So many things struck me about Holman Ranch when we visited there earlier this year that when the opportunity to return came up I jumped at it. There’s so much to see and do and so many facets of the Holman Ranch experience that one day simply isn’t enough to soak it all in. The experience begins well before you get to the ranch. As you wind down mountain roads into California’s majestic Carmel Valley, you’re awestruck by the natural beauty surrounding you. We stopped at the newly opened Jarman tasting room where I visited with Nick Elliott.
Nick and his wife Hunter run the ranch, the winery and Wills Fargo restaurant. Nick and Hunter attended a wedding at the ranch several years ago, and knowing that Hunter’s parents Tom and Jarman Lowder were looking for an investment property, they told them to check out Holman Ranch. “We’re looking for 10 acres” said Tom. “This is 400 acres!” After they saw the property, they fell in love with it and bought it. As with any historic property, there was plenty of work to do. The hacienda, guest accommodations, equestrian center and swimming pool at the ranch were built in the 1920s. They needed to walk a fine line to make structural improvements while maintaining historic authenticity.
Three companies oversaw the work and attention to detail was key. Tom and Jarman wanted to make certain not only that it be preserved, but that it be built to last. At Holman Ranch “where the past is always present” is their motto and you can feel the past everywhere you turn. The hacienda is magnificent with vaulted ceilings and oak beams, stone walls made from local Carmel stone and a Mexican terracotta roof. There are mementos from the old West, posters depicting events from days gone by and photos of movie stars who frequented the ranch decades ago.
In her late 40s, Jarman began showing signs of dementia. She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and succumbed in 2011 at the age of 60. “She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life” Nick told me. She loved food and wine and jumped at the chance to travel. After her death, Nick thought is was only fitting to take the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from the Holman vineyards and produce a wine with the Jarman label. Under the guidance of head winemaker Greg Vita, Nick helps craft the Jarman wines as well as the wines bearing the Holman Ranch label. Vita has divided his time between the Napa Valley and Monterey making wine and has his own consulting business. The Jarman wines are exceptional and $1 from each bottle sold goes to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
At the ranch we strolled the property, walking through the vineyards before stopping at the winery for some tank and barrel tasting. Harvest had just ended and the aromas of fermenting wine filled the cave. We walked up to the hacienda before stopping at our comfortable room filled with rustic charms and modern conveniences. Nick poured us some wine in front of one of the barns and then we headed into town to visit the Jarman Lounge and sample the wines that bear her name.
We dined right next door at Wills Fargo Steakhouse + Bar. Originally a stop on the milk run between the valley and the coast, it became The Carousel restaurant in the 30s. Will Fay bought it in 1959 and gave it the name it bears today. I visited with restaurant manager Mike Zinn and Executive Chef Jerome Viel before we sat down to a fabulous dinner. Jerome is a classically trained French Chef whose wife and daughters are vegetarians. Not only does the restaurant offer exceptional beef, pork, chicken and lamb, it also has perhaps the best vegetarian fare in the valley. We savored each sip of French Onion soup, shared bites of roasted free-range chicken and goat cheese raviolis and succumbed to the allure of the warm truffle cake with house made olive oil ice cream.
I’ve fallen in love with Holman Ranch and can’t wait to return.If you’re looking for a place to hold a wedding, retreat, business meeting or corporate event for up to 400 people, Holman Ranch is an ideal venue.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.