Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Tasting Room Tour - Part 1

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Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to 18 (at last count) wine tasting rooms. There are two ways to go about sampling the wares of Carmel's wine rooms.  If you are in town for just a short time and do not plan on coming back, pick one or two that interest you from this two part blog post, drop in and enjoy.  

If you are a local or come to Carmel often, the best deal is to purchase a Carmel Wine Walk Passport from the Visitor's Center on San Carlos between Fifth and Sixth.   


The current cost of the Passport is $65.00 which entitles the buyer to one $10 flight of wine at nine of the fifteen (as of 3/18/2016)  tasting rooms listed on the passport.  A flight of wine is either three, or four pours of about two ounces.  Roughly one glass of wine in Italian speak.  

Now I love wine, but after two glasses I am done for the day. So how does this Passport thing work if you don't, can't, or shouldn't drink all nine glasses in one day?  

The good news is that the Passport does not have to be used all in one day.  That's a relief.  In fact as of now, there is no expiration date on the Passport.  

So how do you use your Passport?  Currently the Passports are issued in a handy business card holder with nine businesses card size passes. When you arrive at a wine room, present your pass.  Ask the Bar Keep their suggestions and options for using the Passport. If you are stepping out with your significant other or a friend you may want to just use one pass but share one glass (three pours of three different wines) - yes you may do this.  Less wine per person but you may each enjoy a taste, which honestly is what this is about.  

I personally keep these card passes on hand to give to my adult children when they arrive for a visit and I need a nap.  We call them "Field Trips". I get my nap and they have fun.  But I digress.  

Another feature of the Passport is that a bottle of wine purchased at participating wine rooms may be taken to selected restaurants and the corkage fee is waved! There are rules for this, so to avoid disappointment please make sure you inquire at the wine room you are visiting how you might go about enjoying a bottle of their wine with dinner in town, and have the corkage fee waved. 

And just between you and me, I would have the Bar Keep call the restaurant you are planning to visit and make sure that your corkage will be waved.   

Currently (and this is subject to change as are all prices quoted in this post) corkage fees for bottles (one bottle of wine per visit per party) will be waved at Allegro Gourmet PizzeriaAndre's BoucheeBasil's CarmelBig Sur LodgeBig Sur River InnCantinetta LucaCarmel Belle, Terry's at Cypress Inn, La BalenaLe St. TropezLittle NapoliRio Grille, Tree House CafeVesuvio, and Village Corner

(More rules) The wine must be purchased while using the Wine Passport at Blair Estate, Caraccioli Cellars, Carmel RoadDawn's Dream, De Tierra Vineyards, Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Manzoni Cellars, Shale Canyon, Scheid Vineyards, Silvestri Vineyards, Vino Napoli and Wrath.

The following two part blog post is a synopsis of wine rooms currently included on the Passport. Though hours for each wine room are listed in the Passport brochure, hours can fluctuate.  Again, so as not to be disappointed, I suggest calling or checking the websites for current hours. Prices listed in these posts are subject to change. 

Now that all the how to's, conditions and rules are behind us we can get on with the review. In no particular order enjoy Carmel-by-the-Sea wine tasting venues. Salute! 


Mission between 5th and 6th
831/622-9704


In the mid 1990's Tom and Carol Russell began looking for the perfect property to build an artisan winery as well as a home.  They found this in a 20-acre plot of land in Corral de Tierra on the Monterey Peninsula midway between the Santa Lucia Highlands and Carmel Valley.  
  


With the climate in Corral de Tierra perfect for growing grapes and the volume of wine that could be produced on their land enough to support a small winery, De Tierra Vineyards was born.

 

Owner, winemaker and vintner, Tom Russell uses sustainable practices (SIP) to grow four 100% organic varietals on the Russell Estate Vineyard which is also entirely run on solar energy.  


The vineyard is SIP Certified. SIP stands for Sustainability in Practice, a unique certification that goes beyond just being “green.” A  SIP Certified vineyard, farms in a way that protects both natural and human resources. 



De Tierra is dog friendly.  In fact when you stop by you might just run into the sweetest Frenchie named Odie, he belongs to the General Manager. 


As a side note, De Tierra has embraced the idea of Happy Hour from 4pm to 6pm certain nights.  So besides visiting using your Passport, consider "Locals Night" on Tuesday, or "Ladies Night" on Wednesday where food and drink are 10% off.  Or who can forget "Thirsty Thursdays" from 4pm to 6pm where all flights are $5.   


First Floor Carmel Plaza 
Ocean and Junipero
831/620-1909



Located on the ground floor of the Carmel Plaza (Ocean and Junipero) just across from the Fountain and Woof is... 
 

