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Monterey County
Monterey has a considerable ocean breeze influence, giving it a distinctly cool growing climate at its closest point to the ocean in the Salinas Valley. Initial large plantings here during the 1970s in inappropriate locations gave this county a reputation for vegetal wines, as the vineyards exposed to the funneled sea breezes struggled to ripen red varietals. With more appropriate locations and a better understanding of microclimates, this region is now producing Chardonnay of the highest quality. Red wines have not been forgotten, however, just moved to more suitable locations.

First among these might be the Carmel Valley, although the Santa Lucia Highlands, in the form of the Smith & Hook Winery is also showing promise. Though the Carmel Valley has similarly cool conditions as the rest of Monterey, it also has some very steep slopes that help in the ripening of Cabernet.

The resultant wines are obviously cool climate in character, both lighter in body and lower in alcohol than their North Coast cousins are. Additionally, the wines often feature an herbal note that serves to add complexity when kept in check. Improved viticultural practices have now allowed vintners here to ripen red Bordeaux varietals with a certain measure of consistency, and the wines are showing continual improvement. (Wine/Appellations)