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 Magenta ArroyoSeco PicmonkeyMorning sun rises over Arroyo Seco vineyard.

(Monterey, CA) September 17, 2013—With world-renowned terroir ideal for producing complex and concentrated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco district celebrates its 30th anniversary as an American Viticulture Area (AVA) this fall.

One of the first areas in Monterey County to be distinguished as a unique winegrowing region, and one of the smallest in California, the Arroyo Seco AVA had already been recognized for growing outstanding wines – Chardonnay in particular – since the 1960s. Factors such as a cool climate influenced by nearby Monterey Bay, well-drained rocky soils, extreme winds, and experienced growers have combined to make wines from the Arroyo Seco AVA some of the most sought-after and awarded in the country.

“As one of the pioneers of Monterey County, Jerry Lohr planted his first grapes in the Arroyo Seco in 1972 knowing that the region was destined for producing high quality Chardonnay and Riesling,” said J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines President and COO, Jeff Meier. Since that time, Jerry Lohr’s passionate efforts to instill farming practices that bring out the best from the terroir have prompted his namesake and family owned company to expand varietal programs with Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Valdiguié. “Celebrating thirty years as an AVA is a milestone for the region and we at J. Lohr look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for all of us who will continue to have a presence in the AVA over the next 30 years.”

“There just are not many places in California – or the world – where all of the elements that make Arroyo Seco unique can exist,” said Rich Smith, owner and founder of Valley Farm Management, one of Monterey County’s pioneer wine producers. “We began growing the forty-two acres of vines at Cobblestone Vineyards in the Arroyo Seco area in 1975, and have added about eleven-hundred acres of vines over the past thirty-five years on four other properties in Arroyo Seco. If imitation is the best compliment, we obviously believe in complimenting the Arroyo Seco.”

Fourth-generation winegrower and Chief Executive Officer of Wente Family Estates, Carolyn Wente, recalls how her father, Karl Wente, came to plant vineyards in the Greenfield area of Monterey County in 1963. “He was attracted to the unique soils and climate he found along the Arroyo Seco river and bench lands, and became an advocate for others to plant in the region. At that time, there were no other vineyards in the area, which was widely planted to vegetables and row crops such as sugar beets.”

backhoe view Arroyo Seco Picmonkey Roots of Chardonnay vines live in rocky Arroyo Seco soil.Wente went on to describe how additional winegrowers gradually purchased and planted in Arroyo Seco, learning how different rootstocks, clonal selections and varietals excelled in the region with the experience of multiple vintages. Eventually, it came time for recognition of the district’s excellence. “My mother and I drafted first the Monterey and then the Arroyo Seco appellation petition and championed them with other vineyard and winery owners in the early 80s. Since then, our belief in the unique attributes of the appellation has only strengthened with the outstanding quality of the wines produced through the years. This AVA is clearly a hidden gem in the coastal winegrowing valleys of California!”

In 2007, the Arroyo Seco Winegrowers & Vintners Association was established to promote the district’s distinguished terroir and wines. Headed by Michael Griva of F&G Vineyards, the association has made great strides in defining and celebrating what makes this district so special. “I grew up among the greats of the Arroyo Seco AVA,” said Griva, “people like Karl Wente, Rich Smith and Jerry Lohr. It’s been a pleasure to promote their vision for what makes Arroyo Seco stand out, and to support their legacy of incredible wines grown by people who are passionate about its terroir.”

Editor's note: Material for this article was supplied to TASTE News Service by the Arroyo Seco Winegrowers. More information on the winegrape growers and wines from the Arroyo Seco AVA can be found at www.ArroyoSecoWinegrowers.com. If you're planning a visit to Monterey County you may want to visit Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to wineries and beer-centric establishments.

Friday, 26 July 2013 18:35

July 26, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Jekel 2011 Chard bottle Picmonkey

2011 Gravelstone Chardonnay


Jekel Vineyards

Appellation: Arroyo Seco, Monterey

Alcohol: 14.4%

Suggested Retail: $15.99


“Aromas of pineapple and guava prominent, with some white peach, too. From first sip, this Gravelstone Chardonnay exhibits a lush, creamy personality. Flavors of melon and a bit of citrus predominate. The winemaker says he used mostly neutral oak barrels, but there's still a vanilla presence from that smaller amount of new oak cooperage. This is a big wine (14.4% alcohol) and is a relatively inexpensive option for those who favor the full-blown California treatment of this variety.”

