Monterey County

Central Coasting: Soledad an important part of county's wine industry

Top varieties are chardonnay and pinot noir

Soledad wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir take center stage

SOLEDAD, Calif. - Monterey County's wine industry is worth more than $100 million, with 175 vineyards spread across some 40-thousand acres of land.

A mild climate and fertile soil combine to create ripe conditions to produce the county's two most popular wines, chardonnay and pinot noir.

"We have one of the longest, coolest, most even-temperatured growing areas in all of California," said Christopher Whaley of Wrath Wines.

Wrath has 69 acres of vineyards in the Santa Lucia highlands above Soledad, and although the word might evoke images of anger and fury, Whaley says the name Wrath was chosen for a number of positive reasons. "Wrath denotes the strength of the winds that flow through here," he said. "We're in Steinbeck country and that word figures prominently in one of his well-known books. The word was found in a Led Zeppelin song, Going to California, so it all kind of fits."

Whaley says pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay are Wrath's most exclusive. The "terroir" creates an aromatic, almost intoxicating experience. "Very fruit forward, a little bit of reserve but big and full on the palate from beginning to end," he said. "And, it's a very long finish -- lots of velvety textures, a certain amount of spice and a little bit of an element of brininess. We do get an influence from the ocean which is just a few miles away, so that translates into the wines as well."

He's not surprised that pinot is considered the hottest grape right now. America's wine tastes have evolved he said. "I think it was something that was just going to happen anyway. Americans are at a level of sophistication now with regards to wine. They're not just looking for cabernet, they're not just looking for merlot or an established chardonnay."

In a true case of in vino veritas, Whaley said pinot noir also reveals secrets in the soil. "Pinot is great for telling you what the soil is all about - what the climate was that particular year of the vintage that's stated on the particular label," he said. "And so pinot can tell you about those nuances in a way no other grape can do."

Like the famous novel, these grapes of wrath are an open book.




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