…vineyards stretching as far as the┬ánaked eye can see, covering the valleys topsoil.┬áVines — god Bacchus’ army — lined up…


Many good books are written about wine. The Waiter’s Digest is not a wine buyer’s guide, nor does it attempt to list the world’s famous wines grown all over the world, from South Africa to the upper Rhine in Germany, the Crimea to California, Australia.

While I write The WAITER’s DIGEST in California, here in Monterey. Monterey County is still less known at this time (1998) than Napa or Sonoma to some connoisseur of California wines world wide.


Monterey is by California standards an old town. Once the city was the Capital of California, only till the Goldrush. Back then all action moved up north toward the Motherlode. Sacramento became the seat of the government, nearby San Francisco Bay grew fast into a large city, while Monterey forgotten underwent little change.

Monterey County is blessed with much unspoiled nature framed by the Santa Lucia’s to the south, the Gabilans and the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north. Grapes are growing throughout California from San Diego to Eureka. Monterey is right in the middle. Wine is not new to Monterey County. Monks and American Natives planted grapes at the many Missions throughout California quite some time back. It was however not until the 1960s that Monterey County became a preferred area for vineyards. Some people do argue such by pointing out that the Chalone vineyard at the Pinnacles dates back to 1919 and before. A few vineyards like Chalone, Paul Mason, Wente and Mirrasou were the first to try their luck with grapes here. Today wines are grown in many areas throughout the Tri-County being Monterey-Santa Cruz-San Benito. There are more than four dozen wineries and the sizes of the vineyards vary from a few acres to over thousand acres. Some of these grape-growing-operations are gigantic compared to the small vineyard patches in the old country. Nowadays along busy highway 101 south of Salinas, on the valley’s topsoil vines line up — god Bacchus’ army — to produce some of the very best wines ever grown on this planet. What is most unusual for the visitor who expects vegetable and salad growing in the nations salad bowl are those rows of vines as far as the eye can see, covering the valley’s black soil, watered by artificial rain, and nothing is planted on the hillsides.

Because the demand for table wines has been steadily increasing, established wineries have been acquiring more and more land for their vineyards. Names like Mondavi and Kendall Jackson who used to produce most of their grapes in other locations are nowadays at home in Monterey County. Today with plenty of open land to spare, Monterey County can measure up to the finest wine-growing-regions anywhere in the world.
Grapes grown in Monterey County are preferred by winemakers due to their unique qualities. Both the red wines and white wines from local grapes show unusual fruitiness, they are known to have a good color and an excellence sugar acid balance in addition to the unique aroma and flavor of each grape variety grown.

Monterey is a historic place with many meanings. For some of us Monterey means the City of Monterey, others use it to refer to the County of Monterey, many think Monterey Bay and the Marine Sanctuary. Music lovers think of Jazz and Dixieland, golfers of greens, fog and winter-rains. The car enthusiasts have the Concours d’elegance or Laguna Secca race track in mind whenever they hear Monterey. For wine-buyers without any doubt Monterey stands for adventures in tasting of fine wines while experiencing the sights, smell, taste, touch and sounds of Monterey.

by helmut schonwalder