Where to Drink Wine in the Monterey County AVA

The Monterey County wine appellation has a solution. (Nicely, kinda.) For decades, this Northern California region—a 100-mile stretch that starts in Monterey County and finishes just ahead of Paso Robles—was a “feeder” for Napa and Sonoma. It was known largely for expanding grapes made use of, in aspect, in the chardonnays and pinots that, in the 1970s, set Napa and Sonoma on the map.

And then, in the early aughts, things commenced to adjust. The California Supreme Court required that Napa wines must be created from Napa fruit. Monterey County growers, some of whom had currently been generating their possess wines, began to convert in earnest to wine generation. 5 tasting rooms opened in the Carmel and Salinas Valleys, ushering in a new period of wine tourism. But the region never rose to the prominence of Napa and Sonoma. 

For the duration of the pandemic, points improved again, as I identified on a current trip to Carmel Valley and over and above. Carmel Valley is a person of nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) that make up the larger Monterey AVA, and arguably the most very well-known, offered its proximity to Carmel-by-the-Sea. My location was Bernardus Lodge & Spa, a Tuscanlike villa where by wine and the California good life (sunny times, a charming pool, very good meals) reign supreme. Your initially clue that wine attributes intensely right here: the 28-acre vineyards occupying what some could possibly connect with the hotel’s entrance lawn. Wine is at the forefront, from the chilled bottle in visitor rooms to the intensive wine checklist, and amazing pairings, at the on-website restaurant, Lucia.

The hotel, of study course, has a husband or wife winery—one of these 1st tasting rooms to open up in the 1990s. (And these grapes in entrance of the lodge aren’t for clearly show!)  Before long soon after arriving, I built my way to the tasting area. As I tasted my way by way of pinot noir, sauvignon blancs, and 1 of my favorites, Marinus, an estate mix of cabernet, sauvignon, petit verdot, merlot, and cabernet franc, my tasting guidebook casually stated that they’ve commenced to see more and more visitors—people who would ordinarily head for, say, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino. He cited fires and the improved target on domestic tourism. At last, it appears to be, this undersung wine area may well be getting its thanks.

Deep roots

We can thank industrious Spanish missionaries for Monterey’s wine current. Beginning in 1771, they planted Spanish Mission grapes in buy to make sacramental, table, and fortified wines. In 1919, business wine output started, with the initial Monterey AVA showing in 1960. In the several years that adopted, 8 a lot more AVAs were established. (The most current was San Antonio Valley in 2006.)

“There’s so lots of diverse microclimates,” claims Sabrine Rodems, winemaker at Wrath Wines positioned in Soledad, positioned about a 45-minute drive southeast of Carmel Valley. Those people microclimates are crucial to the diversity of her wines, which incorporate pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, and sauvignon blanc. 

Both of those Carmel Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs are conveniently accessible to tourists. You can, of training course, continue on down into other AVAs, which includes Chalone and Arroyo Seco. But here’s what you need to know about these two lesser-known wine locations. 

Where to taste in Carmel Valley

This is the place most wine tourists could possibly begin—it’s heat, laid-back again, and close to Freeway 1. It has improved drastically because the 1990s, when Bernardus was the only tasting room in the Carmel Valley village, claims Dean DeKorth, who has been the head winemaker there for the earlier 17 decades. “Now there’s much more than a dozen,” he claims. “They’re popping up just about everywhere.” 

DeKorth lived in France for 10 years—it’s the place he went to viticulture and oenology school—and returned to California in the early ’90s. He enjoys the blend of the wines, the purely natural natural beauty, the weather, and the general vibe. “It’s just so significantly more laid-again and easygoing listed here,” he claims. “It’s not a sort of a hardcore vacationer vibe in this article in the tasting rooms.” 

Bernardus

Open up Tuesday–Sunday, reservations suggested. bernardus.com

Tuck into this classy tasting room—and its secluded patio space—for a excellent selection of sauvigon blanc, Bordeaux blends, pinots, and additional. For all those who want to go outside of the regular tasting, ebook one particular of the Wine Ordeals deals, which pair winetasting with vineyard excursions and a deeper dive into the winemaking course of action. 