Food Affinity: “Seared scallops finished in brown butter and served with mandarin orange sections. Boiled/steamed halibut served in a white sauce with chopped, hard-boiled egg and fresh parsley. Spicy green curry chicken.” 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 12:59

Founder of Pessagno Winery Dies

by Dan Clarke

Steve Pessagno by vineyard PicmonkeySteve Pessagno 1958-2013

Taste California Travel  is saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Pessagno. The proprietor of Pessagno Winery in Monterey County died in his sleep this past weekend at age 55.

Though trained as a mechanical engineer, he returned to school take an enology degree at Fresno State. After stints as winemaker at Jekel and Lockwood, Steve was eventually able to begin his own winery, where he made wine from several varieties, most notably Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands.

We shared a table at a dinner sponsored by Monterey wineries about 10 years ago. The meal was spectacular—one of those events featuring so many wines that glasses for the last course might not have fit when the table was set and had to be brought to us later. Of course we talked about the food and the wines—everybody's wines at first and, later, the wines Steve was making at his own winery. The atmosphere was convivial and eventually the conversation moved beyond the evening's food and wine. We talked about family. He told us stories of making wine with his grandfather and of teaching his sons about baseball. Steve Pessagno was an excellent winemaker and warm and decent man.

Memorial arrangements are pending.

Tuesday, 08 January 2013 00:47

Savor and Save in Monterey County

Home to the nation's largest vegetable producing region, the culinary talent of Monterey County, California is being Tim Wood Chef at The Lodge Carmel Valley PicmonkeyChef Tim Wood of The Lodge  showcased during California Restaurant Month 2013. Thirty five restaurants featuring the diversity of the destination are offering a ten percent discount or a prix-fixe menu to customers who mention California Restaurant Month from January 1-31, 2013.

Food enthusiasts can zip down the Big Sur coastline to have breakfast nestled beneath the redwoods at Big Sur River Inn and then have fresh local sanddabs for lunch while watching sea lions play above the Monterey Bay at Café Fina. History buffs will find minds and appetites satisfied by dining in the very house where John Steinbeck grew up near the agriculture fields of Salinas.

Special menus for January 2013 have been crafted by award winning chefs tucked along the dips of Carmel Valley, the nooks of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the historic streets of Monterey. Unique prix fixe menu stars include Chef Tim Wood who is delivering a Monterey Bay Fisherman's Stew featuring Crab Fennel Garlic Tomato Broth at The Lodge Restaurant. Sweet tooths can experience dessert magic at the newly renovated Aubergine (2013) which Zagat recently ranked 5th best in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza is delighting customers with an intriguing dessert of grapefruit, white chocolate, and celery.

DCV Fandango PicmonkeyIn Pacific Grove, Fandango's Citroen Deux Chevaux sets Gallic tone

Visitors may dine at a discount at Moss Landing's Haute Enchilada Café & Gallery, where sustainable seafood is always on the menu and the artichoke risotto is locally sourced. To dine like a local, head to Pacific Grove and experience Fandango Restaurant as they celebrate 25 years of award winning cuisine.

Additional taste bud adventures include Pacifica Café in Seaside. Steak lovers will discover Filet Mignon and Prime Rib cooked to perfection. International flavors can be found in Marina which is home to dozens of authentic restaurants. Experience island fare at Kula Ranch by trying the Big Island Fish Tacos.

To see menus and offers from participating restaurants visit www.SeeMonterey.com/ca-restaurant-month.

About Monterey

Monterey County is located 120 miles/192 km south of San Francisco and 345 miles/552 km north of Los Angeles along the classic California corridor. The region boasts 99 miles of Pacific Coastline, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, three historic missions, 40,000 acres of vineyards, 24 golf courses and over 250 lodging properties. Monterey County includes the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, North County and the Salinas Valley. The Monterey Peninsula Airport (MRY), is three miles from downtown Monterey and is served by non-stop flights to and from Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Phoenix (PHX), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN) and San Francisco (SFO). www.SeeMonterey.com.

