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."
California’s most praised white wine, Chardonnay is also the state’s most planted white grape variety. Diverse terrain and microclimates allow for an incredible range of wine styles.
Chardonnay planted in the cooler, coastal zones takes on bright characteristics like lemon zest, key lime, green apple and wet flint. For this style, look to the chilly Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Lucia Highlands and Edna Valley.
The inland zones of California’s coast, such as the Russian River, Sonoma, Napa and Livermore Valleys maintain a more Goldilocks-esque climate where both styles go. Early picking retains acidity and creates a leaner style but leaving the grapes to hang creates an approachable Chardonnay, balancing richness and finesse.