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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Merlot Off (and More) for Wine Month

Locals love them some Indian summer, so September often ranks highly on lists of favorite months. Now, though, there is another reason to enjoy the month—and I'm not ahhhrguing about International Talk Like a Pirate Day. September is Wine Month here, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law last month.

“It will be an extremely active month for Monterey as we network with wine lovers across the globe,” says Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association Exec Director Rhonda Motil. “From welcoming media and trade guests from Japan, to conducting local wine buyer tastings in order to expand the ‘Promote Local’ initiative…we are taking an active approach to distinguishing our wine region and supporting the overall mission of promoting California wines.”

Numbers reveal how big wine has grown for the state, now the fourth largest wine producer in the world and maker of 90 percent of American wine. That ferments $18.5 billion in retail wine sales nationwide, $26 billion in wages and 820,000 jobs, according to MCVGA.

The most stirring local industry event: a Monterey Wine Country Trade Tasting Day Monday, Sept. 27, at Casa Munras in Monterey, when the association will debut a series of new marketing tools to promote the nine unique American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) within Monterey Wine Country.

"These tools will include a new AVA map that will creatively and informatively explain exactly how the Monterey Bay impacts the production of the region’s wine while profiling over 175 unique vineyards that have a home in Monterey County," a press release reads. "At the end of September, the Association will also release a robust AVA database that will profile brands and vineyards of the region on the newly launched website, accessible at"

Bernardus sommelier-Weekly wine writer Paul Wetterau and I decided to toast Wine Month with a little blind tasting on two good local Merlot buys, a 2007 Chalone and a Jekel, which both retail around $10.

The Chalone, on the strength of dark plum and currant tastes—and a plump, juicy but not over extracted body that was soft and not too alcoholic—impressed, particularly at that price point.

The Jekel was very respectable in its own right, mellow, dusty, dry and focused but a little green and acidic.

And therein lies your homework assignment for Wine Month: