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Glass Act : Learn your Monterey vintages at


If you don't know your Monterey County wines, it's time you learned.


All of a sudden it's time to start thinking about the holidays. This time of year always arrives without any tact—just boldly strides in the door and yanks away any sense of normalcy, whisking us away on an ill-advised spending frenzy. But there are some up sides, if we're able to let go of the stress—mainly the delicious foods to welcome back from last year's season. Like many, I do my best not to tumble into the consumerist maw; one way is by seeking out local ingredients and crafting my own food-related gifts. Time management, however, is an art, and if you don't happen to have an extended weekend or two to spend peeling apples and canning orchard goods, head out to the Aptos Farmer's Market at Cabrillo College for the Home and Hearth Holiday Fair, every Saturday from Nov. 24 through Dec. 22. In addition to the weekly array of fresh local produce, this month-long special event will feature gift baskets and crafty doodads that will work nicely as last-minute presents. Among the goodies to be had: handmade pottery, holiday wreaths, gourmet olive oils, living kitchen herb baskets and much more.

A fairly new arrival to the aforementioned farmers market at Cabrillo is Andrea London and her cheese company, Andrea's Market Cheese. It all started in 1984, when London took a trip to France and visited the Roquefort caves. A lifetime interest in history and a foodie's love of, well, food came together in what her husband calls "a cheese epiphany." Since then, London has become something of an expert, serving on the board as a founding member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild, teaching at the San Francisco Cheese School (yes, it exists) and maintaining a longtime affiliation with the Cheese Shop in Carmel. This new solo venture finds her at the farmers market every Saturday (although she won't be there Nov. 24) with about 20 different artisanal cheeses, all local to California. London has also been recently glimpsed at Soif leading classes on cheese and wine pairings; the latest, on Nov. 12, was focused on choosing cheeses to go with festive sparkling wines for holiday entertaining.

Winemakers and grape growers have a way of puffing up when you ask them about their home turf, if they're lucky enough to have one. The Santa Cruz Mountains appellation boasts some outstanding wines and absolutely deserves recognition. However, our location on the Central Coast finds us cheek-by-jowl with some seriously noteworthy regions. Monterey County's unique climate is home to more than 85 vintners and growers and nine diverse American Viticultural Areas, including the popular Chalone and Arroyo Seco appellations. Several of our local Santa Cruz wine producers already know this and source their grapes from our southerly neighbor's 35,000 acres of vineyards. Among these are Silver Mountain, Bonny Doon, Pelican Ranch, Martin Alfaro and Thomas Fogarty, to name just a fraction of those who swap and shop between regions. The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association makes it easy to start studying up on the neighbors (and preparing for next year's Great Wine Escape Weekend, usually the second weekend in November) with a directory of wines found at

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