As you approach the turnoff for the Monterey Peninsula on Highway 1, consider an easy stop at Ventana Vineyards, located close to the intersections of Highways 68 & 218. One of the pioneering stars of the area, Ventana's wines are estate grown, offering high quality and excellent value. There are a wide variety of whites, reds and dessert choices to enjoy. Check out the spectacular Super Tuscan Sangiovese blend Due Amici, a recent "Best of Class" winner. You will also find some excellent Meador Estate Wines here.
Back on the road and into Monterey, Cannery Row is clearly becoming a major wine tasting destination. There are many superb opportunities to taste here, all within walking distance. Besides the all-encompassing Taste of Monterey Wine Cellar & Tasting Room (whose Old Town Salinas location is mentioned above) several more wineries pour their wares here as well.
Clos LaChance Winery was recently named as one of ten "U.S. Wineries to Watch." They produce chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, nebbiolo, merlot and zinfandel with fruit from several different appellations around California. Bargetto Winery has been a Santa Cruz favorite for decades, and now has a second tasting room located on The Row. Of interest are their unusual fruit wines--their Chaucer's Cellars brand has produced gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades. Delectable Meads (Medieval-style honey wines) demonstrate richness similar to fine liqueur, but this dessert-style beverage is not fortified and contains only 10.5% alcohol.
Remote Silver Mountain Vineyards just opened a tasting room on Cannery Row in December. Influenced by the bay climate, their organic hillside vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains just to the north produce an Estate Chardonnay that is complex and tasty. Baywood Cellars offers a selection of wines in the chablis, burgundy, rhone and Bordeaux styles, mostly from Monterey County fruit. They also work with some excellent Lodi area fruit for the Harvest Symphony, a hand-harvested, French Sauterne-style dessert wine. If you are a late arrival, it is nice to know that Baywood is open late, ready to greet you.
Moving inland from the bay clime (okay, fog), the quaint Carmel Valley Village is only minutes away. Heading south on Highway 1 from Monterey, then east on Carmel Valley Road, the first winery to welcome you is Chateau Julien Wine Estate. For more than 20 years, the Brower family has produced wines in a traditional Bordeaux-style, using superb fruit graced with subtle flavors from oak barrel aging. The winery boasts breathtaking vistas of a lush green valley where sunsets are unforgettable and rainbows bounce off the hills.
Just a few miles further you quickly reach the Village proper. Sunny, when coastal neighbors Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are fogged in, the pastoral valley location is nestled in the towering Santa Lucia Mountains. Here several winemakers of the Carmel Valley Appellation operate delightful tasting rooms, many within an easy walk of each other, making an afternoon of wine tasting a breeze.
Joullian Winery opened a tasting room here in town a few years back to introduce visitors to their outstanding wines produced from their rather remote vineyards. The Carmel Valley Estate Zinfandel is the father of Zin in the valley. Joullian's vineyards are planted using a multi-clonal approach to produce diverse flavors. Stop by and see how many flavors you can isolate when you taste the wines.
Nearby, Talbott Vineyards produces some of the best barrel-fermented chardonnays and pinot noirs around. Beautifully handmade neckwear and silk accessories from the Robert Talbott Company are showcased along with the wines. Bernardus Winery is a local standout for its authentically crafted Bordeaux varietal wines. Carefully choosing an assortment of quality French barrels, their wines reflect a "spice rack approach," with diverse oak flavors complementing a wonderful rich mouth feel.
You might also enjoy the Paradise Wine Bar, a charming chef-owned wine bar in the Village pouring wines from local wineries that do not have tasting rooms.