Our Story

Our Monterey County story is bigger than wine, but we proudly let wine tell our story.

Monterey County is world-renowned as a cornucopia of splendor: Big Sur’s rugged shore, Carmel’s bleached sands, Pebble Beach’s gentle tide pools, and the Salinas Valley’s fertile soils (made renowned by John Steinbeck) paired with the unmatched weather and inexhaustible hospitality. These elements offer more than the perfect conditions for luxuriating and activity; they provide the ideal terrain, climate, and soil for the sundry vineyards and wineries populating the region. Monterey County wine remains unequaled in flavor, character, and balance. More importantly, we embrace each visitor like family.

Our story began over two hundred and fifty years ago at the Spanish mission of Soledad, where Franciscan friars planted the first crop of wine grapes. Since then, the area has blossomed into approximately 40,000 acres of vineyards. Still, it was not until the early 1960’s that Monterey County received the recognition it deserves as a wine-producing region with a climate comparable to esteemed areas like Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. Over the years, as the demand for table wines rose, Monterey County rose to the occasion to satisfy it by establishing multitudes of new vineyards and wineries. Eventually, this solidified its reputation as one of California’s key premium grape-growing regions, worth over $200 million.

The refined taste of France has never been so close. (And it’s not only France, we also grow Portuguese,Spanish, and Italian varietals.) Monterey Wine Country’s historical roots run deep, and our roots have proudly absorbed each watershed moment to create an unmatched experience. Learn more about our storied past below.

1771
1771

Missionaries plant the first vines in Monterey County, which are Spanish Mission grapes, a variety of Vitis Vinifera, at San Antonio de Padua Mission and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Mission in the Salinas Valley. They use these grapes to make sacramental, table, and fortified wines.

1919
1919

Commercial wine production begins in the area. In 1919, Frenchman Charles Tamm planted the first grapes at what is now the Chalone Vineyard when his family became homesteaders on the Gabilan (also known as the Gavilan) Mountain Range. Tamm believed Chalone’s limestone soils were analogous to France’s famed Burgundy region. This historic 3.79-acre block still exists today and recently received Historic Vineyard status. Years later, during prohibition, growers sell their grapes to make sacramental wines to sustain the vineyard.

