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Monterey: Frontier fever

With its dramatic vistas Monterey may seem like the Wild West, but its lack of rules and remarkable terrain are responsible for some of California’s most exhilarating – and often inexpensive – wines, reports Jane Anson

Six top wines from Monterey

Caraccioli Cellars Brut Cuvée, Santa Lucia Highlands 2007
16.5/20pts (88/100pts)
Frenchman Michel Salgues is winemaker here. He used to head up Anderson Valley’s Roederer Estate and is recognised as one of the leading sparkling winemakers in the US. 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, picked at 18.5 brix (c. 11% potential alcohol), then méthode champenoise winemaking. This is rich and round, with good persistency of mousse, attractive citrus hints and softly toasted almonds. They make a vintage every year here, no NV.
Price: N/A UK caracciolicellars.com
Drink 2014-2018
Alc 12%Chalone Vineyard, Estate Grown Chardonnay, Chalone 2011
18/20pts (93/100pts)
Many of the Chardonnay vines date back to 1946, or have come from budwood of those oldest vines. This has a hint of reduction on the initial nose that gives it a true Burgundian character. Grapes have been hand-picked at night since the 2007 vintage, then whole- cluster pressed and aged in French oak barrels. This is rich and round in the mid-palate, with streaks of crème brulée and candied lemon, but twists of lemon-lime on the finish. Great value for this level of quality.
Price: £11.99 (2010) Waitrose Cellar
Drink 2014- 2022
Alc 13.5%

Carmel Road Liberated Riesling, Arroyo Seco 2011
17/20pts (90/100pts)
Arroyo Seco adjoins the Santa Lucia Mountains and is known for its inexpensive red and white varieties. This is a focused yet delicate Riesling. There are orange blossom and honeysuckle rather than petrol aromas, but there is a clean minerality, and a very attractive lift on the finish.
Price: £14.95 Corney & Barrow
Drink 2014-2017
Alc 13.5%

Hahn SLH Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2012

17.75/20pts (92/100pts)
Clonal selection vines from a variety of sites across the AVA have been planted here. Lovely berry fruits on the nose, with juicy notes throughout, emphasising the fruit. With strawberry and cranberry flavours, this is certainly a warmer expression of Pinot Noir than you’d find in some Old World sites, but a delicious, juicy and thoroughly enjoyable wine all the same.
Price: c. £23.99 Castelnau Wine Agencies
Drink 2015-2025
Alc 14.5%

Galante Vineyards, Rancho Galante Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmel Valley 2010
17/20pts (90/100pts)
As Jack Galante says himself; ‘We don’t go huge, juicy Napa Cabs here; I am still selling wines from the 1990s and 2000s, because I like my wines to be able to age.’ This certainly has the firm structure and juicy tannic bite to suggest that it has a future. Blueberries and bilberries rather than intense cassis flavours dominate, with a good lift on the finish.
Price: N/A UK galantevineyards.com
Drink 2014-2025
Alc 13.4%

The Other Guys, Moobuzz Monterey Pinot Noir 2011
16.25/20pts (87/100pts)
Largely (85%) Pinot, but with a few touches of Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Syrah, from the Italian Sebastiani family, who has been in California (coming from Tuscany) since the 19th century. This is a wine to enjoy soon, and is a great example of an inexpensive Pinot from Monterey with moderate weight and sweet dark cherry fruit that doesn’t stray into over-sweet.
Price: £16.95 Roberson
Drink 2014-2017
Alc 13.5%

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