World renown for its superior Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,
Monterey County is home to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The coastal village is laced with quaint paths that lead to dining, sea vistas, and wineries.
As I walked to the Sunset Center, the slight crunch of the pathway gravel greeted my ears
and I was eager to try other varietals from the region.
At the Annual 'Monterey County Wine Trade Tasting,' hundreds of Monterey County wines
were poured...all with a passion to share the wines of the region.
Highlights of my tasting afternoon...
2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Griva Vineyard. White peach gives way to tall-grassy notes, with hints of ocean saline. I am always drawn to a winery that produces Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines. It is versatile, fresh, and pairs with the California Coastal food lifestyle. 'KORi' Wines is the partnership between Santa Lucia Highlands grape/citrus grower Kirk Williams & his step-daughter Kori Violini. (from their site.)
2016 Brix Pinot Gris Estate Grown, Camel Valley. The floral notes, and ever-so-slight sweetness would cover a gathering of palates. Light on minerals, it gives a hint of dairy and graham then meets up with tropical flavors.
With 4 Styles of Sangiovese, Emily Hunt is a winemaker to take note of. She's new to the Monterey wine scene and is gifted with creativity in spades. All of her pours were a blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Petite Sirah. What's so special about that? Well, she offered a Rose' and three different styles of red wine—all made from the same blend of grapes.
All of the fruit arrived to Emily at once. But she used different production methods and timing to achieved wines with completely different flavor profiles. That's a gutsy undertaking! Some wines were on the skins for 4 hours, others for 6. Some soaked with the stems. One was aged more, another less. Emily's wine mentor and the fruit hail from the Napa area. But her wine is Monterey style through and through.
Hahn Family Wines
2017 Pinot Gris, Monterey County. Soft green melon and fresh floral notes round out this slightly sweeter yet pleasing wine. This white wine is food-friendly without any heavy dairy on the palate.
Winemaker, Bill Brosseau, shares his craft. Testarossa offers wine tasting in their Camel Valley and Los Gatos locations. My light write up offers a peek at the Los Gatos tasting room...'Testarossa, Wine for Collectors & Beginners.'
Windy Oaks Estate
2015 Grenache, Santa Lucia Highlands. This coastal grown 100% Grenache offers a pleasing light to mid-weight mouth-feel. A bit of acidity offers a base for foods, but the wine fitting on its own. Fruit forward, but not jammy.
This family winery is located up Hazel Dell Road, in the Corralitos area. The vineyards cover almost 30 acres. You'll find their tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the Sea and the Carmel Village.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards
2017 Verdelho, San Antonio Valley. Embrace currents of honeysuckle and soft citrus in this white wine. Josh Pierce offers wines that are like a treasure chest. Each one is subtle, then opens up to an arc of flavors and character. Hands down, when I serve Pierce Ranch wines to my guests at home, they always garner a comment of praise!
Other wineries to check out...(pictured above)
Joyce Vineyards, Scratch Wines (staff,) Josh Pierce of Pierce Ranch Vineyards, and
Miguel Lepe of Lepe Cellars. Also, pouring, Rexford Winery.
Thank you, Monterey County Wines, for the Trade Tasting invitation.
For more on the following wineries, and dozens of additional tasting rooms, visit MCVG's site (Link.)
Big Sur Vineyards
2015 BSV Red Wine, Monterey County. Lenora Carey journeyed from being a documentary filmmaker to the owner of Big Sur Vineyards. With Ryan Kobza as winemaker, the first vintage was released in 2013. The Arroy Seco growing region provides the precise weather for BSV's olive trees, essential oils gardens, and vineyards.
Who Attended & Why?
Instead of buying dozens of bottles of wine to try, the restaurant industry
sampled and selected wines in one location to pair with their menu and and customers' desires.
Grocery and market buyers seek out wines to stock and sell in their stores.
Wine publicists and writers come to get a taste of what's current in Monterey.
People are looking for crowd-pleaser wines. And for wines that exemplify a region.
They also seek out the hidden gems. The unexpected wines that someone special will be looking for.
So here's to your everyday wines and
the hidden gems for your special occasions.
Coming up, the Monterey Winemaker's Celebration is a day of wine tasting for new wine fans
and the devoted. For your tickets and more, visit my Wine News post...
“Every region is different. Every grower is different. It's always new out there.”
John's role, as Grower Relations Representative at Coppola Winery, focuses on relations between the grape growers and the winery; which takes time and attention. Vineyards can be growing and selling grapes for on wards of 30 years. Coppola has been with growers for over 10 years.
