A large and diverse geographical area, Monterey County is located about an hour south of the famed Silicon Valley. Part of California’s Central Coast, the County is a special place endowed with a magical coastline. Monterey County's coastal influence from the rugged Pacific Ocean is just one of many unique aspects which contribute to rare and unparalleled grape-growing attributes.
Monterey County's primary winegrowing region is found within the Salinas River Valley. With dramatic mountain ranges to both the East and West, the Salinas Valley includes many prominent American Viticultural Area(s) (AVA), including the Arroyo Seco AVA. In general the winegrowing region benefits from an arid climate as well as direct exposure to the Pacific Ocean. Of course what makes Monterey County different from other appellations, and thereby special, is the rarity of dramatic geographical conditions:
Positioned north-to-south, the Salinas River Valley begins at Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. A direct and unobstructed corridor from the ocean, the valley is considered an Open Throat. The unique “open” geography creates a Thermal Rainbow, whereby as one moves south away from Monterey Bay the temperature rises dramatically. The Thermal Rainbow effect is heightened in Monterey County because of a very rare and relatively unknown, subterranean trench found just offshore at Monterey Bay.
The 'Blue Grand Canyon' is a very deep marine canyon similar in size and scope to the Grand Canyon. Not necessarily apparent above water, the deep underwater canyon affects the level of regional cooling; the saturation and penetration of fog as well as the strength of winds that sweep through the Salinas Valley. The result of this rare geographic condition is extreme cooling and regional temperature variances, all of which contribute to the uniqueness of Monterey County as a grape growing region.
Another rare condition found in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley is a north-south orientation. Unlike most other marine-influenced river valleys and wine growing regions, which are oriented east-west, the Salinas Valley is bifurcated from the Pacific Ocean to the west by the Santa Lucia Mountains. This natural geographical boundary creates a Rain Shadow that impacts the region and contributes to its semi-arid nature. The Rain Shadow contributes to the Salinas Valley generally receiving less than 10 inches of rain per year. The arid conditions result in increased stress on the vines, diminished yields, as well as stimulating root growth into different subsoil zones.
Ultimately, the combination and effects of Monterey County's many rare geographical conditions manifests in the vineyard to produce high quality grapes with unmatched character. To learn more about Monterey Wine Country please visit the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association (MCVGA) by clicking here.