So you’re planning a trip to California: Where should you visit? Napa is a popular choice, but what about Monterey?
If you are visiting California and you want to visit a wine region, you have likely looked into a Napa trip. Napa is California’s most famous wine region and put California wine on the world map after the Judgment of Paris tasting in the late 1970’s. Our own Scott grew up in Napa and has a deep-seated love of the wine experience in Napa. With over 400 wineries it is a powerhouse and offers numerous tasting experiences; all quite polished and pricey. After leaving Napa for college and choosing a career in the late 1990’s in Monterey, he realized that wine and the experience it provides can be more nuanced.
The Monterey County is also an experience worth exploring, and one which has more diversity of elements that a whole family can enjoy. While Napa is almost purely a Food and Wine journey, Monterey offers a host of other options including Golf, the Aquarium, scenic drives, as well as great food and wine.
As for the wine, the experience is quite different, and one that the majority of our guests really enjoy.
The primary difference between Napa wines and Monterey wines is the type of grapes that thrive in each region. Napa’s quintessential grape is Cabernet Sauvignon. Monterey’s most prolific quality grapes are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The reason for this is the geographic locations are very different. Besides the Carneros area of Southern Napa which is much cooler, the majority of Napa Valley has very hot summers. Monterey’s top growing region is the Santa Lucia Highlands. This mountainous area has moderately hot summers but the nights cool dramatically as the clouds and fog roll in from the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. This allows long hang times and the moderate weather brings bud break earlier than other regions. The SLH has the perfect soil, climate, and growing conditions for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and also Syrah.
A unique aspect to tasting around Monterey county is that it has that small town charm. It is not unusual to see the winery owner in the tasting room or working around the facility. Many of Napa’s wineries have a much more corporate feel. The majority of wineries in Monterey are more boutique and the production is averaging around 1500-7000 cases per year. Monterey is reminiscent of the movie Bottle Shock and the feel of visiting Chateau Montelena in the 1970s.
Our guests often point out two distinct elements that make their experience:
1. The experience in the tasting rooms and vineyards are very personal and tailored. No one feels like they are taking a number and going through a cookie-cutter regiment. People are interested in you, and happy to share their time and experience with you, as well as let you pet their dog or ask about your vacation. The relationships that Cane and Spur have built further enhance this experience.
2. Even with a larger diversity of wine varietals, guests often enjoy well over 80% of the wines they try, and go home with better quality and value wines than they expected.
Yes, the majority of our public tours head to tasting rooms around the area. The simple fact is that Monterey came up as a wine growing region as opposed to a Disneyland-like tourism center. No one has invested millions into manufacturing palatial drives or chateaus, and it is rare to see a limousine along the way. We enjoy this distinction, as well as the savings you get without that overhead (the average bottle price here is closer to $50). Vineyards are possible with some advance notice, and are generally selected to match your buying tastes.
As a wine lover, should you visit Napa or Monterey? We think you should visit both as they are so different from each other!
With Cane and Spur, we can also make that possible. If you are visiting Monterey, ask us about custom-tailored tours of Napa, the Santa Cruz Mountains, or anything else you require..