Overall, I'm impressed with the Santa Cruz Mountain wineries we visited last weekend. They are closer to home than our other regular wine destinations and easily competitive in terms of quality (many of the grapes are brought in from the regions we like anyways).
The Ridge Montebello tasting room was disappointing after our last experience at their Lytton Station location. Lytton Station is easily accessed, the staff was friendly, helpful, and poured for us 5 minutes before closing. Monte Bello is annoyingly located at the top of a winding mountain road (they don't call it Ridge/Monte Bello for nothing), they only had 5 bottles open for tasting, and the only selections that were noteable were on the $5 select tasting menu. The service staff wasn't very personable, and they close at 4 PM, on the dot. It's obvious that they want you (and by you, I mean young adults who don't look like they're going to drop several thousand dollars on wine) out even if you just arrived up the long winding mountain. But, it's still Ridge wine, so that makes the trip worth it.
Testarossa has an amazing facility, a great story (they've evolved from electrical engineers who knew nothing about wine production to one of the world's best pinot makers in 10 years), a friendly staff and excellent wine. Unfortunately, their wine is a little outside of the student price range. Justifiably so, with their recent awards.
Thankfully, just when we needed a good value, Picchetti, a gamble, emerged the clear favorite of the trip. It was a new wine for all of us, but everyone really enjoyed at least one of their offerings and we all agreed that it had the best combination of value and ambience (not to mention peacocks!). How can you disagree with a winery that hosts a weekly party with live music for its wine club members? Yup. I joined another wine club...