Topographically diverse Monterey may lack the kudos and international reputation of Napa and Sonoma, however this county - having really only been producing wine with a commercial focus for a half century - has quickly established itself amongst the state’s most highly regarded cool climate wine regions.
From beautiful beaches to secluded inland retreats, towering redwoods to the Big Sur, Monterey is a visual feast for the wide-eyed tourist. Pinnacles National Park - a haven for hikers and climbers as well as an important habitat for wildlife such as the endangered Californian Condor, is one of the county’s most frequently visited spots. So too, the quaint coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the unrivalled and afore mentioned coastline. Given the multitude of draws already pulling in visitors from far and wide, it comes as no surprise to learn that the county’s wine scene is also following an upward curve.
Monterey has seen significant growth in its wine industry during recent years. New cellars have been appearing with remarkable regularity, and largely on account of the influx of tourists, tasting rooms and winery tours are becoming much more commonplace.
This region has three distinct wine zones, each home to a number of sub-appellations whose individual quirks and microclimates create unique terroirs. The Santa Lucia Mountains to the west of the county enjoy a relatively warm climate with a significant temperature difference between day and night. This area has proved very successful for omnipresent Californian varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. However, the Salinas Valley (best known for Steinbeck’s novella ‘Of Mice and Men’) is a much cooler proposition for winemakers. Cold winds and fog from Monterey Bay sweeps through the valley creating ideal conditions for traditional cool climate varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is these two grapes that thrive also in the Galiban Mountain appellations where the influence of altitude combined with the Monterey Bay winds creates a climate much cooler than Santa Lucia. Chalone AVA - a sub-appellation of this area which is characterised by steep slopes and shallow soils, has a terroir often likened to that of Burgundy and is known for producing some of the county’s most respected wines.