Wines and Wineries in the Monterey AVA & Santa Lucia Highlands: Tasting Rooms, Varietals that Grow Here, Best Wines to Buy

Wines and Wineries in the Monterey AVA & Santa Lucia Highlands: Tasting Rooms, Varietals that Grow Here, Best Wines to Buy

If you love wine, then the Monterey AVA and Santa Lucia Highlands are two wine regions that you will want to explore. These two areas have been producing some of the best wines in California for generations. The area is known for its carefully tended vineyards and spectacular scenery. In this blog post we will discuss why these two regions are so great and what makes them stand out from other places in California. We’ll also talk about tasting rooms, varietals that grow here, and some of the best wines to buy!

Monterey AVA and the Santa Lucia Highlands are known for producing some of the best wines in California. These two areas are home to many different varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and Lagrein.

There are six AVAs in Monterey County: Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley, Chalone, Edna Valley, Salinas Valley, and Monterey.

There are many tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley, but the best ones have a variety of wines that you can try. They also offer wine flights that allow you to sample different varietals. Our top picks in Carmel? Wrath, Hahn, and Talbot (full reviews coming soon!)


Best Dual Zone Wine Cooler

Top-Rated Dual Zone Coolers for Wine

There’s something about a perfectly chilled glass of wine that just elevates the whole experience. Whether it’s the crisp feeling on your tongue or the way the right temperature can bring out the entire play of sensations and taste, there isn’t anything quite like the perfectly cooled wine.

But getting that perfect bottle can be quite a challenge, especially if you don’t have a proper wine cooler and have to guess with ice buckets or by placing the wine in the freezer. 

Worse, trying to estimate the right temperature for your wines risks not giving each wine the attention it needs since reds and whites are best served at different temperatures.

Not to mention that conventional storage solutions can lead to dried out corks, unwanted scents and flavors entering your wine, and even souring of the beverage in the bottle before it ever touches a glass. 

I still remember the first time I had a glass of a delicious, almost apple-y white wine that had been chilled to perfection, served in the perfect glass, and allowed to breathe for exactly the right interval before serving. 

While a dual-zone wine cooler can’t quite re-create all the conditions of that perfect glass, they will help you get a lot closer. These dual-zone coolers are designed to let you keep a selection of your favorite wines, red and white, at their perfect temperature.

Each is also designed to prevent premature cork drying and to otherwise preserve the fine flavors and unique character of each and every bottle. 

So, if you look forward to serving a perfect glass at your next special occasion, let’s jump right into some of the best dual zone wine coolers you can find.

Best Spacious Design Wine Cooler

Kalamera 46 Bottle Dual Zone 24” Built-in or Freestanding wine cooler/refrigerator

This stainless-steel wine cooler fits wonderfully with any modern house design. But its real advantage is its large capacity. 46 bottle capacity is nothing to sneeze at, though, like most dual zone wine coolers, the space isn’t evenly split between the two zones. 

You will need to choose between keeping more reds or more whites, but for most wine enthusiasts, that isn’t much of a problem. 

The five beech wood shelves are designed to hold every bottle securely, but also provide space for bottles of different dimensions, so you don’t have to be limited in your brand selection. 

The wine cooler also offers exceptionally quiet operation. You’ll hardly notice the slight vibration of the compressor, and the whole thing is relatively sound-tight and contained. It’s a good wine cooler for keeping directly in your dining area in addition to in the kitchen.

You could even keep this wine cooler in a den or living area without it causing any kind of disruption. 

The upper zone of the cooler has a temperature zone between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lower zone ranges from 50-66 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Pros: Sleek modern design and a lot of storage capacity for all your favorite vintages. 

Cons: This model occasionally picks up dents and scratches in transit. 

Best Wine Cooler with Humidity Control

Aobosi 24 Inch Dual Zone Wine Cooler 46 Bottle Freestanding and Built-in Wine Refrigerator with Advanced Cooling System, Quiet Operation 

Humidity control is critical for making sure your wine bottle corks stay hydrated and effective. This dual zone wine cooler, in addition to offering top-notch temperature control, also helps to ensure that the interior of your wine cooler is always an optimal humidity for your wine and cork both.