...Wrath Tasting Room. Wrath Co-owner, Michael Thomas came to wine-making by way of the world of academia. With a PhD in Classical Art and Archaeology, Michael spent fifteen years excavating sights and living in Italy.  It was during that time he also developed his passion for wine.


In 2007, the Thomas family purchased San Saba Vineyards, in the Santa Lucia Highlands and “set out to dramatically change the estate’s wine and viticulture.”   They worked with Steve McIntyre to become SIP Certified, developing a sustainable program specific to their vineyards unique conditions. 
     


The Thomas family believes that sustainable growing will enable them to produce wines that are more authentic and specific to the terroir ( French speak for land) of their vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands.


Early indications suggest they are right, as Wrath’s first two vintages have received over twenty 90-point scores.


Now in their ninth year of production Wrath produces site specific Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc from their sustainable estate vineyard and other properties in the Santa Lucia Highlands. 


The tasting room is also available for private events of up to 100 people or a custom tasting experience can be designed for couples or small groups. 


Purchase a bottle of Wrath wine then go next door to The Cheese Shop for food fixings before taking our self-guided walking tour down Ocean Avenue to Carmel Beach to watch the waves while enjoying your picnic.



Cortile San Remo Courtyard
831-574-3135


Windy Oaks, one of our newer wine rooms, is located in the Cortile San Remo Courtyard.  This can be reached from Lincoln Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues or Dolores Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues. 



Founded in 1996 by Jim and Judy Schultz, Windy Oaks vineyards are located on a windy ridge in Corralitos overlooking Monterey Bay.


With Jim as the winemaker their first vintage was a 1999 Pinot Noir.  Today the family farms a total of 26 acres of Pinot Noir and one acre of Chardonnay.  


In 2011 Jim and Judy's sons, Spencer and Lucas completed the Winemaking Certification program at UC Davis and joined their parents in winemaking and vineyard management.  


Their spacious and comfortable Carmel wine room opened in July 2014.


Court of the Golden Bough 

South side of Ocean Avenue
between
  Lincoln and Monte Verde 

831-250-7123



Alexander-Smith is truly a family business.  Rich Smith began growing grapes during the 1970s.  In 1973 he left his day job as an agricultural technician and he and his wife Claudia Alexander Smith (Alexander was her maiden name – hence the name Alexander-Smith) moved to Soledad to start a vineyard farming business.  In 1977 they added a custom harvesting business.

Ten years later, both operations were thriving which gave them the opportunity to purchase a 350 acre vineyard.  This would become their home estate.  In 1989 their first vintage, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, were crushed and bottled under the Paraiso label. 

Rich and Claudia’s son Jason grew up on the farm. And true to farm life he had his hand in every job that needed to be performed, even those thought unglamorous. That is what is it like living on a farm.  All jobs are important - even my favorite, watering the dirt.  Yes, that is an entry level job - ask my children. Anyway I digress.  


Today, enriched by those experiences, and hard work, Jason is President and CEO of Alexander-Smith and his wife Jennifer in charge of their unique signature boutique style wine rooms. 


Together they run a vertically-integrated viticulture with more than 3,000 acres of vineyards and two tasting rooms.  


One of which is tucked behind the Cottage of Sweets and next door to Il Tegamino in the Historic Court of the Golden Bough. 

 I happened to stop by on National Oreo Day.


Elmo a miniature Labradoodle was holding court with his parents who were enjoying a Paraiso Monterey 2014 Pinot Noir from Alexander-Smith Wines. 



Galante Vineyards 
Behind Picadilly Park
or 
via Der Ling Lane
 831/624-3800 

Galante Vineyards has the pleasure of being the first tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea, having opened in 2004. It can be reached from the west side of Dolores Avenue between Ocean and 7th behind Picadilly Park, or via Der Ling Lane, the location of one of Carmel's quaint courtyards.


Der Ling Lane is located under the arch doorway on the south side of Ocean Avenue between Dolores and Lincoln. How Der Ling Lane received this name is another story and part of our self-guided walk and history of Ocean Avenue.


When you see Cowboy Slim you will know you have reached your destination.    



The Galante Family history in Carmel goes back to 1902 when James Franklin Devendorf and Frank Powers formed Carmel Development Company and filed a new subdivision map that would eventually become the core of the village of Carmel.




Jack Galante, the owner of Galante Vineyards is the great grandson of the Father of Carmel, James Franklin Devendorf. For Carmel's Centennial in 2016, Galante has just released Centennial Red 2013. On the label is a picture of James Franklin Devendorf, Jack's great-grandfather. 




In 1969, Jack’s parents purchased a 700 acre cattle ranch in Carmel Valley.  While ranching they began growing grapes on their property.



