San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge rises to greet you at the top of our Central Coast. Over the course of the next 500 kilometers (300 miles), the weather transitions from moody to mild, which makes for excellent diversity in both wine and surf. Grapes here are among the oldest in the state, planted by Franciscan monks as they made their way north on El Camino Real (“the royal road”, now Highway 101) in the late 1700s.
The gently sloping land is good for drainage while the terrain and soil characteristics are the most suitable for planting, cultivating and harvesting grapes away from urbanization. In addition, the soil temperatures are cooler than in other parts of the state. This factor naturally limited the size of the crop, thereby increasing grape and wine quality. The area provides enough warm days, a shorter frost season and less chance of unseasonable and damaging rains. The primary attribute of this singular climate is the cooling air of the Monterey Bay, which creates a longer growing season. As air in the southern part of the county warms at noon each day and rises, cool air from the Bay fills the void left by the rising warm air.
Grapevines in Monterey County tend to produce buds in the Springs, two weeks earlier than vines in other regions. Due to the cool growing season, the Autumn harvest typically begins two weeks later than other regions. Thus, local grapes remain on the vine a full month longer, developing the characteristic intensity of flavour. During this longer growing season, county viticulturists will encourage even ripening of the fruit by raising the canopy which covers the grape bunches. This canopy manipulation is prevalent in Monterey County, in order to balance the relationship between hang time and ripening. This slowly matured fruit offers intense varietal flavours and an ideal sugar-acid balance. These concentrated, true varietal flavours are the hallmark of Monterey County’s quality wines.