As with any relationship, the goal is to be honest and open. Coppola Winery fosters ongoing dialogues with vineyard teams about what kind of fruit they are looking for. It's a discussion not a monologue.
“We want both sides to get what they're looking for,” John shared. Winemakers seek premier fruit and a good price per ton of grapes. Growers look for the volume to pricing they need to keep their businesses thriving.
The wine industry is a tight knit community. For John, it's about building and keeping the relationships growing between the winery and growers. In the vineyard, he can be an extra set of eyes and a resource for growers. Not a police. He keeps notes all year long on the health of the field: monitoring weather and bud break. He collaborates with the growers to look at pest management, pruning, vine balance, and fruit yields.
It's about bringing the growers in so they are a part of the winemaking process. Coppola Wines looks for growers they can work with in California, and into Oregon. To visit Coppola wines, visit (Link.)
Imagine you grow produce for a local restaurant for a living. Once the produce leaves your field, typically, the farmer doesn't have any say on how the produce is cooked, served, or tastes.
But Coppola wines bridges the gap. Their “Grower Feedback Tasting” is a merging of strengths. The Coppola team and grape growers meet for wine tastings to share feedback; from the grapes to the glass.
While typically hands-on and in the soil, John also focuses on the wine industry at large. I had the chance to talk with him at North America's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, and at the national ASEV conference. When not in the field, John keeps tabs on current wine trends and knowledge, as well as the chance to collaborate with wine industry peers.
Fostering relationships makes for a better family, and makes for better wine.
From the soil to the production room, John, and others like him,
play a supporting role in crafting your favorite wines.
A toast to those who build kinship!
A bit of science helps wine enthusiasts find better quality wines. For more, visit my feature on the ASEV.
The Wine Blending Seminar at Scheid Winery was a chance to explore
different combinations of wines & flavors.
If only school were this enjoyable!
I had the chance to mix and pour wines at the
Blending Seminar at Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room in Carmel.
The evening was a chance for guests to try their hand at
creating their own signature blend of wine.
To top it off, the feature was published on Edible Monterey Bay Online (link to story.)
"Guests introduced themselves. Then they started tasting each varietal. Next came the combining, and spilling, of wines. Then more tasting, as table-mates shared their concoctions with each other and chose a favorite wine. An eye catching name was a must!"
"Names flew across the tables as tasters tried to summarize their wines.
Alliances quickly formed as judging began. Shouts and enthusiasm grew as the wine took
hold of tasters and people cheered for their favorite wine."
A special thanks to Scheid Vineyards (Link) and Monterey County Wines (Link.)
It was a wonderful collaboration!
A toast to your wine journey--spills, new acquaintances, and all!
For the full feature, visit my story on EMB.
Technology in a sip. Wine science may not be in the forefront of most tasters' minds. But wine enthusiasts do want better quality wines, at a better value, with easier access. And more importantly, we want less stress and waste and kinder stewardship of the environment. A bit of wine science can remedy this.
The ASEV, American Society for Enology and Viticulture, is for the progress—the sciences—of winemaking and grape growing. Its membership includes a world wide collective of viticulturists and winemakers. You'll find a wide arc in the industry; from top global wine researchers, to academic leaders, to students. (ASEV link.)
Why does a scientific conference matter to us tasters? And how does it translate into better wine in our glass at dinner? Because behind every great concept, there is usually a handful of people, or a whole industry of influencers. This can be a mix of designers, scientists, doctors, or inventors. The ones with the specialized knowledge who made your car more aerodynamic. Or your snowboard lighter, stronger, and faster. We consumers reap the benefits of their knowledge.
I enjoyed covering the ASEV in collaboration with Dunbar Productions (link to DP.) The Dunbar group produces 100 Mile Meals, among other media, and features local food and lifestyles (link 100 MM.)
The Monterey County Wine Region had a chance to shine at the ASEV. Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the MCVGA, (link) started the morning off with highlights of the region. Then after a day of science, it was time for the tasting! She hosted the evening's Monterey County Regional Wine Reception. And what's exciting about hosting the ASEV in Monterey? Kim shared that people who like wine are creative, smart, fun, and like to have a good time! And who wouldn't want to be around people like that?
What sets Monterey County wines apart from other regions? Kim explained that at the floor of the Monterey Bay lies the Blue Grand Canyon which is 60 miles long and 2 miles deep.The cold waters of the deep canyon influence the region's weather, providing special ecosystems for growing wine grapes, one that you won't find anywhere else in the states.
