Inland from Monterey’s rugged coastline, yet still directly in the path of the ocean’s relentless influences, Carmel Road’s vineyards can be found nestled on the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains. No mountains hinder the flow of air from the Monterey Bay, allowing fog and chilly, moisture-laden winds to sweep over our vineyards daily, making this one of the coldest wine regions in California.
Founded in 1996, Carmel Road's mission is to produce wine showcasing the unique nature of Monterey County terrior. The winery's debut release, the 1997 Chardonnay, demonstrates the potential of the Monterey County appellation to produce world-class wines.
Located just a few miles over the ridges from the Pacific Ocean, Carmel Road produces wines from vineyards set against the Santa Lucia range and in the Gabilan foothills. Winemaker Kris Kato grew up in Portland, Oregon, where he developed "the beer bug." But the fermentation science program at Oregon State University led him down the path of winemaking. He's worked at Central Coast wineries large and small, and notes both experiences prepared him for his role at Carmel Road, where he focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
"Pinot expresses itself more than any other variety, in terms of being nuanced-driven," Kris says. He's excited to be working with Monterey fruit, including from the winery's Panorama Vineyard. "I love to make small lots of wine from different parcels. It’s incredible to be able to choose the most distinct wines from the vineyard, and showcase them in different bottlings."
A geographic and climatic paradise for grape vines, Monterey is a part of the greater Central Coast AVA and contains within it five smaller sub-appellations, including Arroyo Seco, San Lucas, San Bernabe, Hames Valley and the famous Santa Lucia Highlands. The climate is relatively warm but tempered by cool, coastal winds, allowing the regions in Monterey County an exceptionally long growing season. Bud break often happens two weeks sooner and harvest tends to be two weeks later compared to other surrounding regions.
Monterey’s coastal side, where the cooling ocean fog allows grapes to develop a perfect sugar-acid balance, excels in the production of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Warmer, inland subzones are home to fleshy, concentrated and full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.
Chardonnay, covering about 40% of vineyard acreage, is the most widely planted grape in all of Monterey County.
Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, this versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Somm Secret—Given how difficult it is to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling from the label, here are some clues to find the dry ones. First, look for the world “trocken.” (“Halbtrocken” or “feinherb” mean off-dry.) Also a higher abv usually indicates a drier Riesling.