Tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the charming village of Saratoga is known for its fine dining, wine tasting rooms, and two distinctive cultural institutions.
Just a few minutes’ drive north of Los Gatos, along Highway 9, Saratoga is noticeably more petite but belies its small size with a surprising medley of fine restaurants tucked into a picturesque Alpine Village atmosphere in a few quaint blocks along its main street, Big Basin Way. The town’s decades-old reputation for elegant dining draws a steady stream of Silicon Valley gastronomes. The recent addition of a couple of wine tasting rooms in the downtown area has added to the lure, while local vineyards like Cooper-Garrod, Mount Eden, Savannah-Chanelle, and Cinnabar are known for their distinctive bottlings.
Several unique attractions also lure visitors to the hills west of town, reached by heading west on Big Basin Way. Villa Montalvo, a gracefully luxurious Mediterranean-style villa built in 1912 by James Duvall Phelan, who later became a U.S. Senator, is now a public park sitting in splendor amidst 175 acres of stunning gardens. Montalvo draws thousands of visitors annually for its year-round visual and performing arts program, as well as to explore the beautiful grounds. The Mountain Winery, another singular destination, perches high atop a ridge with views of the mountains and valley. Founded by Paul Masson in the 1890s as a working vineyard, the winery is now known for its outdoor summer concert series featuring noted national and international musicians.
Big Basin Way also leads to the tranquil Japanese-style Hakone Gardens. The classic components of this faithful tribute to Japanese hill and pond gardens include a master stone, a worshiping stone, a guest isle, meandering pathways lit by centuries-old lanterns, as well as a traditional tea house and a “Moon Viewing House.”