Fog keeps the county cool in the morning. The coast stays cool and is ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other warmer weather grapes thrive inland as the valley heats up in the afternoon. Then, afternoon winds push the cool air from the ocean's canyon down the valley at winds up to 20-30 mph. This is the perfect cool-down, preventing the grapes from overheating or over ripening.
Monterey has great golf, dining, shopping and lodging. It's known for being a vacation destination as well as a desirable destination for wine. The conference was hosted at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Conference Center (link) just steps from the Monterey Bay harbor.
It's always interesting chatting with people in the industry, and seeing people at different events. Nicola Hall is a staff scientist at Scott Laboratories, and to her fame, former President of the ASEV. I've had the chance to hear Nicola speak before at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Articulate, fun, approachable, and dang smart! When I asked her what challenges the wine industry faces, she brought up climate change, water issues, and lack of labor. The upswing is the enthusiasm and bold outlook of the young upcoming people in the industry. “They think outside the box. They're not locked into the standard 750 ml bottle.” Nicola shared how they still honor the traditions of their family and established wineries, but often come up with their own line of wines. Something experimental, fun, and made in smaller batches.
David Goldfarb is the winegrower for Clos de la Tech. Their vineyards are perched on top of Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His goal at the ASEV was to get there, be caffeinated, and download—learn—as much info as he could from leaders around the world who share their knowledge.
He shared that the ASEV is not about marketing. It's not romantic. But it's true. Myths that are echoed to consumers and in the industry are busted. He pointed out many of the technological advancements in wine show that the old-timers were right. He made me realize that history and advancements can be good partners.
While Kristen Barnhisel was studying Italian Literature as an undergraduate at UCSD, she traveled a year abroad. It was in that time Kristen discovered, “Wine is a conduit to conversation.” That conversation has continued for Kristen. She's now the Second Vice President of the ASEV and winemaker for J. Lohr's white wines here in the Bay Area. She's been a member of the ASEV for 20 years, and has worked at Jordan, Columbia Crest, Handley Cellars, and Inglenook to name a few. Simply put, she knows wine!
With all of that experience, Kristen said, “If you want to do something very creative, you have to understand the technical—the science—to understand it. Each work of science seems to be finite, but is only a chapter.” That's the basis. Experiment, keep learning, and push the envelope.
Kristen pointed out that the ASEV is active in supporting the next generations in the global wine industry. They provide scholarships and networking opportunities. Student Flash Talks give students the chance to share their research in the field. Early Career Members, or those in their first seven years in the wine biz, gather for workshops, mentor-ships, and networking.
As a catalyst for sharing ideas, the ASEV offers sessions on cutting edge wine knowledge.
Winemakers and growers want to know the influence of berry ripeness on grapes.
For example, if you harvest Pinot Noir grapes later in the season, you'll get less tannins and more spice on the palate. If you harvest earlier, expect a wine with more flavors of strawberry and more tannins. Understanding applications can help avoid costly time consuming mistakes and improve wine quality.
This is good news for us tasters.
At the end of the day, the knowledge from generations past combined
with new advances in wine...taste wonderful!
So here's to your next tasty glass of science,
For a look at another event that's just as tasty, but less technical
see pics of the Amador 4 Fires Festival...
I enjoy a good family story, and The Double L Estate Vineyard—for Double luck—is named after the Morgans' twin daughters. Wines are produced from the 50 acre vineyard, with over half its fruit being Pinot Noir. Morgan wines also source from other Monterey County growers.
There is a rich history of relationships between vintners and farmers in Carmel and the Salinas Valley. This is foundational for Morgan sourcing the fine grapes used in crafting additional varietals of wine, such as: Albarino, Syrah, Riesling, Grenache, and Tempranillo.
You can taste the quality and levels of flavor in Morgan wines. All Double L wines are organically farmed, and most of Morgan wines are vineyard designated.
Owners, Dan and Donna Lee, have been making Santa Lucia Highlands wines for 35 years. The grapes are grown along the Salinas Valley, nestled between the Santa Lucia Range and the Gabilan Range. This area is known for its high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Morgan Winery offers classic style wines from the Monterey County. Their tasting room is celebrating its tenth year at the Crossroads.
Also at the Crossroads is McIntyre Tasting Studio mcintyre-tasting-studio-carmel-viticulture-in-the-santa-lucia-highlands.html
Best to you and your Carmel wine jaunt,
Join me at California Wine