Wine Enthusiast Magazine has come out with the Best 10 Wine Destinations for the upcoming year! Regions from around the globe were chosen not only on the wine produced in the area but also the culinary experiences and overall flavor of the area. Wine and food always taste better in regions that offer beautiful views and exciting exploration opportunities. While I would love to jet off to Italy or Spain (never been... please send me...), three of the Best 10 are here in the U.S. I'm thankful that one of the locations is just up the coast from me.
Monterey California has long been one of my favorite places to visit. By car, it's about six hours north of San Diego. While they do have a regional airport that would make for a speedier arrival, the drive up is half the fun and well worth it. The long drive up along scenic Highway 101 takes you through Big Sur. If you do take the drive up, make sure to stop at Big Sur Lodge for a quick bite. Our kids enjoy eating there, especially when a wayward bird flies in to pick up errant crumbs from underneath the tables. And the General Store always has unique snacks and drinks made from the local bounty.
If you decide to fly in, make sure to rent a car. Monterey County has 99 miles of coastline to explore, so having a car is essential to really see the beauty of the area. And you'll definitely need a car to get to my favorite Monterey restaurant, Tarpy's.
Besides the delicious wines of Monterey, there are endless restaurants and attractions in town, including Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row. Cannery Row itself, made famous by the Steinbeck novel, is filled with shops to peruse and eateries to nosh at, and is usually ground zero for all the celebrations that happen throughout the year.
Nerd Note: The street was originally named Ocean View Ave., but was later renamed in honor of the book.
This time of year, Monterey celebrates the return of the gray whales with Whale Fest. Besides whale watching excursions that take off out of Fisherman's Wharf, there are also a variety of family friendly activities to enjoy, including face painting, live music, educational exhibits, chalk art, and sailing demonstrations. Warning to tourists: Just because it's California, doesn't mean it's going to be warm. Winters are chilly in Northern California. Make sure to bring jackets, gloves, and beanies... it's gonna be COLD!
While I will never turn down a chance to go up, I prefer Monterey in the summer when it's warmer. Summer is a great time to rent bikes and ride along the bay to really soak up the flavor of the town. My favorite time to bike the bay is during the Feast of Lanterns.
Feast of Lanterns
The Feast of Lantern’s marks a week of town festivities leading up to the annual pageant, a romantic tale of love and butterflies. The pageant day kicks off with children's activities, delicious food, and a fun sandcastle contest. In the evening, crowds gather to watch a reenactment of the Mandarin legend, Blue Willow. Viewers jeer and cheer as Queen Topaz escapes from her mandated marriage and transforms with her lover, Chang, into butterflies and fly off together. A fireworks display follows and then everyone on the beach lifts their lanterns to the sky to celebrate.
Nerd Note: The holiday was originally developed in 1905 to spark interest in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Society.
Lucky for me, the Feast of Lanterns usually falls around the date of The Jones's wedding anniversary. The first time we visited during the celebration was a happy accident, celebrating our first anniversary. Considering the story that the celebration is based off of is about two lovers flying away together, I thought that was quite a magical coincidence.
I could go on and on about Monterey. It's a beautiful place to visit with your special someone or with the whole family. The fact that they have great wines is just icing on the cake. If you've never been, I hope you find your way to this lovely place. And if we happen to be there at the same time, I'll take you to my favorite climbing tree and race you to the top.
For the rest of the Best 10, read: 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2013