No trip to the Monterey Peninsula would be complete without the lovely 20-minute drive along the Carmel River to sunny Carmel Valley Village, which offers a bright escape from Carmel-by-the-Sea’s costal fog. Carmel Valley Village offers its own bucolic blend of fine dining, art and fashion, and (at last count more) than 19 local wine tasting rooms. Situated between Carmel and the rugged peaks and valleys of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley Village offers the perfect get away from the hustle and bustle of city life (believe it or not it’s considered even more sleepy than Carmel-by-the-Sea). But we weren’t only in town for the lazy drive we had a target: Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery Tasting Room!
Located at the northeastern tip of the Carmel Valley Appellation, the family-owned 400-acre Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery resides approximately 12 miles inland from the Pacific Coast. Established in 1882, the ranch founds its true roots in 1928 when a San Francisco businessman, Gordon Armsby, was attracted to the rich farmland and leisurely pace of Carmel Valley, and purchased 600 acres in the Los Laurels area of the Valley, including what would be Holman Ranch. Armsby hired Clarence Tantau (of Del Monte Hotel fame) to design the home that would reside on his new property. Tantau and Armsby chose a classic Spanish-style hacienda, which proffered impressive stone walls—all built from local Carmel stone. They installed handmade Mexican terracotta roofing and hand-carved oak-beamed ceilings. Nestled in a stand of mature oaks, nicknamed “Casa Escondida,” or “Hidden House,” the estate served as an exclusive hideaway for many Hollywood celebrities including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara. Thomas and Jarman Lowder purchased Holman Ranch in 2006. Recently retired, they decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to make estate grown wine and olive oil. What could be better?
The ranch has proven to be an excellent growing location for their estate-grown wine varietals, which are planted on approximately 19 acres of undulating terrain. The warmth of their inland valley coupled with the cooling marine layer has established itself as an ideal microclimate for the production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Their Burgundy Clones have thrived from the perfect blend of ideal climate, southern exposure and thin rocky soils. Their wines are unfired (so don't be surprised by some sediment!) and crafted to deliver the true varietal of the grape from harvest to bottle.
The winery at Holman Ranch, located in The Caves, is completely underground in order to take advantage of the natural cooling and humidity held below. The 3000 square foot area maintains a constant temperature of 58˚F-60 ˚F and contains four 750 gallon tanks, four 1200 gallon tanks, and four open top tanks that can hold two tons each.
Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery Tasting Room (located a few miles away in “downtown” Carmel Valley) showcases the estate wines of Holman Ranch, which includes their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir.
There is something for everyone (4 varietals in fact), from the full-bodied Pinot Noirs to the light, fruity flavors of their Pinot Gris and lightly oaked Chardonnay. Three tasting flights of three wines each (White, Mountain and Pinot Noir) are available 7 days a week. (Edible Skinny was lucky enough to sample from all three and even try some bottles aren’t even available to the public!).
Though they’re winery has only been around for a short time, Holman Ranch’s 2011 Chardonnay won Gold at this year’s Sunset Magazines 3rd Annual International Wine Competition while their 2010 Pinot Noir and Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir placed in the Silver category. In 2012, National Geographic named the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee ($40) one of the 10 Best Wines out there in their book: The 10 Best Of Everything: An Ultimate Guide for Travelers. This wine (one of my absolute favorites during our tasting) presents a bold, rich taste with subtle hints of blueberry and raspberry jam. It is intense and long on the palate. But due to its popularity Hunter’s Cuvee is only available to wine club members at this time.
But this is a great excuse to join, as Holman Ranch’s Grand Estate Club was one of the best wine clubs we encountered during our whole Vines to Vines tour. Their twice a year shipment includes a selection of their limited-production Pinot Noirs and/or White wines in each case and as an exclusive benefit to the Grand Membership, each member is entitled to a complimentary two-night stay for two in one of Holman Ranch’s hospitality cottages on the ranch property. How stellar is that?
And then there’s the olive oil! Holman Ranch also offers estate grown and bottled Olive Oil available for tasting and purchase at the Tasting Room. Carefully hand-harvested, cold pressed and bottled, the Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced from the fruits of their Tuscan trees has a delightful spice followed by a buttery finish. Holman Ranch has its own distinctive olive grove located on a south facing hill of their vineyard. The grove is comprised of 100 trees with multiple cultivars planted. These cultivars consist of 25 Frantoio, 25 Leccino, 10 Mission, 25 Coratina, 5 Pendolino, and 10 Picholine, all of which were originally planted in 1994 in a Carmel Valley orchard then replanted at Holman Ranch in 2007. Although the Olive Grove is not certified organic, they do employ organic practices when farming their trees. Their mill, however, is certified organic. An interesting factoid (fFactoids!) is that olive trees are alternate bearing, which means that one year they may produce 650, 375ml bottles worth of oil, while next year they may produce only 50, 375ml bottles. According to Peter the lovely Tasting Room Manager, is a complete labor of love for the ranch and you can tell in the last of every golden droplet!
So when you’re done with the daily grind of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley Village and the Holman Ranch and Vineyards is the perfect sojourn