I was so excited to receive an invitation to check out the famous Holman Ranch in Carmel, California and jumped at the chance. My daughter Taylor and I traveled to visit the historic ranch, established in 1928, which is a permanent fixture in California’s Carmel Valley wine country. We joined some food and wine bloggers for an overnight accommodation on the ranch, a tour of the pristine property, wine tastings, and dinner at their Wills Fargo Restaurant. What a treat!
We arrived at the ranch and scored room #1. The furnishings were rustic and very tasteful, with special touches in the leather-decorated pillows, plush linens, and accent pieces. The room had a couch, desk, and western-themed lamp. Cute rockers sat in front of our room for enjoying the outdoor scenery. Access to the swimming pool and fitness center is available for all guests. Our blogger group was welcome to use the game room, complete with jukebox and pool table, for a late night get together.
I strolled around the romantic property which has a very private aspect to it. The rustic stone hacienda is a lovely building that contains a piano, lovely artwork, fine fabrics, and furniture, plus plays venue to the events booked at Holman Ranch, such as weddings, corporate events, and reunions.
All of the invitees met owner/family member Nick Elliott by the stables later in the evening to sample Holman Ranch wines, the most popular being Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. I preferred the white wines, which is unusual for me, but they were light and crisp with a taste of tart green apple and pineapple. Very refreshing. Nick shared with us fun facts about the ranch, a cool part being that Hollywood icons used to hide out at the ranch. Some of these celebrities included Vincent Price, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Joan Crawford, and Charlie Chaplin, who had his own bedroom there.
To quote the Holman Ranch brochure, “The warmth of our inland valley coupled with the cooling marine layer provides an optimal microclimate for the production of Pinot varietals”. The ranch is located 12 miles inland from the Pacific Coast. The certified Holman Ranch organic winery is also SIP certified: sustainability in practice. Olives are grown onsite as well to produce their divine olive oils, but unfortunately we did not have a chance to try it.
For dinner, our group was bussed to the Wills Fargo Dining House and Saloon, reopened after major refurbishments and a new chef only 7 days earlier. We sampled Jarman Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines in the courtyard by their tasting lounge prior to dinner and were then seated in the back room of the charming restaurant. The courtyard has a beautiful seating area and electric heaters to keeping patrons warm in the cold seasons. The furnishings of Wills Fargo were modern as well as functional and the restaurant was tastefully decorated. I liked the western feel of it complete with the stuffed boar’s head over the inviting fireplace. It is obviously a local’s favorite and you could tell how comfortable the guests were there; in fact one man at the bar was a regular guest whom they named after. How cool is that? I found the maitre’d to be extremely friendly and personable, an impressive trait for any restaurant or business.
Servers presented a tray of relish to the table upon arrival which definitely beat traditional bread and butter. Our foodie based group was given a sampling of many menu items to try (yay for us!) including salads, appetizers, entrees, and side dishes. I had studied the menu before arriving and was pumped to see that many of the items I was interested in were being presented to us. The crisp iceberg lettuce wedge with green goddess dressing was a delight while the grilled kale salad with shaved fennel, and tomato carpaccio with pickled onions, were enjoyable as well. The salad is always my favorite part of the meal so I was pleased as punch.
The entrees were the fresh catch of the day and one of the greatest things ever, Pinot Noir braised short ribs over a white bean and bacon ragout. The meat was incredibly tender, flavorful, and I wanted to eat the whole plate! Our side choices were the ever popular white corn with lime and cilantro, braised red cabbage, and a very creative heirloom cauliflower with bagna cauda (similar to fondue). Last but not least, we were presented with individual portions of the night’s favorite item, “fondant” au chocolate with vanilla ice cream and ooey gooey caramel sauce.
Newly appointed Executive Chef Jerome Viel, of Brittany, France, stopped by to speak to our table and talk a bit about the foods we had sampled as well as posed for a picture with me.
I want to thank the Holman Ranch for hosting my daughter and I. We had a unique and memorable visit to their wineries and a terrific meal. I encourage you to visit the Holman Ranch in the future!
FYI: The Holman Ranch was restored to its grandeur in 2009.
FYI: Their tasting room is located at 19 E Carmel Valley Road.