While out and about on our wine tasting adventures on the River Road Wine Trail, we couldn’t help but notice the two blue helicopters that had landed in a field next to Odonata Winery’s tasting room. Our designated driver, a retired RN, groaned “oh no, not a medical emergency,” but on closer inspection it was clear these weren’t medivac helicopters at all, but passenger helicopters from Specialized Aviation.
Sipping wine in Odonata's tasting room were four men from the San Francisco Bay Area, a 90-minute drive north, with a pair of pilots waiting nearby. Of course we’ve seen tasting room tours via limousine or luxury bus, but a helicopter? We had to learn more!
One of the men stated this was his second wine tour with Specialized Aviation—his first wine tour adventure that he’d experienced had started in Watsonville (home to Specialized Aviation, a coastal city located in south Santa Cruz county), headed north to Sonoma (north of San Francisco) and then south to Monterey County and the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. For his second tour, he remarked that in a short 15 minute flight, they'd left Watsonville, flown over the Monterey Bay, had seen numerous whales, dolphins and killer whales, and landed at their first winery of the day.
While the pilot of one of the helicopters was giving a ride to the winery owner and his enthusiastic young son, a second pilot showed me how comfortable helicopter travel is, and spoke to me about how you can have your own wine tasting adventure by helicopter.
Nearly all tasting rooms in the Santa Lucia Highlands have enough space that a helicopter can land safely. Specialized Aviation will contact any winery you’d like to visit and make arrangements to land nearby and let you experience their wines. They’ve created charters that can take you north to Sonoma and Napa, if that’s where your wine tasting fancy is, or south to the Santa Lucia Highlands or even Paso Robles.
Here’s the bonus about traveling by helicopter—you will get to experience the absolute overwhelming beauty that is the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary from a view that few people every get to experience—from above! You can see whales, pods of dolphins and lately even orcas at play and living off the abundant krill and other marine animals that comprise their diets. You can fly along the coast and experience the majesty that is Big Sur, and then fly right over the Santa Lucia mountains and land at the winery (or two, or three!) of your choice to end your day pleasing your palate. You can ask your pilot to remain on the coast and continue on south to Hearst Castle, and then head east into the Paso Robles wine growing area, where there are over 200 wineries to choose from. Or fly over the Salinas Valley to see the rugged terrain of the Gabilan Range on the east side of the valley, the patchwork of row crops and vineyards that are the economic backbone of the valley, and of course the Santa Lucia Mountains on the west side of the valley.
Just tell Specialized Aviation what you want, and they will do their best to make it happen.
There is certainly nothing more exciting than watching a helicopter land and take off—imagine the thrill if you are one of the passengers in that helicopter! Each helicopter has storage under the seat, so your wine purchases can go home with you without taking up any room in the 'copter!
Might be a fun thing to do for the upcoming River Road Wine Trail’s upcoming Tunes, Trucks and Tastes event on June 12? Or pick a day or weekend to do that wine tasting you have always wanted to do, without worrying about a designated driver? You can book a charter here or call Specialized Aviation at 831-763-2244.