Exploring the Majestic Monterey County
Last year we had the opportunity to partner with the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau in California. This was our first time visiting this section of the state and it did not disappoint.
To kick things off we headed to Monterey Bay where we explored the local farmer’s market while waiting to check into the Portola Hotel & Spa. Once we were all checked in, we walked to the nearby Cannery Row for some wine tasting at A Taste of Monterey, where they specialize in Monterey wines and select cheeses. Once we were ready for dinner it was time to head to Lalla Oceanside Grill for some local fare. Obviously, we had to go for the seafood here, and I think the standout was the coconut shrimp. However, the cocktail program was the highlight of the evening with some beverages that were both visually appealing and delicious.
The following morning, we made our way to the nearby town of Carmel by the Sea where we really wanted to get stuck into the wine straight away, but we decided that at 9 am it was best to get a quick meal into us at Village Corner, where the Monterey Omelette where the artichoke hearts stole my heart (see what I did there). After breakfast, it was time to earn our booze so we strolled to Mad Dogs & Englishmen bike rentals for the most amazing Monterey adventure yet. Obviously, I could ride the entire 17 Mile Drive with no issues (yeah right), but I decided to take it a little more leisurely and the electric bikes were so cruisy. We rode all around the amazing scenic oceanside and even stopped off for lunch, supplied by our amazing guide Martin, along the way.
We definitely deserved a drink at this point, and couldn’t wait to get back to town, so luckily, we were joined by local booze aficionado Toby, more affectionately known as @goodshippippip. Toby bought some locally produced craft bottled cocktails from Doc Pepe’s Lab along with him for us to enjoy, and enjoy them we did.
After a long ride, and with a few cocktails under our belts, we definitely deserved a nice glass of wine. Our next stop was the Galante Vineyards tasting room. The region is known for their Chardonnay’s and Pinot Noir, however, we found that the Malbec at Galante was our favorite; it was bold and delicious. One tasting room was not enough, so before dinner, we made sure to stop at the Scheid Vineyards to taste through their range of wines. A big surprise here was the Dry Riesling, which was a great palate cleanser before we moved on to try most of the remainder of their offerings. We didn’t have any bad wines here, however, a crowd favorite was definitely the “Isabelle” Sparkling Wine.
Although wine tasting may be one of our favorite activities, our other favorite is eating, so it was time to head to one of the newest restaurants in town; Toro Sushi. We can’t pass up on some delicious Sushi, so this was a real treat, and their sushi rolls were to die for. So far, we had enjoyed cocktails by the sea and wine in a majestic village, so it was time for some sake. The beverage director of Toro delighted us with a tasting flight of 5 sake ranging from sparkling sake to a really incredible Junmai Daiginjo Nigori. Dinner was a treat and it was time for a nightcap so next up was Bud’s at La Playa, where we met the bartender James, who mixed up some of his signature cocktails, most notably The Ingenue, which was the perfect finish to a day filled with sun and booze.
The adventure wasn’t over yet, so the following day we made our way to Folktale Winery & Vineyards for a quick tasting and lunch. A cheese board was in order, along with some fresh seafood of course. We weren’t really here for the food, of course, so we took the waiter’s recommendation and split a tasting flight, which included a dry sparkling wine, decadent rosé, and bold red. Next, we ventured further south along the winding oceanside roads and found ourselves in Big Sur in no time. A little inland and the Big Sur River Inn was exactly what we needed to unwind after the prior day.
As you may have discerned, the inn was built along the river and one of the highlights here are the chairs along the river where visitors can sit back and relax while the river washes below them. During covid, while the inn was unable to host visitors in their restaurant and bar, they adapted by offering their meals to go in coolers, where the visitors could pick up a cooler and take it anywhere on the property to enjoy their meal. If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, then you know that the chairs in the river became the inn’s primary restaurant seating. The bar program here is as local as it gets, and their focus is on craft draft cocktails prepared by a local expert; The Bitter Ginger. Yes, we tasted all of them, and yes, they were all absolutely delicious.
We spent the evening sipping cocktails and relaxing in the river, and reminiscing on our amazing adventure.