Monterey Bay is known for its incredible aquarium and Cannery Row. Not to be missed, however, is equally wonderful winery scene. Our first winery of the day: the Carmel Ridge Winery.
A short walk from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a waterfront retail center with something for everyone. We were focused, though, on discovering the tasting rooms that we had heard so much about. We walked less than a block, from our hotel (the incomparable Spindrift Inn) to the expansive outdoor space that featured a series of sculptures.
We walked into the tasting room, right in front of the statues and soaked in the vibe. The room was full of sunshine and soft brown tones, with a wraparound tasting bar and something to look at in every direction. We met wine guide Dallas, who’s smile made us feel welcome. We found a comfortable spot along the marble bar and got ready for some tasting!
We began our tasting flight with their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, a great start. Nice kumquat and citrus notes, with enough acid on the finish to build a craving for the next sip. The 2016 Chardonnay was a gentle “porch pounder” to use Dallas’ term, with not too much butter yet a nice soft oak on the palate. Then, on to the reds, starting with their 2016 Sonoma Pinot Noir. We loved the nuanced and layered dark plum notes. We were reminded of some of our favorite Pinots from Balletto Vineyards. Dallas then poured their 2014 Monterey County Pinot Noir; masterfully balanced, with unique honey notes.
Our next taste was a real crowd-pleaser: their 2015 Red Blend. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel, we fell in love with the depth of fruit, including dark cherry and strawberry, and finishing notes of rose petals, tobacco and smoke. This could be a dangerous wine, because we could see finishing the bottle without even noticing, it was that delicious. It led off our “take home” list. The 2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, from St. Helena fruit, was a main stream Cab for all occasions. This wine can pair with any meal because of the gentle party of fruit, with smoke, acid, and tamed tannins on the finish.
We completed our tasting flight with a Rosé of Pinot Noir (with a splash of Gewürztraminer that really came through) and their 2013 Moscato, a pool-side friend with a hint of pear. Our first tasting of the day was a success! We purchased our wine, thanked Dallas for all the hospitality, and set off toward our next tasting!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?