Central Coast & Monterey Bay Wine Tours

The coastal region south of Monterey Bay is renowned for the stark beauty of Big Sur, the exclusive community of Carmel, world-class golf at Pebble Beach and the stories of author John Steinbeck. But for wine loving travelers, Monterey Bay wineries are a top destination too.

Within the Monterey appellation are eight smaller designated AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) that extend over 40,000 planted acres in the Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley. With a long growing season, cool breezes and fog rolling in from the bay, many grape varietals do well here but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are frequently exceptional. Fruit from this area is highly prized and about 70% all grapes grown in Monterey are sold to wineries outside of the area.

Within the larger Monterey AVA, perhaps the best-known appellation is Santa Lucia Highlands. Historically wine grapes have been grown here since the Spanish missions of the late 18th century, but it was not until the 1970’s that winemakers began to realize this was an ideal area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The region became an official AVA in 1991. Today, grapes from the Santa Lucia Highlands go into many highly sought after super-premium California wines.

Visitors to the region seeking a broad selection of local wines in one spot would do well to visit “A Taste of Monterey” in the historic Cannery Row area. Some smaller wineries without tasting rooms are only available to sample here. Their second tasting room in Old Town Salinas next to the Steinbeck Center is also a good spot to begin or end a tour through Salinas Valley, where many of the wineries open to the public are located.

One of the more unusual AVA’s in the Monterey appellation is Chalone, named after the lone winery in the region. Sitting high above the Salinas Valley, the Chalone vineyard was planted in the 1960’s and was the first bonded winery in the county. Although Chalone is now part of a large corporate entity, the wines have developed a loyal worldwide following.

Some enjoyable Monterey Bay wineries to visit include Chateau Julien, Parsonage Village, Bernardus and Pessagno Winery. Bernardus also has luxury accommodations and fine-dining. Tourists will also enjoy Carmel Valley Village for its unique shops, galleries, restaurants and tasting rooms. Travelers to Monterey will have it all – great wine, food and tourist activities with the unspoiled beauty of the Big Sur coastal area just down the road.