Saturday, December 23, 2006

Winetasting in the Carmel Valley

After 28 years in the Bay Area, it was time to visit Carmel Valley. I had visited the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur many times, but had never made the turn down Carmel Valley Road. A few of my guests had raved about this part of Northern California, so it was time to go.

There are many things to do in the Valley and some beautiful places to stay, but this post will focus on tasting wine. The experience here is quite different than in other parts of Wine Country. The vineyards and wineries located within the Carmel Valley AVA (American Viticulture Area) are difficult to get to. As a result, wineries do not have tasting rooms on site. Rather, their tasting rooms are located apart from the vineyards and production facilities.

At least nine tasting rooms are along Carmel Valley Road. Some are freestanding, while others are in shopping centers. Going from store front to store front, for me, was not as enjoyable as driving among the vineyards to visit wineries in Napa and Sonoma. However, the experience is not all that different than going from tasting room to tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.

Once we entered the tasting rooms -- we visited four -- all of the staff were friendly and knowledgeable about their wines and wines in general. Wineries here tend to produce wines from the Carmel Valley AVA and other parts of Monterey County. Carmel Valley is a bit warmer than other parts of the County, so Bordeaux varietals are grown here. However, temperatures are not as hot as Napa and Sonoma and, thus, Carmel Valley wines are not quite as big. Santa Lucia Highlands AVA has cooler temperatures and many wineries produce excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from this region.

I cannot recommend making a trip to the Monterey area solely to go winetasting. The sights on the Monterey Peninsula and along the coast are more compelling. However, if you are in the area and enjoy wine, spend an afternoon in the Carmel Valley tasting some of Monterey County's wines. You'll taste some good wine and learn about the special qualities of wine produced in this area.

For more information on Monterey County wines, visit www.MontereyWines.org. If you would like to take a tour of Monterey, Carmel, and/or Carmel Valley, please feel free to call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

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