The wine made in Monterey County is gaining worldwide recognition. “You can’t beat it here,” said Salinas resident Michael Howell. “You just go down the road any way you want to here, to any one of these wineries, and you’ve got some good wines.”

The growing attention to the coastal vineyards is putting Monterey County on many lists of top wine destinations in the world.

Wine maker Rodney Whitlock said the secret to the location’s success is just that: the location.

“The Santa Lucia Highlands Appalachian has premiere growing conditions for chardonnays and pinots. Thats what we’ve been known for the last couple of years,” Whitlock said.

Napa Valley has made a name for itself in the wine industry with its 47,000 acres of vineyards, but Monterey County is not far behind with 45,000 acres of vineyards and growing.

About half of the grapes grown in Monterey County are sold to areas like Santa Barbara, Sonoma and even Napa to use in their wines.The growing wine industry means opportunities for expansion for business owners like Sam Martinez. He runs Monterey Guided Wine Tours, taking visitors to wineries along the Salinas Valley.

“We’re actually doing twice as much business as we did last year,” said Martinez. “I’ve had to add more cars to my fleet and additional drivers so that we can take care of the growing demand for wine tours out there.”

Monterey County is even attracting winery owners from Napa, like Gregory Ahn, who recently acquired Chateau Julien in Carmel Valley.

Ahn says he sees a lot of potential.

“While we have a lot of tasting rooms in Carmel and Carmel Valley Village there’s not as many commercial wineries and vineyards where you can do a tour and see first-hand the wine making process from grape all the way to glass,” said Ahn. “Because so much of our grape growing happens out in Salinas Valley its much harder to access those wineries because there’s not an infrastructure to support it. That’s the next step for the industry in the area.”

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