We are often asked, "What are the best Monterey wineries to visit?". Some wine lovers really surprise us though. When they think of great California wine, they forget about Monterey. Beautiful Monterey, the coastal town with the big aquarium, hello? knock knock, we got wine!
Monterey is home to over 150 wineries with a wide variety of grape varietals that will have you questioning - Napa, who? Monterey, because of its cool climate, is better suited to growing Riesling and Pinot Noir grapes. However, just a short drive further south and east you’re going to pick up some warmer climates so Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet and Merlot are better suited for these soils. It’s like having two worlds in one. Or at least a place where you can sip Riesling and Cabernet, get a little buzz, then go stare at the hypnotic jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
It’s hard to choose among 150 wineries, but here are eight which are exceptional. There are our must see and taste wineries of Monterey.
The 8 Best Monterey Wineries for Visitors:
Tasting Fee: $20
Update: [You can reserve an outdoor tasting at Folktale Winery. The cost to hold your reservation is $15. Once you are there, you can order food and wine in their wine garden. They are not accepting walk-in tastings for now]
Expect to spend some quality time at Folktale Winery. The winemakers created an experience for visitors that is about more than just wine tasting. You can catch the ocean breeze from the Pacific that is just five miles away, enjoy live music from local bands, do yoga in the vineyards, take a tour, and enjoy chef-prepared small plates one of the best Monterey wineries.
Don't get us wrong, the wine is still the main reason to visit Folktale. To start, you are greeted with a sample glass of their bubbly! The wines you can sample include sparkling brut, sparkling rosé, Grenache, Chardonnay and red blends. Tastings are $20 per person for a flight of 6. Channel your inner child or college freshman and enjoy giant dominoes and Jenga in their courtyard. Added bonus: dogs are also welcome at Folktale.
Channel your inner child or college freshman and enjoy giant dominoes and Jenga in their courtyard while you decide which bottle to buy. Traveling with Fido? Dogs are welcome at this fun Monterey winery!
Photo Courtesy: Hahn Family Wines
Tasting Fee: $20 (free tasting for Priority Wine Pass holders)
Update: [Hahn currently offers one tasting experience. You can taste a flight of five wines on their tasting deck that overlooks the Salinas Valley and the Hahn vineyards. You need to book an appointment in advance]
Hahn Family Wines is our next favorite place to visit in Monterey Wine Country. You may be familiar with their supermarket wine offerings and think this isn't the place to stop. You would be wrong for thinking that. The Hahn Family is a medium/large wine producer and they do offer a range of sub $15 wines that are great for the mass market. They also have a number of other labels that you probably aren't aware of. These are where you should focus when you visit the tasting room. Specifically, select the tasting that features wine from their Lucienne label.
The winery tasting room off the beaten path. The tasting deck offers views of the Salinas Valley and the Pinnacles national forest in the distance. This is the perfect place to spend an hour sipping wine and forgetting any cares.
Tasting Fee: $5
This is one of the best Monterey wineries for visitors who love old-world wines. It's like you can take your palate on a trip to Europe without leaving Monterey. What a great way to save on airfare.
Pierce Ranch Vineyards specializes in producing estate wines of Spanish and Portuguese varietals. Think Tempranillo and Albarino. Their wines are small lot production so seeing “SOLD OUT” signs are common. You should make sure to pick up a few bottles!
One of their most popular is the Tourbillion, a medium-bodied wine aged in French oak for 18 months and evokes flavors of ripe raspberry and plums with a hint of lavender. Visit their tasting room in a cozy little cottage off the beaten path. Buy a bottle and the tasting fee is waived, but don’t feel pressured because the tasting fee is a steal at $5 for 6 tastings.
Tasting Fee: $15
Visiting De Tierra Vineyard's tasting room in downtown Carmel may seem like a grown-up Summer camp - trivia nights, paint nights, yoga in the garden, wine classes. The Puzzler, a red blend, is a wine club member's favorite with notes of smoked meat, fig, and earthy notes of mushroom and olive. A tasting flight of 6 wines is under $20 and the fee is waived if you purchase two bottles. The grapes are sourced throughout Monterey County providing many varietals that include Syrah, Cab Franc, Rosé, and Riesling.
Make sure you add this to your list of the best Carmel By The Sea wineries. There are a number of tasting rooms in town, so it can be fun to create a little walking tour. You can quickly compare wines from a number of small producers and mix in some food pairings. What a great way to spend the day!
Tasting Fee: $15 (free tasting for Priority Wine Pass holders)
One of the beauties of tasting wine in Monterey is the mix of quaint in-town tasting rooms and the extensive wine estates in the rural areas. Paraiso needs to be on your list when you decide it's time to head out into the countryside.
You'll be able to taste three different wine brands from the Smith Family here. The surrounding are idyllic with views of their estate vineyards and the valley stretching out in front of you. We suggest you head out to the deck with your glass. This is a great way to get a sense of place. You could also find a spot near their fire pit as you sip their SLH Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The ambiance and quality wines make this one of the best Monterey wineries to visit.
Photo Courtesy: Scheid Vineyards
Tasting Fee: $10
Schneid Vineyards is a family-owned winery producing award-winning wines for nearly 50 years. The winemakers are dedicated to sustainability practices with 100% drip irrigation, efficient heating and cooling technologies, and “owl boxes” where owls perch on at night to prevent gophers and field mice from damaging the harvest. The tasting room is located in Carmel and is open daily offering two different wine tasting flights each day and Reserve flights available on the weekends.
Tasting Fee: $20
Caraccioli Cellars is another one of the best Monterey wineries to visit. Quality over quantity is the motto at Caraccioli. You’ll find meticulously cared-for grapes (hand-picked and placed in small totes to avoid any stress, premature crushing) that become bold flavors for their Estate wines and Bruts.
The sleek and trendy tasting room outfitted with dark walls and contemporary accents is a marvel for any visitor looking to get cozy with a flight of wine. Enjoy a tasting of six wines for just $20 and add on a tasty cheese and charcuterie plate or Caviar topped potato chips if you’re feeling extra fancy.
Past Entries On Our List Of The Best Monterey Wineries
Carmel Ridge Winery
Tasting Fee: $16
There is a lot of love that goes into producing a bottle of Carmel Ridge wine. Going back to traditional techniques, grapes are hand-harvested for a small lot production, and wine is aged in French oak barrels without the use of mechanical pumps. Their enticing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Red Blend varietals are what make Carmel Ridge a wine lover’s destination spot. The intimate tasting room is located on the iconic Cannery Row and features wine tasting alongside a gift shop offering gourmet specialties like artisan olive oils and different varieties of vinegar. Enjoy five tastings of both red and white wines (wines vary by the season) for under $20. Hours are listed on their website open daily.
This is a great place to stop before or after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Don't be afraid of this location. Cannery Row is certainly a tourist spot, but this is a legit winery with great local wines.
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