Just east of Monterey lies San Benito County where grapes grow, historic towns feel like a return to yesteryear and a host of movies have been quietly filmed. Dig deep at these four spots.
The Calaveras Fault meets the San Andreas Fault near Hollister, Calif., and you can see how the seismic activity has shifted sidewalks and curbs. Pick up a map at the San Benito Chamber of Commerce to tour the fault’s slow work, including shifting a residential walkway two feet over the years, so it no longer lines up with a house’s front door. When you reach the park, look closely and you’ll see the fault has created slight uplift in a north-south direction.
Pinnacles National Park
A newcomer to the national park scene, Pinnacles has lived most of its life in the park service as a national monument, thanks to President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1908 designation. In January 2013 President Barack Obama and Congress redesignated it as a national park. Because the park is on the Pacific Flyway, a migratory path for birds, there are more than 180 species of birds in the park, including the California Condor. The park also has two talus caves and more than 30 miles of hiking trails.
Mission San Juan Bautista
Explore California’s largest mission that was founded on June 24, 1797. Located in the main plaza of San Juan Bautista, it was the 15th mission of California’s 21 mission churches founded by the Spanish to settle California and to convert Native Americans to Christianity. The church still holds Catholic mass. The earthquakes of 1800 and 1906 damaged the mission, but it’s undergone several restoration efforts over the years. See the original El Camino Real just beyond the mission's cemetery (where 4,000 Native Americans and Europeans are buried).
A lesser-known wine area, San Benito County Winegrower’s Association has a wine trail leading to a number of wineries, some award-winning. Along Cienega Road, you’ll find Calera Wine Co., Pietra Santa and De Rose Winery, which has produced award-winning Zinfandel, Negrette and Cabernet Franc. Off Fairview Road, stop at the 50-acre Leal Vineyards. Owner Frank Leal also opened up The Grove Restaurant, a farm-to-table establishment at 7511 Pacheco Pass Hwy., in Hollister, and Hacienda de Leal, a Spanish-themed hotel. Nearby award-winning Guerra Cellars has a tasting barn open Saturdays and Sundays May through October.
For more information:
San Benito County Chamber
243 Sixth Street, Suite 100, Hollister, CA 95023-3988