When you arrive somewhere late at night, you never quite know what it’s going to look like when the sun comes up. In Carmel-by-the-Sea, what’s waiting in the dark is worth getting up early for.
At the foot of Ocean Avenue, down the boutique- and restaurant-lined sidewalk, is Carmel Beach. Loved by surfers, kids, and especially dogs, the view never disappoints. There’s some parking by the beach, but the walk down Ocean Avenue is fun. Some houses have names, but none have numbers. Folks pick up their mail at the post office. The walk back up is a bit steep, but will make you feel less guilty about indulging later in the day.
With 100-plus galleries and stores like Coach, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co., walking and shopping has always been a popular pastime. But more folks are adding sipping to the list. Wine Enthusiast recently named Monterey County a 2013 Top Ten Wine Travel Destination in the World. It was the only California wine region to make the 2013 list.
Home to over 40-thousand acres of vineyards, Monterey County has seen a 40 percent increase of tasting rooms in the last year, and Carmel-by-the-Sea is doing its part. Fifteen tasting rooms are now open for business in a walkable one-square-mile once dominated by shoppers.
It’s hard to top the atmosphere that comes with visiting and tasting at an actual vineyard, but being able to sample a number of different wines without ever getting in a car has numerous advantages. Aside from not having to worry about the designated driver, you’re more likely to discover a new name you might have passed up on the road simply because it was a few miles too many off the day’s route.
The tasting rooms are close together but not on top of each other, which makes wandering in between easily doable. Wrath is located on the ground floor of Carmel Plaza, almost guaranteeing tasters will venture into a store or two. Parents traveling with older kids can set them loose to do some shopping while enjoying a tasting flight. Dogs are welcome.
If you need a little food before the next round of tasting, the heated patio at 400° Gourmet Burgers & Fries is also dog-friendly. Along with the menu items the restaurant's name implies, you’ll find items like albacore tuna burgers and beer-battered onion rings. If you’re a fan of Molinari Delicatessen (who isn’t?) check out Italian deli and bakery Salumeria Luca. Grilled panini, salumi plates and an assortment of cold sandwiches make grabbing a quick bite easy and tasty. There’s also a case filled with gelato of every color. (Remember what I said about the hill on Ocean Avenue...)
Alto Adige Panini at Salumeria Luca
There are a few tasting rooms located on the same block at Salumeria Luca, but Caraccioli Cellars is a nice change of pace, because they offer sparkling and still wines. The comfortable but hip tasting room stays open later than most tasting rooms, and serves small plates, assorted cheeses and chocolate along with wine. Shirley temples are available for younger guests, and dogs are welcome.
If you’re planning on sampling at more than a few tasting rooms, check out the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Passport. The passport covers flights at seven different tasting rooms at a discounted price.
Carmel Country Inn
Carmel Country Inn is a few blocks off Ocean Avenue, but close enough to hear the waves breaking on Carmel Beach when you step outside. Rooms range from a Queen Studio to spacious two-bedroom, two-bath suites, but all have gas fireplaces. A tasty breakfast buffet is served each morning, and an assortment of snacks are available throughout the day. Fun personal touches like photo albums of many of their canine guests and Tescher the resident cat, make this cozy inn worth a visit.
Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann
Dana’s trip was organized by the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.