Posted by Ric Garrido

There has been a buzz these past few weeks about Monterey County listed as a Top Ten Wine Travel Destination 2013 in the February 2013 issue of Wine Enthusiast.

Three items over the internet got me thinking about Monterey County wineries this week. First was Points, Miles & Martini blog where I saw this Top 10 news. A comment on the blog struck a nerve that I couldn’t shake off.

I’m not so sure about Monterey, CA –  I thought it was all trinkets and knick-knacks with over-priced wine.

My reaction is to think this person did not stray from the tourist areas of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. I walk down to the Monterey waterfront regularly for the sea life. The vineyards of Monterey County are not located in Monterey.

Second internet item about wine is an email I received about the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Event April 4-7, 2013. I’d like to attend that event.

Third item is the River Road Wine Trail Event February 9, 2013. There will be 11 Salinas Valley wineries participating. $30 per ticket for a few more days until they increase to $45. This seems like a good day to get a Monterey County wine education.

To recall the last time I was walking around Monterey County vineyards I had to step back a year to January 2012 when I made a drive to Cachagua Valley on a 75 degree winter day that also happened to be my birthday.

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Galante Vineyards Wine Tasting in Carmel, California

Driving from the Galante Vineyards wine tasting room in Carmel to Galante Vineyards is about 23 miles out of town, east on Carmel Valley Road and then south over the rough mountain Cachagua Road for the short-cut route. Or drive over 30 miles the long way to the southern entrance and far less nerve-racking route to Cachagua Road from Carmel Valley.

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View of Santa Lucia coastal mountains range from atop Cachagua Road via the westerly mountain road from Carmel Valley Road.

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Galante Vineyards, Cachagua Road, Carmel Valley 

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Cachagua General Store

A wine enthusiast is lucky to find gas and food among the vineyards in Cachagua. If the General Store does not meet your needs, then time to drive to Carmel Valley Village, 13 miles away by the longer and easier road route.

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Google Maps Carmel-by-the-Sea to Cachagua region vineyards in Monterey County.

Rather than get into the merits of whether Napa and Sonoma County wineries are passé, I thought I’d take a drive out Carmel Valley Road in January 2013 and check out some of the wineries and sights along the way. Once I got into Monterey County Wine Country it looked to me like horse and cattle ranches still seem to outnumber the vendors and vineyards in Carmel Valley.

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Carmel Valley, Monterey County, California

Napa County and Monterey County both have about 45,000 acres of vineyards. Monterey County is geographically 5x the size of Napa County. Napa County has twice as many wineries open to the public than Monterey County.

Nearly all Monterey County vineyards are located in the Salinas Valley (98%). Monterey County River Road Wine Trail is having a Valentine’s Passport 2013 event on Saturday February 9 with 11 participating wineries for $30.

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River Road Wine Trail vineyards on the west side of the Salinas Valley at the base of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Highway 1 runs the length of the Big Sur coast on the other side of the Santa Lucia range. Carmel Valley Road is the most accessible road cutting west to east through the coastal mountains.

Carmel Valley Road

Carmel Valley accounts for about 1% of vineyard acreage in Monterey County. San Antonio and Hames Valleys are the other 1% of vineyard acreage in the far southern portion of Monterey County, about 100 miles southeast of the city of Monterey off Highway 101.

Carmel Valley wineries are the closest vineyards to Monterey and Carmel hotels.

Sitting in a restaurant in Monterey or Carmel, checking out ocean views is one way to drink local Monterey County wines or visit a wine tasting room for a large variety of local appellations. Most Monterey County grapes are bottled elsewhere. Check out that Napa Valley winery label carefully.

Carmel Valley is the hot spot of the Monterey Peninsula on those foggy summer days when the moisture won’t leave the coast. Ten miles inland on Carmel Valley Road usually means bright sun and swimming weather in summer months.

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Quail Lodge is a resort that closed down its Carmel Valley hotel in the great recession. The Quail Lodge rooms are being remodeled and reopening April 2013. I received an email for a good value $125 rate for initial bookings March 26-April 18, 2013 including parking and breakfast.

