One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is the great travel and wine experiences we had along the way…from Washington to Oregon to California!

Next stop was California…and while it pained me to drive by Sonoma on our drive south without stopping, I was able to briefly visit two wine regions in California I haven’t spent time in…Monterey Wine Country and San Luis Obispo / Santa Barbara. (For more details on each, check out this California Wines Map.)

Monterey Wine Country is home to 85 vintners, 42 grape varieties and “The Blue Grand Canyon,” the deep marine canyon of the Monterey Bay providing the region the cooling influence and making it perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South of San Francisco with the beautiful towns of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Staying in Carmel, we stopped into Constance, The Wine Room for a tasting before dinner to try a few of the local wines. My favorite was the …

De Tierra 2008 Pinot Noir

  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Berry
  • Taste: Blueberry Cobbler
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: We tasted several reds from this region but this one was especially notable…nicely developed and a round flavor of blueberry cobbler.

Then we headed south into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara wine counties. We stopped into Santa Barbara for a quick stroll and hit the Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The Conway Family produces Deep Sea and Rancho Arroyo Grande wines. Deep Sea wines are sourced from select and notable Central Coast California vineyards that share the complexities associated with California’s maritime-influenced appellations. My favorite is from the Arroyo Grande Valley.

2009 Deep Sea Viognier, Coquina Vineyard

  • Variety: Viognier
  • Aroma: Honey and pear
  • Taste: Creamy citrus and pear
  • Price: $26
  • My thoughts: I’ve explored many Viogniers from Virginia (my home state and the official grape of the state) so was excited to see what it’s doing in this area of California. Out of all the wines I tasted, including many locals’ favorite Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed my favorite. Richer than Virginia’s offerings but quite nice.

That’s it for our wine exploring on the trip. Next up…details on a few of our travel stops in Oregon and California.