Monterey Winery Adventure: Wine mural scavenger hunt
A recent trip to Monterey County reminded me of the “I Spy” car games we played as children. I was on a mission to locate all eight Monterey wine country murals along Highway 101. There’s no official map with exact locations. The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association’s Google map roughly plots locations, but there are no directions, let alone GPS coordinates. My mission: to spy with my little eye and report back, so you can find them, too.
Five years ago, the Monterey winegrowers commissioned artist John Cerney — you’ve seen his murals along Cannery Row — and local mural master Dong Sun Kim to paint 12-foot-tall murals of prominent winemakers and grape growers. Cerney created two, and Kim painted six of the eight murals, which were installed between 2010 and 2011.
We headed south on Highway 101 from Salinas, keeping a sharp lookout, but miles and miles passed without a wine mural sighting.
At last we spied the first one, just before Gloria Road, exit 305. We shrieked as “Raising a Toast to Monterey Wine Country” came into view. Kim’s painting depicts two people in a tasting room, toasting to the region’s 35-plus tasting rooms.
Kim worked from photographs of each subject and painted on ¾-inch MDO board with water-based acrylic paint. The mural is outside and exposed to the elements, he says, so you have to choose a material and medium that won’t bow, crack or show water damage. A priming and sealing process will help keep these murals looking fresh for at least 15 to 20 years. Kim works fast: It took the artist one week per mural.
We spotted the second work, “Vineyard Mural,” the most straightforward of the bunch, a moment later. The scene of vineyards in the morning mist was painted by Kim, a self-taught artist who starting painting when he was 7. He moved from Korea to Monterey County in 1977.
Holding a wineglass, a painted Cheryl Indelicato appeared soon after we blew through Soledad. This is a Cerney mural and it shows Indelicato with sign posts for grape varieties grown in Monterey. She represents the third generation of one of California’s oldest winemaking families; her family farms the San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey County.
Cerney started his career as what he calls a traditional mural artist, painting on buildings. As his style developed, he says, “I thought I’d have a figure off to the side or in a car in front of the building to make it look more three-dimensional. Eventually, it led to the (extras) being the art and the location the background.”
For this project, Cerney drew 6-by-6-inch grids on MDO board. He sketched out the scene, cut it out with a jigsaw, painted it, varnished it and then installed the mural in a process that took two to four weeks per mural.
We traveled on and just before the Arroyo Seco exit, discovered a wine-tasting couple in a vintage blue Thunderbird convertible frozen in time. The happy oenophiles in Kim’s “Touring Monterey Wine Country” mural are actual residents of the area.
But the next one, also by Kim, honors fifth-generation Livermore Valley winegrower Karl Wente — and you can get close to this one, if you exit at Espinosa Road (exit 293). Wente is playing the guitar and serenading the grapes, and the mural’s motto is “catch the melody and taste the wine.” Why is a Livermore winemaker here? The Wentes farm vineyards in the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County.
When we hit King City, we turned around and headed back toward the Bay Area to glimpse the murals on the northbound side. The “Grape Grower Mural” is at the corner of a vineyard on Central Avenue. This mural, also painted by Kim, pays tribute to the farmers in its depiction of two grape growers carrying a gigantic bunch of grapes.
Driving north toward Greenfield, just before Espinosa Road, we spotted a giant Jeff Meier, winemaking director at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, a pioneering winery in Monterey County. Kim painted Meier with barrels, holding a glass wine thief as he draws a wine sample from the barrel.
We declared victory with seven out of eight. The one that eluded us on our quest was the Alfred G. Scheid mural, a Cerney-Kim collaboration. This mural, which shows Scheid with two field workers carrying baskets of grapes, was commissioned by the Scheid Winery family, Cerney says, before the Monterey County wine mural project was commissioned.
Pay no attention to that roughed-out Google map floating around the Internet. (Use ours instead!) This mural is south of King City, in a vineyard on the northbound side — after San Ardo and about five miles south of the Highway 198 exit to San Lucas and Coalinga.
Next time, we’ll spy that one, too.
by Mary Orlin| email@example.com