What’s better than staying on a wine vineyard? Answer: nothing. After our recent trip to the quaint town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, we ventured a short 15 minute car ride away to the lovely Holman Ranch. Located in Carmel Valley, Holman Ranch, also known as “casa escondida” because of its hard to spot location in the hills, lies on 400 acres, complete with vineyards on vineyards of wine-producing grapes. While most people know this spot for its breathtaking weddings, it is so much more than just a wedding venue. Travelers from everywhere will love this place as a wonderful vacation destination, with all the wine you can get your hands on (and then some)!
The historic ranch was built back in 1928, in a classic Spanish style with stone walls and Mexican terracotta roofing. Over the years it has switched hands a couple times, but kept its charm. In fact, it served as an exclusive hideaway for many of old Hollywood’s stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Marlon Brando. The latest switch of hands took place in 2006 when Thomas and Jarman Lowder purchased the property, giving it an upgrade and restoration, while maintaing all of the old-world charm that made it so attractive to its guests. Finishing the refurbishing in 2009, the property is now equipped with all the modern amenities, like heating, AC, WiFi, flat-screen TVs and an integrated sound system. But, we have to admit, it wasn’t the modern amenities that caught our attention upon arrival.
Nestled into the hills of the vineyards, the guest rooms, which have a comfortable Southwestern-type feel, really make you feel like you’re on vacation. Front porches with rocking chairs are a great spot to relax with a glass of wine and a good book if you’re in need of a little down time (family reunions, corporate retreats, special events are all welcome). Venture down to the wine caves, where Holman Ranch stores the wine they produce on site. Taking advantage of the natural cool temperature and humidity held underground, the caves store four 750-gallon tanks, four 1,200-gallon tanks, and four open-top tanks, as well as one hundred French oak barrels. All of the work that goes into making the wine – destemming, pressing, fermenting, and aging – take place within the caves. We were able to take a tour inside and try some of the wines from the barrels. Most well-known for their Pinot Noir, Holman Ranch produces great wine year after year, but they also have other labels for their nearby tasting room, Jarman, (Holman Ranch also has a tasting room in town) and steakhouse and bar, Will’s Fargo . But they don’t just focus on Pinots, there’s some delicious chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, as well.
The vineyards are gorgeous. Holman Ranch wines are sustainable and organic, so there are no herbicides or pesticides used on the grapes, and the team is very conscious of using all that they have. Fitness and outdoor fanatics will love hiking the trails through the vineyards and enjoying all the greenery and nature, not to mention the weather. In fact, the ranch also produces their own olive oil, so if you want something to pair with that wine, just get yourself a roll of bread and you’re set.
Holman Ranch also has horse stables on the property. During my stay, I loved going for a run through the hills and vineyards and past the stables, where I took a breather to watch the jockeys jumping with their horses. It’s a beautiful sight. In fact, there’s really no place on the property that isn’t stunning. We loved exploring the hacienda, with its colorful history and throwback decor (and learning all about it! Make sure to take a tour and learn as much as you can about the property, it’s surprisingly interesting). There’s a game room near the guest houses, which has everything from pool and darts to a stack full of board games and cozy fireplace. It’s also where you will find the bar and morning breakfast. The outdoor lawn and veranda, where most of the wedding ceremonies take place, is just the centerpiece to multiple outdoor spaces. A horseshoe pit and bocce ball will entertain the energetic, while the stone terrace, rose patio, carriage house and garden courtyard are just added bonus spaces for guests to enjoy. There is also a pool and fitness center on the property.
The only negative thing to say about this place is that we didn’t get to stay there long enough. It was completely relaxing, abundantly charming, filled with character and a friendly staff. There’s not much more that any vacationer would want…except maybe to be surrounded by wine. Luckily, they’ve got that covered, too.
Twisted Talk: Have you ever been to Carmel Valley before? What’s your ideal getaway like? Discuss below!