The top section offers cooling between 41- and 54-degrees Fahrenheit, while the bottom section provides a range of 54- to 68- degrees Fahrenheit. 

The seamless frame helps to provide energy-efficient temperature and humidity control, while also providing a touch of elegance to the stainless-steel cooler.

This Aobosi model also offers a wide storage capacity, totaling 46 bottles. Like most top-quality wine coolers, it also has some sound dampening to help with quieter operation.  

Temperature control is easy to use, and any adjustment you make happen quickly, but not so fast that they might shock the wine inside. 

Designed to be both a freestanding and a built-in model, an advanced airflow system and long steel handle with locking mechanism make this cooler easy to use, but also safe for your kids. 

Pros: Impressive humidity control for longer cork life and better wine flavor.

Cons: Slightly more expensive than similar models. 

Best 15” Wine Cooler

EdgeStar CWR263DZ 15 Inch Wide 26 Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler with Dual Cooling Zones

While it would be wonderful if we all had the storage capacity to keep dozens of bottles of wine perfectly cooled and preserved, that just isn’t always the case. This slimmer 15” model offers you all the sleek design and cooling advantages of a larger premium wine cooler, but with a fraction of the profile. 

It’s perfect for people who already have a kitchen cluttered with specialty tools and equipment (like mine), but who also want to keep and serve some of the best wines out there. 

The smaller profile can still hold a maximum of 26 standard Bordeaux bottles, though you may have to remove a shelf and lower the total capacity of the wine cooler if some of your favorite brands use larger than average bottles. 

The digital temperature display is easy to control, and highly responsive. While the glass isn’t tempered to filer UV, it is black dotted to reduce the total light entering your wine cooler. The dotting helps improve energy efficiency, but it doesn’t prevent you from seeing the bottles stored inside. 

You’ll also get a carbon filter for the inside, improving air quality in addition to maintaining the ideal temperature for your red and white wines. 

Pros: Slim design still offers plenty of room for wine storage, without taking up too much floor space.

Cons: Doesn’t offer universal bottle compatibility, the more oddly sized bottles you purchase, the fewer will fit in the cooler overall. 

Best Simple Touch Screen Control Wine Cooler

Wine Enthusiast Silent 32 Bottle Wine Refrigerator – Freestanding Touchscreen Dual Zone Wine Cooler

This sleek black and chrome wine cooler is one of the best examples of modern design principles and fashionable appliance designs on this list. If you want your home to be as beautiful as the wines you serve are delicious, this wine cooler is a good option. 

But the real stand out is that this wine cooler offers a touchscreen design instead of a digital display and buttons. The streamlining is useful and attractive. You’ll be able to make precise adjustments quickly and easily. 

The 32-bottle capacity is a good middle ground between some of the smaller dual-zone coolers and the larger bulk models.

With tempered glass to keep out some of the light, and an overall black design, this cooler might seem, a little dark at first glance, but it’s sleek design and good design principles are key to making this wine cooler efficient as well as effective. 

Pros: The touchscreen is easy to use and simpler than button designs since there’s no risk of button wear out or sticking. 

Cons: The black profile and darkened glass might not be ideal for all homes and all decoration styles. 

Best UV Blocking Wine Cooler

Ivation 24 Bottle Dual Zone Thermoelectric Red & White Wine Cooler/Chiller Counter Top Wine Cellar with Digital Temperature Display

UV can significantly decrease the shelf-life of any wine. It would be a pure shame if your prizes vintages were at all damaged by UV exposure. This wine cooler design makes it simple to store and protect every bottle, no matter what color or type of glass was used in the bottling. 

This is also one of the relatively few wine coolers that comes in both a black and a stainless-steel design. You can choose whichever one fits best with the décor in your chosen area.

