Travelers thirsty for a good time need look no further than Monterey County, California. Located less than an hour south of Silicon Valley, it is a veritable oasis to oenophiles—especially those favoring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Featuring more than 175 unique vineyards throughout 40,000 acres, Monterey’s most abundant areas of growth are River Road, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley Village.
The appeal (something Napa or Sonoma could never offer) is obvious: An ability to have vastly different experiences within one visit, thanks to the region’s 40-plus tasting rooms, which have increased in number by 40 percent over the past few years.
River Road, just ten miles off Highway 101, is a winding, lush stretch of road surrounded by vineyards that runs along the base of the hills. A good portion of wine tasting on River Road runs through the Salinas Valley, which is known as the Salad Bowl of the World. (Nearly every type of produce grows here, from strawberries to artichokes.) Tasting rooms like Paraiso Vineyards and Hahn offer outdoor spaces perfect for sipping wines and enjoying panoramic vineyard views.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, where 16 tasting rooms occupy one square mile, there are no numbered addresses, only streets. Visit Caraccioli Cellars, maker of sparkling wines, and Scheid Vineyards, one of the largest and oldest producers of grapes in Monterey.
Carmel Valley Village, the most rustic of the lot, is found just off scenic Highway 1. This area has seen the largest increase in tasting rooms, thanks to a microclimate that allows for the production of singular wines. Taste a vino from smaller vineyards like Bernardus, which opened the first tasting room in Carmel Valley, or try another at Joyce Vineyards, a father-and-son operation that brings an industrial urban flair to the varietals. Wherever you choose, the wines here—and all across Monterey—will be something special.