Editor's note: Sources at TravMedia.com contributed to this report

Sunday, 06 January 2013 18:57

July 20-23, 2017 California Rodeo

Region: Central Coast     City: Salinas     Contact: www.carodeo.com

Sunday, 06 January 2013 16:18

July 15-29, 2017 Carmel Bach Festival

Region: Central Coast     City: Carmel     Contact: http://www.bachfestival.org/

Region: Central Coast     City: Castroville     Contact: www.artichokefestival.org 

Region: Central Coast     City: Monterey     Contact: www.steinbeck.org

Saturday, 05 January 2013 22:05

February 6-12 2017 AT&T National Pro Am

Region: Central Coast     City: Pebble Beach     Contact: www.attpbgolf.com

by Laura Ness

Back Roads of Monterey GregsTree Picmonkey

For those of you who haven’t consulted a map lately, Monterey County is one huge place. There’s nothing quite like a road trip that skirts the eastern edge of this vast county, dipping south of Hollister, through San Benito county on one of the world’s mot amazing roads: highway 25. It’s nothing short of stunning in its green grandeur this time of year, when its sumptuous verdant hues remind you of the Emerald Isle, and puffy silver-bellied clouds circle the horizon like a bunch of cows that have just seen the hay truck pull up at the edge of the ranch. Pretty much ranches, cows, hawks and prairie dogs are all you see along this stretch, now increasingly punctuated by vineyard rows.

And yet this is a place that most of time forgot. In fact, it’s a place where the hands fell off and the face is so faded you think you’re back in the 19th century, maybe the 18th. We’ve been riding these perilous strips of asphalt and macadam for decades now, my husband and I, in everything from BMW 3 series to sport bikes to touring bikes – even a van. But this past week was an excuse to take the Z06 ‘vette (2002) out for a romp. There are places along the long, smooth vineyard-guarded stretch just south of Tres Pinos past Bolado Park, where you can easily hit 100mph and still see a mile ahead of you. It’s effortless to obtain such speeds in a 400+hp road car like the ‘vette – your hair doesn’t stand on end, and your stomach does not find some other place of your anatomy to call home. Which is totally unlike the experience of doing so on a Kawasaki Ninja 600, my beloved black and red-wheeled steed that managed to hit 130mph before my eyes blurred over from the wind rushing through my helmet and I thought my hands would vibrate clean off. The exhilarating rush might not be quite the same in a wheeled vehicle, but the sensation of racing to meet the horizon with nothing but a sparrow hawk as an eyewitness is breathtaking.

Back Roads Monterey 100MphStretch Picmonkey

At such speeds, you must consciously slow the world down around you. Otherwise, you can’t focus. And I have a really slooowwww camera, so let’s just say I got lots of shots of big blurry things streaking by. Occasionally, I was able to snap a few Pulitzer prize winners, mostly when my husband deigned to slow down. Clearly, I need a better camera, ‘cause he’s not interested in going any kind of slow. What I did manage to capture, but only in my mind, was a series of back roads Americana Christmas décor, the kind you only find out on lonesome highways where the same people pass by daily. Along the stretch of 25 that runs between Bolado Park and the cutover to King City at Bitterwater, every mail box, most of them as decrepit as the fences that vaguely suggest property boundaries, was festooned, albeit modestly, with a small bough of long-needled pine and a bright red ribbon. At first, I thought this must be some kind of tradition out here in the boondocks. Then, as I spied more and more of them, I had to wonder, did the lone mail carrier who has this route put them on each box at the start of the holiday season, a gesture to provide delight both to him or herself on the daily route, as well as to add a touch of joy to each box holder as they stopped to collect their precious letters and not so precious bills? I don’t know the answer to this question that few people would care enough to ask, but I’m sure those who live along that lonely, desolation highway know the answer, and whatever it may be, it most surely warms their hearts each winter day. It’s the little things in life that make all the difference.

Laura Ness mug Picmonkey


Laura Ness, aka "Her VineNess," an accomplished wine and travel journalist, loves sharing stories of wines with character and the characters who make them. She blogs, unapologetically, at myvinespace.com.



Editor's note: Planning a visit to Monterey County? Taste California Travel's Resource Directory has links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options (there are also links to all of the County's wineries and many beer-oriented estabishments).

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