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.
Winery founder Theophile Vache christened his land 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.
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.
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 albariño are emphasized, more familiar grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel are represented as well. Previous vintages have included their 2010 albariño 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.
Bought by brothers Alex and Charlie Larson after an award-winning stint in the restaurant business, Rapazzini Winery tickles tongues with an eclectic collection of wines drawn from California's vineyards. After bottling, most Rapazzini wines rest for an additional one to two years, mellowing tannins, developing fruity bouquets, and finishing majors in art history. Unique wines include the almond champagne, created by Alex Larson using his training at the California Culinary Institute, and the Arpibella, blending sweet wine, apricots, and peach into a delectable aperitif or dessert wine. Guests to the winery can taste 21 of the 22 available wines, guided through the selection by resident grape expert Adam and his airedale, Butters. Behind the beaten copper bar, Adam and the brother Larson can also whip up wine-based cocktails, amusing mouths with more complex flavors.The two-story, open-beamed tasting room lulls guests into placid relaxation while sipping on palate-pleasing pours, whereas a stained-glass window depicting the winery's whimsical mascot reassures eyes that the sun has not been devoured by a dragon-shaped cloud.
Nestled in the scenic Hecker Pass region of the Santa Clara Valley, the family-owned winery focuses on crafting exemplary grape concoctions unlike anything inside a juice box or peanut butter sandwich. Solis has produced dozens of award-winning wines, baiting a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition gold medal for its 2008 Muscat Canelli, 2009 Fiano Estate, and 35,000 B.C. Chateau de Cro-Magnon. Grab a pal and perambulate the charming winery premises while sampling a variety of palate-stimulating wines during your tasting for two ($5 value per person). Five wines are included in the tasting. Additionally, budding winecionados will be able to take home a bottle ($12 to $30), such as the red 2006 Seducente ($20) or white 2007 Chardonnay ($24).