Fifteen wineries within four blocks of each other? Yes, it’s true. It’s a wine lovers paradise. Actually, it’s The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea, a must do if you’re in Monterey County which has rated one of the top five worldwide wine destinations by the Wine Enthusiast.
Wine tasting in Monterey County is much different than the wine tasting I’ve done in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles and even Italy where we visited the vineyard and sampled wines on their own grounds. Many vineyards in Monterey County don’t have tasting rooms onsite, instead they offer tasting rooms in town. (The same is true in other wine regions as well, it just seemed more predominate in Monterey County.) I’m not sure which I prefer since there are pros and cons to both but I did enjoy walking through Carmel on the Wine Walk and sampling more Monterey County wines than I would have otherwise been able to.
What is The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea
Carmel’s first tasting room was a showcase for Galante Vineyards & Winery and opened in 2004, its popularity spurred others to open tasting rooms in Carmel and throughout Monterey County. With now 15 tasting rooms in downtown Carmel, the self-guided walking tasting room tour provides an excellent way to sample the regions wines and is a fun way to spend a few hours – or the day.
How The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Works
Before setting out on The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea it’s best to grab The Wine Tasting Passport, which is $65. It provides tasters with a Wine Walk flight at their choice of any nine of the 12 participating tasting rooms. If you consider that each tasting room typically charges $10 for a tasting, the Passport is a great savings. (Note: There are 15 tasting rooms in downtown Carmel, 12 are currently participating in the Wine Passport program. The others you will need to pay for separately if you choose to visit them. I was told they are scheduled to join the Passport program soon though.)
- The Wine Tasting Passport does not expire; it doesn’t need to be used in one day and you can keep remaining tasting tickets for your next visit.
- You can use multiple cards at the same location. In other words, you can purchase one Passport and share the nine tastings at any or all of the tasting rooms with people in your group.
- The tasting you’re offered with the Passport may vary from other tasting flights. For instance, if you want to taste reserves you will need to pay an additional fee. Some tasting rooms will allow you to use additional Passport cards as the fee.
- The Wine Tasting Passport is available for purchase at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th.
- Your hotel in Carmel may also have them for sale.
- Tip: If you purchase a bottle of wine on the Wine Walk, the corkage fee at most restaurants in Carmel is waived. Make sure to ask your server about this.
Participating Tasting Rooms in The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea
When you purchase the Wine Passport you receive a pocket sized map of where the tasting rooms are located to help guide your path. I also suggest you pick up the brochure on the Wine Walk in the Visitor Center as it provides a short overview of the wines each vineyard will be sampling. This helped me narrow down where I HAD TO VISIT and others I could miss based on their wines since I tend to prefer more reds than whites. (Tip: You can also grab this brochure to guide your path if you choose not to purchase the Wine Passport as it too has a map.)
I was only able to spend a few hours in Carmel tasting wine but was able to get to three of the 12 tasting rooms. I could have done more but it was fun to simply BE and enjoy the wines with new friends along the way.
This was the first stop on the Carmel Wine Walk for us and a rather popular one for everyone else in town. When we stopped in I was a little dumbfounded by the lingering crowd; after several minutes we were still struggling to make our way to the bar area to do a tasting. While annoying, it does speak to the type of wines Scheid produces. When we were finally able to taste Scheid wines I was pleasantly surprised to find three flight options (only one with the Passport unless you provided additional passes or paid extra). Each flight had four wines that included two whites and two reds. I stuck with the Estate Flight: 2011 Odd Lot White; 2012 Syrah Rose; 2009 Merlot; 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot was extremely smooth and the Rose was wonderful – not too sweet but not too dry. With only 136 cases of Rose, I might just be ordering one for the summer.
Hours: Daily: 12pm-6pm
Blair Vineyard and Shale Canyon
These two wineries share a tasting room, making it a nice spot to sit down and do TWO tastings at once, which is exactly what we did. Initially I had only planned to taste Shale Canyon since there were a few more reds on its tasting flight – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah. However, after sipping a friend’s glass of Blair, I had to do both and I’m glad I did.
Blair is Monterey County’s newest artisan label, focusing on limited releases of single vineyard Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay from the Arroyo Seco appellation. Blair Vineyard started producing its own wines in 2007 and they’re already winning awards – a lot of awards. This had to be my favorite tasting room along the Wine Walk. Not just because of the wines but because we had the chance to chat with Jeffery Blair, owner and winemaker. I learned more about wines in Monterey County than I had anticipated, all while being entertained by his family stories about growing up on the vineyard. (I had the chance to interview Jeffery for our Interview with a Winemaker series – check it out.) Make sure to visit Blair when you’re in Monterey.
Hours: Winter: 12pm-6pm; Spring/Fall: 11am-7pm
I’m not much of a bubbles drinker but I do enjoy a nice glass of it from time to time and this was one of those times. Caraccioli Cellars specializes in sparking and still wines. I found their wines to be very fruit forward. The tasting room is rather unique and different than the other tasting rooms along the walk. It’s a contemporary sleek and trendy atmosphere – dimly lit, dark walls, nice background music. Just grab a bar stool and a cheese plate and you’re set. In our case it wasn’t a cheese plate we were snacking on but rather macroons! We happened into the tasting room during a wine club party and were invited to stay and enjoy ourselves. Tip: Strawberry macroons pair wonderfully with Caraccioli’s Brut Rose.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 2pm-7pm; Fri. & Sat.: 11am-10pm; Sun.: 11am-7pm
Other Tasting Rooms on The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea
(I wasn’t able to visit these tasting rooms but would love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments.)
Produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rosé from vineyards in Monterey County.
Hours: Sun.-Fri.: 1pm-6pm; Sat.: 12pm-6pm
De Tierra Vineyards
Produces limited production, estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah.
Hours: Tues.-Thurs.: 2pm-8pm; Fri.-Sun.: 12pm-8pm; Winter: Tues.-Thurs.: 2pm-7pm; Fri.-Sun.: 12pm-8pm; Closed Mondays.
Hours: Thurs.-Mon.: 12pm-6pm
Hours: Sun.-Fri.: 1pm-6pm; Sat.: 12pm-6pm
Featuring Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah & Port.
Hours: Winter: 12pm-6pm; Fall: 11am-7pm
Produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Rosé from its 11-acre estate vineyard in Carmel Valley.
Hours: Daily: 12pm-7pm
Italian-themed wine bar featuring Pèpe Winery and the wines of Antinori.
Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 3pm-10pm; Sat. & Sun.: 2pm-10pm
Produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Hours: Mon.-Sat.: 10am-6pm; Sun.: 11am-5pm
Make sure to check out our Guide for Things to do in Monterey CA.