Travel and Adventure:
California’s Bountiful Monterey Bay
Photos and Story by John Blanchette
California's bountiful Monterey Bay
is a poem, a stink
the whole street rumbles and groans and screams and rattles
Steinbeck, Cannery Row
hings havent changed all that much since the sardines left Monterey
Bay in the mid 1940s and all the canneries closed down.
The cacophony is now supplied by the roar of the sea
when the tide runs in, gulls screaming over the water, unmannerly sea
lions barking, continuously and at all hours, their sound carrying for
miles in the damp salt breezes, and the kelp beds at low tide provide
the proper stink to Steinbecks seaside memory. The bones of history
can still be found in the environs of Monterey Bay, this much visited,
sophisticated and stunningly beautiful part of California.
A sleepy fisherman rests on a Jetty while others
bark into the ocean air
all day and night.
Located south of Santa Cruz, the Bay curves into the
land for about 55 miles, running through the towns of Moss Landing,
where most of the commercial fishing fleets dock, past Castroville,
the artichoke heart of America, down to Monterey, Pacific Grove, the
golf paradise of Pebble Beach and ends at lovely Carmel and Big Sur,
home to other writers like Henry Miller, Upton Sinclair and Robinson
Jeffers and photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston (whose works
are on display at the Monterey Museum of Art).
Fishing boat heading out to sea at dawn.
Monterey was the Capital of California under Mexican
and Spanish rule, moving to Sacramento in the late 1800s after Manifest
Destiny claimed the west from them and the American Indians.
Nature is abundant and wealthy here on both land and
sea. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has captured the bounty of the local
waters in its exhibits, from sea otters and jellyfish to giant ocean
sunfish, a variety of menacing sharks, crustaceans and nervous schools
of food and baitfish.
Monterey Bay forms the west coast of the fertile Salinas
Valley, Americas salad bowl whose rich farm lands played a major
figure in native son Steinbecks works, this Eden to the West is
now producing a new crop that is bringing world attention to the area,
not The Grapes of Wrath but of wine.
I was in Monterey during the Annual Great Wine Escape
Weekend held at the Quail Lodge, and can personally testify to the quality
and variety of wines now produced in the hills and mountain valleys
of Monterey County.
I tasted wines from the 85 vineyards in the area. Besides
Monterey, eight other official wine appellations are now recognized,
including San Bernabe, Santa Lucia highlands (my favorite. You cant
find a bad bottle from this area), Chalone, Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley,
Hames Valley, San Antonio Valley and San Lucas. Some of the larger and
better-known vineyards are J. Lohr, Estancia, Chalone and Caymus.
The amazing find was that there are so many consistently
fine wines being grown throughout the county, from the Santa Cruz boarder
on the North to Paso
Robles and the Central
Coast to the south. Pinot Noirs do exceptionally well, but the wide
range of geography, climate and soils accommodates all the major grape
On arrival I took a sunset tour of a private street
called 17-Mile Drive, which meanders through the magnificent coast,
homes and golf courses of Pebble Beach (theres a nine dollar fee
While driving through millionaires row I watched
a camera crew shooting a commercial for a new automobile called Monterey
on a cliff overlooking the ocean and the gnarled, austere and wind-weary
Lone cypress clings to the Ocean Rocks on 17-Mile
Back in town, make sure to wander through the old streets
and shops of Cannery Row, where you can find several wine tasting rooms
sampling many of the local vineyards, boutiques, galleries, craft shops,
restaurants and bars with live entertainment, all buried inside the
The Aquarium is at the end of Cannery Row and is an
absolute must. The Zagat Travel Guide names it the top aquarium in the
country and the third best travel destination. You can spend hours mesmerized
by the exhibits of coral reefs, jellyfish, giant sea tanks with large
numbers of species swimming together, and the amusing otters.
The Aquarium also has several excellent restaurants
where you can observe sea life inside a 20-foot high kelp bed while
dining on their relatives. The Portola Restaurant has a great dessert
chef. Try the goat cheesecake with pineapple chunks and pomegranate
No more canneries - The bones of Cannery Row have
been preserved by little shops, galleries, restaurants and tasting rooms,
filling spaces where fish were once processed
You can work off dinner on The Recreation Trail, a three-mile
biking, running and walking path that connects Cannery Row to Fishermans
Wharf and passes through the Historic District of old homes and museums
including the Maritime Museum and Museum of Art.
Fishermans Wharf is a lively commotion of seafood
restaurants, souvenir shops, tourists, tour boat conductors (whale watching
tours of the Bay are especially popular) and fishing boats for rent.
Unlike most tourist destinations, the wharf has character and is one
of the best places to observe sea lions, harbor seals, otters and sea
birds all cavorting together. You cant miss the sea lions and
seals, they live to eat, sleep and bark. Also watch for the commercial
fishing boats unloading their catch next to the pier.
At the Great Wine Escape Weekend we did a lot of drinking,
dinning and food pairings. Some of my favorites were Asian Food and
Wine Pairing conducted by the young head chef from Azul Restaurant in
Miamis South Beach, Clay Conley. The Vantana Gewurztraminer and
Riesling and San Saba Chardonnay had the right fruit and acidity to
balance with the Asian dishes he created.
During the Vintners Lunch chef Warren Schwartz
of Whist at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica prepared poached lobster
accompanied by Lockwood Sauvignon Blanc and elk tenderloin with a Carmel
Road Pinot Noir.
At the wine and blue cheese pairings the Mission Trail
Pot Belly Port and the Rogue River late harvest Viognier really cut
through the salty cheeses.
Two other memorable demonstrations were conducted by
television chef Rick Moonen, owner of RM restaurant at Mandalay Bay
Vegas, and Kris Morningstar of Blue Velvet in Los Angeles.
There were quite a number of wonderful wines that I
tasted over the weekend and some of the more notable were Pianetta and
Lakeview Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignons, San Bernabe Loredano Riesling,
Jackson, Pelerin, Silver Mountain, McIntyre and Morgan Pinot Noirs,
Paraiso, Szalay and Pessagno Chardonnays and Viogniers, Jekel Gewürztraminer,
Chateau Sinnet Champagne and De Tierra (any of their wines), The best
wine I tasted was the Pinot Noir from Belle Glos, spectacular but expensive
For a chocolate truffle break there are two great makers
in Monterey, Belgiques and Lulas Chocolates. Try them with
a bold red like the Belle Glos or the Mission Trail Pot Belly Port.
If You Go:
There are many wonderful places to wine and dine in
Monterey County. I had a hearty, rainy evening meal at The Forge in
the Forest in Carmel, accompanied by full-bodied Galante reds. The Monterey
Plaza Hotels Spa Duck Club has a romantic view of the harbor and
the comfortable bar is a great place to watch the otters.
Accommodations range from chain motels to lovely bed
& breakfasts and country inns. The Monterey Plaza is the most elegant
hotel in town, with a full spa, closely followed by the Hotel Pacific,
Monterey Bay Inn, Spindrift and Victorian Inn.
Two indispensable guides are Monterey Land and Sea,
the Official Travel Guide, and Monterey Bay Wine & Travel. For information
on tasting rooms and Monterey wineries contact the Vintners &
Growers Association at www.montereywines.org.
For information on Monterey, www.montereyinfo.org.
Beach, CA; San
Luis Obispo; Pismo
Beach Slidewhow; Classic
California on the Central Coast, Oceanfront,
Orange County, San
Francisco, the Golden Gate