Mrs. Noontime and I were in California a couple of weeks ago for the WineMaker Magazine home winemaking conference. We took advantage of the opportunity to add a few extra days for wine tasting in Monterey. After all, the California coast is a long way from where we live in Florida… might as well get the most out of the trip!
Our big goal for this trip was to try as many wines as we could while we were there. And we managed quite a few.
When we’ve visited other wine regions, like those in upstate New York and Texas, we drove from winery to winery for tastings. Sometimes they are many miles apart, and it can take all day to hit just a few tasting rooms.
Not so in the Monterey area. One of the advantages of wine tasting in Monterey is that many of the wineries have tasting rooms in nearby towns. For the most part, we could drive to a village, park the car, and we were within easy walking distance of half a dozen or so tasting rooms. That made for a nice afternoon of wine tasting.
Of course, we only scratched the surface of the wonderful wines available. We could have easily spent several more days in the area exploring and tasting at other wineries. But that just gives us a reason to go back in the future.
The first area we went tasting was in Carmel Valley Village. This beautiful spot is just a short drive from Monterey. As you descend into the valley, the temperatures rise and you begin to see beautiful green hills and grape vines. We enjoyed wines at Boekenoogen, Bernardus, Cima Collina, Parsonage, and Joullian.
Our next stop was Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is a lovely village full of flowers and English style cottages. There are no street numbers in the town, so it can make navigating a little difficult until you get your bearings. Fortunately, you can easily park on a side street, and most tasting rooms are within a few blocks of each other. We stopped at Wrath, Galante, Caraccioli, Manzoni, Blair, Shale Canyon, and Scheid.
We also had the opportunity to taste some great local wines right in Monterey.
A Taste of Monterey is a good place to taste wines from many different local wineries, and has a beautiful view of Monterey Bay. Also nearby are Carmel Ridge, Bargetto (they produce Chaucer Mead as well), and Pierce. All of these were within easy walking distance of our hotel.
Plus they are all near the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is worth a visit if you are in the area!
I was struck by how different wines were in California from other areas I’ve been. For instance, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which the area is known for, have an earthy, mineral taste to them that comes from the local soil and climate.
Here are some things I learned about wine on this trip to California:
- Grapes take on amazingly different characteristics when they are grown in different areas, and can produce vastly different flavors in the hands of different winemakers. When I’m tasting wines in a different region, I can’t assume I like (or dislike) any particular wine.
- I need to spend more time trying new wines, instead of drinking only my favorites.
- Winemakers are great people.
- Wine tasting in Monterey – and elsewhere – is fun!
- I need to vacation more often in wine regions.
Have you been wine tasting in Monterey? Do you recommend any off-the-beaten-path wine regions? Leave your suggestions in the comments.