Monterey wineries often focus on a number of lighter style varietals including their well-known Pinot Noir (especially from the Santa Lucia Highlands – above the Salinas Valley) and Chardonnay. One can find wines made from numerous other varietals. At last count, over 42 unique wine grape varietals were being commercially grown in Monterey County.
Rather then dominated by winery tasting rooms, much of Monterey County is dominated by stand alone tasting rooms. There are three primary regions within Monterey County for wine tasting – all are fairly spread out: Carmel by the Sea, Carmel Valley/Carmel Valley Village and River Road (where traditional wineries and select tasting rooms are found – some wineries along River Road also maintain stand alone tasting rooms in Carmel by the Sea). One can also find select tasting rooms in the city of Monterey.
A few to consider are the following:
CARMEL BY THE SEA
This is a small charming town known for its Storybook homes, shopping, tasting rooms and a variety of restaurants. Iconic actor Clint Eastwood was also the mayor here. As the name indicated, Carmel enjoys a picturesque location next to the Pacific Ocean.
Caraccioli Winery – known for their sparkling wines (however they do produce several still wines)
Albatross Ridge – well regarded for their diatomaceous soils in their hillside vineyards that produce exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Galante Winery – focuses on red wine, including Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends. Family created the town of Carmel by the Sea.
Windy Oaks Winery – produce a variety of wines at various price points. Focus is on their estate Pinot Noir & Chardonnay although they do make wines from other vineyards.
The vineyards located here are mostly planted on the hillsides. Known for a large variation in temperature in the summer between day and night (good for growing premium grapes). Compared to Santa Lucia Highlands which strongly favors Burgundian varietals, Carmel Valley is mainly planted to Bordeaux varietals. Carmel Valley Village makes an ideal stop; park your car and spend at least a few hours here walking between tasting rooms and small restaurants.
Folktale Winery – a picturesque setting to enjoy local wines along with a variety of very tasty culinary treats
Holman Ranch – located in Carmel Valley Village offers indoor and outdoor seating in a cozy setting. A big perk of a visit here is they serve food.
I. Brand – working with some fairly unique varietals for the region, winemaker Ian Brand
Joyce – vines originally planted in 1986. Founder’s son Russell Joyce is the winemaker
Talbott – good name recognition, they own the well-regarded Sleepy Hollow Vineyard
This road cuts through part of the Salinas Valley and is in the shadow of the mountains that form the western side of the valley. Compared to the other wine tasting regions in Monterey County, there are actually wineries here with tasting rooms. Salinas Valley is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” and produces by far the majority of the lettuce in the entire country along with numerous other vegetables including broccoli and cauliflower. Vines cover parts of the western slopes while vegetables line the valley floor. Allow at least 40 minutes from either Carmel or Monterey.
Pisoni – appointment only for serious wine enthusiasts. Perhaps the most well known Pinot Noir producer from the Santa Lucia Highlands. 4th generation farmers.
Roar – appointment only for serious wine enthusiasts producing some incredible Pinot Noir and other varietals. Also farms lemons and avocados.