One of my favorite Northern California weekend escapes is the little coastal community of Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Bay. Not only does the town have gorgeous white sand beaches and delicious food, it’s famously pet-friendly–you can bring your dog just about everywhere.
On our recent Carmel weekend getaway, I discovered one more fun thing to do in Carmel, a walking tour of local wineries.
The Carmel Wine Walk
The three counties surrounding the Monterey Bay (Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz) offer a range of excellent grape growing environments from cool, foggy, coast to hot, arid, valleys. The region produces some interesting wines, but all the wineries are far apart making them challenging to visit on a day trip.
Luckily, the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea has more than 20 wine tasting rooms in the downtown area that let you sample these regional wines. Unlike many other California wine regions, you can walk to all of them! The town promotes these tasting rooms on their “Wine Walk By The Sea,” a self-guided walking tour. To save on tasting fees, you can pick up the Carmel Wine Walk Passport ($65) which gives you nine tickets that you can exchange for tasting flights at any of the 14 participating Carmel wine tasting rooms. You can use all nine tastings yourself, split the tickets–or tastings–with a friend, or even save the tickets for another trip, they expire six months after purchase. You can pick up the wine walk passport at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (on San Carlos between 5th & 6th), on the Chamber of Commerce website, or possibly, at your hotel–we picked up ours from the Hofsas House, who sells them at the front desk so guests can check-in and get right to tasting.
Wine Tasting in Carmel
Kevin and I decided to share the tastings flights (using one ticket per winery) so that we could visit as many Carmel wineries as possible. We wound up stopping into seven participating tasting rooms, leaving two tickets that we’re saving for our next visit. We had fun navigating the wine walk map and hopping from tasting room to tasting room. The tour led us through the city’s quirky hidden alleys and courtyards.
Here are three of our favorite Carmel wineries:
- Alexander-Smith by Paraiso: Excellent sustainably produced estate pinot noir and chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. The tasting room was a little hard to find, tucked deep in the Court of the Golden Bough, on Ocean between Lincon and Monte Verde–but it was a gorgeous, brightly lit, and modern place. Worth sitting down to spend some time.
- Galante Vineyards: Bold red wines from grapes grown on the Galante family ranch, a working cattle ranch in the Carmel Valley. The Galantes have deep roots in Carmel–owner Jack Galante’s great grandfather founded the Town of Carmel and the family winery was the first tasting room to open in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Their tasting room is located off Dolores between Ocean and Seventh Ave.
- Wrath: A small Santa Lucia Highlands area winery that makes really unique wines. I was introduced to Wrath a few years back at a local wine bar in San Jose when I tried a lovely dessert wine made from their “noble rot” (fungus infected) sweet grapes. This year’s tastings were bold and intense. The tasting room is located on the ground floor of Carmel Plaza, at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Mission Street.
The very best part of the Carmel Wine Walk was that like most places in dog-friendly Carmel, all of the tasting rooms let us bring our dog inside…
I was given a Carmel Wine Walk passport to review. All opinions are my own.
Looking for more things to do in the Monterey Bay? Pick up a copy of the Moon Guide to Monterey & Carmel.