While its name is Folktale Winery & Vineyards, upon driving up to this idyllic, awe-inspiring vineyard snuggled into Carmel Valley, it feels as though a better name for the property would be “Fairytale.”
And like any good fairytale, the story of Folktale begins with a love story…
Greg and Madigan Ahn actually met as kids. They even went to their eighth-grade dance together. Alas, they did not date seriously until after college. Thankfully, Greg did not led Madigan go a second time. The two married and had three children. For the early part of their relationship, the two had corporate gigs. But in 2015, they became the owners of what would become Folktale (which prior to that was Chateau Julien Wine Estate).
The vineyard was named Folktale for another straight-out-of-a-fairytale reason: that behind every good bottle of wine is a story (or likely several stories).
By way of example, here is a whale of a tale about a current sparkling vintage called Haliotis.
If you google “Haliotis,” you will see it is another term for abalone, which is a large sea snail – and delicacy – found in cold waters, including right in nearby Monterey Bay. The wine is named in honor of the abalone because it shared the sea with several hundred of them for some time this past summer.
Yes, you read that right.
You see, the winemaker at Folktale and his team got inspired by a recent story of 170-year-old Champagne recovered – and subsequently tasted – from a long-ago Baltic shipwreck. With Monterey Bay so close, they partnered with Monterey Abalone Company, who farm red abalone beneath the Monterey’s Wharf 2, to age their sparkling Sangiovese in the frigid waters of the bay for four months in 2021. The entire process was a wild one, but the result is an ultra-crisp and refreshingly clean sparkler, now available at the winery directly (mostly for wine members, but I’ve seen guests get to taste) with a tiny abalone shell around the bottle’s neck as a keepsake.
Pretty cool, right?
Beyond that, Folktale has a full restaurant and team of chefs that dream up pairing lunches, weekend brunches, specialty dinners and all sort of amazing snacks that amplify each wine in the vineyard’s portfolio, served weather permitting in their grand wine garden. The menu changes regularly and makes use of local ingredients as much as possible.
The property is so expansive; it is also welcomes musicians, artists and other performers on property almost weekly for secret and not-so-secret events. While we visited, in fact, they had a surprise concert starring The Wood Brothers, a Grammy-nominated band that played a combination of folk, gospel, blues and jazz.
In coming months, word is there will also be tours across the vineyard, likely with wine along the way.
Speaking of wine, there is a lot to choose from at Folktale outside of the Haliotis.
I personally love the Le Mistral “The White Witch.” For those who don’t know, The White Witch is what the westerly wind that blows across the vineyards (and throughout Monterey) each day is nicknamed. The wind actually helps add a depth of flavor to the grapes, amplifying the notes of pear, apricot, marzipan, kumquat and hint of stone in every sip of the resulting juice. Get this one whenever it is available, because it sells out often.
The 2018 Folktale Whole Cluster Pinot Noir – both juicy and savory – is another winner. And don’t just take my word for it; Wine Enthusiast gave it a rave 93-point review.
Finally, the 2018 Folktale The Hound is a must, and perhaps my favorite. The beautiful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and just a touch of Cabernet Franc is big and bold, making it perfect for the cooler months, with pronounced blueberry, brown sugar, dusty vanilla, hibiscus and even cedar notes on the nose and palate.
Any visit to Folktale, whether to sip, savor or even enjoy a show, ends the same way…happily ever after.
For more information or to book a tasting, visit www.folktalewinery.com.