Growing up in the Bay Area, I visited Carmel often. Since leaving there I’ve called numerous places home, including St. Croix, Virgin Islands and Baja California, Mexico. I settled in Southern California nearly 15 years ago and hadn’t returned to Carmel in decades until last year, when I paid my first visit to Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley.
I’ve been lucky enough to return to the ranch two more times, most recently this past November. I co-host a radio called Chords and Vines each Sunday afternoon with Kat Ellis. When I learned I’d be returning to Carmel, I looked into the possibility of broadcasting the show from there. The Hyatt Carmel Highlands graciously offered to host our show and put us up for the night.
We followed the curving road up the hill overlooking Big Sur the Pacific Ocean and arrived at the Hyatt. This is a truly majestic property with incomparable views. The gracious staff helped us set up our equipment, food and beverage supplied us with three outstanding area wines to pair with the music of our guest, the delightful and fascinating Dino Vera. Dino has worked with scores of notables, among them Jimi Hendrix, Fats Domino and James Taylor.
We checked into our lovely room with its stunning oceans views, nibbled on some cheese and relaxed before heading back to the Inn itself for dinner at the Pacific’s Edge Restaurant. The evening cool had set in, so we opted to sit indoors instead of on the grand outdoor terrace. We saved that for breakfast the next morning. As I dined on some of the best corned beef hash I have ever tasted, Kat enjoyed a very tasty zucchini frittata. Tearing ourselves away wasn’t an easy task, but we had two more days with two more venues, so we bade a fond farewell.
I fell in love with Holman Ranch on my first visit there. Returning for a third time only deepened my admiration for this most magical place. We stopped at their tasting room before heading up the hill to the ranch itself. Carmel Valley is a quaint town with a few shops and tasting rooms, and we thoroughly enjoyed the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir there. Husband and wife team Nick and Hunter run the ranch. Nick escorted a small group of us around the property, past the first swimming pool in the Carmel Valley, through the vineyard and down to the winery and wine cave. On the way we met winemaker Greg Vita, who took a moment to greet us before we stepped inside to take a look at where Holman Ranch and Jarvis wines are produced.
Nick demands his wines be lovingly crafted with the utmost attention to detail. Their high-end Jarman label is, after all, a tribute to the memory of the late Jarman Lowder, whose daughter Hunter is Nick’s wife. Jarman and her husband Thomas purchased the Holman Ranch property and oversaw the restoration. Gleaming stainless steel tanks and majestic French oak barrels hold the yet-to-be bottle Holman Ranch and Jarman wines. The Chardonnay is produced with no malolactic fermentation, while the Pinot Noir does undergo it. The vineyards are certified organic, no small feat. The wines here are approachable and elegant and I highly recommend getting your hands on some.
A short time later we took the short ride down the hill back into Carmel Valley and stopped at the Jarman tasting room to enjoy some more of these magnificent wines. The tasting room is right next door to Will’s Fargo restaurant and bar, part of the Holman Ranch holdings. I’ve dined at Will’s Fargo before and have been consistently blown away by the quality of the food, the presentation, atmosphere and service. We dined al fresco on the patio family style, while plate after tasty plate of food appeared before us. For appetizers we enjoyed vegetable skewers and corn fritters. Entrées were rack of lamb lollipops, charbroiled swordfish and a gluten-free pasta Primavera. We savored the meal with more Holman Ranch wines and finished things off with a mouth-watering array of desserts. There was live music coming from the bar and when we poked our heads in, we found it was none other than our new friend Dino Vera.
It’s so still and peaceful at the ranch. After a solid night’s sleep, we reluctantly said goodbye to this magical spot and made our way back to Carmel By The Sea. We checked into Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites, a charming wine-themed location. Each room is named after an area winery, and as I looked at our room keys, I saw we were staying in the Holman Ranch room! This boutique inn offer 18 guest rooms and is located minutes from Carmel’s charming downtown. We strolled downtown, stopped in at a few tasting rooms and had a wonderful lunch at Affina. For dinner we enjoyed the Beach House restaurant at Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. From the spicy firecracker shrimp, to the salmon and corn chowder, the Fire & Ice Wedge to the Caesar with copious amounts of shaved Parmesan and anchovies, the food was delicious and the setting divine.
We enjoyed a breakfast of quiche and fresh fruit in the Vendange lobby.These three days passed far too quickly for us. Carmel holds a very special place in our hearts and we’re anxious to create new memories there on a return visit.
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.