This cooler is a little like an advanced mini-fridge. The upper and lower portions of the cooler are completely separated, with two different doors and different handles to make accessing each area separately.

The thermoelectric system on this cooler is also designed to be especially efficient, helping save you money on your energy bills, and also making it more efficient when you’re entertaining and open your wine cooler several times to retrieve several bottles. 

The exterior control system also means you can easily make temperature adjustments without having to open either door, neatly avoiding temperature and humidity fluctuations. 

Ready to Enjoy?

Of course, the real beauty of these coolers can’t be experienced until you have a chance to open a bottle for yourself. Whether you’re a lover of red or white wines, these coolers will keep all your favorite vintages in their best possible condition. 

That means you’re always ready to open a bottle, whether you want to celebrate a surprise promotion at work, just want to enjoy a particularly fine bottle after a long week, or are ready to celebrate with dinner guests and friends. 

Make sure you consider things like whether you would prefer a free-standing or built-in design, and whether you have a good, light-sheltered area to keep it or need one of the more advanced UV blocking doors. 

These details are the keys to success with any good wine cooler. 

Of course, there’s one thing left. May you enjoy your next bottle to the fullest!

Best Hygrometer For Humidor

Top-Rated Hygrometer For Humidor for Cigars

When it’s time to relax, there is nothing quite like a nice cigar. Although they seem simple, many cigars are actually quite complex. Among other things, they require a nice hygrometer, which measures the moisture content in your cigar. This, of course, goes in your humidor, which controls the humidity where you store your cigars.

Some people are fine just storing their cigars anywhere, but you are probably not one of those people. You probably value your time (and the flavor of your cigars) when you smoke and want to have the best experience possible. You’re not alone! Perhaps you want to smoke after a barbecue with some buddies and make your time together with them a special occasion with one another. 

The top factors to consider when buying a hygrometer for your humidor are price, size, and accuracy. There are a lot of things to focus on when choosing the right hygrometer for you; hopefully, by reading this, you can make an easier decision!

Best Digital Hygrometer

Cigar Oasis Caliber IV Digital Hygromter by Western Humidor 

The Caliber IV is a very popular model – and for good reason! It accurately gauges the moisture control inside your humidor. It has an extremely high accuracy of +1%/-1%. This high accuracy makes it used by cigar beginners and experts alike!

Pros – There is an easy to read LCD Display. It shows humidity levels and temperatures (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius). It gives extremely accurate measurements

Cons – There are no Wi-Fi capabilities. It can be challenging to calibrate.

Best Bluetooth Hygrometer

Temp Stick WiFi Temperature & Humidity Sensor:

The Temp Stick can be monitored to any WiFi network, which means you can get a text message or an email when the temperature or the moisture level exceeds the limits that you previously set. This is very easy to set up anywhere in your house (or elsewhere). The battery life is 6-12 months, and only requires a set of 2 AA batteries! 

Pros – You can choose how often you take measurements, with options between every 5 – 60 minutes. There is a free email and phone support 24/7/365. The app that goes along with this is user-friendly. 

Cons – The shortest interval timing is every 5 minutes, which means you will not get a truly accurate real-time reporting. The battery life does not last long when using frequent reporting intervals.

Best Analog Hygrometer

Cigar Oasis Analog Hygrometer by Western Humidor

This is one of the only analog hygrometers with an accuracy of +1%/-1%. This hygrometer can be easily recalibrated if necessary and should be recalibrated once it comes out of the box. Because the hygrometer is made out of aluminum, it is naturally resistant to rust and corrosion! The manufacturer even includes an instruction guide for free in the box.

Pros – This is very easy to use for beginners. There is a magnetic amount attached. This is very easy to install in your humidor.

Cons – This model may need to be calibrated as often as once a month. Recalibrations may not be immediately accurate. The needle can often jump large percentages.

