Carmel’s Wine Walk By-the-Sea

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog. 

Patty Brower in the barrel room of Chateau Julien. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

On my recent trip to Northern California’s wine country, I came across Frenchie at Raymond Vineyards – Napa Valley’s dog-friendly winery. On my way back I discovered a pooch-friendly hotel, the Cypress Inn at Carmel-by-the-Sea. The charming Mediterranean style inn is co-owned by Hollywood legend Doris Day, a dog-lover and founder of the Doris Day Animal Foundation.

I encountered as many dogs as people at this inn. A bowl of dog biscuits welcomes the four-legged guests, and each room is equipped with a pet blanket and water bowl. The best part of this inn is that it’s just steps away from Carmel’s Wine Walk, a cluster of seven tasting rooms within a two block range.

Although Monterey County is know for its wines, notably Pinot Noir, most wineries are not open to public. Besides, the wineries that have tasting rooms are spread all over the county’s eight appellations. So it was only natural that the touristic village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, should be a hub for wine tasting. But, no, the city had long established an ordinance against wine tasting rooms in the village famous for its art galleries and fine dining.  That all changed in 2004 when Jack Galante of Galante Vineyards opened the first tasting room in the village. (He had some pull with the city officials as his ancestors co-founded Carmel-by-the Sea).

Scheid Tasting Room. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

With my Wine Walk passport in hand I was ready for sipping and spitting. First stop – Scheid known for its sublime Pinot Noir – the 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve Pinot was layered with cherries and dark fruit, the 2010 Chardonnay was refreshing with citrus notes. The 2008 Merlot, a deliciously spiced wine was from Arroyo Seco and the intense Cabernet Sauvignon came from San Lucas, both in Monterey’s warm appellations.

A block down, located in the Carmel Plaza and next to The Cheese Shop, I visited Wrath, one of my favorite Pinot Noir producers. These wines reflect the classic character of Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) appellation – exuding dark fruits layered with a hint of earth. Owner Michael Thomas’ focus is on single vineyard production and minimal intervention in winemaking.

Wrath Pinot Noir. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

At the tasting room of Tudor wines, located inside Andre’s Bouchée restaurant is where I found Dan Tudor’s handcrafted Pinot Noirs – the elegant and silky 2007 Tondre Reserve from SLH and the 2006 Anderson Valley exuding blueberry and floral scents.

Other stops on my walk included Vino Napoli, a wine bar serving a limited selection of local wines and pizzas and Caraccioli Cellars, where I refreshed my palate with a 2006 Brut Rosé I  ended my stroll at the Western-themed tasting room of Gallante Vineyards known for its big bold Cabernet Sauvignons from Carmel’s warmer Cachagua Valley.

The following day I drove east toward Carmel Valley. On the way I stopped by at  Morgan’s tasting room to check out their superb SLH Pinot Noirs, followed by a visit to the scenic Chateau Julien. Co-owner Patti Brower gave me a partial tour of the 16-acre estate that she and husband Bob established in 1982.  “There were only eight wineries here then,” she said. “Now there are about 50.” We tasted the flagship Merlot – the 2008 Private Reserve was loaded with dark berries and pepper and the lush 2007 Black Nova III, a blend of Malbec and Syrah.

Later I exlplored the rustic Carmel Valley Village. Here I found another cluster of tasting rooms, among them, Talbott, noted for its extensive portfolio of Chardonnays and Pinots; and Georis’s tasting room housed in a1903s adobe, surrounded by a meandering garden. Georis’s wide selection ranges from the minerally Chardonnay and crisp Rosé to fruit forward Cabernet Franc and robust Cabernet Sauvignon.

My afternoon ended at Georis’ Corkscrew Cafe. I was ready for a bowl of chicken soup, crusty bread and a bottle of sparkling water.