Twisted Roots Wine

Open Thursday–Sunday, reservations only. twistedrootsvineyard.com

The brilliant, ethereal tasting space just about feels like someone’s dwelling space, it’s that inviting. Twisted Roots is named for the old-vine zinfandel that owner Julie Ruiz grew up with—and, of course, they make an outstanding outdated-vine zin. Enjoy for other surprises, such as glowing wines and a refreshing hard cider. 

Parsonage

Open 7 days a week, reservations only. parsonagewine.com

Parsonage is a spouse and children-owned winery, vineyard, and gallery, and the tasting area exudes that. The inside is crammed with textile art designed by co-operator Mary Ellen Parsons, and the out of doors patio provides shaded tables for tasting. (Bonus: It is youngster- and dog-helpful!) Reds are the speciality right here, from syrah to petit verdot.

Folktale

Open Thursday–Monday, reservations only. folktalewinery.com

With its fairy-tale-like white making, this could be 1 of Carmel Valley’s most legendary tasting rooms. There are a lot of encounters for travelers to choose from, which includes Sunday brunch, a tasting in the Wine Yard, and personalized shopping excursions. You’ll obtain a mix of reds and whites, moreover more unconventional wines like the Folktale Piquette, built from the leftovers of the winemaking method. 

Wherever to flavor in the Santa Lucia Highlands

Thirsty, creative folks have built wine in this article considering that the 18th century, when Spanish missionaries planted the very first vines. But the appellation wasn’t formally acknowledged until finally 1991, when the Santa Lucia Highlands were regarded as a distinctive AVA. 

From Freeway 1, it is about a 30-moment drive on Reservation Road, which turns into the River Street, until you reach your very first winery. The River Street Wine Path is an fantastic source. 

The natural beauty of Monterey, and the Santa Lucia Highland in individual, and the purpose that Wrath winemaker Sabrine Rodems has remained here for so quite a few yrs, is that “it’s not a monoculture,” she claims. “You also get to see the locations exactly where our food stuff comes from.” As you generate down River Street searching for your next quit, you could possibly also see lettuce and asparagus, lemons and avocados. 

Wrath 

Open Thursday–Monday, no reservations necessary. wrathwines.com

Headed up by winemaker Sabrine Rodems, Wrath specializes in pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, and sauvignon blanc. The house is magnificent, with white Adirondack chairs cautiously positioned with views of the vines. On a warm day, you can’t conquer sipping 1 of its stellar whites while soaking in the vista. (Note that Wrath also has a tasting area in Carmel.)

Odonata Winery

Open 7 times a week, no reservations necessary. odonatawines.com

Found at the starting of the River Highway wine path, Odonata features informal comfort and ease to weary vacationers. Winemaker Denis Hoey isn’t going to stick to any distinct regional tradition—you’ll come across Rhone red blends and spicy sangiovese. Really do not overlook the just lately introduced sparkling wines, which contain a fruit-forward sparkling grenache rouge. 

Hahn Estate

Open Thursday–Monday, reservations needed. hahnwines.com

Wanting for a extra adventurous tasting practical experience? In addition to its a few a lot more common solutions at the winery’s estate tasting space, Hahn presents an ATV tour. The 1.5-hour practical experience normally takes you through the vineyards and incorporates a check out to the wine cellar. Unwind following with a glass (or two) of pinot gris or pinot noir.

Rustiqué

Open up Friday–Sunday, no reservations essential. rustiquewines.com

The tasting area may perhaps be new (as of May possibly 2021), but the spouse and children at the rear of Rustiqué has been earning wine here due to the fact 2006. Chardonnay and pinot lovers, this is your spot. Delight in a glass in the barn-slash-tasting space, which is crammed with rustic accents. (The vineyard is named immediately after the relatives matriach, Rusti, who handed away in 2019.) 


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