Situated in the Santa Lucia Highlands overlooking the Salinas Valley, Hahn Estate has converted what were horse and cattle ranches into the birthplace for award-winning wines. Among the first wineries in California to be certified for its sustainability, the facility spreads its production across six vineyards and more than 1,000 acres of Monterey County land. That land yields premium selections of pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah, or as Hahn Estate views them, tasty celebrations of the estate's unique location.
In the 1850s, winery founder Theophile Vache chose a piece of land to plant wine grapes because of its maritime climate and unique soils. More recently, this land was christened Pietra Santa—Italian for “sacred stone”—in honor of the region's granite- and limestone-rich soils, which have produced subtly earthy wines for 150 years. Rows of olive trees and wine grapes, including pinot noir and pinot gris varieties, sprout from 450 acres of fecund soil nestled in the Gabilan Range.
Within the Mission-style winery, vintner Alessio Carli ferments vino in oak barrels, and a Tuscan-imported press squeezes oils from organic olives. The winery's picnic area furnishes guests and marooned hot air balloon captains with breath-nabbing views of Cienega Valley. In addition to garnering the adoration of oenophiles, Pietra Santa has attracted attention from Frank Lloyd Wright associate Burley Griffin Junior, who designed the estate's prairie-style Dickinson house, which was built in 1905.
With a reverence for Old-World winemaking techniques, Leal Vineyards founder Frank Leal orchestrates a well-balanced blend of varietals including chardonnay, syrah, malbec, and mourvèdre. The self-taught vine visionary personally tends to the estate, determining optimum moments for picking and bottling to prevent the scars of prematurely separating young grapes from their mothers. In addition to nurturing the 50-acre flock of award-winning grapes, Leal's estate hosts weddings, corporate functions, parties, and wine tastings, which introduce palates to the subtle notes of its signature varietals. Those whose taste in wines changes with the seasons can join the vineyard’s wine club to receive a new bouquet each quarter.
In 1996, around the time his daughter Destiny was born, David Hunt began scouring Oregon, Washington, and California's wine regions for a place his dream vineyard could call home. He and his family settled on a 550-acre site in Paso Robles, which they christened Destiny's Vineyard, and opened Hunt Cellars winery.
And now, the small operation churns out barrel-aged pours that have won numerous awards and are available at prestigious restaurants, such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Morton's. What is particularly impressive about Hunt's success is that he's legally blind and must rely on his sense of taste and smell to figure out exactly how to blend his flavors together, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Inside his colonial-style tasting room, which features a 1,200-foot veranda, he pairs his beloved wines with his other love in life—music. Visitors here can enjoy a glass of wine while listening to Hunt tickling the ivories on the tasting room's white baby grand piano, which he plays during winemakers' dinners. Forbes even dubbed him the "Diddy of Winemakers" because like the music mogul, David blends his music with his alcohol brand, and loves changing his name.
Château Julien Wine Estate was featured on JustLuxe and California Winery Advisor. Yelpers give the winery a three-star average, and TripAdvisors give it an average of four owl eyes. Four Yahoo! Travelers give it a 4.5-star average.