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Monterey County

A Taste of Monterey (Tasting Room)
700 Cannery Row, Monterey / 831-646-5446

A Taste of Monterey is a wine visitors' center overlooking Monterey Bay in which one can some to sample and purchase some of the wines from the Monterey area. Over 35 local wineries are represented in the expansive, second-floor location. A $5.00 fee (refundable with bottle purchase) allows one to sample 6 wines out of a list of (typically) nine wines. The available wines are changed daily. Wines can be purchased by the glass and the visitor can sip and relax with a prime view of the bay. There is a large selection of wine related gifts.

Wine Notes: The most memorable wine on my last visit was a Lockwood Vineyard (San Lucas / 800-753-1424) Chardonnay that exhibited flavors of citrus and green apple with a buttery finish.

Bargetto Winery
3535 N. Main Street, Soquel / 831-475-2258
700 Cannery Row, Monterey / 831-373-4053 (Tasting Room Only)

Bargetto Winery, founded in 1933, is Monterey's oldest winery. Many visitors to Monterey's Cannery Row are familiar with the Bargetto tasting room. The Cannery Row tasting room is usually crowded and offers a large selection of wine-related gifts. The Bargetto Winery is located in a mainly residential area in Soquel. The tasting room at the winery offers a less crowded and more intimate atmosphere, and if you're lucky, you may get a glimpse of the winery and aging rooms. Bargetto offers a wide variety of wines. Whites consisted of two Gewurtztraminers (dry and meduim-dry), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, two Chardonnays and a Pinot Blanc. Red wines consisted of Pinot Noir, two Merlots and two Cabernet Sauvignons. Bargetto also produces dessert wines under the Chaucer's label: Raspberry, Olallieberry and Mead (honey wine to be served warm).

Wine Notes: The Pinot Grigio was crisp, light and fruity, both Chardonnays exhibited flavors of green apple and citrus and the spicy Gewurtztraminer is a great wine with Asian food. Both Merlots were plummy and peppery while the Reserve Merlot offered good aging potential. The California Cabernet is a good value everyday wine and the Unfiltered Reserve Cabernet is worthy of a special occasion.

Baywood Cellars Winery Tasting Room
381 Cannery Row, Suite C, Monterey / 831-645-9035

Bernardus Winery
5 West Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley / 831-659-1900

The Bernardus tasting room is located at the edge of the Carmel Valley Village on the main road. Although they produce Sauvignon Blanc, an excellent Chardonnay and an equally excellent Pinot Noir, Holland-born owner Ben Pon's dream is to produce a Carmel Valley red wine equal to the finest from Bordeaux. His flagship wines, labeled "Marinus," are Bordeaux blends that vary year to year, and are a tribute to his dream-- some of these are the best in the valley.

Chateau Julien Wine Estate
8940 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley / 831-624-2600

The impressive Chateau Julien winery is a replica of a chateau on the French/Swiss border. Tastings are conducted around a table centered below enormous vaulted open-beam ceilings in the large, comfortable visitor center. The white wines consisted of several Chardonnays, Gewurtztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. The reds included several Merlots, Syrah, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines were all of excellent quality, most notably the rich and tannic Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, with plum flavors and a long, lasting finish. Chateau Julien also produces a 9-grape Port and a Cream Sherry. There are some gift items available in this must-see visitor center.

Galante Vineyards
Carmel-by-the-Sea / 831-624-3800

Galante's tasting room is located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea on Dolores Ave. between Ocean and Seventh, and since the accesss is via a narrow alley, it is easy to miss. Galante produces Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Syrah, Merlot, several Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noir.

Hahn Estates
See Smith & Hook / Hahn Estates

Heller Estate
69 W Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley / 800-625-8466

At first glance, the Heller Estate visitor center looks like an country cottage antique store. The wines are all made from 100% organically grown grapes- one of the few wineries in the state to boast this fact. The wines consist of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Meritage and a Late Harvest Riesling. My favorites were two Merlot vintages, both with cherry-blackberry flavors and good tannins, and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with intense cassis and blackberry flavors. Guests can roam throughout the extensive array of eclectic gifts while sampling the wines.

