My husband Eddie and I recently spent the night at the beautiful Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley. The expansive ranch was established in 1928 and was a fave destination for movie stars like Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. The grounds include a stone hacienda, private lodgings, game room, carriage house, conference room, chapel, patios, courtyard, lawns, mountain views, a swimming pool, gymnasium, horse stables, olive groves, and vines of course.
The ranch is known for being a wedding destination, and we were to learn why weddings – as well as corporate events, family reunions and any kind of special event you can think of – work so well there, and taste some of their new estate wines and olive oils.
We arrived in Carmel Valley early enough to stop by the Holman Ranch Vineyards Tasting Room, located at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road. Suite C., before heading up to the ranch. There were several other tasting rooms on Carmel Valley Road that we could have visited if we had more time so if you do plan to go – allow more time. (There are 18 wineries on this list alone: http://www.carmelvalleycalifornia.com/indexwine.html)
Aromas and Flavors separated by “;”
2012 Estate Grown Pinot Gris
Peaches, honey, lemon, crisp apple, kiwi; Nice viscosity, white pepper, green apple, white peaches, staggeringly long finish. Very well done.
2012 Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc
It was interesting to note that the wine was almost clear in color; Pear, lemon zest, cheddar cheese; the taste was tangy lemon-lime with medium acidity.
2012 Estate Grown Chardonnay
(The winemaker called this a “Virgin” Chardonnay as there was no oak aging.)
Floral notes of honeysuckle and jasmine, candied ginger; cling peaches, white pepper, lime. Reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc without the acidity.
2011 Estate Grown Chardonnay
Banana cream pie with a graham cracker crust, pine, eucalyptus; vanilla, salted caramel, citrus fruit.
2011 Estate Grown, Heather’s Hill, Pinot Noir
Cherry pits/stems, strawberries, red currants, green pepper; biting red cherry, dry, cigarette smoke, very well done.
2010 Estate Grown Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir
Bright red fruit, brambles, green pepper; balanced fruit and delightful spice, deeper darker fruit than I got from the aroma. Nice finish, good to drink now, with or without food. Eddie’s pick.
2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir
Dusty rose petal, dried cherry, lavender; smooth and balanced, I think this winemaker has a light touch, nothing overripe or big, gentle fruit . (And he walked right past me while I was writing this!) My pick of the Pinots, maybe as it had a little more age on it.
Strawberries, Courvoisier brandy, cranberries, Ed found black licorice while I found red, white pepper; Red fruit, acidity, tart cherry, hint of white chocolate truffles.
Olive Oil Tasting
They grow six different olives in total on the Holman estate, both French and Spanish, and made barely enough for the public in the past. But it’s back on the market right now…who knows for how long? Nice green flavors – but not too green – mown grass, silky, I wanted to finish the entire bowl, and it made me crave eggplant Parmesan!
After the tasting we took a two-minute drive up a small rolling hill to reach the ranch, enjoying a view of the horses that were boarded in the stables. Then we parked our car, settled into our two-room mini suite, and relaxed for a bit. (Eddie napped and I read over some of the information in the press kit that was left for me.)
Our hosts for the tour and later for dinner were Nick Elliott and his wife Hunter Lowder (Hunter’s parents own the ranch). Nick gave us enough of a tour that I could easily imagine waking up in one of the ten guest rooms the day of my vow-renewal, getting ready in one of the conference rooms while the men have the game room, having the service on the lawn, cocktails in the courtyard, dancing in the carriage house, and ending back in my room.
(A note on the game room – equipped with a bar, pool table and jukebox – would have been great at my own wedding. A perfect way to keep the groomsmen close by and safe! My best man showed up on crutches having had his butt whipped earlier on our special day playing basketball.)
The entire Holman Ranch venue is available for your event. (I thought this was a grand way to keep guests from growing bored.) And all without running into guests from another party. Nick explained that Holman Ranch only books one event at a time. He joked that for the same price as another destination in Carmel, at Holman Ranch you won’t find some random guy walking to the swimming pool in his robe during your wedding.
And of course I asked about the wine. Would it be Holman Ranch that is served? Nick explained that many of their clients come from San Francisco and other wine areas, so they are among the few destinations that respect their clients and do not charge corkage fees.
Hunter sat with us during dinner. She was a charming counterpart to Nick in telling us why wedding planners are so important – so that a groom knows when his wedding has started and Bridezilla behavior doesn’t erupt.
Hunter said they were very much interested in connecting to people planning a wedding. One story she retold: A woman had mentioned Holman Ranch on a comment in a blog, saying she considered it and figured it was too expensive. Hunter surprised her by commenting something along the lines of, “How do you know? Call me.” The woman did, they went over all of the different options offered, and of course, she had her wedding at Holman.
Holman Ranch Vineyard and Winery Background
Located at the northeastern tip of the Carmel Valley Appellation, the family-owned Holman Ranch resides approximately 12 miles inland from the Pacific Coast. Immersed in history and romance, the ranch has not only proven to be an excellent growing location for our vineyards but also for the Tuscan varietal olive trees which have flourished under the temperate climate.
Holman Ranch estate-grown wine varietals are planted on approximately 19 acres of undulating terrain. The wines produced are unfined and crafted to deliver the true varietal of the grape from harvest to bottle. The climate and terroir of the appellation has played a critical part in the success of their wines. The warmth of the inland valley coupled with the cooling marine layer has proven to be an ideal microclimate for the production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The vineyards’ Burgundy Clones have thrived from the perfect blend of ideal climate, southern exposure and thin rocky soils.
The estate wines of Holman Ranch include: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir. Carefully hand-harvested, cold pressed and bottled, the Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced from the fruits of our trees has a delightfully distinctive flavor.