Best Hygrometer For Cigar Aficionados

SensorPush Wireless Thermometer & Hygrometer

This is a wonderful hygrometer for you to purchase, especially if you know a thing or two about cigars! Assuming nothing is obstructing it, this has a range of 325 feet through a Bluetooth connection. It even comes with an option to buy WiFi with it. The SensorPush not only takes readings every minute, but it can also store readings for up to 20 days at a time!

Pros – This is easy to set up, and even comes with a battery. This has a sleek design, is lightweight, and compact. With WiFi compatibility, it is easy to monitor temperatures outside of your home.

Cons – If you are adding the WiFi compatibility, there is a significant increase in price. Depending on where in your home you place this, the Bluetooth range can be blocked. There is no integration with IFTTT, Alexa, or Siri.

Best Hygrometer For Small Humidors

Acurite Indoor Humidity Monitor

This sleek hygrometer comes in a small size, so you can make sure that your cigars have adequate moisture, as you can fit this in just about any humidor. This can track the temperature conditions of your humidor (and your house, if you’d like) at multiple points throughout the day, as well as show high and low records. This allows you to control for conditions of your cigars – quickly adjust if the temperature is too high or too low for your cigars. This monitor comes with a magnetic mount, so you can hang it just about anywhere in your home!

Pros – The battery lasts a very long time. The humidity readings are accurate. There is a bright display on it.

Cons – The sensor is inconsistent. It can be challenging to reach customer service. The readings can vary more than +1%/-1%.

Best Hygrometer With A Fast Refresh Rate

Quality Importers HygroSet II Round Digital Hygrometer

The Hygroset II has a refresh rate of only 10 seconds! This also has an extremely accurate rate, with +2%/-2% between 20% and 90%, Some users have even used this for their tupperdors, too. Overall, this is a great hygrometer for you to purchase, and it even comes with a battery.

Pros – There is a magnetic strip on the back. This is a good tool for beginners. Because of its small size, it can fit just about anywhere.

Cons – You need to recalibrate this annually, and when you open it from the box. This is not user-friendly due to dials being used instead of buttons.

Are you ready to smoke? You can’t go wrong with any of the choices listed above! All of these hygrometers make sure to keep the flavors of the cigars you love intact. Hopefully, one of these hygrometers will keep your cigars as fresh as you deserve them to be. Happy smoking!

Best Stemless Wine Glass

Top Rated Wine Glasses Without Stems

Everybody loves wine. Whether you are celebrating an anniversary, birthday, retirement, marriage, or just life itself, wine makes everything better. When you pour your wine into a glass with a stem, it may be easy to hold, but so much easier to knock over and spill your wine. That isn’t good! Luckily, there are plenty of great stemless wine glasses, which is great news if you are a bit of klutz like I am.

Some people like to drink a nice glass of wine with dinner. I am one of those people. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself after a long day of work! You’re probably reading this article because you also like drinking wine more often than not.

The top factors for you to consider when you are buying your stemless wine glasses are the type of wine, the material of the glass, and the budget. There is a wide price range on stemless wine glasses, from about 20 dollars all the way up to 100 dollars. This review is not for an occasional drinker; this is made for people who like to drink, and have no shame about it.

There are a lot of things to consider – but don’t worry! This guide will help you choose the best stainless wine glasses for you!

Best Stemless Crystal Wine Glasses

Riedel O Mixed Cabernet/Viognier Tumbler, Set of 6 Plus 2 Bonus Glasses

This is a great way to start (or continue) your collection of crystal glasses! If you but these glasses, you are getting 8 glasses for the price of 6. You would get 4 Cabernet glasses, as well as 4 Viognier glasses as well. They say that variety is the spice of life, and this helps start that variety in your kitchen! Your friends will tell everyone how trendy and sophisticated these glasses look. These glasses can fit anywhere – in a minibar, in the kitchenette, in the cabinet, and even in a picnic basket!

Pros: These glasses are lightweight, great to give as a gift, and are dishwasher-safe.

Cons: These glasses break easily, have thin and delicate glass, and are not easy to grasp.

