Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toasting The Coast

Sometimes when plans change, it's a good thing. We had originally planned to head from our hotel in San Jose to Paso Robles, then to Monterey, & finishing off in Santa Cruz...however, a little internet birdy told me about an event that we just couldn't pass up: the 17th Annual Monterey Winemakers' Celebration!

We were really excited about this because the Monterey region is pretty spread out, & quite a few of the wineries have limited hours or the tastings are by appointment only. Not to mention that for $50 each, we were both able to taste as much wine as we wanted from 45 Monterey wineries, all out of a Riedel -- when you consider that most tasting fees in Monterey are $10, that's quite a bargain without even considering the cost of the glass! I'm no genius, but that's a purty smart move on our part...

Held at the beautiful Custom House Plaza, California's oldest government building, this event was an out-of-town wine tourist's dream. You see, we Lou dwellers don't get a lot of wine when you consider the big picture. For example, we get lots of wine from Estancia Estates & our very much loved Hahn Estates/Smith & Hook, but wines from Bernardus are very rare here, & stuff from Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Otter Cove, & Scheid are largely unheard of. Again, just get the idea.

Aside from the wine, scenery, & terrific weather (it was sunny & 63°, but not like a St. Louis 63° - somehow it was warmer but still cool enough for jeans), we were treated to a cooperage demonstration. Doug & I had never seen anything like it, so that was a highlight for wine geekish people like us.


The cooper is splashing water onto the wood to make it more bendable.


Then he tightens the ropes around the bottom of the barrel to shape it.


Once he has the barrel the way he wants it, the cooper removes it from - oh, look! A heating element that aids in the process.

Next, the barrel is moved over this thing. Sorry, I don't know the name of it, but I do know that it toasts the inside of the barrel to give the wine character.


I would've loved to have gotten more precise information for you, but give me a break. We'd already tasted our way through a tent & a half. Regardless, you probably didn't know how wine barrels were made. Since I really didn't, either, we're all just a little smarter now, aren't we?

Another big highlight was meeting Bill Anderson, the master winemaker from Chateau Julien. What a cool guy, & the wine he makes rocks, too! As I've said before, we've met quite a few winemakers, & not all of them are that interesting &/or fun to talk to, but Bill was a delight! We met him very early on in the event, which was perfect - he wasn't tired of talking to people, & after we'd tasted through his lineup, he opened up 2 very special bottles a couple of hours earlier than he was supposed to just to give us a preview. Fan-freakin'-tastic!

Here we are with the 2003 Chateau Julien Merlot (their flagship wine, & truly delicious).


Here's the rest of the lineup that they had for the day's tasting.


More on that later, but suffice it to say that we were so happy to experience these wines early before our palates were demolished by all of those other wines!

Wait...that's not to imply that the other wines were bad! They certainly were NOT.

Like Pelerin Wines - very small production, high quality Pinot Noir, Syrahs, & Rhone blends.


Or Ventana Vineyards - not only are their wines wonderful, but they get a special mention for being the only winery to present a - you guessed it - rose'!


Let's face it...too many pictures in a post & they can lose their significance, the page takes too long to load, or it just gets boring, so I'll stop here. There were many, many wines that deserve a mention, but a girl only has so much energy. Bottom line, attending the Monterey Winemakers Celebration was one of the best decisions we made during our entire trip!

One last thing -- Doug & I seemed to be the only people at the celebration that didn't live in California, & we were actually remembered by the event volunteers for traveling so far. We didn't get a trophy or anything, it was just cool.

Stay tuned, there will be more!


Angie said...

I have a friend that lives in Santa Cruz and she swears it's heaven on earth. Sounds like you guys had a fab time!

Thom said...

Well, you should have received a trophy. I love Monterey, and you know my love of good wine... it sounds perfect! Thank you for sharing your slice of heaven.

Sassy said...

Trophy? Screw that. They should have given you some free wine! :) Cool barrell pictures. I enjoyed the mini lesson.

Rhonda said...

Wow. I'm way jealous. That festival looks like ton of fun. When is it next year? I think I need to plan a trip!

LucyinStLou said...

Fantastic! Thanks for posting this. You are helping so much for our planning for the winter trip!

WineLush said...

Looks like a blast!!!!
I've had quite a few of those wines through Gold Medal and Taste of Monterey (obviously more through TOM ;)

Did you guys make it to that tasting room?

Claire said...

WineLush, we did go to that tasting room - it's beautiful! However, we didn't stay for tasting because that week's lineup wasn't impressive & it also wasn't cheap!