Friday, July 1, 2011
Some 175 unique vintners tend to 40,000 acres of grapes in Monterey County, harvesting $250 million in grapes – which ultimately earns millions more as it ferments and ages – and the most Chardonnay grapes of any county in the country. There are enough native microclimates to create a wonderful thing that industry insiders call a “thermal rainbow,” a range of temperature-driven conditions that allow a striking diversity of varietals to flourish.
That rainbow means a fog-friendly Chardonnay from successful Shied Vineyards can coexist not far from a heat-hungry Syrah from Parsonage. It also allows the fickle Pinot grape to find lots more space to flourish than in most regions, empowering the work of wineries like DeTierra (“They say Cabernet is the king of wines,” winemaker David Coventry says, “but Pinot is the wine of kings”) and Lockwood (whose bargain $19 bottle just scored an 87 from Wine Spectator).
The following index explores some of the best ways to taste that rainbow.
Wineries & Tasting Rooms
Bargetto Winery Tasting Room | Bargetto, operators of Monterey’s oldest tasting room, has moved into a new suite in the same building. Bright, natural light shows off the stained glass and painted glass art pieces that are for sale along with the fine wines. Bargetto garners high praise from oenophiles for its food-friendly wines and specialty dessert wines. 700 Cannery Row, Suite G, Monterey. 373-4053. www.bargetto.com.
Baywood Cellars | Winemaker John Cotta has more than 20 years of experience producing wine in California, and comes from a family that has been growing grapes since 1925. Tastings daily. 381 Cannery Row, Suite C, Monterey. 645-9035. www.baywood-cellars.com.
Bernardus Winery | Bernardus’ wine-tasting room is located in the heart of Carmel Valley Village, where its signature Bordeaux-style red wine, Marinus, has been introduced to legions of fans, along with their other reputable wines. All the vintage wines sell out quickly. Tastings daily. 5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-1900. www.bernardus.com.
Blackstone Winery | Visitors are encouraged to picnic on the grounds as they enjoy Blackstone’s limited-release wine. Gourmet snacks and unique items are for sale in the large gift shop, and art exhibits rotate in the gallery. Complimentary tastings daily. 850 South Alta St., Gonzales. 675-5341. www.blackstonewinery.com.
Boété | The products of this boutique winery are born in the lime-enriched soil of John and Jana Saunders’ Carmel Valley vineyard. The conditions favor a unique terroir that can be tasted in the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc wines of complexity, depth and ripe fruit. Tastings daily. Valley Hills Center, 7156 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 625-5040. www.boetewinery.com.
Caraccioli Cellars | Established in 2006, Caraccioli delivers unique still and sparkling wines utilizing the singular Santa Lucia Highlands fruit to produce small quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and also méthode champenoise Brut and Brut Rosé. CC’s new tasting room in downtown Carmel is open daily. Dolores between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel. 622-7722, www.caracciolicellars.com.
Chalone Vineyard | With its own appellation, this rustic winery is set high above the Salinas Valley, affording views of the Gabilan Mountains and the vineyards. The high-mineral content of the soil imparts long-lasting flavor to Burgundy-style Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc. Tastings on Saturday, Sunday and by appointment Mon-Fri. Stonewall Canyon and Highway 146, Soledad. 678-1717. www.chalonevineyard.com
Chock Rock | Chock Rock Vineyard was established in 2006 by acclaimed winemaker Dan Karlsen and his wife Kathleen to produce head-turning, hand-crafted wines from their estate Pinot Noir vineyard and other vineyards in Monterey County at their micro winery secluded high in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Great fruit from unique sites – coupled with 30 years of winemaking experience – ensure admirable quality. The Chock Rock Vineyard Tasting Room opened just in time for summer, and is open Thursday through Monday. 1 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley, 659-ROCK.
Chateau Julien | Built in the style of a French country chateau, the wine tasting room’s great hall, beautiful stained glass and antiques complement the wine tastings. Tastings daily; complimentary tours by reservation; and ongoing dinners and events. 8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 624-2600. www.chateaujulien.com.
Chateau Sinnet Winery | An estate flagship blend called the Red Eyed Monkey and unique fruit-based wines (peach and honey, or blackberry, to name a few) are just a few of the reasons visitors flock to Chateau Sinnett in Carmel Valley. Created from grapes and fruits grown in the Highland Valley of the Santa Lucia Highlands at Sinnet’s Jolon Vineyards, the land provides an exceptional terroir from its rich, loamy soils. Tasting room open from noon to 6pm, seven days a week. 13746 Center St., Carmel Valley Village. 659-2244.
Cima Collina | Cima Collina’s handcrafted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot are on pour at this wine-tasting bar located in a charming courtyard in downtown Carmel. This dynamic young winery carefully oversees each step in the process, from fruit to bottle. Open Thu-Mon. San Carlos between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel. 620-0645. www.cimacollina.com.