Best Stemless Shatterproof Wine Glasses

Govino Wine Glass Flexible Shatterproof Recyclable, Set of 4

Each Govino Wine Glass is a 5-inch glass that can hold up to 16 ounces of wine. These glasses are actually made of plastic – but they look so convincing, you may just not believe it yourself. These glasses can be taken anywhere – to the pool, on a boat, camping, at the golf club. Even though these are designed for wine, these make excellent glasses for beer, spirits, cocktails, liquor, whiskey, port, and so much more!

Pros: These glasses are flexible, great for travel, and have a “thumb notch” where you can rest your thumb while drinking.

Cons: These glasses are not dishwasher-safe, have sharp edges, and can be flimsy.


Best Stemless Stainless Steel Wine Glasses

Corkcicle 12 oz Triple-Insulated Stemless Glass (Perfect for Wine) – Unicorn Magic

The Corkcile Triple-Insulated Stemless Glass holds up to 12 ounces of wine, and are made of triple-insulated stainless steel. That means that your cold drinks will stay cold for up to nine hours, and your hot drinks will stay hot for up to three hours. This glass comes with a spill-resistant lid, which may make things easier if you tend to spill your wine because you’re focused on having a great time! This glass comes in five different colors – there is sure to be a color that fits your unique personality!

Pros: These glasses are easy to grip, has a great hand-feel, and don’t fall when knocked over because of a rubber bottom,

Cons: These glasses tend to leak, get fingerprint and lipstick marks on them, and are easily scratched.

Best Stemless Wine Glasses for a Party

Mikasa Stemless Wine Glasses – Etched Cheers Collection

These glasses all have a unique design on them, making it incredibly easy for everyone at your party to be able to identify their own glass! These glasses hold 17 ounces of wine per glass, which means that you may not have to fill them as often and miss your party. The Mikasa stemless wine glasses could make a perfect gift for any wine-lover in your family. It wouldn’t surprise me if when the recipient opens up the glasses, they ask you to stay and try the glasses out! These glasses can hold wine, cocktails, juice, soda, and plenty of other drinks!

Pros: The glasses are easy to tell apart, the designs are stylish to look at, and are durable.

Cons: The glasses are not dishwasher-friendly, are made of thin glass, and the drinking edge may be uncomfortable.

Best Stemless Wine Glass for Sommeliers

Ravenscroft Crystal Amplifier Vintner’s Crystal Tasting Glass – Set of 4

This wine glass is perfect if you are sommelier, or trying to become one. They are 4 ¼ inches tall and can hold up to 14 ounces of wine. It is recommended that you use the Ravenscroft Crystal Amplifier with red or white wine, although you can use it for other drinks too if you would like! With both a thumb and an index finger “notch,” you will be able to hold wines without affecting the wine’s temperature and be able to swish the wine around properly.

Pros: These glasses let you clearly “preview” the wine, are lightweight and are great for wine lovers.

Cons: These glasses crack easily, are thin, and may no enhance the wine-drinking experience.

Ready to drink?

It’s going to be a great party, celebration, game night, or night in with your friends. Since you already have your dazzling wine glasses picked out, don’t forget to pick out an unforgettable wine worthy of these glasses. Also don’t forget to make this a night worth remembering – make sure that you have good wine, good company, and a good time.

Always remember – please drink responsibly.

Best Wine Making Kit

The Best Rated Wine Making Kit for Home-brewers

No one will deny it is nice to be pampered every once in a while. But, there is something to be said for doing things yourself. Personally, I always feel more satisfied after I do things myself, from building a bookcase to trying out a new recipe for the first time! There is nothing quite like completing a task that you didn’t think was possible before.

Well, let’s apply that to finding the best wine making kit!

Buying wine at a shop or a restaurant can be pricey, especially when you factor in other items you are purchasing. Plus, you never quite know how long the wine has been sitting in the aisle for. With your own wine-making kit, you can eliminate these problems because you yourself are making the wine!

Each kit comes with a basic guide on how to make wines, as well as all of the proper equipment you would need to do so.

