The rugged coastal mountains of the Monterey region are home to some of the finest wines in California, where winemakers work the land to produce tasty varietals making the region a great escape for a few days or a few weeks.
The Carmel Valley is one of the least visited locales in this coastal paradise unlike nearby Monterey, Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. But, the Carmel Valley is just as charming and inviting with working wineries run by hard-working winemakers like Holman Ranch. Along with producing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, these modern-day farmers and entrepreneurs also produce extra virgin olive oil, operate stables for horse lovers, and have restored the historic hacienda on the ranch to produce one-of-a-kind events and weddings.
The hacienda provides a refuge for visitors from casual family reunions to just a weekend getaway for two. During a recent visit, the owners are just as likely to pour you a glass of wine as to help serve dinner at their nearby restaurant, Will’s Fargo.
You won’t find an option to stay the night at this ranch online, however. Instead, give them a call and they will create a custom retreat for a night or two or 10 for you based on your occasion and requests. If a day trip to Carmel Valley is on the agenda, then be sure to stop by the tasting room to enjoy the fruits of this labor of love. | holmanranch.com
There’s something seductive about the seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea that calls to me, beckoning return trips again and again to explore and discover more of its charms. I reveal in wandering through the streets and hidden alleys to discover secret gardens, charming shops and tasty restaurants. The Bavarian-style Hofsas House clad in pink is my home base while in Carmel where I can walk only minutes to enjoy an early morning stroll on the sandy beaches of the Pacific, indulge in the oh-so-good hot polenta and 2-inch thick cinnamon toast at Carmel Bella for breakfast and discover a new treasure on each visit.
Meander through the streets of Carmel to fully enjoy the unique architecture of quirky fairy tale homes to the monument in stone of Tor House and Hawk Tour built by poet Robinson Jeffers, or learn about the Spanish history of California at the Carmel Mission. Lunch to go is an experience from the 5th Ave Deli and the plan for driving down the coast to enjoy a day at Big Sur and picking a perfect picnic spot.
Be sure to be back in the town center for an afternoon of wine tasting. Explore the varietals from nine tasting rooms within a few blocks with the Wine Tasting Passport, which will likely take you a few trips to Carmel to enjoy all of the flights. End the evening with wild mushroom ravioli at the Grill on Ocean and an evening stroll on the beach. | carmelcalifornia.com
Whale watching in the Highlands
Charming elegance abounds at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands where every guest is treated like the only guest for the evening (and greeted with a glass of bubbly). While my visit was only for a night, the experience was a relaxing retreat. An afternoon walk after check in was in order to explore the lush property situated on a hillside overlooking the Pacific, followed by a glass of wine and local brie while sitting on a private balcony on the lookout for spouts of water from the ocean signaling a migrating whale.
Dinner at the Pacific Edge was timed to enjoy the sunset over the ocean and more whale watching where the star of this menu is seafood. We lingered over several courses of dinner savoring the food, the atmosphere and those amazing California coastal views. | highlandsinn.hyatt.com