Last year I visited Holman Ranch with an eye toward finding a fantastic event venue. There is no doubt that Holman Ranch is the ideal spot not only for weddings, but for reunions, corporate retreats, wine retreats and girls’ getaway weekends. But when I received an invitation to return to the Ranch, I decided to take a different approach. This time, I wanted to indulge my senses. I wanted to explore the grounds, taste as many of the estate wines as possible and try dishes offered at their new restaurant. In short, I wanted to luxuriate in the offerings of Holman Ranch. And so, I did.
Rather than exploring the Hacienda, the guests houses and the other main buildings on the Ranch, as I did last time (you can read all about it and check out the photos here), we headed straight up a dirt road that winds above the property after we arrived. I stopped just above a part of the vineyard (it’s a bit over 20 acres) and the olive trees. While their property continues for a considerable distance upward, I took the moment to turn back and survey the Ranch from above. Sun danced on the trees. Wind rustled the grass. A feeling of absolute peace settled over me. Holman Ranch is more than an event venue. It offers a real retreat from the craziness of every day life. You will not encounter hundreds of people here (unless, of course, you’ve invited them). That kind of serenity is an extraordinary luxury. Now that I’ve returned to Los Angeles, I sincerely wish there had been a way to bottle it and bring it back with me.
Even when we joined the group near the Hacienda to begin our tour, I noticed that everything we did had been designed for maximum relaxation and enjoyment. Of course, starting with some Sauvignon Blanc and beginning the tour as the sun was beginning to set didn’t hurt. As we learned more about the organic and sustainable practices of Holman Ranch, I could tell that the spell had captured the other guests, as well. We were fascinated not just in the beauty of the grounds and the history of the buildings, but also with the way they had managed to renovate and expand without waste or distraction. The buildings feel like they are a part of the Carmel Valley.
Then came Will’s Fargo. Talk about an epicurean’s delight! The interior from bar through the main dining area is filled with dark wood. Lights are dimmed, and the whole experience feels intimate and personal whether you are there dining with a date, or there with a large group (as we were). The owners of Holman Ranch took ownership of Will’s Fargo in November 2014. It’s an excellent addition to the catered options that guests enjoy during their stay at the Ranch. Jérôme Viel is the chef, and he has truly made the place his own. While mostly known for steak and seafood, we went a slightly different route. Roasted chicken so tender you didn’t need a knife to cut it, and a goat cheese ravioli that I still crave were our choices. Naturally, we paired it with Holman Ranch wines. It was so fantastic that you know I’ll be writing more about it soon (not to mention already planning for a return trip)!
What would I recommend to someone going to Holman Ranch for the first time? That’s a tough one because there are so many amazing things. I’d say, start your stay at a spot that’s down the road: Holman Ranch Tasting Room. Not only is the staff wonderfully helpful about sights to see in the area, but they provide generous pours and allow you to choose your tasting. I lean more toward red wines, so I highly recommend giving the Pinot Noirs a try. My personal favorite is the Heather’s Hill, but I haven’t met one of their estate pinots that I haven’t enjoyed. Beyond the wine, it’s just a nice way to calm down from the long drive. It allows you to start focusing on your senses. Your shoulders will relax, and you’ll be ready to enjoy your stay.
The second thing I’d recommend is to give yourself some time to really explore the property. The rooms and the main buildings are spectacular, but don’t be afraid to wander both above and below the main areas. We not only got to enjoy the stunning visuals, but we encountered deer who were also taking a morning jaunt.
Also, if you have the time, and it’s available, try to book a spot on the wine cave tours. The way they have transformed the vineyards and built the caves is fascinating and well-worth the two hours.
(This article was originally posted on Examiner.com. Due to that site’s closure, it has been republished here).