When looking for a one-of-a-kind wine-tasting adventure in Monterey County, you have found the right place! Whether you are a seasoned wine connoisseur or just beginning your wine journey, the Portola Hotel & Spa's VIP Wine Experience Package is a great place to start.
Napa Valley naturally comes to mind when most people think of California wine country. Did you know that just 45 minutes from the Hotel is a region producing truly exceptional wines, especially if you are a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fan? The region is so unique that some winemakers in Napa or Sonoma source some of their grapes from this area of the County.
Have I piqued your interest?
Through our partnership with Monterey Guided Wine Tours, we can take you beyond wine-tasting rooms to experience the real thing, the vineyards, and wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands. It's here that you can enjoy an intimate wine-tasting experience, expansive outdoor spaces with panoramic views, and a peek behind-the-scenes of the winemaking process that's producing world-class wines.
I recently took the 5-hour VIP Wine Tour with friends. Our highly knowledgeable guide greeted us at the Hotel with a warm smile and a cold bottle of sparkling Rosé. We were on our way to visit two family-owned boutique wineries, and to discover some of the art and science of winemaking.
Approved as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1991, the Santa Lucia Highland's 6,400 acres of grape vines are nestled along the elevated, eastern-facing slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountain range. The bucolic beauty of the region is breathtaking. We passed through endless rolling vineyards, acres of wild mustard plants, and expansive fields of strawberries.
Our guide described the region as having the perfect terroir for making the cool-climate wines of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This was the first time I came across the term "terroir," but what does terroir mean, exactly? According to our guide, it means "a sense of place," and encompasses all of the factors (temperature, precipitation, climate, soil composition) that combine to influence the grapes and lead to the wine's distinctive personality – its unique terroir.
The cool Monterey Bay fog and maritime winds that flow through the vineyards are important factors. These winds arrive nearly every day, at nearly the same time. Like clockwork during the growing season and they have a special impact on the grapes. A unique, structural change happens that ultimately deepens the flavor of the fruit, ensuring vibrant wines that are delicious, but complex enough to age and go the distance in a wine cellar.
Our first appointment was a tasting at Odonata Winery. As we turned off the highway onto a dirt road that led to the winery, it hit me! This is "old-world" winemaking so unlike the tourist-heavy traffic on the wine roads of Napa and Sonoma, where folks don't even bother to look at the vineyards, as they dash across the parking lots from their cars to the tasting rooms.
We toured the vineyard and spent time checking out the newly budded vines, which provided an opportunity for us to see more clearly the art and science of winemaking. We had a private tasting with the winemaker and enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch that included a well-appointed charcuterie platter. The Pinot Noir served was truly elegant. The abundant fruit and opulent texture provided a smooth finish on my palate. I can still taste the wine's cherry fruit, cinnamon, and spices.
Following our tasting of the Odonata Wines, we headed to our next stop, Rustique Winery, which makes high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay, which had the aromas and flavors of pear, peach, and melon, along with some lovely floral notes.
Sipping wine by the rustic barn and taking in the scenic landscape was a perfect way to end the day. The wines we tasted at both wineries were truly sublime, demonstrating exceptional structure and depth of flavor across the board. Indeed, this was wine tasting at its best and most relaxed!
The growers and vineyards here have earned their place among the state's most prestigious names. We are lucky to have all of life's greatest indulgences — fine wine, great food, stunning vistas, beautiful weather, lots of relaxation and adventure — that can be experienced at the Portola Hotel & Spa and in the Santa Lucia Highlands, two places unlike any other.
You owe it to yourself to investigate all that Monterey and the Portola Hotel & Spa has to offer. Whenever you decide to pack your bags and visit us, we have the perfect VIP Wine Experience waiting just for you. I'll drink to that!