Galante Vineyards | Roses and grazing cattle make their 700-acre property and vineyards a great spot for both your own picnics and their own annual events and tours. Their tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea, meanwhile, offers the very limited estate Cabernet Sauvignon, culled from the finest grapes. Tastings daily. Dolores between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel. 624-3800. www.galantevineyards.com.
Georis Winery | Tucked off the street in a gorgeous courtyard, Georis’ Carmel Valley tasting room is an experience for all the senses. Guests enjoy intriguing vintages of European-style Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, snacks of cheese and crackers, colorful rustic décor and an irresistible array of books and gifts. Tastings daily. 4 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley. 659-1050. www.georiswine.com
Heller Estates | A sculpture garden, picnic area, gourmet foods and olive oil and vinegar sampling make this organic wine pioneer’s hub popular. Award-winning organic estate-bottled Cabernet, as well as Merlot, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Tastings daily. 69 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. (800) 625-8466. www.hellerestate.com.
Joyce Vineyards | Joyce specializes in hand-crafting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Father and son winemaking team Frank and Russell Joyce use fruit from grapes grown at their Carmel Valley estate vineyard, as well as special small plots throughout Monterey County. One of the best ways to experience their superlative pours: at their uniquely contemporary wine lounge in sunny Carmel Valley. 19 East Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-2885. www.joycevineyards.com.
Joullian Vineyards | This small, high-quality producer features tastings in a stone building that’s as enchanting as its wines. Enjoy specialty estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings daily. 2 Village Drive, Suite A, Carmel Valley. 659-8100. www.joullian.com.
Manzoni Estate Vineyard | Low-yield production techniques translate to well-regarded, fruit-intensive Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from the acclaimed Santa Lucia Highland appellation. This family run operation is as passionate about the vineyard as it is about winemaking. The tasting room is open on weekends. 3.5 miles south of Gonzales on River Road, Salinas. 675-3398. www.manzoniwines.com.
Marilyn Remark | Joel Burnstein and his wife, Marilyn Remark, inspired by the wines of France’s Rhone Valley, create some of California’s best Rhone-style wines. Expertly crafted Marsanne, Roussanne, Rosé, Grenache and Syrah wines are the attention-getting result. Tasting room open on weekends. Look for new picnic grounds in 2010. 645 River Road, Salinas. 455-9310. www.remarkwines.com.
Otter Cove/Oh Wines | Crafted by winemaker Richard Oh, the label bearing Monterey’s favorite marine mammal produces an affordable Riesling, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer with grapes pulled from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco. The more highly prized Oh wines feature Pinots from both the Highlands and Balo Vineyards in Anderson Valley, delivering notes of cherry, spices and berries, with a velvety finish. Tastings happen daily 1-8pm the downtown Terranova Wine Bar. 315 Calle Principal, Monterey. 320-3050. www.ottercovewines.com.
Paraiso Vineyards | Paraiso’s Smith family was the county’s first to plant Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Paraiso is also home to one of the most picturesque wine properties in the revered Santa Lucia Highlands, where events are hosted regularly. Paraiso continues to turn out top-quality wines, and features a home décor boutique along with daily tastings. 38060 Paraiso Springs Road, off River Road, Soledad. 678-0300. www.paraisovineyards.com.
Parsonage Estate Winery | Bill and Mary Ellen Parsons produce their estate-grown Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot wines on 7 acres of prime, sun drenched Carmel Valley land. With a focus on the health of each vine, rather than yield, the result is wines of exceptional flavor and intensity (and a Best Red Wine nod from Weekly readers). Their tasting room also showcases textile art by Mary Ellen and other striking art. Tastings daily. 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-7322. parsonagewine.com.
Pessagno | Stephen Pessagno’s acclaimed, limited production wines are grown in Monterey and neighboring San Benito counties. It will be your great pleasure to taste the outstanding Four Boys Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Intrinity Chardonnay, both grown in the Santa Lucia appellation. Pessagno also makes an excellent port. Tastings Fri-Sun. 1645 River Road, Salinas. 675-9463. www.pessagnowines.com.
Wrath/San Saba Vineyard | New owners and dramatic changes have taken place at San Saba Vineyard, nestled in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Drop in Thursday through Monday for tastings of San Saba wines, long known for distinctive, complex Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A new line of premium, limited, site-driven wines under the Wrath label offers tasting by appointment only. 35801 Foothill Road, at River Road, Soledad. 678-2992. www.sansaba.com.
Scheid Vineyards | Since 1972, the Scheid family has grown premium wine grapes and produced superb Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines exemplify the best marriage of land, climate and winemaking expertise. Tours by appointment. Tastings daily. 1972 Hobson Ave., Greenfield. 386-0316. Visit the new tasting room at 751 Cannery Row, Monterey. 656-9463. www.scheidvineyards.com.
