Monterey County's vineyards have grown up -- and gained a sweet new label too. Wine Enthusiast magazine picked the wine country over Napa Valley and Sonoma to the north in its 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2013.
The county, the only California wine region to make the list released Tuesday, joins high-profile regions like Rioja, Spain; Danube, Austria; and Puglia, Italy. Two other U.S. areas -- Willamette Valley, Ore., and North and South Forks of Long Island, N.Y. -- also made the top 10.
The magazine singled out Monterey's wine-producing area for its "beautiful scenery, upscale galleries, glamorous resorts and stellar local wines."
More than 80 wineries line the 101 Freeway in little towns like Nacimiento, San Lucas, King City, Greenfield, Soledad and Salinas. Wine Enthusiast recommends tastings at Morgan in Carmel, Talbott Vineyards in the Carmel Valley and Chalone Vineyards in Soledad.
There are many ways to explore the area, from the coast to the inland valleys. The Carmel Chamber of Commerce offers a $50 Wine Walk Passport that includes a self-guided tour with stops at seven tasting rooms. Hahn Winery in Soledad offers ATV safaris for $45 per person, and cyclists can pedal past vineyards on a 100-mile loop through the Salinas and Carmel valleys.