If you're planning a trip to Monterey County this summer, get excited for that cool sea breeze, plenty of sunshine and an abundance of newly opened drinkeries to try. As a leading wine destination, the area offers new tasting rooms, as well as the addition of other spirituous beverages, including craft brews, whiskey, seltzer and cocktails. Whether a beer lover or wine connoisseur, the opportunities to quench your thirst continue to grow throughout the region.
Carmel, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley
The one-square-mile village of Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts 17 wine tasting rooms including its new addition of Lepe Cellars, where you can sample organic, vegan and sustainable wines. Carmel-by-the-Sea also offers a free Wine Walk mobile guide with exclusive experiences and savings at select tasting rooms found throughout the village.
Outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea is the town of Carmel, where you will find the new Black-owned Wine Bank. The wine bar serves up a large menu of sparkling, red, white, rosé and reserve wine selections paired with live music.
Beyond Carmel sits Carmel Valley, home to more than 20 wine tasting rooms including the new family-owned and -operated Corral Wine Company. The tasting room opened in 2022 and barreled its first batch of estate Pinot Noir in 2017. For wine paired with food and music, visit Folktale Winery & Vineyards. Situated on 15 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards, you can reserve a spot at Folktale’s Wine Garden Restaurant including Sunday brunch and complimentary live music from local artists all season long.
Downtown Monterey's new speakeasy Savvy offers a curated drink menu featuring barrel-aged and crafted-to-order libations that are Prohibition era-inspired. The entrance is tucked into a storefront underneath the Golden State Theatre and patrons must share a password (found on the bar’s website) to enter. A few blocks away sits the recently opened The Whisky Club that serves up limited production Scotch and whiskies, as well as cocktails on tap. Choose from more than 200 expressions of Scotch and bourbon prepared neat, on the rocks or however you prefer. Additionally, the tasting room offers flights that represent whiskies by region and brand that can then be purchased at the Club’s bottle shop.
California Seltzer Co. launched the state’s first “seltzery” at Lovers Point Park, steps from the ocean in Pacific Grove. The taproom and eatery serves small-batch seltzers in flavors like hibiscus lime and blood orange, as well as wood-fired pizza and craft beer from its sister company, Lodi-based Five Window Beer Company. The town also holds Monterey County’s only cidery, Pacific Grove CiderWorks, located steps away from Asilomar Beach, where you can sip premium ciders, perry and a unique and award-winning Brandipera.
Embark on an epic brewery crawl in downtown Salinas, which has seen a surge of local brewery openings over the last year. With five taprooms all within a 600-foot walking distance, there is no shortage of brews to try—including the English Coffee Porter, a collaboration between The Beerded Bean, a popular coffee shop-brewery concept, and La Cantina Brewing Company, one of the newest additions to Salinas’ brewery scene. Brew-N-Krew Ale House is a Latina-owned ale house with inventive flavors inspired by the owner’s roots, such as the Lokura beer, which borrows hints of tamarind, mango, and habanero from popular Mexican candy. Other established favorites include XL Public House and Famers Union Pour House, with rotating lists of beer and wine that keep visitors coming back. And if you're looking for cocktails, don't miss Villa Azteca. Try one of their signature drinks, like a blanco paloma or a strawberry mint spritzer jar.
Oenophiles can head to the heart of Monterey County wine country through River Road Wine Trail in the Salinas Valley. A dozen wineries, most with wine tasting rooms, provide the opportunity to sip on the region’s top varietals, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and visit three newer tasting rooms like CRU Winery, set on the Santa Lucia Highlands with stunning vineyard and valley views. Partakers can sample a collection of wines that focus on Burgundian and Rhone, all crafted from vineyards throughout the Central Coast. Family-owned and -operated Rustique Wines offers Pinot Noir and Chardonnay tastings set with vineyard views and a rustic barn at the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. The newest tasting room, Joyce Wine Company, is helmed by self-taught winemaker and Monterey County local, Russell Joyce, and is set at the historic Ventana Winery in the Arroyo Seco AVA (American Viticultural Area). Joyce also has a tasting room in Carmel Valley.
No matter what sips inspire a summer getaway, please remember to travel responsibly when in Monterey County. Designated drivers are encouraged, or leave the driving to the pros with one of several tour companies that provide transportation offerings to taste the best of Monterey County. Choose from the new Kombi Tours for touring wineries and breweries in a Volkswagen Kombi Bus, Red Engine Rides for larger groups interested in riding in a renovated fire engine, Behind the Scenes Wine Tours for a wine tasting tour through River Road Wine Trail and Ag Venture Tours for a custom tour including exploring Carmel Valley wine tasting rooms.