68, and his son Brandon, 38, have found success with their wines.
In addition to the acclaim that their pinot noirs have received by
the wine business, the Brassfields have also opened the doors of
their estate winery to the public on six days of the year.
Combine the glowing reviews with the oohs and aahs from
visitors experiencing the view from the outdoor tasting room for
the first time, and the Brassfields have slowly begun to put Heart
O’ the Mountain on the proverbial must-see map.
“We were reluctant to open up the property at first,” said Bob
Brassfield, born in Porterville to parents who had been farmers in
Oklahoma before heading west. “We turned down quite a few
offers, including from people who wanted to use it to make movies or hold weddings here. But after we decided to get into the
wine business, we knew we were going to become more public.”
In 1881, Cornwall and his wife Sada discovered the property when hiking in from the nearby mountain community
“Cornwall used this as his summer home,” Brassfield said. “He
lived in San Francisco. He was the first person to produce and sell
electricity commercially in San Francisco and was also a member
of the first state Legislature in California. He and his son Bruce
grew cabernet sauvignon grapes under the Santa Sada label.”
The British-born Hitchcock bought the property in 1940. That
same year, he directed his first U.S. film, “Rebecca.” Starring Joan
Fontaine, “Rebecca” was the only one of Hitchcock’s more than
50 feature films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
A friend of the Brassfield family, Aptos resident Tere Carrubba
relaxes in the same setting enjoyed by her famous grandfather,
Alfred Hitchcock. See page 7.
8 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
Harvest proves to be a family affair as Brandon Brassfield, below
left, and wife Angela, above, separate the grapes before sending
the fruit down a chute to the destemmer. Above left, sons
Alexander, left, and Gabriel lend a helping hand.
In addition to the winery, Bob Brassfield is also in the
In 1993, he and wife Judy bought Thompson Valley Ranch,
a 430-acre Black Angus cattle ranch north of Lake Tahoe
in the Sierra Nevada. They have roughly 100 cows and four
bulls. Their grass-fed beef is sold mostly at seasonal farmers
markets in the Lake Tahoe area under the Thompson Valley
Bob’s brother Jerry Brassfield has his own vineyard and
winery. Called Brassfield Estate Winery, it is located in Lake
County and makes sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, zinfandel
and pinot noir.
Bob’s youngest son Dustin Brassfield, 35, has his own
vineyard and label, High Valley Vineyards, also located in
Lake County. Bob and son Brandon often pour High Valley
Vineyards sauvignon blanc to start private tastings at Heart
O’ the Mountain.
The Brassfields—Brandon, right, and
parents Judy and Bob—often invite Alfred
Hitchcock’s granddaughter Tere Carrubba,
left, to Heart O’ the Mountain.
“Joan Fontaine’s mother lived in
Saratoga and suggested to Alfred and his
wife Alma to look at the Santa Cruz
Mountains for a summer home. He used
it as that until 1974,” Brassfield explained.
“Hitchcock grew white riesling grapes on
the property. As far as we know, he didn’t
make wine to sell, but he did sell his grapes
to Cresta Blanca (Winery).”
In 1978, Brassfield and his wife Judy
purchased the 154-acre property on which
they raised their family. After retiring from
a career in the health food and nutrition
business in 2000, he soon realized he
needed to find something to occupy his
free time. Knowing that both Cornwall
and Hitchcock had grown grapes on the
property, Brassfield approached his son in
2002 with the idea of growing the fruit for
the purpose of selling it to wineries. After
speaking with consultants and other winemakers in the area and taking viticulture
classes at the University of California,
Davis, they settled on growing pinot noir.
Their plan to sell their grapes fell by the
wayside when the father-son duo decided
to try their hand at making a small batch
of wine themselves. Surprised by how
much they liked it, they abandoned the
idea of being solely growers. Their first
10 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
commercial release was in 2005.
“Our vineyard is a small vineyard,”
Brandon Brassfield said, adding that annual production is about 600 cases. “It’s
all small-batch fermentation. Our winery
is a gravity-flow winery. No pumps, no
filters. Our wine is unfiltered pinot noir,
all hands-on, gentle processing. We harvest each (pinot noir) clone separately, and
it is processed and fermented and barrelaged separately for about 18 months. Our
soil is sandstone soil and loamy clay.
Sandstone soil gives you good drainage,
which is good for growing grapes.”
Accessible only by shuttle on a narrow
access road that passes through a number
of gates, the winery has become a favorite
destination of wine lovers who participate
in the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers
Association Passport Days, held annually
on the third Saturday of January, April,
July and November. Heart O’ the
Mountain is also open to the public annually on the first weekend of June for the
SCMWA Vintners’ Festival, while the winery’s wine club members are invited to
special events at the property, including a
tour of the gardens outside the main house.
A former horse barn, the winery stands
about 600 yards from the house. An al-
bum featuring photos of Hitchcock with
celebrity friends and notables that include
Ingrid Bergman, Prince Rainier and Grace
Kelly relaxing on the property is available
to peruse at the tasting room.
Hitchcock still has family in the area.
He was the maternal grandfather to Tere
Carrubba, a resident of nearby Aptos.
Carrubba and other family members
have become good friends with the
Brassf ields. A wine club member,
Carrubba said she believes her grandfather, who had an extensive wine cellar,
would be pleased with how the Brassfields
have taken care of the property.
“Heart O’ the Mountain was really my
grandfather’s refuge. The Brassfields basically left the house the way it was, but
modernized it,” said Carrubba, who grew
up in the San Fernando Valley and visited
Heart O’ the Mountain in the summer as
a child. “My grandparents would have
liked the winery and probably thought it
would be a great thing to do. We’re happy
to be associated with the Brassfields.”