There were two things that brought us to this little sea-side town: the cute fairytale architecture and the Wine Walk. The idea of walking through secret passages and alleys between the these adorable looking buildings while on the hunt for the next tasting room sounded like a lot of fun.
While not as notorious for wine as Napa or Sonoma Counties, Monterey County has been rated one of the top 5 wine destinations in the world! And unlike those other more famous regions, the majority of the more than 18 wine tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea are all within walking distance of each other. This provides you safety of no one driving after drinking too much, and also saves you money from needing to hire a wine tour driver. To top it all off – the majority of Carmel-by-the-Sea, including the wine tasting rooms, are dog-friendly so you can bring your pooch while you get your hooch!
The cute fairytale buildings absolutely deliver and so did the wines – we liked everything that we tasted – but overall, we didn’t like Carmel-by-the-Sea all that much. What we thought would be an cute artsy village was really a full-of-itself overpriced town that was too “yuppie” for our tastes. Very affluent, posh, with lots of airs, and lacking in substance. Having never been to Aspen, I imagine this would be the coastal equivalent – expensive just to be expensive, and the type of place for people who would buy a $1,000 ski suit when they don’t actually ski, just to sit in the lodge and gossip. I’m sure these types of places are desirable to many people, just not our cup of tea.
Wine Walk Passport
You can pick and choose the wineries you want to visit and get individual tastings (usually around $15 each) or get a Wine Tasting Passport. For $100 (+tax) the passport gets you a tasting flight (of 3 or 4 pours depending on the room) at 10 of the 14 participating wine tasting rooms. You can share these passport tickets with a friend or use them all yourself – best of all, they never expire for as long as the Wine Walk exists!
As of 2018, the passport can be purchased at Blair Estate Tasting Room which is in Carmel Plaza. Here they will give you a map and can also answer questions about which tasting rooms might be the best for your tastes.
Pro Tip: The majority of the tasting rooms close at 6pm, so visit those first and save the few that are open until 8pm for later.
Wineries Included with the Passport:
Wrath Wines – some very smooth crisp white wines and also the best pours.
Galante Vineyards – big fruit forward reds (my favorites) and cool old-west décor.
Scratch Wines – very clean, flavorful wines and also the best/friendliness staff.
Notable mention: Silvestri Vineyards. We didn’t get a chance to visit as they closed at 6pm, but we heard that the owner is a well-known film composer and has lots of great memorabilia and stories.