Holman Ranch: A step back in time


Holman RanchHolman Ranch was established in 1928, well before the rush of wineries started to populate the rural and bucolic Carmel Valley.  When one thinks of Carmel Valley, you might well think Carmel (by-the-Sea), but in teh short 10 miles up the narrow valley, Carmel by the Sea dissolves away in to Carmel Valley, where horse ranches and vineyards dot the rugged hillsides that once housed cattle and horse ranches.

The family owned Holman Ranch is at the northeastern end of the valley, and while only a few miles from the ocean, is a world – and a century away.  The Ranch itself sits above a small subdivision on a hillside in Carmel Valley Village, but once you enter the gates – you are transported a world away.

IMG_8404Of the original 6500 acre Spanish Land Grant, the 600 acre property that would eventually become Holman Ranch was purchased by a wealth businessman from San Francisco for use as a “gentleman’s retreat”.  With an historic Spanish Hacienda style main house built from local stone, the guest rooms were added later when the property changed hands in the mid 1940s.  The addition of the guest quarters made it an ideal retreat for Hollywood luminaries, and it quickly became the hot spot for stars from Joan Crawford to Charlie Chaplin to escape to.

Fast forward to the late 1980s, and the property was converted back to a private estate to preserve the history and tranquility. This is when the original vineyards were planted, and the stables were added.  In 2006, the Lowder family purchased the Ranch and began a restoration project that included adding 17 acres of vineyards as well as wine IMG_8412caves and event spaces.

Waking up in the peaceful mountains above the valley, it’s easy to see why the stars would want to retreat here.  The early morning hours are silent and golden, and a walk through the property reveals the rugged hillsides and steep slops of vineyard that undulate down the hillsides.  You can certainly see why the Hollywood elite escaped here.

Even though Carmel Valley is only 12 miles from the Paciifc Ocean, the temperature is much warmer; the early morning fog cools down the vineyards, and for this reason, is ideal for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonay.  Holman Ranch specializes in Estate Pinot Noir, and offers four versions, plus 2 Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.  I loved the Pinot Gris, and the Hunter’s Hill Pinot Noir really hit the spot while admiring the rustic cowboy theme in the tasting room.

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While the Ranch itslef isn’t open to the public, it does host special events for the wine club as well as weddings, meetings and corporate retreats.  I think I might start planning my 25th birthday party!  Ok well maybe 40th.  (shush you.).

If you find yourself in the Monterey Bay region, be sure to take the detour to the narrow little valley that time forgot.  Knowing that Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel by the Sea, I would expect to see him riding the range above Holman Ranch from time to time.  Stop your horse at the hitching post outside the tasting room, pull up a cowhide and sip a while.  Or have dinnner at the newly acquired historical diner Will Fargo across the street.  You won’t be sorry!

A special thanks to Holman Ranch for hosting us at the Ranch and allowing me to go back to summer camp for one night!  I’ll be back…

Live Blogging: Garnet Vineyards Monterey Pinot Noir

I happen to be very lucky and I know Alison Crowe well.  She is a vibrant, energetic and influential winemaker as well as blogger.  I am happy to call her a friend.

This $15 pinot, is a fun, fresh and youthful wine made from Central Coast fruit.  As a Santa Barbara County native, Alison was educated at UC Davis and worked her way up through jobs at Chalone and other well known wineries.  She now has her own brand, Garnet and also consults with Saintsbury.

Pinot Noir is the easiest grape to show true expression of the fruit, and Alison loves to play with it.  The Monterey fruit is different than all the other pinots as it’s a classic Central Coast wine, with fresh, savory red fruit.  Crowd pleasing and inexpensive!

Viva la Garnet!

Que Syrah Syrah!

This is a tale of two syrahs.  No, not a sirah and a syrah but two syrahs!  When I first heart about David Cole’s wine, he was working on another project called Redline, which I bought through my friends at WineQ.  I knew then they this guy had talent, and I was very excited when I found out that he had started another project, James David Cellars.

Now, I’ve already reviewed the Muscat Blanc here,  and you probably already know that I adore syrah.  But let me tell you WHY I adore syrah.  The vast differences in growing regions here in California, produce some unique and interesting syrahs that differ as much as Hetch Hetchy tap water differs from sulfuric spring water from the spa at Bath.

Syrah, which is certain southern hemisphere countries, or maybe even in Canada is referred to as Shiraz is a dark-skinned beauty which produces powerful red wines and luscious rose wines.  It has a long and illustrious history as one of the primary Rhone varietals of southern France, but it’s origins are dubious at best.  As near as we can tell, Syrah is the child of some grapes that I’ve never heard of, which are native to a small area in southeastern France, making Syrah one of the original Rhône grapes.

Syrah here in the US is typically one of two types, warm climate, or cool climate.  Now these are very different types of wine, and it’s fun to compare the two side by side to see the difference.  In warmer regions, like Paso Robles, it can often be blended with other Rhône varieties.  One example, and a personal favorite, is a GSM or Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre blend.  The cooler coast and mountain growing regions tend to produce more single varietal syrah.


Here, we start with the 2005 Eaglepoint Ranch Syarh from Mendocino.  Eaglepoint Ranch is a vineyard that is a partnership between John Scharffenberger, of both chocolate and sparkling wine fame, and viticulturist Casey Hartlip.  Eaglepoint produces Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Grenache.  James David’s syrah from this vineyard gave me aromas of coffee, chocolate, and cedar.  It was dark and brooding, just what I love on a cold fall night.  On the palate I tasted espresso, bright red fruit, smoke, juniper and burnt toast, and the hint of prunes followed by caramel.  With a layer of black pepper, the black fruit of this wine was perfect in front of the fireplace on the rainy night I pened it.  This is a classic cool climate syrah, with firm and chewy textures followed by smoked meat flavors.  The wine that drinks like a meal!  Priced at $24, this wine tastes a lot more expensive and is worth it.  STRONG BUY

Next, I tried the 2005 James David Cellars Central Coast Syrah.  This wine is a blend of two vineyards from the Central Coast region, one in Paso Robles, and one in Monterey. It’s what I imagine when I think of warm climate syrah, with tons of fruit and juicy flavors.  On the nose, I smelled a lot of plum and red fruit, which was followed by blue fruit, and juicy dark raspberries on the palate.  This is a great pizza wine, and is easy drinking and more simple than the Eaglepoint Ranch above.  At $21, it’s also worth trying to see a classic Paso syrah in action.  BUY


I’m excited that David is coming out with a Pinot and Cab in the near future, so please go out, try the syrahs and stay tuned for more!  Tell em The Wine Brat sent you 🙂