MERCED — Monterey wine country has experienced a 40 percent increase in tasting rooms over the last year, according to the Monterey County Visitor's Bureau.
Most of the new tasting rooms are in Carmel Valley Village, 12 miles east of Carmel. If this column seems like a rerun, it nearly is, and thanks for remembering Wine Line from Feb. 20, 2008.
In that column I featured seven tasting rooms and four restaurants. In just over four years, the village has grown to 17 tasting rooms and eight restaurants. Wow, so many wines, so little time -- time for a revisit.
This column is not long enough to cover every venue in the village, so here are some suggestions. Park the car and walk. All the tasting rooms are close to each other. In fact, six are in the same building.
Almost all the wineries are relatively small producers and charge tasting fees in the $5 to $10 range. Most will deduct the charge if you purchase a bottle or two.
If you are a marathon taster, I suggest you share a glass with your partner; the editor and I do it all the time. Expect to taste some excellent chardonnays and pinot noirs from cool Santa Lucia in Salinas Valley and Bordeaux varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the warm Carmel Valley.
You will have the opportunity to taste many outstanding artisan wines, wines you will not find in your local supermarket.
The editor and I prefer to eat after wine tasting (for obvious reasons) and almost all the restaurants are available for an early dinner or a late lunch.
We tried lokal restaurant on our last visit, and it was quite good. One of our favorites is Café Rustica, but you have plenty of options. Ask your tasting room host or hostess for his or her favorite restaurant. The locals always know the best places to eat.
If you prefer to take a picnic, there is a community park nearby and the newly opened Cima Collina tasting room has shaded picnic tables.
My final suggestion is to visit on Thursday or Friday to avoid the weekend crowds.
Carmel Valley Village has become the "cool" wine destination of the Monterey Peninsula.
Escape the Valley heat
Here are two reasonably priced coastal wine events that will tempt you to escape the dog days of summer. On Saturday, the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association will host its
20th annual Winemaker's Celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Go to www.Monterey Wines.org for more information. The second event is the seventh annual Urban Wine Experience presented by the East Bay Vintner's Alliance on Aug. 18. The alliance represents 23 wineries from Alameda to Berkeley. Only seven have tasting rooms open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to taste all 23 wineries and sample some of the fare at 12 restaurants in one location, the Rock Wall Wine Co. in Alameda.
What's on our table
The 2010 Kenwood Russian River Pinot Noir is a steal at $12.99. Delicate red cherry flavors, a touch of mint and soft tannins make it a perfect match for cedar-planked salmon. Chill it to 60 degrees for a cool, smooth summer red. Cheers!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Find me on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.