Monterey County invokes images of outstretched cypress trees and a wildly scenic bay teeming with marine life. Yet the region’s inspiring vistas don’t end at the coast. In the less explored foothills east of the Santa Lucia Mountains, you’ll discover former cattle ranches turned vineyards, natural splendor, and eateries worthy of a detour.
Thanks to cool afternoon winds, pinot noir is the grape of choice for local viticulturists. Wrath Wines produces 22 bottlings, which allow guests to note distinctions between vineyards, vintages, and differing winemaking techniques. Bistro tables tucked under a giant weeping willow invite lingering, as do Adirondack chairs plunked next to a tranquil pond frequented by egrets and herons.
At Hahn Family Wines, visitors can zip through a vineyard-filled hillside estate in ATVs that resemble life-size Hot Wheels. The thrilling excursion culminates at a panoramic perch overlooking the quiltlike fields of Salinas Valley, with the jagged peaks of Pinnacles National Park rising above the Gabilan Mountains just beyond.