A Taste of Monterey’s aim is to present, highlight and promote the wines of Monterey County through tasting rooms, education and special events.
What began as a place to showcase the fine wines of Monterey County’s seven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) has become the “capital” of Monterey County wine country. Designated as The Official Regional Wine Visitors’ Center, A Taste of Monterey is akin to a wine lover’s museum.
From its inception, A Taste of Monterey has been more than a tasting room and wine shop. Directors and staff proudly assume the mantle of “Monterey County Wine Ambassador” and promote the bounty of the region through educational exhibits, events, a catered wine tasting program, a nationwide wine club and a popular website.
It all started in 1993 when Ken and Robyn Rauh were recruited by Monterey County vineyard owners, Richard Smith and W.B. Butch Lindley, to establish a unique regional wine tasting and education center in the old Paul Masson Tasting Room & Museum on historic Cannery Row in Monterey.
Ken and Robyn each had more than a decade of experience in the industry and neither was a stranger to the area or the prominence it had rightfully gained as a world-class wine region. Working cooperatively with the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, Ken and Robyn launched what has become a popular destination with tourists as well as local wine connoisseurs.
Housed in a renovated circa 1918 sardine cannery, the flagship tasting room on Monterey’s Cannery Row allows one to bask in the history of the place as well as the decades-long heritage of the many wineries represented here. An entire wall of windows overlooks the magnificent Monterey Bay, providing a stunning backdrop for a wine tasting adventure.
Given that all but one of the county’s AVAs are located in the Salinas Valley, Salinas was the logical choice for a second location that opened in 2000. The Oldtown Salinas center is located just blocks from Steinbeck’s boyhood home and adjacent to the famed National Steinbeck Center, inside a 110 year old historic building.
When Bobbie Flay, celebrity chef and host of the Food Network’s Food Nation series, decided to feature Monterey in an episode, Ken was called on to present and pair the area’s wines with local cuisine. It was a natural fit, and A Taste of Monterey had its debut on national television. “We are so proud of our area’s heritage and the unique foods and wines that reflect the many cultures that call Monterey County home,” says Ken. “It was fun to work with Bobby Flay and see how taken he was with the whole experience.”
Thanks to the innovation and intuitiveness of Ken and Robyn, the fruits of Monterey County’s vines are accessible through the Monterey Wine Club that now has more than 3,400 members nationwide. “The Wine Club is our way of introducing people to a greater variety of our county’s wines,” explains Ken. “It’s impractical for a person to try more than a few wines during a visit to our tasting rooms. So the Wine Club lets members sample and learn about new wines each month. We think it’s important for members to not only know about the wine but also the winemakers who craft each vintage.”
“It’s impossible to separate winegrowing and winemaking from the history of Monterey County and its people,” says Ken Rauh. “Vineyards were first planted here in the 18th century. Today, our vintners gracefully blend old-world traditions with the best of modern winemaking techniques. Robyn and I enjoy sharing what we know about Monterey County and its wines, and we learn something new every day.” The visitors’ centers of A Taste of Monterey welcome over 100,000 guests annually. A Taste of Monterey currently presents 250 wines from 75 different wineries and hosts over 130 private group events each year.