Pierce Ranch Vineyards is a boutique winery located in a highland valley at the southern border of Monterey County, but its wines have the robust characteristics of those from the Iberian Peninsula. That's because the family that operates the vineyard specializes in Spanish and Portuguese varietals. They use careful growing methods and fermentation techniques to craft a wide range of limited-run wines. Each and every one of their yearly production of 2,000 cases is grown on the estate. While lesser-known varieties such as touriga, tempranillo, and albari?o are emphasized, more familiar grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel are represented as well. Previous vintages have included their 2010 albari?o that was awarded Best in Show at the Central Coast Wine Competition and a 2007 petite sirah that was declared Best in California at the California State Fair Wine Competition.
Flowers and ornamental vines surround the winery's tasting room, which occupies a cozy bungalow near the coast of Monterey Bay. Servers jot the day's wine offerings on a chalkboard and fill glasses behind a wooden bar. In addition to wine tastings, visitors can stop by for live music or open-house events.
As the vineyard manager for Carmel Ridge Winery, Paul Stokes prefers to let nature take its course. He and his team intervene in the grapes' growth as little as possible, instead allowing the weather and the grapes themselves to let them know when to prune and pick. They also let the flavors of the soil seep into the vines, enhancing the grapes' character and flavor nuances. The winery's resident winemaker, Lynn Sakasegawa Stokes, is decidedly more hands-on when the fruit reaches her; she transfers the pressings to small lots of barrels for fermentation. Even then, the barrels are filled by a gravity-based flow system rather than by mechanical pumps—a system invented by Isaac Newton when he brewed his own small-batch cider—so the grapes maintain their earthy taste.
1933 was a banner year for Phillip and John Bargetto. Prohibition finally ended, and the brothers were able to reopen their winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Originally from Piedmont, Italy, Phillip and John embraced their passion for growing northern-Italian varietals, twining their hillsides with vines of dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
Now run by the Bargetto family's third generation, the winery continues to cultivate these same grapes as well as two of Santa Cruz's more well-known varietals, chardonnay and pinot noir. Its most heralded wines hail from the 40 acres of trellised vines at Regan Estate Vineyards, which produces balanced yet concentrated fruit thanks to its sunny hilltop location, loamy soil, and cool breezes from thousands of naturally occurring ceiling fans.
Controlled aging in new-French- or American-oak barrels imbues some of the winery's reds with lingering finishes and toasty sweetness, and stainless-steel barrels ensure that the whites retain their vibrant acidity. Although most of the wines display a more approachable style, the La Vita line embraces the family's Old-World routes, featuring complexly tannic and age-worthy blends of Phillip and John's favored dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
The California Wine Festival – Monterey Peninsula celebrates the Golden State's vintners by allowing attendees to sample a selection of more than 250 Californian wines. The event includes winemakers and representatives from 53 wineries—including Grgich Hills Estate, Bernardus Winery, and Paraiso Vineyards—as well as booths with artisan cheeses, fresh fruits, and barbecued meats from local, gourmet restaurateurs. Spread across two afternoons and evenings, the festival encourages guests to revisit their favorite wineries or discover obscure gems at a new booth or through a trap door connected to a hidden cellar. The California Wine Festival – Monterey Peninsula aims to support the community by donating 100% of the net proceeds from the Silent Auction to The Food Bank for Monterey County, which distributes food and provides antihunger education throughout the region.
Rather than send club members any old varietals, Wine from the Heart caters its quarterly selections to each member's personal tastes. The ever-evolving lineup hails from premiere wine regions throughout California, including the El Dorado foothills, Paso Robles, and Monterey. In fact, the latter is home to Wine from the Heart's headquarters, where its extensive collection is available for tastings everyday except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and National Go Away Day. More wine flows at the company's other frequent events, which range from food-pairing courses to painting lessons led by local artist Bunny Paivine.
In honor of the nearby Laguna Seca Raceway?s 11 turns, Turn 12 Bar & Grill adorns its innards with racing-flag red walls, photographs of roadsters, and vintage motorcycles and steering wheels. Appropriately, motorcycle enthusiasts gather at the 50-foot pewter-top bar for broadcasts of races and the weekly Bike Night, which features a live radio show. Once their adrenaline is racing, patrons can down fresh New American food like fire-roasted artichokes, burgers topped with a balsamic onion compote, prosciutto and arugula pizza, and chipotle-rubbed chicken breasts. During brunch hours, chefs customize omelets and top pizzas with eggs, bacon, and swiss chard.