A Trip to California’s Monterey County Wine Country
So much fun and it's less crowded and way cheaper than Sonoma or Napa
By Wes Marshall, 4:22PM, Fri. Oct. 5, 2012
Millions of tourists flock to Napa and Sonoma every years without realizing there’s just as much fun to be had by heading south from whichever San Francisco area airport you land in.
In just over an hour, you can be smack dab in the most spectacular wine country, surrounded by superb restaurants, world famous wineries, and a lot of fun tourist attractions. And the real benefit is, you won’t be elbows and jowls with a million other people. Because as well developed and well-known as Monterey is, it’s still easy to get around and not particularly crowded.
We started off visiting the Carmel Valley AVA where we immediately discovered an incredible winery called Dawn’s Dream. Owner Dawn Galante is doing something special, because this is one of the best I’ve tasted from California. [image-1]
We next went to see some of the larger players in the area, having a chance to taste and have lunch with the winemakers from Carmel Road, Wente and J. Lohr. They poured their high-end wines, and all were worthy and showed off Monterey County fruit very nicely.
We also had the chance to see a huge – even in Texas terms – vineyard owned by Kendall Jackson and found something to please the heart of all organic farmers. Out on their huge vineyards, instead of spraying garbage on the vines to repel the starlings that prey on their grapes, they hire a falconer to come in on a daily basis and have his falcon buzz the vineyards and scare the bejezus out of all the starlings. Costs $500 a day (sounds like falconry may be profitable), but it works. Yay KJ. [image-2]
From there, a dream come true for me, we had the chance to go up the steep hills to Chalone. I’ve been a hand over heart fanatic for their Pinot Blanc since about 1987, [image-3] and somehow, they had managed to line up all the winemakers who had worked for Chalone for the last 30 years. I got to shake every one of their hands and give them a big thanks. And what a gorgeous place, as you can see from the short video at the top.
We had a great time meeting a bunch of small production winemakers to see what was happening all over the county. Ian Brand from Coastview Wines and Le P’tit Paysan blew me away. Be sure to watch for his wines. [image-4] Sabrine Rodems makes Wrath Wines, a name you should remember because the good Dr. Wrath is now an Austin resident and I, for one, welcome him. His wine company kicks ass. [image-5] Peter Figge from Figge Cellars made really Burgundian Chardonay and Pinots. [image-6]
The final visit was with Talbott Vineyards where we had a tour with General Manager/ Winemaker Dan Karlsen who can only be described as though he has a direct I.V. to an espresso machine. Up there in the pantheon of characters with Randall Grahm and Kermit Lynch. His wines are aimed at purity and absolute cleanliness. Not to say scrubbed, I mean he HATES germs in his wines. You can be sure a Talbott wine will consist of grapes and yeast, period.
All this, and I haven't even discussed the Monterey Aquarium, one of the most impressive seaside places in California.
After this trip, all I can say is this. Next time you see the name Monterey County on a bottle of wine, there’s a pretty damn good chance it’s going to be good.