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CITY PROFILE: SARATOGA

 

Tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the charming town 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.”