Monterey and Carmel Valley, the hidden gems of California wine country

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at Hahn VineyardsDuring my wine study and research prior to the exam, I spent much of my wine time in the Monterey County Appellation.  Smaller operations and tasting rooms allowed me more chance to share and learn from the winemakers themselves.  Wines to winemakers are like their babies, they can share with you every bit about them as long as you have the time.  Monterey county slits into 2 distinct areas, Carmel Valley closer toward the coast and River Road trail hugging Highway 101.  Although they are just a short drive away, variations in climate condition dictate the planted varietals and even wine making style.

Ideals for Food Pairings

Carmel Valley benefits now the coastal influence much more than River Road Trail, morning fog blankets the region most of the time, this cooler marine climate is home to some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from California Central Coast.  Wines often are lighter in body and shy on fruits, they make up in vibrant acidity, minerals and a touch of earth, ideal for food pairings.

Lucia HighLandsBig, Bold and Robust Reds

On the other side of the mountain found a very different class of wines.  Bigger red varietals thrive under scorching hot daytime temperature and dry heat, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Tempranillo to name a few.  This region is little known for its Syrah, but this varietal is making some leap, but I particularly like this varietal here from Passagno Winery.   Their 2007 Syrah from Idyll Times Vineyard was out of this world, rich luscious caramel texture could send any wine lovers into an abyss of pleasure, it has the integrity and structure to rival some of the finer Syrah from Napa Valley.   For creamy-buttery Chardonnay lovers, you will find Pessagno Winery hard to leave.

Cheese platePicnic heaven

If happen to be in the area, don’t forget to stop by Wrath Vineyards, just 15 minutes more River Road trail, Wrath offers a stunning view of their vineyard nestled by a gentle foothill.  Their tasting room offers a lake-view picnic area, backdrop by with endless grape vines running to the horizon.  A bottle of wine and their cheese plate, you can turn of your phone and drift away to somewhere magical.

A more under-appreciated region of California, for decades it has been shadowed by Napa Valley and Sonoma, but indeed this place offers some of the most enjoyable wines.   If you prefer wine country without elbowing random tourists, this is the place to be.   You will escape to another world with no big building in sight, no car honking; just very calm, peaceful and full of food and wine. Cheers!

  Thomas Le.
Napa Reserva -falling for wines one sip at a time. TM

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