1960 - 1969
1960 - 1969
  • In 1960, growers plant the first plantings of vineyards, including those of Wente, Mirassou, Paul Masson, J. Lohr, and Chalone, and Chalone produces its first wine label.
  • In 1960, UC Davis Professor Albert J. Winkler develop a technique known as the Winkler Index to classify climates of different wine-growing regions. The Index categorizes Monterey County as Regions I and II, meaning the region's climate is comparable to Bordeaux and Burgundy's. These classifications reveal the potential of the area to become a premium wine-growing region to wine growers.
  • In 1962, Mirrassou plants 1,000 acres of vineyards for Paul Masson.
  • In 1965, Karl Wente plants 300 acres in addition to creating a nursery to supply vintners with wine, vine cuttings, and rootstock. Over 50% of today's Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc planted in California are planted off Wente Clones.
  • In 1967, Durney Vineyards plants 60 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Carmel Valley. These vineyards produce wines branded under their label. 
  • By 1969, Monterey County has almost 2,500 cultivated acres of grapes, most of which are French Colombard (a varietal no longer grown).
1970 - 1979
Carmel Valley Wine Tasting Rooms
1970 - 1979
  • In 1970, the cultivation of wine grapes spreads across the county. In the Salinas Valley, the first grapes are grown on the east side of the Gabilan Mountain Range (Chalone - 1919). The cultivation then spreads to other areas, including the west side on the foothills of the Santa Lucia Range and further south in the San Antonio Valley, San Lucas, and Hames Valley. Early on, grape cultivation also expands to the Carmel Valley. 
  • The region's untapped potential continues attracting growers based on Winkler's recommendations and favorable tax benefits.
  • Between 1971 and 1974, growers plant 25,000 acres, which include the world's largest contiguous vineyard at 8,100 acres. This signals the beginning of a new wave of vineyards.
  • Over this same period, Al Scheid plants 2,100 acres, and Doug Meador plants the 365-acre Ventana Vineyards in Arroyo Seco. Also, Rich Smith plants the Paraiso vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, while Gerald McFarland and Phil Johnson plant 9,600 acres. Dick Graff and Phill Woodward also expand their vineyards and winery at Chalone in the Gabilan region.
1980 - 1989
Carmel Valley Tasting Rooms
1980 - 1989
  • In 1982, growers establish and the TTB approves both Carmel Valley’s and Chalone’s AVAs.
  • In 1983, growers establish and the TTB approves Arroyo Seco’s AVA.
  • In 1984, growers establish and the TTB approves Monterey’s AVA.
  • In 1987, growers establish and the TTB approves San Lucas’ AVA.
1990 - 1999
Carmel By The Sea Monterey County
1990 - 1999
  • In 1990, growers establish and the TTB approves Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.
  • In 1994, growers establish and the TTB approves Hames Valley’s AVA.
  • In 1995, wine tourism begins, following the establishment of 5 tasting rooms at wineries and vineyards in Salinas Valley and Carmel Valley.
2000 - 2009
Monterey County Grapes for Sale
2000 - 2009
  • In 2004, growers establish and the TTB approves San Bernabe’s AVA. 
  • In 2006, growers establish and the TTB approves San Antonio Valley’s AVA. 
  • In 2008, growers begin implementing sustainable growing methods in vineyards to protect their communities, workers, and environment. Several Monterey County growers are instrumental in establishing the SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certification. These practices include active social responsibility, water conservation, safe, ethical pest management, energy-efficient practices, tools, and machinery, active habitat preservation, and ongoing enhancements. (Innovation in sustainable vineyard, employee, and community practices continues today.)
2010 - 2019
Monterey’s Lodging & Accommodations
2010 - 2019
  • In 2010, the region adopts the Agricultural and Winery Corridor Plan as part of the Monterey County General Plan on October 26th. The Corridor Plan streamlines the process for new applications and formalizes the establishment of the winery corridor running along River Road below the Santa Lucia Highlands.
  • In 2013, Wine Enthusiast Magazine rates Monterey County one of the 10-Best Wine Travel Destinations in the World.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=SamX25NpWLI&feature=emb_title

  • In 2015, the Wine Spectator Magazine rates Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir the highest of all California Pinot Noir vintages, continuing its reign on top for the 4th consecutive year.
2020 - Present
Join Monterey County Vintners
2020 - Present
  • In 2022,  growers establish and the TTB approves the new Gabilan AVA on the southeast side of the Chalone AVA.

Board of Directors

It takes more than the perfect elements and conditions to make this all possible. Ultimately, our Board of Directors enables us to produce California’s premier wine. The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association (MCVG) utilizes the talents and resources of members, partners, and our community to promote and support our leadership in the art, science, and business of winemaking. Browse our renowned Board of Directors below:

Executive Committee

President: John Holder, Scheid Family Wines

Secretary: Niki Wente, Wente Vineyards

Treasurer: Silvano Botta, Constellation

Board Members

Cesca Dentice, Wrath Wines

Danielle Long, Valley Farm Management/Smith Family Wines

Greg Freeman, Foley Family: Chalone Winery & Vineyards

Herb Rowland, E & J Gallo Winery

Jeff Ottoboni, Folktale Group

Katie Dirkes, Above and Beyond Real Estate

Kirstie Dyer, Holman Ranch

Kristen McIntyre, McIntyre Vineyards, Inc

Lawrence Lohr, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Paul Johnson, Fennacy Wine Company

Scott Quilty, Jackson Family Wines

Vince Berry, Hahn Family Wines

Staff

We are only as knowledgeable and capable as our unparalleled and passionate staff. Ultimately, the Monterey Wine Country experience is impossible without each team member. Reach out below to learn more about our staff:

Helena Welsh

Executive Director

[email protected]

Tina Huynh

Membership & Program Coordinator

[email protected]

MCVG Foundation

We proudly support our community and make a difference through scholarships, research, and more.

The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Foundation donates its time, talents, and financial resources generously and consistently to support and elevate the community. Our primary areas of focus are:

  • Providing scholarships for high school seniors in Monterey wine industry families.
  • Funding research focused on relevant issues to the Monterey wine industry.
  • Providing relief and responding to urgent community needs.