Jekel Vineyards
40155 Walnut Ave, Greenfield / 831-674-5525

The tasting room is strictly no-nonsense-- aside from a small table of T-shirts and hats, the room consists of a small tasting bar and cartons of wine. The winery is part of the Brown-Forman group (Fetzer, Korbel, Jack Daniels) with Rick Boyer as winemaker. The wines consisted of two Chardonnays, both exhibiting flavors of green apple and pineapple, a semi-dry Riesling with flavors of apple, apricot and lime, a Pinot Noir having raspberry, black pepper and cinnamon flavors (a great barbecue wine), a Cabernet Sauvignon with characteristics of cassis, blackberry and plum, and a Late Harvest Riesling with apricao and honey flavors. My favorite was a Merlot with plum and black cherry characteristics, medium tannins, and is a great wine with grilled meats.

Joullian Vineyards
2 Village Drive, Suite A, Carmel Valley / 831-659-8100

Joullian is located in the heart of Carmel Valley Village in a classic stone building with a French provincial interior. The winery produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel Rose, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and Muscat. The Sauvignon Blanc ewas smooth and non-grassy and the Chardonnay was floral with tropical fruit and pear with a buttery finish. The reds were typical of the varietals with a fruity Zinfandel with a clean vanilla finish and the dark cherry flavored Syrah with a vanilla and chocolate finish being the standouts.

Paraiso Springs Vineyards
38060 Paradiso Springs Road, Soledad / 831-678-0300

If the tasting room doesn't make you feel comfortable then the friendly staff will. The tasting room resembles a typical family den, complete with a toy chest to occupy the children. And the wines at this family-operated winery are very good. Whites consist of a light and fruity Riesling that is a great afternoon sipping wine, an apple/peach flavored Pinot Blanc, a Chardonnay with apple, butterscotch and pear flavors and a Cobblestone Chardonnay with soft honeyed pineapple flavors. A Pinot Noir consisted of jammy black cherry and raspberry and soft pepper flavors, and there was a light-bodied Syrah with robust currant and plum flavors. Dessert wines consisted of a Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling, an excellent Late Harvest Pinot Noir with strawberry and raspberry flavors, and a rich, smooth Port. This winery easily qualifies for my list of recommendations (below).

Scheid Vineyards
1972 Hobson Ave., Greenfield / 831-386-0316

Smith & Hook / Hahn Estates
37700 Foothill Road, Soledad / 831-678-2132

The Smith & Hook/Hahn tasting room is modern and large, offering an impressively large selection of gift and bottled food items, not to mention a great view of the valley below. The winery, which was founded in 1974, is owned and operated by Swiss winemaker Nicolaus Hahn and his wife Gaby. Wines bottled under the Hahn label are considered the "popular" wines with today's tastes and are crafted to be drinkable upon release. Wines under the Smith & Hook label are premium estate-bottled wines.

Hahn Estate wines consist of a Chardonnay with tropical fruit, melon and apple characteristics, a Merlot with flavors of cherry, black pepper and plum, a Cabernet Sauvignon with dark plum, cassis and tobacco flavors. The Cabernet Franc had aromas and flavors of black pepper and cinnamon and the Meritage had aromas of black cherries and boysenberries.

Smith & Hook Wines consist of an apricot-flavored Viognier, a Reserve Chardonnay, a medium-bodied Merlot with blackberry and black cherry characteristics, a Cabernet Sauvignon with nuances of cherries, cassis, plum and cedar, and a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ventana Vineyards Winery
2999 Monterey-Salinas Highway #10, Monterey / 831-372-7415

Ventana is located in the historic Old Stonehouse, built in 1921, approximately 10 minutes from downtown Monterey. The tasting room is on the second floor, accessed by a flight of stone steps which pass an outside patio, much resembling an Italian hillside villa. The small tasting room is attractively decorated and offers a small selection of gifts. White wines consisted of a white table wine, a buttery Chardonay, a White Meritage displaying flavors of peach, pear and melon, a honeydew-flavored Dry Riesling, a slightly dry and spicy Gewurtztraminer, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. Reds consisted of a Grenache/Syrah blend, a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc with flavors of plum, black cherry, pepper and smoke, a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon (which I consider a good barbecue wine), a Syrah with black cherry, plum and black pepper flavors, and a smoky and spicy Merlot. There are some excellent wine values here, with several specials under $10.00.


My Recommendations:

Don't Miss: Chateau Julien Wine Estate, Bargetto Winery and Paraiso Springs Vineyards.

Best Wine Values: Bargetto Winery and Ventana Winery. 

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