Before deciding which wine-making kit to purchase, think about the quantity of wine that will be made, the equipment that comes in the package, as well as the price.

Let’s get ready to make some wine!

Best Wine Making Kit for Beginners

Master Vintner Fresh Harvest One Gallon Small Batch Fruit Wine Making Kit

Master Vintner has many kits out there, but this is the best kit for beginners. It has enough equipment to make 15 gallons of the wine of your choice. However, it only comes with a 1-gallon jug. That’s not a problem if you only drink wine on occasion or are looking for a project! This kit comes with just about everything that a beginner would need, except for bottles, corks, corkers, and fruit. There are even videos online to help out people who may be struggling,

Pros: There is customer support available 7 days a week, the product comes with videos to follow along with, and it makes for a great gift.

Cons: Instructions may be confusing, the kit does not come with bottles, corks, corkers, fruit, or a wine thief, and yeast packets expire quickly.

Most Durable Wine Making Kit

Deluxe Wine Making Kit and Durable Wine Kit

This wine making kit comes with all of the equipment you would ever need to create your own delicious wines, including a wine bottle brush and a wine degassing rod. This can make up to 6 gallons of wine at once! This kit may last you years – assuming you treat it right and take proper care of it! This would make a great gift for an anniversary, a birthday, or just to tell that special someone that you love them. If you are a beginner at making wine, this is not a kit for you.

Pros: This kit comes with instructions that are easy to follow, lasts for multiple uses, and has great customer service.

Cons: This kit does not come with step-by-step videos, certain pieces of equipment may not fit as well as they should, and does not come with recipes.

Best Wine Making Kit for Cabernet Sauvignon

Craft A Brew Cabernet Sauvignon Making Home Kit – Easy Brew Beginners with Ingredients and Supplies – Ultimate Wine Brewer Experience, Clear

Craft A Brew provides enough supplies for 1 gallon of delicious home-brewed wine – but, after creating it, you will probably want more! The wine that this produces is deep, full-bodied, and has a wonderful aroma and flavor. This comes with lots of necessary equipment, like a carboy, and a funnel. If you like the Craft A Brew Cabernet Sauvignon that you make, you may want to try out the “Chardonnay” and “Pinot Grigio” varieties of the kit as well!

Pros: This kit is great as an activity for date night, tastes delicious, and has videos on Youtube as well as a guide to making great wine.

Cons: This kit occasionally comes with broken pieces, needs special closures for the wine, and 

may have confusing instructions for beginners.

Cheapest Wine Making Kit

WILD GRAPES Premium Wine Kit – Peach Mist 

Wild Grapes makes some of the most delicious home-brewed wine there is! Their wine is combined with “sassy” fruit flavors – like this peach mist. This kit makes up to 6 gallons, or 30 bottles of wine in 4 weeks, which is great news if you, your family, or your friends love peach wine! This kit even comes with labels, so you can give a bottle of wine to your friends for every occasion! If you like the peach mist, try other great flavors like black cherry mist!

Pros: This kit comes with instructions that are easy to understand, and tastes ripe and sweet.

Cons: This kit only comes with liquid ingredients, may not ferment correctly, and has been 

known to contain mold in the juice it comes with.

Best Deluxe Wine Making Kit

Home Brew Ohio Complete Beer Equipment Kit (K6) with 6 gal Glass Carboy

This kit can make up to 6 gallons of wine in a single batch. It comes with more accessories than your typical wine making kit, such as a wine thief. It also comes with a full 27-page beginner’s guide to make wine, so you and your partner can have a fun time making wine together, regardless of your experience level! Don’t be fooled by the name – this kit makes excellent wine in addition to great beer!

Pros: There is great customer service and the kit is great for beginners.

Cons: This kit may come with broken or substituted parts, and glass carboy breaks easily.

Doing something by yourself makes you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. I know I feel that way when I do something successfully for the first time – and you will feel the same way when you drink your first home-brewed wine from one of these wine making kits!

Please remember to drink responsibly.