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...
Cheese, wine, and chocolate are a friendly trio.
With so many delicious wine and food options,
keeping it simple over the Christmas and holiday season is ideal.
Cheese and wine make for a great starter, or dessert course.
Chocolate and wine, especially red wines, are best friends.
Aged, hard cheeses can be served along side wine and chocolate.
Cheese & Wine Pairing tips for the holidays
...and for 2019!
Brie & Bubbles.
Serve Brie with dry Champagne/sparkling wine. The yeast of the Champagne elevates the
musty-ness of the Brie. Expand the flavors with dried Slab apricots.
Try a Santa Cruz Mountain Champagne style wine...Equinox Wines (link)
locally crafts some of the best sparkling wines!
Pinot Noir & Bleu d’Auvergne.
Sharp and creamy, blue cheese is notoriously good sprinkled over grilled steak.
The tangy cheese pairs classically with a dried cranberry, walnut, spinach and bacon salad.
A Pinot Noir with a bit more body elevates these foods.
Go for a flavor explosion and add dates, honey, and dark chocolate.
Try Morgan Winery's Pinot Noirs (link.)
Chardonnay & Comte'.
One of my new favorite cheeses, Comte'
is produced in large wheels, up to 85-100 pounds.
Enjoy hints of stone fruit, toasted nuts, and cream.
Wrights Station Vineyard and Winery offers 3 local Chardonnays to choose from (link.)
Enjoy a Late Harvest Zinfandel (dessert wine) or Port with dark chocolate.
Try Storrs Winery's Late Harvest Zin (link.)
Or tuck into a glass of Merlot with chocolate cake.
Go for a cool weather Monterey County or Santa Cruz Mountains Merlot.
Bargetto Winery's 2016 Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, would be spot on with the cocoa flavors (link.)
Cheeses of Europe
hosted a cheese and wine pairing at the WBC.
Recently my lactose intolerant friend was in Portugal.
Being the gracious guest she is, she ate the local cheese and was fine!
But once back at home, she had difficulty with chain grocery store cheese.
I find that “cleaner” foods (natural, un-mucked foods) work better for our bodies.
Cheeses of Europe served cheeses that were from specific regions,
aged with natural methods, and made with natural, whole ingredients.
Qualities that make for an excellent product.
For recipes and cheese tips, visit Cheeses of Europe.
So find a local cheese producer or look for European cheeses made with all natural ingredients.
You may have success with that...and get back together with cheese!
Pair with Bay Area wines and celebrate the season.
Cheers to your Christmas season and to the love of cheese, wine, and chocolate!
For more flavor profiles, visit my Nose & Palate page and taste away!
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.
Instead of traveling and tasting from winery to winery,
one ticket gave guests a wine tasting tour of Salinas Valley wines, all at one location.
Nine Wineries. Five food trucks. One band. All in one day of tasting at the
Salinas Wine Trail's Trucks, Tunes, and Tastes.
The Salinas Wine Trail runs north-south and is Monterey County's inland wine region.
Paraiso Vineyards in Soledad hosted the Salinas Wine Trail's one day tasting extravaganza.
Paraiso is Spanish for paradise. And when you look at the winery's location in the Salinas Valley, well, the winery is aptly named. Vistas of the valley floor spread below the winery. The towering hills line the valley west and east.
Owners Jason Smith and Jennifer Murphy Smith are second generation grape growers. The Smith family are primarily local grape growers. The Smith parents started growing grapes in the Santa Lucia Highlands in '73. In the past, most of the grapes were sold to other wineries. Then the family decided, “why not showcase Monterey County wines?” So the family started making wine in '89. Now, the family offers three lines of wines. (Paraiso Link.)
Winemaker and owner Denis Odonata has wine roots in Santa Cruz. Now his winery, production site, and tasting room are in Salinas. Estate vineyards in Santa Cruz, and vineyards in Monterey and Santa Clara offer premium local fruit for their wines. (Odonata Link.)
Al Scheid started growing grapes in '72. Now Scheid Vineyards grows four thousand acres of wine grapes and over 39 varietals. They keep the top 2% for their family line of wines, and sell the rest of their grapes throughout California, Washington, Oregon and beyond. Enjoy tasting Scheid wines at their Carmel by the Sea tasting room, or their newly remodeled tasting room in Greenfield. (Scheid Link.)
Hahn Family Wines:
Philip Hahn oversees Hahn Wines. His parents, Nicolaus (Nicky) and Gaby Hahn, purchased land in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) in the the late '70s. Since then the family has made its stamp on the Monterey wine world and further. Nicky spearheaded establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands as an AVA. Now, the Hahns own about 6,100 acres of vineyards in the SLH. (Hahn Link.)
Chalone Vineyard shared--they have the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in Monterey County. Located in the dry, south-east end of the county, the vines grow in temperatures that drop to 50 degrees at night then heat up to 90 degrees during the day. During a heat spike, the vineyards may reach 115! The Chalone team carefully monitors the grapes. The cool evenings let the grapes settle, producing flavorful, yet delicate wines. (Chalone Link.)
So do keep an eye out for Monterey County wine events (Link.)
Plan a day or weekend for wine tasting along the Salinas Wine Trail.
In the summer, the air is warm with coastal winds sweeping
down the valley, and bonus—no pollution.
You won't find fine lodging or dining nearby.
But plenty of lodging is to be had in Monterey, less than an hour away.
Or stop in Salinas before heading down the Valley and pick up some food for a picnic.
Give yourself time to slow down and enjoy the day.
The Salinas Valley Wine Trail is breathtaking
in a wild, desolate kind of way—with its own siren call.
Here's to your next wine trail,
Visit my Monterey Wineries page for more tasting rooms and Monterey wines.
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...
Join me at California Wine