Cars, Caviar, and Camaraderie on the California Coast

After the ceremonial firing of the potato cannon, Monterey Car Week offers a glimpse of the rarest and most anticipated vehicles — and experiences to match.



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CINEPHILES HAVE SUNDANCE; fashionistas have The Met Gala, and car people? We have Monterey Car Week — seven days of roaring automotive opulence on the Monterey Peninsula in California.

My week started with The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Awards, where we celebrated a stunning 1938 Delage Type D8-120 S Cabriolet flanked by bellhops in pillbox hats. But most cars are intended to be driven, and my week would soon accelerate.

Just after dawn, I joined a group of drivers gathered for The Quail Rally—a spectacular, three-day tour through Napa, Carmel, and Sonoma. With the strangely ceremonial firing of a potato cannon, we were off, and I was piloting a Lamborghini Urus Performante through some of the most picturesque roads I’d ever seen. Over the course of the rally, each waypoint revealed a one-of-a-kind experience — falconry, lunch in the Palace of Fine Arts, an art tour at the Donum Estate, and a meal among the redwoods accompanied by live music. There were laps at Sonoma Raceway, a hot-air balloon ride, and a private dinner and cellar tour at the ultra-exclusive Napa Valley Reserve. Even the coffee was grown specifically for the occasion. It all culminated with a bottle of Wolves whiskey blended exclusively for the rally participants. The word “curated” simply does not suffice.



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“I drive rallies all over the world, and this one has the nicest people,” said Ariane Dart, who flew her Pagani Huayra sports car in from Italy for the occasion. She was right. It felt like summer camp with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie. One participant offered me his Ferrari the next time I visited the Bay Area.

Returning triumphant from the rally, I donned my pink linen blazer and prepared for Friday’s centerpiece of Car Week — Peninsula’s The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. While the cars primarily run on gas, The Quail is an event fueled by Champagne, caviar, and pure ebullience. It’s where top manufacturers unveil their most anticipated vehicles, and this year’s highlights included the all-electric B95 from Pininfarina with charming pivoting windscreens, Lamborghini’s Lanzador — a taut, electric four-seater perched high atop bulging 23-inch wheels. Maserati debuted the MCXtrema — a captivating, track-only, matte-blue monster that they kept chained in a steel cage until the event. Bugatti showcased its magnificent Chiron Golden Era with historical pencil sketches rendered directly into the paintwork, and Rolls-Royce dazzled guests with its electric Spectre. Saturday, I previewed the dramatic La Rose Noire, the latter’s newest coachbuilt creation and only two-seater.


Saturday night was sleepless in anticipation of Car Week’s grand finale — Sunday’s prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where the world’s rarest, most beautiful automobiles are perched over the Pacific and scrutinized by judges as seersucker-clad spectators stroll the fairway in automotive ecstasy.

This year felt like an endurance race, and driving home after seven full days, I had a moment to reflect on the new friends, the phenomenal cars, and, yes, the caviar. Then, somewhere around Bakersfield, I was struck by an overwhelming desire to pull my car over, turn around, and do it all over again.

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Our Contributors

John Chuldenko Writer

John Chuldenko is a writer, director, and automotive journalist based in Los Angeles. He’s drawn to the magic of the road trip and the people, experiences, and emotions surrounding driving. John has been featured on NPR, and his work appears in Panorama, The Motoring Journal, Christophorus, and Craft&Tailored.

Nishi Patel Illustrator

Nishi Patel is a junior designer at Departures. Being raised in both New York City and India sparked her love of food, which has her constantly looking for new recipes and restaurants.


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