by Jules Older
Back when I was a grad student in New York, I was lured to Monterey in California. The words of John Steinbeck are what lured me.
A Baltimore boy who'd discovered Steinbeck in my teen years, I wanted — no, needed — to see and smell and walk the streets where Doc and Mack, Hazel and Wide Ida, Danny and Pilon plied their trades and plotted their scams.
Now, those same Steinbeck characters help entice three-to-four-million tourists every year and have, in the words of Diane Mandeville, vice president of Cannery Row Company, “changed us from a dirty, smelly industrial town to a clean and green tourist town.”
That’s all well and good, but it wasn't just The Grapes of Wrath that upgraded Monterey. It was also the grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet, Chardonnay and almost every other potable varietal under the sun. Like Napa and Sonoma to the north, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to the south, Monterey is now serious wine country.
And it was on my last trip to Monterey that I got into the fermented grape juice.
For the same sort of reason — if ‘reason’ be the word for it — that I skied the French Alps with French-speaking Quebecois, sightsaw Kyoto with one of those Japanese tour parties and toured Israel with the Black Hebrews of Jerusalem, I now found myself in Monterey with a group of dedicated oenophiles.