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Every fine wine region has its own terroir — climate, soil type, topography — and it is believed these unique conditions give wines their distinct characteristics and styles.

Examples of terroir include Bordeaux’s Garonne River with its gravel and clay soils or Burgundy’s Jurassic limestone nestled in with a perfect sun exposure. California’s Monterey County has also joined this terroir club with a few geological wonders.

Beneath Monterey Bay is an enormous submarine canyon 60 miles long and two miles wide. Compared in size and depth to the Grand Canyon, the underwater canyon is sometimes called the “Blue Grand Canyon.” This canyon provides a unique climate pathway connecting the sea to the wine-growing regions of Monterey, bringing cool maritime influences with fog and wind.

The impact of the canyon is seen through a visual representation called “The Thermal Rainbow,” another term trademarked by the growing region for its diverse attributes. During the morning Monterey County is cool, about 55 degrees and mainly covered by a thick marine layer. As the sun rises the valley warms, burning off the fog and slowly heating the air. This heat forces warm air to rise and create a low-pressure effect. Cool air from the ocean is drawn and funneled through the Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges. This air flow acts as a natural airconditioning system resulting in a range of temperatures from the north to the south and allowing for slow, gentle ripening of the grapes.

Vineyards are planted specif ically within The Thermal Rainbow, with cool-climate loving pinot noir and chardonnay found mainly in the north and sunloving cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and Rhone varieties flourishing in the south.

For more information or to plan a trip to this beautiful wine region visit their website at montereywines.org.


  • 2008 Chalone Vineyards Chardonnay, California (about $18 retail)
  • 2008 The Hess Collection Monterey Chardonnay, California (about $18 retail)
  • 2008 Wente Vineyards Merlot, California (about $19 retail)


  • 2008 J. Lohr Vineyards Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $23 retail)
  • 2008 Morgan Winery Monterey County Pinot Noir, California (about $47 retail)
  • 2007 Heller Estate Chardonnay, California (about $34 retail)