In 1994, Jack built a winery to produce their 100% estate wines.  Today Galante Vineyards is known for their premier Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their tasting room has a rustic western theme. With bar stools covered in cow print, an overstuffed cowboy boot chair, and a rocking chair built out of wine barrels.


A little known secret - above the tasting room in the heart of Historic Downtown Carmel is a cozy studio apartment just perfect for two.  


Besides Cab, Galante is known for its Malbec, Petite Sirah, Merlot and Pinot’s, stop in and enjoy a flight. 
 
Dolores east side between
 Ocean Avenue and 7th
831-622-7722




Caraccioli Cellars is located under the green awning in the historic Leidig Building on Dolores.  This Spanish Revival style building designed by Oakland architectural firm Blaine & Olson, was built in 1929 for $24,000 as a combination commercial residential structure.  The architectural firm of Blaine and Olson designed many of the Spanish style buildings you will find in Carmel's Historic Downtown. 


Today the first floor contains commercial storefronts while upstairs is a $1,000 a night luxury apartment




Salinas Valley native, Gary Caraccioli launched Caraccioli Cellars in 2006 after convincing his uncle and brother to go into the wine making business with the goal of making an exclusive and original wine to the Santa Lucia Highlands. This turned out to be a sparkling wine.


The Caraccioli family teamed up with Joe Rawitzer and Michel Salgues.  Joe  is said to have begun wine making at the age of four, but did receive a degree in biochemistry and studied wine making and enology at UC Davis Extension before pursing wine making as his career.  Michel Salgues, who is the head winemaker at Caraccioli was born in France and is reputedly the finest sparkling wine maker in California. Joe has since retired and Gary's son Scott has taken over marketing and day-to-day operations.


The Caraccioli family is serious about their sparkling wine, which undergoes a labor-intensive secondary fermentation, called méthod champenoise to create all the bubbles in their Brut Cuvée.  They also not only abide by the French law on Champagne but exceed it. French law requires Champagne Houses in France use only the first 150 gallons of juice extracted from each ton of grapes.  Caraccioli Cellars uses only the first 120 gallons providing the best ‘heart’ juice from each grape. 





The Caraccioli Cellars tasting room is located on the north side of Dolores between Ocean and Seventh.  The tasting room features a long Perota bar slab which offers plenty of space to sample a flight of wine with friends.  Besides their Brute and Brut Rose sparkling wine varietals, Caraccioli also offers a Pinor Noir and Chardonnay made from grapes from their Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard. 


Currently a Caraccioli Full Flight, taste of any of their six wines is $15.  Pair this with a small plate of Caraccioli's cheese and charcuterie , Mediterranean olives or home made Bruschetta for $6 to $14.  Or after dinner pair the 91 Point Caraccioli Cellars 2006 Brut Rosé Santa Lucia Highlands and Moonstruck Chocolate Truffles


Dolores between Ocean Ave. and 7th Avenue 
831/244-4149 


Figge Cellars located inside the Winfield Gallery is a celebration of art and wine.  It is located in the historic De Yoe Building on Dolores, designed and built in 1924 by MJ Murphy, one of the more prolific builders in Carmel.


Prior to being home to Figge Cellars/Winfield Gallery this was home to the Carmel Pine Cone from 1925 to World War II, and then the Denny-Watrous art studio in the 1930's.  Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous formed a partnership the translated into the foundation of the Carmel Bach Festival and much more. But I digress.   


Peter Figge opened Figge Cellars in 2004 as the grape grower, the chief winemaker, and bottler.  Peter handpicks his grapes from local vineyards, Pelio in Carmel Valley, Parasio and La Reina in Santa Lucia Highlands, and Sycamore Flat in Arroyo Seco. 



With subtle flavors, each bottle of Figge wine gives off a distinctive sense of the place where the grapes were grown. 


Figge handcrafts two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs, and one Syrah and one Rosé. Each one made by hand from individual vineyards.





In a celebration of art and wine, Figge is located inside Winfield Art Gallery so that you can enjoy your wine while strolling through the gallery.  



A year ago I enjoyed an exhibit of Ethan Russell photography with a flight of Figge.  Above is a picture I snapped of an Ethan Russell photograph entitled "Patience Please," taken of Keith Richards in 1972.  

Part 2 will review the other seven wine rooms on the Carmel Wine Tasting Passport.  

Thanks for visiting.  Until next time, Happy Adventures!

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Photography and video - L. A. Momboisse
Picture of the bottle of Paraiso Monterey 2014 Pinot Noir from Alexander-Smith Wines.
Black and white picture of James Franklin Devendorf and Frank Powers in 1905 courtesy of Jack Galante from the Jane Galante Collection.

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