Drive down Highway 101 in the Salinas Valley and when you spot the giant golf ball-shaped water tower, get off and spend some time in the relaxed atmosphere of this small-town brimming with character. At one time, the Southern Pacific Railroad came right through, putting it on the map with one of the first train depots in the Valley. The train depot isn’t downtown anymore, but it’s been revitalized and is full of historic charm.

Gonzales bills itself as the Wine Capital of Monterey County, an apt handle considering is proximity to the wine-grape growing regions close by. There are 11 wineries, part of the River Road Wine Trail, just a short drive out of town. The moderate climate of the Salinas Valley has created exceptional vineyards. Some of the local wineries have tasting rooms, but all have spectacular wine that can be found at restaurants throughout the region.

Time in Gonzales is a vintage experience worth collecting.

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