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Quail Lodge, Carmel Valley, California

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Earthbound Farm is an organic produce market and café on Carmel Valley Road for a bite before or after the wineries.

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Chateau Julien, 8940 Carmel Valley Road, is the first winery encountered traveling east along Carmel Valley Road.

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Chateau Julien estate, Carmel Valley Road

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Vines in winter.

Carmel Valley Ranch is a Joie de Vivre hotel member and one of the resort hotels in the valley. This property was remodeled a couple years ago by John Pritzker (Hyatt Hotels family member). Carmel Valley Ranch hotel rooms are located at a high elevation on the hillsides of the Santa Lucia above Carmel Valley just west of Garland Ranch Regional Park.

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Garland Ranch Regional Park is between Mid-Valley shopping center where there is a Safeway and basic services and Carmel Valley Village, 10 miles east of Highway 1. Garland Ranch park is 8.6 miles east of Highway 1. This area is a 3,500 acre preserve along the south side of the Carmel River with trails from 200 ft. to 2,000 ft. in elevation. Horseback riding, hiking, picnics and a place to get your feet wet in summer are features of Garland Ranch.

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Garland Ranch park warnings. I have encountered a few rattlesnakes over the years. I count myself kind of lucky not to have ever come across a mountain lion. If I do, I will let out some primal scream. Really! That is what you are supposed to do along with raising your arms up high and waving them about.

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Bernardus Lodge, Carmel Valley

Bernardus Lodge is both a resort hotel and winery. This luxury hotel is a member of LHW, Leading Hotels of the World and has made the Condé Nast Gold list for hotels every year since 2004.

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Bernardus Lodge vineyards, Carmel Valley. The restaurant and bar of the Lodge is a relaxing place to visit for a drink and some food.

There were a few deer grazing across the street from these vines.

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Carmel Valley Village is another location with wine tasting centers for several of the local wineries.

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Georis Winery, Carmel Valley Village

Monterey County as a wine destination is easily accessible from Carmel, Carmel Valley and Monterey hotels. The Carmel Valley Road runs 50 miles from Carmel through the Santa Lucia Range and meets up with the Salinas Valley along Arroyo Seco Road near Greenfield. A drive along River Road to the wineries on the west side of the Salinas Valley and Highway 68 back to Monterey/Carmel is about a 100-mile loop.

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There are plenty of outdoor activities in Carmel Valley, Arroyo Seco and the Monterey Peninsula for days of entertainment. I have driven this loop in the past for swimming, hiking and camping in Arroyo Seco. One of these days I might try the 100-mile winery tour of Monterey County.

Sources:

Why Monterey Beat Napa as California’s Top ‘Wine Destination’Laird Harrison, KQED blog Jan 28, 2013.

Monterey named top wine travel destination for 2013 – Jeanne Cooper, SF Gate Jan 8, 2013

Monterey County General Plan – Agricultural and Winery Corridor Plan October 2010

Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

7 Responses

  1. All of these photos are making me long to return. I loved this area of California – thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, great write-up! I, too, love that area and hoping to move up there one of these days.

  3. I grew up in the area and still visit Carmel Valley for some wine every time I get back. Joullian wines are consistently good in different varietals than the normal Monterey County ones. Excellent Zinfandel and Cab Franc. Cafe Rustica and Taqueria del Valle will never disappoint when you get hungry!

  4. I was interested as well and thanks to this great write up I’m even more interested.

    Man, I’d like to go to that event in April as well.

  5. [...] Ric Garrido, or satori on FlyerTalk, had a great blog entry today on the wineries of Carmel Valley. I realize your little ones don't need introduced to wines just yet, but others reading this thread might be interested. Monterey County Wineries and Hotels: Carmel Valley Road [...]

  6. [...] Monterey County Wineries and Hotels: Carmel Valley Road (Jan 29, 2013) [...]

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