Smith & Hook/Hahn Estates | Two prime local wine brands are offered by the Hahn family in an elegant tasting room. Sample wines that celebrate the true character of Monterey County while enjoying beautiful views of the Salinas Valley from the Santa Lucia Highlands location. Bring lunch and picnic on the deck. Tastings daily, tours by appointment. 37700 Foothill Road, Soledad. 678-4555. www.hahnestates.com.
Talbott Vineyard | These meticulously made wines are estate-grown far off in the Santa Lucia Highlands and deep in Carmel Valley, so Talbott opened a tasting room in 1999 in Carmel Valley Village. The Talbott reputation for excellence can be tasted in each glass. Picnic on the patio; private patio parties available. Tastings daily. 53 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 659-3500. www.talbottvineyards.com.
Taste Morgan | Daniel Morgan Lee has built Morgan Vineyards into an area favorite through the consistent quality of their lineup of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. At their sophisticated tasting room in Carmel, vinophiles can sample the offerings from the renowned, organically-farmed estate vineyard Double L, as well as Rosella’s, Gary’s and Tondre’s Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Tastings daily. 204 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel. 626-3700. www.morganwinery.com.
Terranova Fine Wines | Conveniently located across from the Portola Hotel, Terranova is an upscale tasting room staffed by knowledgeable pros who can turn your Monterey visit into a masters class in oenology. In addition to onsite sales, they ship worldwide, too. 315 Calle Principal, Monterey 333-1313
Tudor Wines | In an increasingly mechanized world, there are still a few handcrafted products that stand out. With its wines built from select family-owned vineyard fruit and transformed using traditional techniques (try the specialty Pinots) Tudor aims to create one of them. Low yields and maximum grape maturity provide a balance of ripeness, acidity, and tannins. Mission Street between Ocean and Seventh (in Andre’s Bouchee), Carmel 224-2116, www.tudorwines.com.
Ventana Vineyards | Ventana claims more awards than any single vineyard in America. Located in an old, stone ranch house just minutes from downtown Monterey, the tasting room offers a full selection of world-class wines, all estate-grown on one vineyard. 2999 Highway 68, Monterey. 372-7415. The vineyard tasting room is open weekends/holidays at 38740 Los Coches Road, Soledad. www.ventanawines.com.
A Taste of Monterey | This wine visitors’ center pours selections from more than 70 local wineries. Choose from two tastings featuring 15 different wines each day, and purchase from 200 Monterey County wines for sale. Tour information, maps and brochures available. 700 Cannery Row, Monterey, 646-5446; 127 Main St., Salinas. 751-1980. www.tastemonterey.com.
Bountiful BAsket | Don’t show up to the party empty-handed. Find tasty hostess gifts at The Bountiful Basket. Or pick up a treat for your own kitchen. Choose from a wide array of boutique wines, olive oils, vinegars and other unique treasures.
The Cheese Shop | This delightfully aromatic Carmel space sells upwards 300 varieties annually (with upwards of 200 normally in stock) of miraculously formed milk byproduct and everything one could possibly need for a serious cheese feasting session: wine, tapenades, jams, nuts, honeys, vinegars, crackers, cookies… the list goes on. Kent Torrey and company have been commercing in curds in Carmel since 1975, and the staff here knows their stuff – and hands out generous samples with generous advice on all things cheese. Junipero St. at Ocean Ave., Carmel. 635-2272.
Nielsen Brothers Market | This locally adored spot has an award-winning 10,000-bottle, full-service wine cellar to match its history. Hard-to-find liquors hailing from the world over complement wines from Burgundy, The Rhone, Alsace, The Loire, Bordeaux, Italy, Germany and an assortment of local California wines – many directly from the wineries. San Carlos St. and Seventh, Carmel. 624-6441.
Surf n Sand | A local institution, “Carmel’s Finest Liquor and Wine Shop” offers friendly assistance navigating a respectable inventory of premium wines. Sixth and Junipero, Carmel. 624-1805. www.carmelsfinest.com.
Wine Market | The wines are arranged and displayed, not by varietal, but by the type of food with which they are compatible – beef, seafood, dessert, etc. Whatever your menu, Wine Market offers a range of appropriate choices established through more than a decade of food and wine pairing experience. 192 Country Club Gate Center, Pacific Grove. 646-0107. www.montereywinemarket.com.
Zeph’s | Specializing in Monterey County wines, this laid-back shop at the edge of Salinas hosts daily tastings with 24 wines, and tasting events every third Thursday. Check for schedule at www.zephsonestop.com. 1366 South Main St., Salinas. 757-3947.