It’s kind of strange for a travel writer to tell you about a place you can’t really visit. Holman Ranch in the Carmel Valley is truly a magical place and I was fortunate enough to stay there, taste the wines they make on property and to dine at their Will’s Fargo restaurant. However, if you’d like to book a room there, you’re out of luck. There is a way you can visit and I’ll share it with you in a bit.
As you drop down into the Carmel Valley, the sweeping views are simply stunning. We followed our GPS to the address plugged in and saw the signs for Holman Ranch. As we proceeded up the driveway, we saw a sign urging us to turn around. We drove a bit further and asked the workers we saw if we were in the right place. They didn’t speak English. Feeling hopelessly lost and with our assigned meeting time fast approaching, we drove down the hill into town and pulled into a shopping plaza where we found the Holman Ranch tasting room. It seems we had turned around just a bit prematurely. We headed back to the ranch and met Nick Elliott who was waiting to take our small group on a tour of this stunning property.
We walked through the Pinot Noir vineyard and down the hill to Holman Ranch’s winery and barrel room. Holman Ranch produces Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a late harvest Pinot Noir. We tasted all three along with a few barrel samples. I’m a big fan of Pinot Noir and this was exceptional; elegant, silky and smooth. The Virgin (unoaked) Chardonnay was crisp and delicious. The late harvest Pinot Noir, not yet released during our visit, promises to be wonderful.
Nick shared the history of the ranch which dates back to when California still belonged to Mexico. Originally more than 6,600 acres, the property today sits at 600 acres. Having passed through several hands, the ranch has been host to Hollywood notables including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Clarence and Vivian Holman purchased the property in the 1940s and called it ‘Holman’s Guest Ranch.’ A magnificent hacienda with stone walls made with stone dug out from the Carmel Valley, Mexican terra-cotta roofing and hand-carved oak ceilings sits at the center of the ranch now. A large pool with a brick deck overlooks sweeping panoramas. The ranch offers an ideal setting for weddings and retreats with a conference room, drop-down projectors, a game room and well-appointed guest rooms.
Executive Chef Jérome Viel dazzled us with an exceptional French onions soup, followed by free range chicken accompanied by potato gratin and a maché salad with a delicious Dijon vinaigrette. I’ll share the recipe with you. Vegetarians were offered spinach gnocchi with garlic, tomato and parmesan cream sauce. To top off the meal we enjoyed house made warm truffle cake with Holman Ranch olive oil ice cream. Dinner was paired with Holman Ranch Chardonnay and a couple of their lovely Pinot Noirs.
I promised I’d tell you how you can visit this extraordinary place. Holman Ranch wine club members are welcome to visit the property and stay the night. You can also visit and stay if you book an event there. Either option is a wise choice. The wines are lovely and the property is magnificent. We can’t wait for our next visit!
Chef Jérome Viel’s Dijon Vinaigrette
Servings: Makes about 1.5cup
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon Red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1 cup Holman Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup Chopped Parsley and basil.
Whisk lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and garlic in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add parsley and basil.
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.