Picking up our hotel keys at a wine tasting room was an intriguing first glimpse into the Holman style. Recently invited to visit the Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California, to give it a blogger’s review, I had zero expectations beyond the fact that I like wine and I like to travel. And while I’m no cowgirl, I can certainly handle a “ranch.” Guess what… this ranch is POSH.
Wine country. Vineyard, olives, horses, ranch. Carmel Valley. You can read those words on a computer monitor and maybe think, “Sounds cool.” But it came to life quickly as we drove up the road a piece from the Holman tasting room, heard the whinny from a stablesful of fine horses, opened the car door to be welcomed by blue jays shrieking, saw 10 homey porch-lined stone casitas, and then inhaled the delicious aroma of French Oak wine barrels.
Holman Ranch is a treasure of a high-end property that boasts 70+ weddings a year. We saw why in a heartbeat. Every direction is a photo opp, not contrived, just enhanced Mother Nature. Stand in the open middle of the property, look this way to see rolling vineyard hills off in the distance behind a perfectly placed stage for nuptials – or concerts, this isn’t just a wedding venue.
The lawn is the right size for up to 200 chairs. Turn right, and there’s a vine-covered shady area suitable for maybe a farm table dinner if I had a smaller group.
Glance behind… that carriage house is golden — perfect for indoor dances. The adjacent lawn, ripe for wine tastings and barbecues. Then I turned full circle and saw the Hacienda, two stone structures built in 1928 as housing, stables, courtyard but are now mind-blowingly fab drawing room, conference room, chapel, game room with a bar.
Wait, let’s take a walk down a path toward one of the vineyards – that’s where the pool with fitness room show up. Peaceful. Peaceful.
AND NOW ONTO THE GRAND PRIZE – WINE: Proprietor, Nick Elliott enlightened a group of media guests by starting us at the source, the grape.
A short distance by foot, something reminiscent of a bomb shelter (baby boomer here) caught our eye, “The Cave”. The WINE cave, where the magic of Holman Ranch estate pinot noir, chardonnays, cabernets happen. They have their fine-tuned strategy for growing, aging, blending some seriously delicious wines but not enough to distribute too far out of the area (3500 total cases annually). The majority of fans belong to their wine club for a better crack at them. YES YOU CAN BUY THE WINE, GO HERE.
Which brings me back to proprietor Nick. Real guy, smart as all get-out, not pushy, not puffy. He told us the history of the family business, walked us through barrel tastings (great way to start an afternoon), grape growing and production insights.
We toured the magnificent property and learned the popular uses for the small-ish “inn” albeit a killer quality property – weddings obviously, family reunions, corporate retreats, secret rendezvous — I put that in here but if you were ever inclined to do something with someone and didn’t want to be seen doing, THIS is the place. Secluded and quiet, it’s so small you could just pay the other nine guests to look the other way.
I had probably the best night’s sleep in a long time, the comfy bed knocked me out (OK, the WINE and bed knocked me out). Aside from the occasional sound of a bird, and a breeze through the oak trees, it was deafeningly quiet. And take a look at the decor. Whoever did this knew the difference between “trying” to look like cowboy country and simply being.
Nick then hosted our group of media to Will’s Fargo, back in town, a beloved local restaurant also owned by the Holman family. And met new chef, Greg Karjala So now I know the best place to recommend in Carmel Valley because the family-style meal really showcased the best of local California-style fare (menu below).
Yes, we dined like kings and queens, thanks to Chef Greg. Here’s the night’s menu:
chilled potato-leek soup
extra virgin olive oil, chives
sourdough crouton with paprika, 6 minute egg, white anchovy, arugula
grilled kale salad, lemon vinaigrette, shaved fennel, radish, toasted bread crumbs, ricotta salata
wedge salad, classic blue cheese, blue cheese vinaigrette, green goddess dressing
rainbow trout, braised fennel, white wine, citrus, chili flake
braised short ribs, goat cheese polenta, pickled green tomatoes
asparagus and asiago raviolis, sauce soubise, braised green, grana padano
roasted mushrooms, tarragon butter, lemon
charred brocolini, garlic, chili, vinegar
sweet corn with cilantro and lime
white chocolate mousse, hazelnuts, brown butter, pineapple
roasted strawberries, pernod poached rhubarb, balsamic glaze, sweet cream
DISCLAIMER: accommodations, wine tastings and meals were provided to me and a guest (yes, Larry) at no charge for the purpose of this review. The opinions are all my own.
HOLMAN RANCH, 19 E. Carmel Valley Road, Suite C, Carmel Valley, CA 93924
(831) 659-2640 | firstname.lastname@example.org Holman Ranch is conveniently located twelve miles from Highway One, off Carmel Valley Road, and just twenty minutes from the Monterey Airport. Holman Ranch is a private residence, all visits are by appointment only. Please call in advance.