Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley
There’s nothing like a trip to Monterey Bay and the Carmel Valley, especially when it includes a visit to Holman Ranch. Peter and I recently had the good fortune to spend a weekend at this historic ranch and winery and came away relaxed and rested. It is an awe-inspiring setting, with its sprawling lawns overlooking vineyards, endless views of the Carmel Valley and Santa Lucia Mountains, and numerous terraces, courtyards and patios to relax on.
The ranch, which dates back to when the state was part of Mexico, has been through several owners, with its current incarnation beginning in the late 1920s. At that time a San Francisco businessman bought the ranch and commissioned famous architect Clarence Tantau to design a classic Spanish-style hacienda, which has undergone serious restoration in the recent past and is now used for weddings, special events, and corporate retreats.
Holman Ranch is now owned by the Lowder family, who tend the vineyard, run the winery, board horses in the remodeled barns, and work the olive grove (which produces some very yummy olive oil). The hacienda and small guest house (which also features a pool and fitness center) can accommodate up to 38 people for the special events, making it a great choice for small retreats and weddings. It is 600 acres of beautiful grounds nestled in the valley. A little bit of heaven.
We were able to take advantage of a special weekend preview of the Holman Ranch property, which included accommodations, vineyard and cave tour, wine tasting at their Tasting Room down the hill, and a very special meal at their offsite restaurant, Will’s Fargo.
Holman Ranch Vineyard
The vineyard and tour was both amazing and enlightening. Holman Ranch Vineyard is taking viticulture into the 21st century, having obtained certified organic status, one of only two vineyards in their appellation to do so. They are also certified sustainable, meaning their operation can last indefinitely.
They have gone to great lengths to be both energy and water efficient. In fact, their wine cave has no heating or cooling system; it is naturally cool and humid and perfect for their wine. And that wine is 100% estate grown; no grapes from neighboring parcels or elsewhere in the state. All their grapes are handpicked, processed on site, kept in casks in the caves and then bottled using a mobile unit.
Holman Ranch Tasting Room
The Holman Ranch Tasting Room (located at 19 E. Carmel Valley Road) offers three tasting flights of three wines each. They have a very interesting .5° Brix, a Rose of Pinot Noir, a Pinot Gris, several Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Sauvignon Blancs, as well as several blends. We were not disappointed with anything we tried and, in fact, bought several bottles to enjoy at home. (Don’t forget to try the olive oil too, you’ll be glad you did!) As you may tell from how often we visit the best Napa Valley wineries, we love wine.
Will’s Fargo Restaurant
We also had the opportunity to eat at Will’s Fargo, their western-themed steakhouse with a hint of glitz. The restaurant had recently been refurbished, from kitchen to bar to dining room, and was featuring a new menu. (We were the test subjects!) I loved the history behind this restaurant. Built in 1920 as a tea room, it became a roadhouse for travelers.
In 1959, it became Will’s Fargo, named after the owner and he dressed the place up a bit, keeping its western theme, with antiques common to the original. The Lowder family purchased it in 2014, and they offer a stunning selection of entrees, with locally sourced organic vegetables, as well as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. And I can attest to the quality of the food; it was nothing short of spectacular thanks to their new chef Greg Karjala. Peter even snuck into the kitchen to capture a photo to share with you.
After dinner, we returned to Holman Ranch to call it a day. As you can see from the photos, our accommodations were western designed with a hacienda charm. The beds were comfy, and I especially loved the nod to the stables with the horse door knockers. In the morning we were able to hang out on the porch, admiring the view and after breakfast took the time to wander the grounds.
There is a large pool with comfortable chaise lounges, the Rose Patio, pathways with pergolas, and a beautiful tiered stone “Ceremony Veranda,” which is the perfect venue for a wedding. Everywhere it was lush and green, with views of the hills and the valley. We also wandered by the Holman Ranch stables and their three arenas, and got a glimpse of some of their Tuscan olive grove. We wish we had more time to hike the trails and see even more of Holman Ranch.
Kudos to the Lowders for their investment of time and energy to make this such a wonderful venue for weddings and corporate events, for the organic and sustainable way their run their vineyard, and for the wonderful wine they produce. I hope you get a chance to enjoy some or all of this in the future!
Here’s to Stylish Travels,