Right in the center of California’s Central Coast is the charming Monterey wine region, featuring the rocky Big Sur coastline, chic shops and restaurants and its newest attraction, the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea.
Teeming with art galleries, boutiques, European-style cafes and restaurants, Carmel’s first tasting room was a showcase for Galante Vineyards & Winery and opened in 2004 (owner Jack Galante is the great-grandson of Carmel city founder J.F. Devendorf). But last year, several others sprung up, prompting the development of a walking tasting room tour that includes seven stops. So where do you begin?
Before embarking on your tour, pick up a passport. Available at various hotels, including The Hofsas House, or at the Chamber of Commerce visitor center, for $50, the passport gets you a $10 flight at all seven tasting rooms for free. Once you’ve got it in hand, a natural starting point is Wrath Vineyards, which opens the earliest, at 10 am. Wrath’s tasting room is situated in Carmel Plaza—a three-story shopping mall, right next door to The Cheese Shop. With more than 200 cheeses on offer, it’s also worth visiting. Flights at Wrath include $10 for three pours (free with the passport), $20 for three single-vineyard wine pours and $20 for four Pinot Noir pours (complimentary with a bottle purchase). The wines come from Monterey County and the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Monday–Saturday, 10 am–6 pm; Sun 11 am–5 pm.
Next, head down 7th Avenue until you arrive at San Carlos Street to the Scheid Vineyards tasting room. One of the largest independent wine grape growers in Monterey County, Scheid makes small production wines under its own label and sells most of its grapes to others. The $10 flight includes four wines: Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s also a Reserve Pinot Noir flight ($20) and a Reserve Mixed Flight ($20), which includes a Reserve Petit Verdot and a Reserve Claret.
Monday–Sunday, 11 am–6 pm.
After visiting Scheid, cross the street toward Ocean Avenue and head west. Halfway down the block in the Paseo Courtyard, you’ll find Manzoni Cellars‘s new tasting room, an intimate space, featuring an ornately carved wooden bar. The wine walk passport (or $10) will get you five pours: 2011 Pinot Gris, 2008 Chardonnay, 2010 Pinot Noir and 2009 Syrah, both from the Home Vineyard, and a 2005 Port from the family-owned-and-operated winery, which grows grapes on California’s cool coastal mountains, ridges and hillsides. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 7 pm.
By now, it’s time for some lunch. Across the courtyard from Manzoni Cellars is the popular Basil Seasonal Dining, which serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, and across the street is Mundaka, a Spanish tapas restaurant. After eating, stop by The Bountiful Basket, which offers more than 60 olive oils and flavored vinegars (Key Lime Balsamic, Pomegranate Balsamic and Pear, to name a few) from around the world and a wine-tasting bar that showcases boutique wines from Northern and Central California.
Next, continue on 7th Street and arrive at Caraccioli Cellars on Dolores, a tasting room that resembles a swanky bar. It’s open until 10 pm and often shows sports on its flat-screen TV. Caraccioli Cellars, who launched its brand in 2010, offers sparkling and still wines made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Visitors can taste up to six wines; flights of four or six are available (a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and two sparklings), or sample them individually. A cheese and cured meat platter is on offer for picking.
Friday–Saturday, 11 am–10 pm; Sunday–Thursday, 2 pm–8 pm.
Next up is Figge Cellars, which is housed in the entrance of the Winfield Gallery. At this tasting room, Owner Peter Figge does everything from grow the grapes to bottle the wine. The passport tasting consists of two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs and a Syrah. Or, there is a three-pour taste for $5. Wander the art gallery with your wine glass in hand.
Wednesday–Sunday,12 pm–6 pm.
Across the street, just behind the Blue Dog Gallery, you’ll find Galante Vineyards & Winery, featuring a rough-and-ready western theme. Owner Jack Galante (great grandson of city founder J.F. Devendorf) offers five pours for $10, and that includes tastes of the Cowpoke Pinot Noir and Rancho Galante Cabernet. Double M, a 50–50 Merlot-Malbec blend, is another popular choice.
Monday–Sunday, 12 pm–6 pm.
Lastly, head to the final tasting room, Vino Napoli. Owned by vintner and restaurateur Richard Pèpe, this Italian-themed wine bar, food and wine shop and tasting room opens at 3 pm. The décor resembles a rustic Italian farmhouse, and the flat-screen TV plays a helicopter tour of Italy on repeat. Vino Napoli offers the largest selection of wines of any Carmel tasting room. The passport (or $12) scores you the Pèpe Winery flight of three wines from Napa Valley, including a Chardonnay, a Sangiovese blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon blend. There are other tasting flights, as well as wines by the glass. Food options include nine different kinds of pizza, deep-fried artichokes and filet mignon carpaccio.
Monday–Sunday, 11:30 pm–10 pm.