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Wine Tasting in Monterey County

Wine Tasting in Monterey County


Monterey County is one of the largest wine growing and producing regions in California. Its unique microclimates, created by the presence of a deep marine canyon just off shore, make it a prime spot to produce a variety of wines ranging from pinot noir and chardonnay in the north to zinfandel and syrah in the South. Wine producers refer to the range of temperature-driven conditions as a “thermal rainbow” and attribute the region’s 42 varietals to this diversity of climate. Spread out over the Santa Lucia Range and the Salinas and Carmel Valleys, Monterey Wine Country offers a diversity of both landscape and wine. Here are our top picks for the best  places to taste wine in Monterey County.

Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

For those unable to dedicate a full day to visiting the wineries scattered throughout Monterey County, the city of Monterey and its iconic Cannery Row offer ample opportunity to sample a wide variety of the region’s wine without leaving town. A Taste of Monterey and Bargetto Winery Tasting Room, both situated near the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row, allow wine lovers to sample the fruits of Monterey County while enjoying the spectacular scenery of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. A Taste of Monterey pours selections from 85  local wineries and offers two tastings featuring 15 different wines each day. Bargetto, one of Monterey’s oldest tasting rooms, is well known by foodies for its food-friendly wines and specialty dessert wines.


Nearby Ventana Vineyards is another option for wine enthusiasts who prefer to stick closer to Monterey. Conveniently situated near the Monterey airport, Ventana Vineyards is only minutes away from downtown Monterey, and its outdoor patio and Old Stonehouse Historic building make it an enchanting and relaxing spot to sample a full selection of world-class wines (be sure to try the Orange Muscat). Other tasting opportunities in this area include Carmel Ridge Tasting Room, Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Cima Collina, Otter Cove, and Pepes Vino Napoli Wine Bar.

Carmel Valley

The Carmel Valley, tucked against the looming backdrop of the Santa Lucia Range, attracts wine enthusiasts from around the world. The warmer temperatures, particularly favorable for cabernet sauvignon and merlot, offer a comfortable respite from the coastal fog and plenty of options for wine tasting. The drive along Highway 1 to Carmel Valley Village is dotted with wine-tasting rooms, including the famed Chateau Julien Winery. The stunning French-style chateau, built in 1982, offers regular tours of the estate as well as two options for wine tasting that include a basic tasting ($25 per person) and a more extensive tasting ($40 per person).


For a luxury resort and winery, head on over to Bernardus Lodge and Winery to indulge in a spectacularly situated spa (complete with meditation garden) and some exceptional wines in their Zagat-rated restaurant. Numerous tasting rooms can also be found further down the road in Carmel Valley Village: Durney-Heller Estate (an organic winery), Georis Winery, Joullian Vineyards, Talbott, Boekenoogen, and Parsonage (try “the world’s yummiest Syrah!!”).

The River Road Wine Trail

Located on the Santa Lucia Highlands bench above the Salinas Valley and just east of Monterey, The River Road Wine Trail is an association of Monterey County winery tasting rooms. The River Road wineries, which include Hahn Winery, Manzoni Winery, Marilyn Remark Winery, Paraiso Vineyards, and Wrath Wines, specialize in limited release vintages and offer a charming and intimate setting where visitors are often able to sample wine with the winemakers themselves.

Organized Wine Tours:


Wine Trolley Tour

Departing from (and ending in) Portola Plaza in Downtown Monterey, the Wine Trolley Tour takes visitors on a wine tour that begins in nearby Ventana Vineyards, where visitors learn a little bit about wine tasting, before traveling over the Salinas Mountains and descending into Carmel Valley, stopping at numerous wineries along the way. “Hattie the Magnificent Trolley” is a unique way to tour the wineries scattered along Monterey’s stunning coastline. This is an excellent tour for those new to wine tasting.


Ag Venture Tours

Ag Venture Tours specialize in wine tasting, sightseeing, and agricultural education tours of the Monterey Bay region. Wine-tasting tours through historic Monterey, Carmel Valley, and the River Road Wine Trail can be customized to suit your specific interest and tastes. Tours last anywhere from a few hours to a full day, and each tour includes pickup and return at your hotel or residence. 


—By Nikki Hodgson
Nikki Hodgson is a freelance writer and Bay Area native who resides in Berkeley when she's not bouncing around the globe. You can follow her at nikkitravels.com.

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