The charming hamlet of Carmel-by-the-Sea has everything a couple could need or want…and a place for their pups.
It is a walking town so park, clip on a leash and head out to taste wines at the many tasting rooms that dot the village. You will see indicators that Carmel is for foodies, wine aficionados and dog owners. There is no shortage of first-rate restaurants and dog bowls in front of every storefront.
Bubbles make for a romantic weekend and some of the finest Methode Champenoise can be found right downtown at Caraccioli Cellars where they also make Pinot Noir and Burgundian-style Chardonnay from the fog-laden Santa Lucia Highlands. Fruit forward throughout their range of wines, the lively tasting room stays open until 10 PM on Friday and Saturday evenings for a glass of wine before dinner or a bubbly finish to the evening. Many nights there is live music, too.
At the outdoor shopping mall of Carmel Plaza, find Wrath Wines, conveniently and deliciously located next to the renowned Cheese Shop-Carmel. Named after the Led Zeppelin song “Going to California” Wrath is irreverent and exploratory and winemaker Sabine Rodems produces site-driven wines from both the family-owned Wrath property as well as many long-time growers in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah are Wrath’s mainstays but owner Michael Thomas is an archaeologist with two dig sites in Italy and now Wrath is one of the few producers of Falanghina with its bright crisp acidity and a cluster that looks like an enormous penis!
It is worth a 45 minute trip out to the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands to visit Hahn Winery and their spectacular rolling vistas of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the heart of this prized AVA. Winemaker Greg Freeman, a former musician and chemist, learned how to make wine on the job and Hahn Wines reflect the terroir and seaside climate of morning fog and afternoon winds. Freeman also serenades his wines in barrel with bagpipes….and they seem to like it given what’s in the bottle. The winery was instrumental in getting this area recognized as a premiere winegrowing region and the wines, at every level, reflect the terroir.
There are fourteen wineries on the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea and it pays to get the Passport that allows for up to four tastings per winery and will get you waived corkage at participating local restaurants. Check out Silvestri, owned by composer Alan Silvestri and taste through the wines produced on their 11-acre vineyard while watching clips from movies he has scored.
Romantic restaurants abound in Carmel with its oyster bars, fresh seafood and an array of Italian and Mediterranean eateries. Start with oysters at either A.W. Shucks or Flaherty’s then move to one of the Italian favorites like Da Giovanni, Casanova or Little Napoli. Anton and Michael’s inspires with its creativity and ALL of the restaurants listed above are dog-friendly making romance easy for the whole family.
Carmel doesn’t disappoint with romantic inns and bed and breakfast charmers. In fact, nearly every hotel serves some kind of breakfast and they all have rooms set aside for our four-legged loves. Most places have a nominal $25 pet charge and some even have special treats for dogs. For a spectacular view and reasonable rates, try Hofsas House, a family-owned hotel with history and a number of suites with fireplaces and kitchenettes. Amazing pastries in the morning and the Hog’s Breath Inn with its killer Bloody Marys and outdoor fireplaces is a short block away.
If Relais and Chateaux are more your style – and budget – L’Auberge Carmel offers every luxury just a few blocks from the beach. Cookies and milk appear in your room upon check-in and a sumptuous breakfast at their award-winning restaurant, Aubergine, is simply a teaser for the multi-course feast each evening.
Interestingly, Carmel-by-the-Sea has no street lights making it quite dark, mysterious and even romantic at night, but each morning the beach comes alive with dogs and their owners. Based at the end of the main drag, Ocean Drive and completely open to all dogs, Carmel Beach encapsulates the total joy of complete doggie freedom. They frolic in the surf and chase Frisbees, their owners or each other. The beach is untamed and ringed by Monterey Pines and driftwood. While enjoying the wineries, restaurants and shops, don’t forget the Beach and its natural, rugged beauty when visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea – with or without a dog.