Our Monterey Wine Travel Guide shares a brief history of this California wine country, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines.
The rich diversity of growing conditions in Monterey County is reflected by the astounding number of varietals grown (30+) and nine AVAs and more than 80 wineries.
Monterey County wine country is cool – literally. The region has the longest growing season in California due to the cool marine air from Monterey Bay that blankets the area with chilly fog, keeping the vines protected from the scorching sun. Monterey Bay is home to a deep ocean canyon, which results in the air being much colder than in San Francisco, just North of Monterey.
Within the Monterey AVA there are eight smaller AVAs. From North to South you have Monterey (which encompass the other AVAs), Carmel Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone, Arroyo Seco, San Bernabe, San Lucas, San Antonio Valley and Hames Valley.
Most of the AVA’s vines are planted in the the Salinas Valley, where the Salinas River flows. The combination of the river and Monterey Bay produce excellent grape growing conditions for cool-climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The cool winds from Monterey Bay diminish as they move inland through the Salinas Valley, resulting in richer, more full-bodied wines.
Monterey County includes the following cities, towns and regions: Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Moss Landing, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Sand City, Salinas, Salinas Valley, Seaside.
TOP GRAPE VARIETIES
Monterey County is the largest grower of Chardonnay in the United States and the largest grower of Pinot Noir in California.
White Wine Grape
RED Wine Grape
The first vines were planted in what is now Monterey County more than 200 years ago by Franciscan friars, at the Spanish mission of Soledad.
Monterey wine country is now home to around 40,000 acres of planted vineyards varying in size from 60 to several thousand acres, making it one of the largest premium wine grape growing regions in California worth over $200 million.
This hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t until 1960 that Monterey County became widely recognized as a wine growing region, after a viticultural report was published that classified grape growing districts by climate. Monterey County was classified as Region I and II, comparable with the premium regions of Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy and Bordeaux.
WHERE TO SIP
More of the best wineries in Monterey to explore.
WHERE TO STAY
Planning Your Monterey Wine Country Vacation
BEYOND THE VINES
The 10 distinct wine regions in Monterey County there’s a lot to do besides sipping in the 80+ Monterey wineries. We have A LOT OF IDEAS for kids, designated drivers and those enjoying the wines of the region.