The Gonzales Way

Wine & Agriculture Tourism in Gonzales, California


The Wine World is Abuzz about Santa Lucia Highlands
Wines and Winemakers


City of Gonzales Economic Development Department
Gonzales Business Feature Article: M.B. McFarland & Sons and J. McFarland--Pioneering Developer of the Santa Lucia Highlands;
Producer of Percheron McFarland Wines


"...In 1968, the steep terrain of the Santa Lucia Highlands that overlooked the dairies and row crops of the Salinas Valley towns of Gonzales and Soledad was almost exclusively dedicated to the grazing of beef cattle.  In that year, Jerry broke ground on a vineyard south of Gonzales, California.  “Hacienda” became the first commercial vineyard the area had seen.  By 1975 he would plant eleven thousand acres in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine grapes.  Jerry was to Monterey County wines what Robert Mondavi had been to Napa Valley wines."  Read full article...
From the writers of "Wine & Travel"

Check out the Sumer 2014 issue of Wine & Travel Magazine for everything you need to know about our Santa Lucia Highlands wines and winemakers at http://www.wineandtravel.net/


 [Click here for] "In Rememberance--Tondré Alarid" A loving tribute to the man behind the incredible grapes of Tondré Grapefield who was known as the "gentleman with a giving smile and a twinkle in his eyes."


[Click here for] Information on Pessagno Winery's 2nd Annual "Churrascaria" (Brazilian BBQ) on Saturday, August 23, 2014


[Click here for] A big River Road Wine Trail welcome to Denis Hoey and Odonata Wines


[Click here to] Meet Gonzales artisan and long-time resident Joe Barrett: The WineBarrelGuy.com


[Click here as] Gonzales welcomes "Luigi's" and the expansion of the Bozzo Family's Italian food dynasty into South Monterey County 


Articles from Summer/Fall 2013 Issue
[Click here for] "Voice of the Vintner" featuring owner, Ray Franscioni of Puma Road Winery

[Click here for] "In Rememberance" a loving tribute to father and winemaker Steve Pessagno from his four son's 

[Click here for] "Vic's Picks: The New Wines of the McFarland Family" honoring the over 50 years of pioneeriong work in growing and winemaking of Jerry McFarland and the new wines that have locals so excited.

[Click here] to meet the new tasting room team of Susan Edminson and Taylour Matz at the Talbott Vineyards River Road tasting room.

[Click here for] "Let Zeph's Introduce You to Pessagno Wines" and read what local wine merchants, Vince Ciolino and Bill Sites have to say about this Gonzales vintner that produces truly "hand crafted" wines.Links to articles and magazine cover image are posted with permission from the publisher of  Wine & Travel magazine.  


Pinnacles National Monument is elevated to National Park Status

[Click on the thumbnail photograph to view the Pinnacles National Park slideshow featured in the May 30, 2013 digital version of USA Today.]

Pinnacles National Park, located just 24 miles southeast of Gonzales has been a longtime favorite hiking and nature viewing spot for residents of the Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay Area.  If you are planning a trip to the Gonzales area, this newest park in America's rich national parks system is not to be missed.  Still much undiscovered and underutilized, Pinnacles National Park offers visitors the adventure of a national park experience that harkens back to the early beginnings of the parks system.  Ample parking is available and trails are quite silent and unimpacted.  There are no commercial activities or concessions to detract from the rugged beauty of the area.


Most of the region is considered "high coastal desert" and the park's back canyons and cliff-side trails can easily reach temperatures exceeding 100 degrees during the summer months.  It is always recommended that visitors bring ample water for hiking regardless of the time of the year.


Pinnacles National Park is a park for every season.  Spring is full of wildflowers and winter boasts waterfalls that transform and recharge the landscape.  A perfect summer day can be made out of a very early morning hike (that ends before the sun hits its mid-day peak), lunch in one of the local communities followed by a visit to one of the many winery tasting rooms on the River Road Wine Trail for a taste of something light, bright, and cool.  Fall hiking (favored amongst the locals) can be comfortable and enjoyable due to fair to warm mid-day temperatures that can endure even into the month of December. 


