My favorite part of any party is that moment when everyone is gathered in the kitchen, having wonderful conversations, meeting new people and just generally having a great time. Now imagine that kitchen is the size of a small cottage, and that your hosts, who have exemplary musical taste and encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, are serving amazing Iberian-varietal wines. You’ve just imagined the Pierce Ranch Vineyards tasting room, just off Cannery Row in Monterey. Pierce Ranch Vineyards Pierce’s combination of great Spanish-influenced wine, a laid-back environment and late evening hours has turned the tasting room into a hang-out spot for both local and visiting neo-bohemians, without driving away wine connoisseurs. It’s refreshingly unpretentious, disarmingly friendly, and the staff makes me feel like I’ve gained ten cool points the moment I walk through the door. Pierce Ranch Vineyards I love Pierce Ranch Vineyard’s wines because they manage to be simultaneously delicious and surprising. The focus here is on Iberian varietals more often seen in Spain and Portugal, such as Temparanillo, Touriga and Albariño, as well as wines from rarely-seen-in-the-U.S. grapes such as Tinto Cão and Graciano. While the Iberians may be the main focus, Pierce’s deep bench of excellent wines also includes a few Rhone-style picks and tasty examples of New World wines such as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Jesse, Josh and Breeann staff the tasting room bar, and are as knowledgeable about pop culture – especially music – as they are about wine. No matter how busy the tasting room gets, they never rush a guest. The generous pours ensure that visitors can kick back and enjoy the wine, the conversation and the music. Pierce Ranch Vineyards Like any good party, the fun energy flows out to the back patio. It’s a perfect place to kick back at a table, enjoy the fresh air and people-watch as the overflow from Cannery Row’s crowds walk by. Pierce Ranch Vineyards The background music reinforces the house-party ambience. It’s the only tasting room in Monterey County where I’ve found myself part of an AC/DC sing-along. Their well-curated, wide-ranging vinyl collection features classic artists with indie cred, with the occasional musical interjection by some current post-rock artist you probably have never heard of but won’t be able to live without. Throughout the summer, Pierce Ranch Vineyards turns into a musical venue nearly every Friday night, featuring unique, usually acoustic sets from top local acts like Big Black Eyes, Matthew Hable, and more. A live venue where I can sip great wine? Consider my calendar marked. Pierce Ranch Vineyards 499 Wave Street Monterey, CA 93940