Wine Country offers a plethora of events aimed at the wine enthusiast.
The Great Wine Escape Weekend takes place the second weekend of
November, now in its 12th year. Featuring over 50 Monterey County
wineries, the entire weekend includes wine and food integration
seminars, guided wine tours, silent auction, and special winemaker
dinners by world renowned chefs. The Monterey County Vintners
and Growers Association plans numerous events throughout the year,
making Monterey one of the premier venues for California's notably
favorite vacationing activity, wine hopping.
renowned Monterey fog wraps Cannery Row in a silky sheet of white.
Walking along the oceanside streets, breathing in the fresh salted
air, it is easy to get caught up in the aura of the place. There's
history in the atmosphere and the buildings, a mystifying sense
of a romantic past still resonating along this famous stretch
of road. That mystic feeling has captured the imagination of many.
Over the last century, numerous cultures and traditions have mingled
together here, with California Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, and
Japanese all sharing a piece of the area's fertile valleys. The
towering figure of John Steinbach called Monterey County home,
too, making the area larger than life with his words and enchanting
stories that captured the spirit of the farmers and travelers
who left their footsteps behind in the rich soil. There is a very
unique charm about Monterey, with a quixotic mixture of history,
geography, and great personalities.
Monterey County wineries share a similar charming quality. I make
this revelation early on my first morning touring the area. The
sky is a mix of clouds and sun, with a crisp, refreshing breeze
swirling through the air. Kristin Horton of Chateau Julien
has been kind enough to host a tasting for her winery at her childhood
home. It's a picturesque scene, with vines growing on the gently
sloping hill in the backyard. Her father even has his own winemaking
facility, where barrels are aging his latest homemade creation.
Bob Brower, Chateau Julien's owner, is there to present his wines
on image for caption and to enlarge...
Julien is located near the coast within the Monterey
A.V.A. Due to their proximity to the Pacific Ocean, nighttime
temperatures usually range between 50-55 degrees. The days are
mild, with morning fog and cool early evening breezes balancing
out any late afternoon heat. These moderate temperatures allow
the fruit to mature nicely and reach maximum varietal potential.
Winemaker Bill Anderson, who has been with Bob since 1982, has
had plenty of time to hone his craft as well as his imagination.
As Bob speaks about the winery itís creative philosophy
is clear. They are always trying to re-imagine their wine while
always keeping quality in the highest esteem. Their Black Nova,(a)
an unusual blend of Zinfandel and Syrah, is the latest example
of what an ideal climate and their forward thinking can produce.
next stop is in the Santa Lucia Highlands, high above the fertile
Salinas River Valley where miles and miles of produce are grown
year after year. The view looking out over the field below, the
way the greens, browns, and yellows of the terrain blend together,
can remind anyone of just how beautiful the simplicity of nature
can be. Fruit grown at this elevated located can enjoy the full
effect of warm morning sun before maritime breezes cool the vineyards
in the afternoon. Cool weather loving varietals like Chardonnay
and Pinot Noir flourish in this area, with fog keeping morning
temperatures in the high 40's to low 50ís, soils that drain
exceptionally well, and winds off the Pacific ensuring afternoons
are not much warmer than the mid-70's.
is from this perch that we are introduced to Mark Manzoni and
Steve Pessagno. Respectively, they head the Manzoni
and Pessagno wineries, but Steve is the winemaker
for both. He shares his winemaking methods with a half-smile,
offering how methodically he tastes each barrel in order to narrow
down which he will select for his final blend. All that tasting
is quite time-consuming, but he manages, somehow. The dedication
to his craft is clear. He is constant in his pursuit of lofty
goals, striving to think outside the box. His Intrinity Chardonnay
(b) is a perfect example of his imagination ñ and his sonís.
At only seven, Steveís third son Robert gave impetus to
the term, saying that it was like going on forever, trying reach
a goal but never quite being able to reach it. The Intrinity Chardonnay
will always represent the highest point of winemaking for Steve,
employing unusual Burgundian techniques like sur lee aging, weekly
stirring, and on fining. His approach earned the 2005 vintage
numerous awards and high scores.
Monterey Wineries at Cannery Row
The next morning dawned a bright blue sky with wispy gray clouds
dotting the horizon. A ten minute walk down Cannery Row brought
me to the Fishhopper restaurant, where brunch
and more Monterey County wines awaited. Their patio dining sits
right on the ocean, putting the gentle white crests of waves seemingly
in armís reach. The soft light brown of the sandy surrounding
beaches traces the outline of the view. Fresh figs, mango, rich
blue cheese, strawberries and cream, and an assortment of other
delicacies are laid out to pair with local wines from the Santa
Lucia Highlands. Head chief, Mo Tabib, deserves high praise for
his work. The wines all had a strong sense of place, with unique
elements of the A.V.Aís terroir showing through in bold
notes of earth and minerals.
short walk around the corner and I find the InterContinental Hotel,
site of the weekendís Grand Finale Tasting. Forty Monterey
wineries are pouring, so I could not visit them all, but everyone
was warm and more than willing to chat about their wines. Pinot
Noirs were the highlights of the afternoon, with Silver Mountain's
2007 Rose of Pinot Noir, Kendal-Jacksonís 2006 Grand Reserve,
Ironyís 2005, and Poppy's 2007 standing out among those
I tasted. Parsonage Estate's entire offering of wines were also
quite noteworthy. The Vineyard's location in the Carmel Valley
is ideal for growing Broadax varietals with cooling ocean breezes,
chalky-limestone soils, and above average rainfall for the region.
In particular, their 2006 Snosrap Cyrano Red, an imaginative blend
of Merlot and Syrah, was an unexpected gem.
such natural beauty, an ever present sense of history, and some
great wines to boot, Monterey County has plenty to offer. The
wide variety of micro-climates and soils allow for great growing
versatility as well as quality. There are five different tasting
rooms located right along Cannery Row, so it is easy to discover
the full array of what the region has to contribute to the world
of wine. The unique and unusual blends I tried over the weekend
are a testament to the great minds at work throughout the county.
There are hidden gems awaiting those who search them out. The
tasting and the journey are sure to fulfill anyoneís sense
Mark your calendar:
WINE AUCTION & GALA
February 21, 2009
Explore the world....in your own neighborhood vineyard. Over thirty
first-class Monterey County wines will be showcased as you take-off
for an exciting evening of wine tasting, international cuisine,
live music from Grammy winner Louie Ortega, dancing, and an array
of luxury packages that will be auctioned during an unforgettable
GREAT WINE ESCAPE WEEKEND
November 13-15, 2009
Celebrate the splendor of harvest at Monterey Wine Countryís
11th Annual Great Wine Escape Weekend. The Great Wine Escape features
Monterey Countyís world-class wines and gastronomic delights.
Guests won't want to miss the 50 award-winning Monterey brands,
with offerings that reflect the diversity of the regionís
Saturday, August 8, 2009
The 17th Annual Winemakersí Celebration will be held Saturday
August 8,2009 from 12-4pm at the Custom House Plaza in downtown
Monterey. The Winemakersí Celebration incorporates wine
tasting with education, food, music, and fun. In addition to Monterey
County wineries pouring their special wines for the day, unique
educational wine displays and seminars on blending techniques
and organic wine growing will offer attendees an opportunity to
explore the process of creating fine wines. An extraordinary silent
auction will accompany the dayís festivities, and the areaís
finest restaurants will tempt participants with their latest specialties
ñ all to a fabulous local band.
the Monterey County Vintners and Growers
Association for more details. 831.375.9400 or www.montereywines.org