There is always good bird watching throughout the day and early evening offers a chance (no guarantees) for visitors to glimpse the majestic and rare cliff dwelling California Condor with its wingspan approaching nine and a half feet.  Fall cave hikers (bring a flashlight) just might be lucky enough to come upon one of the 14 known species of bat that inhabit the park.  Many locals have been known to begin the day early on Thanksgiving with a brisk morning hike that brings them in contact with the peace and grateful spirit one feels when removed from a busy world to commune with nature.  On many holidays, it is not unusual to see family gatherings amongst the many available picnic tables with a traditional holiday meal and "all of the trimmings."  People often comment that it is a family tradition and they come back every year.    


Ingredients for a perfect California day:
One blanket of cool morning fog
A splash of afternoon sunshine
Finish with a stiff evening breeze drink


Whether it's the fruit of the vine or California moonshine, Gonzales is the perfect place for food and beverage artisans to practice their craft.  The quaint Salinas Valley community of Gonzales, known for its stiff afternoon summer breeze, is at the heart of the food, wine, and agriculture renaissance taking place in Monterey County's fertile and productive Salinas Valley.


Click here to read Robert Gibson's Monterey County Weekly article (April 25, 2013) "Deputy Proof" about entrepreneur, Craig Pakish and the award winning libations produced at his Gonzales, California Fog's End Distillery.


Photo Credit: Monterey County Weekly
Direct link to the article via the Monterey County Weekly    


Hot Off the blogosphere!
Check out the KQED blog article "Why Monterey Beat Napa as California's Top 'Wine Destination' " 

[click here for full article]

"It has nowhere near the number of wineries you would find in Napa or Sonoma. But it's less well known so you get more attention when you visit."

"A lot of good chardonnay is coming out of Monterey. And when it comes to pinot noir, he said, Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands—in the hills west of the Salinas Valley—can match any in the world, including the Carneros district of southern Sonoma and Napa counties."


The City of Gonzales, California is the supply and demand hot spot from which much of the Salinas Valley’s thriving specialty crop and wine-growing industries operate.  California wine enthusiasts will find easy access to the up and coming River Road Wine Trail where, more often than not, the winemaker is behind the bar pouring just released or limited release wines.  Also recognized as the “Heart of the Salad Bowl,” Gonzales agribusinesses support a thriving multi-billion dollar industry that remains on the cutting edge of agricultural technology developments that make the area second to none in crop production and resource conservation efforts.


Gonzales, California is surrounded by prime agricultural land in the heart of the 90-mile long Salinas Valley between the Sierra de Salinas and Gabilan Mountains.  The City is located 17 miles south of Salinas, 111 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 35 miles southeast of the Monterey Peninsula.  The view traveling on Highway 101 is a patchwork quilt of farms and hillside vineyards ranging in size from 20 to several hundred acres.  The valley has some of the most fertile soils in California making agriculture the area’s strongest economic industry.

Photo: "Ready to Grow" (M. Treleven)
Background: A Gonzales view of the rolling curves of the El Gabilan Mountains where some of the best free range cattle in California roam.  Foreground: Precision farming techniques allow for increased productivity while conserving water and precious top soil. 


Discover The Thermal Rainbow™

The climate in Gonzales is temperate with summer daytime highs from the 70s to mid 80s.  Nighttime coastal fog generated within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is introduced at the northern opening of the valley by brisk afternoon winds.  Coastal fog and maritime winds are pulled down the valley as it narrows to less than five miles at the center.  The venturi shaped wind tunnel opens up at the south end near King City and Lockwood providing a brief respite to summer daytime temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees.  This effect results in cooler evening temperatures in the mid 50s.  Indian summers begin in September and can last through early December offering a warm and pleasant fall season.  An average rainfall of 10-12 inches a year leaves plenty of days to enjoy the relaxing California sunshine. 

Located in the heart of what has been dubbed "The Thermal Rainbow™," the mild Mediterranean climate in Gonzales is coupled with a multitude of "micro climates" that change about every 200 vertical feet.  These factors and diverse soil conditions that range from rocky to sandy-loam to rich black clay allow for a wide diversity of crops and wine grape varieties from the valley floor to the terrace plantings on the alluvial benches of the Santa Lucia mountain range.

Gonzales is the gateway to the River Road Wine Trail offering breathtaking views of the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) appellation and  pathway directly to its wineries and wine makers.  To learn more about Monterey Wine Country's Thermal Rainbow™ and its diverse appellations click on the image to the left and visit the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association web site.


