Here's a quick overview of a few of the tasting rooms located off the 101 corridor and west toward the Peninsula off of Highway 1 and around Carmel Valley Village. It is too big of an area to squeeze into one day. Wine tasting is best done by selecting four to six places to visit; allowing time to become acquainted with the wine, and making sure you learn a thing or two (and of course bring home a few bottles your new discoveries). Plan your itinerary based upon a varietal, similar terroir, winemaking styles, or even just appeal.
Starting at a northern point on 101 in Old town Salinas, the Taste of Monterey Wine Cellar & Tasting Room offers a great overview of the entire region, featuring more than 40 local wineries. Located next to the National Steinbeck Center, they also offer a wine country-themed gift store. The Wine Cellar's sister location in Monterey is known both for its stunning ocean views and nice selection.
Heading south on 101, industry superstar Blackstone Winery in Gonzales offers a wide variety of interesting, consumer-friendly wines. This is the home of Blackstone's California Merlot, which sports a "Best in Market" recommendation by the Wine Spectator.& Not far away, Pavona Wines is a tempting attraction; check out the 1995 Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel.
Perched in the Gavilan Mountains to the east, Chalone Vineyard sits at the base of an extinct volcano bordering the Pinnacles National Monument. This is one of the few wineries in America growing grapes in limestone-based soils, the same as in Burgundy. The thin, well-drained ground, limited rainfall and low crop levels produce exceptional wines. Chalone Vineyard is the only winery in the Chalone AVA, and it is the oldest producing vineyard in the county.
West of 101, the Hahn Estates Winery, which also includes the Smith & Hook brand, offers a spectacular setting. Nestled in a gorgeous corner of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, the freeway is far off in the distance, a miniscule part of the expansive, picturesque view. The Blue House here is an ideal setting for weddings or other events. This winery is best known for its highly awarded red wines, offering outstanding value. The stunning, value-laden 2002 Meritage (at $18) won not only "Double Gold Medal" at the 2004 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but also "Best of Show" at the 2004 West Coast Wine Competition.
Paraiso Vineyards also offers stunning views from its position on an elevated flat benchland area, where 400 acres of vineyards anchor the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands. In addition to its still wines, they also offer two highly awarded and widely distributed dessert wines exclusive to the winery--the captivating Late Harvest Pinot Noir and the long-time favorite Souzao Port. The Home Décor and Gift Boutique features a fun Canine Corner, and a wide variety of items for every room in the house.
Nearby, you will find San Saba's new digs are definitely worth a visit, but they are by appointment only - so call ahead. The recently finished, state-of-the-art production facility sits among chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and some of the oldest merlot vines in Monterey County. A tasting room will be opening at this location in May, so stay posted. San Saba has dual locations in Monterey - they also have a tasting room in Carmel Valley Village, an excellent spot to visit when you are on the west side of the county and creating a tasting itinerary off Highway 1.
Just after Greenfield and before you hit King City, you will find Scheid Vineyards. Founded in 1972, Scheid was one of the first grape growers in Monterey County. They began making wines in 1989 and opened their tasting room to the public less than a decade ago. Scheid is well know for their Pinot Noir - they've won at least a dozen medals for the varietal over the past five years.