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Wine is hands-down one of the Central Coast’s most famous attractions. For those who want to sample the region’s best without getting a subscription to Wine Spectator, we put together a short list of the best varietals grown in Monterey.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a difficult grape, that thriving only with the right soil density and climate. Vineyards in Monterey offer the perfect balance of ocean breeze and warm weather to make it one of the world’s leading pinot destinations. Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir has been listed as one of the world’s top 100 wines by Wine Spectator, so that’s a good one to start with.

Chardonnay

Next to Burgundy, California is one of the world’s most respected proprietors of Chardonnay in the world. An incomparably popular white varietal, it often attracts with complex aromas featuring notes of oak, citrus, and spices. Monterey County’s Chardonnays are known for tropical, stone fruit flavors. Try the Hess Select Chardonnay with its lemon-lime, and apple flavors.

Riesling

Monterey’s cool coastal air and lack of rainfall create a longer growing season, which is ideal when developing a Riesling. The complex flavors of this varietal also go well with lobster and other seafood, perfect for a night out by the water. Try the SeaGlass Riesling, a top-rated option with notes of melon and honeysuckle.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The Central Coast of California has long produced fine Cabernet Sauvignon, especially in sun-bathed areas like Monterey’s Carmel Valley. Sheltered by the Santa Lucia Mountains, the areas has balanced temperatures, which produce earthy Cabernets. Try the highly rated 2005 Parrot Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Bernardus, and enjoy cherry aromas and notes of cedar.

Pinot Blanc

As with the region’s highly-touted Pinot Noir varietals, Pinot Blanc grapes also do well in the up-and-down temperatures of Monterey. Some of the region’s oldest wineries like Chalone Vineyards and La Rochelle specialize in the white wine, which pairs wonderfully with a sunny afternoon and ocean breeze. For a cant-fail, try the J. Lohr 40th Anniversary Pinot Blanc, which stuns with vibrant yellow hues and aromas of lemon blossom.

*All wines mentioned are available throughout Monterey at liquor stores and restaurants.