Eating Local

Locals know that the Californio style Mexican food is second to none in Gonzales.  The Mexican food in Gonzales is all part of the "Slow Food" movement!  Sit down, relax and languish over a home cooked meal.  It is Mexican food just like momma used to make and, in some cases, Momma or Pappa are still in the kitchen making it.  Stop by El Rinconcito, La Playa Azul, Linda Taqueria, La Plaza Bakery, Taqueria Valparaiso, Taqueria Comidas Sabrosas, or Taqueria El Famoso for an authentic experience highlighting the many and varied regional nuances of Mexican cooking.  No reservations needed!

Photo: Chicken Sinaloa prepared the way "Fresh Mex" was meant to be!

Luigi's Itallian cuisine helps diversify the local flavor. 


Three Perfect Days

Located right off of California's historic El Camino Real Highway 101, the River Road Wine Trail has been designated as one of "Three Perfect Days" in Monterey County.  Aptly named "Vineyard Venture" by the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, wine enthusiasts can get up close and personal with the vines, winemakers and wines that have distinguished Monterey County Wines as some of the best California has to offer.

1973 saw the first commercial plantings in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH).  The SLH appellation was established in 1991.  Today there are approximately 46 vineyard properties and approximately 5,900 acres in production with names like Sleepy Hollow, Vigna Monte Negro, Double L, Pisoni and Mer Soleil.

Radiating from the heart of Gonzales River Road, are approximately 13 vineyards with tasting rooms, picnic areas, wine country charm, down-to-earth staff, and visitor ammenities:

Hahn SLH Estate Winery
Manzoni Estate
Ray Franscioni Wines
Scheid Vineyards Greenfield
Sycamore Cellars
Talbott Vineyards Number 1 (NEW!)
Ventana Soledad

Photos:"What the Locals Know" (M. Treleven)
Above: Local resident and ("just because it's fun") weekend wine tasting host at Pessagno winery, Tim Jackson stops to check the vines on a Sunday outing with friends at Boekenoogen winery and vineyard in Gonzales.  Below: View from the patio (a great place for a picnic) overlooking the pond at Wrath. 

Follow this link to get started on your "Three Perfect Days" itinerary:

Click below for a FREE "Three Perfect Days" Mobile App

Click here to order your FREE winetasting map: http://montereywines.org/monterey-experiences/wine-tasting-map/


Transportation & Organized Tours

Click here for more information on scheduling transportation for organized wine tasting tours, agriculture education and culinary tours, or sightseeing tours:  http://montereywines.org/monterey-experiences/getting-around/

Service Learning

Are you interested in adding a little service to your adventure?  In the months of May through October Ag Against Hunger offers service learning opportunities through its gleaning programs (harvesting what is left in local ag fields).  Ag Against Hunger is the premiere agency in the Tri-County area working to make sure the bounty of the harvest can be shared by all.  "Since 1990, the generous donations of surplus produce from our local growers and shippers have helped Ag Against Hunger bring 190 million pounds of produce to tens of millions of hungry children, adults and seniors." (AgAgainstHunger.org)

While gleaning local fields, volunteers gain valuable insights and experience into what it takes to produce crops that make this area the "Salad Bowl of the World."  And, very simply put, your dedication of a few hours will bring food to people who are hungry. 

Click here to learn more about Ag Against Hunger: http://www.agagainsthunger.org/index.html

Sustainable Agriculture

Are you interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture practices?  Gonzales has many agriculture businesses who are at the top of their game and cutting edge in getting more for less while preserving precious resources.  Healthy Soil is a company that offers row crop, golf course and wine grape agriculture producers both water conservation and soil fertility products and programs.  Their staff is often in the habit of providing guided tours and educational presentations to large groups from institutions of higher learning, foreign governments and international agricultural service personel.

For more information on Health Soil or to contact their staff, visit their web site at: http://www.healthysoil.com/

From food waste to fertilizer in 10 days?  Another commercial agriculture company, Converted Organics of California, produces commercial quantities of liquid fertility products that are certified for use on all crops in both conventional and organic agriculture production.  Their in-vessel, high temperature liquid composting (HTLC) process takes cafeteria waste generated in Gonzales' school cafeterias from food waste to fertilizer in just about 10 days!  This product is used in winegrape production throughout California and beyond and is provided for FREE to schools and the City for use on sports turf and in city parks.  Converted Organics also hosts site tours for institutions of higher learning and agriculture producers.

For more information on Converted Organics of California or to contact their staff, visit their web site at: http://www.convertedorganics.com/