One of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have ever visited and it’s just short coastal drive north of Los Angeles. Carmel, California has so many areas that are special and unique in their own way. We started our weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a small, walkable town right on the ocean’s edge. They pride themselves on not having any mainstream companies or stores. You won’t find a Starbucks here, but you will find some of the best wine tasting in our country.
We checked into the Hofsas House Hotel, which is a boutique family-owned inn with 38 uniquely decorated rooms. The German themed hotel has a history and a love you can feel. Carrie, the owner’s grandmother first started the hotel over 60 years ago. She didn’t have a business background, just an independent spirit and a will to succeed. Tyler and I stayed in one of the cottage rooms. It was a quiet cottage in the middle of a hotel with a cozy feeling. They welcomed Frank with a fluffy bed, treats, toiletries, and a bowl, while we were welcomed with cheese from the local cheese shop along with a bottle of Chardonnay. With a fireplace (that Frank loved), dutch doors to let the fresh air in, wooden beamed ceilings, and heated bathroom floors, we made it home. Other amenities include a heated swimming pool, dry saunas, view deck areas and free wireless internet access.
While staying at the Hofsas House, you can indulge in one (or more) of their packages. They offer wine & chocolates, a wine & cheese tasting, a champagne & cheese tasting, couples massages, a golf package, and many more. You can make your stay unique in this adorable, charming, Bavarian-inspired hotel.
The Hofsas House is located three blocks north of the main strip, Ocean Avenue, and only eight blocks from the white sand of Carmel Beach. We could walk and take Frank everywhere! Over the weekend we explored Carmel-by-the-Sea and visited restaurants, shops, wine tasting rooms, and the beach. Some of our favorite places to visit while staying at the Hofsas House include:
5th Ave Deli & Catering: This little deli has everything you need for a picnic on the beach, or a quick lunch on a park bench. We grabbed salads, sandwiches, and a little bottle of wine, to eat lunch while we enjoyed the sun. They also have baskets ready to go!
The Cheese Shop: This shop is a must visit when in Carmel-by-the-Sea and has been serving up cheese, gourmet food, and wine for over 35 years. I am not even a huge cheese lover, but I am so happy we visited this place. They are more than generous with cheese samples and encourage you to taste as much as you want. Also, in the back, you can do a cheese and wine tasting. Simply choose a wine color (or throw the die) and Kent, the owner, will set you up with a great tasting. Pick Kent’s brain for any wine questions you may have. He knows it all!
Wrath: Wrath Winery has some of the best plummy reds I have ever tasted. These cool climate wines are from their estate vineyard and neighboring Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards. They produce Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Situated next to The Cheese Shop, grab some of your favorites and bring your tasting to the next level.
Scheid: Scheid Vineyards is the largest label in Carmel-by-the-Sea and they have a beautiful, large tasting room. We are huge fans of their Merlot, but overall, they produce some amazing, award-winning wines that are hand-crafted from their ten estate vineyards in Monterey County. I highly suggest starting your wine tasting experience here.
Carmel Belle: Is a great place to grab breakfast (or really any meal). They source their ingredients from farmers and purveyors that practice sustainability, and provide honest, high-quality products. Their meats are hormone-free, grass-fed/free-range and humanely raised in California and their produce is largely organic and purchased from local farmers’ markets, farmers, and/or distributors that support small farms. Grab a spot at the communal table by the fire or cozy up in one of their corners and feast on fresh poached eggs, roasted veggies, and delicious espresso drinks.
From Scratch Restaurant: Serving breakfast all day, this spot serves up large portions and one of the best omelettes I have ever had. They were proudly featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and rightfully so. Absolutely one of the best breakfast spots around.
The Beachhouse: Grab dinner at one of the most romantic dining destinations. With panoramic views and casual California cuisine, their relaxed setting features a full bar, heated outdoor patio and plenty of window tables.
On our way from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, we stopped off at Earthbound Farm Farmstand (They are the reason we have washed lettuce in packages) and had lunch. I created a salad and Tyler had a sandwich while sampling some of their fruits and freshly baked brownies. Everything they sell in their market is organic and fresh. It was a cute little stop, where you can picnic in the middle of the valley. From there, we stopped at Folktale Winery & Vineyards, which is the most beautiful winery I have ever visited. Situated on 15 acres of sustainably-farmed vineyards and gardens, you are welcome with a glass of bubbly. You can taste their wines inside the rustic, open-air dining room at a communal table, on one of their sofas, while playing lawn games, or out on their patio in the sun. We opted for the latter, and tasted some of the best wines all weekend (their Chardonnay is my favorite).
It was time for the grand finale, visiting Holman Ranch. Holman Ranch sits on 400 acres and specializes in hosting events. It was originally part of the lands given to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. When the Mexican government secularized the mission lands, one of the first ranchers in Carmel Valley, Don Jose Manuel Boronda, was given the Los Laureles Rancho—6,625 acres that included what is now Holman Ranch. In 1928, a San Francisco businessman, Gordon Armsby, purchased 600 acres in the Los Laureles area of the Valley, including what would be Holman Ranch.
In the 1940s, Armsby was forced to sell his property and Clarence Holman, the eldest son of the Holman family purchased the ranch and transformed it into Holman’s Guest Ranch. When Clarence Holman died in 1962, his wife Vivian kept the ranch going until her death in 1981.
In 1989, Dorothy McEwen stepped in to preserve the Ranch’s historic past as a private estate and event facility. She restored the hacienda, hosted events, reestablished overnight stays in guest cottages, founded The Stables, planted vineyards, and had aspirations of opening a 25,000-case winery. She continued Vivian Holman’s passion for community involvement and old-fashioned hospitality until her death in 2005.
Thomas and Jarman Lowder learned of the property and purchased Holman Ranch in 2006 to fulfill a lifelong dream to make estate grown wine and olive oil. In 2009, the Lowders finished restoring and completely refurbishing the property to its original beauty. They have maintained the Ranch’s old-world charm, while providing every modern convenience. Their daughter, Hunter, and her husband Nick run all of the property’s special events.
We checked into our room, which was one of ten on the gorgeous ranch that houses horses, a vineyard, a pool, a gym, and an amazing hacienda for events. With western styled bed linens, wooden beds, a horse door knocker, dark brown leather couch, and plush carpeting, the rooms all had a high end ranch feel, that quickly became a home away from home.
With our wedding only three months away, I was especially excited to tour a ranch that is known for their gorgeous weddings. We began with a tour of the property which includes the 24-hour pool and gym (that we passed on the way to the wine cave). In the cool wine cave, we learned that Holman Ranch produces Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir, in addition to their high end label, Jarman, that has a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay (named after Jarman Lowder, Hunter’s mother).
Before heading to dinner at Will’s Fargo, Hunter and Nick’s steakhouse in town, we toured the gorgeous, refurbished hacienda. Whether you are exchanging vows, having a family reunion, planning a multi-day retreat, or a single-day event, Holman Ranch provides an experience unlike anywhere else. The Holman Ranch has private hotel rooms, a grassy area over looking the valley for ceremonies, a carriage house perfect for dancing, and a hacienda that has a bar, chapel, game room, courtyard, and outdoor seating area. You can choose from one of their packages or an á la carte experience and activities include guided hiking, yoga, paintball, archery, wagon rides, wine blending, and sporting clays tournament.
For your wedding, Holman Ranch has endless possibilities with eleven spaces to be creative with. From ceremony, cocktails, dinner, and dancing, it all can happen on the ranch. You can even have your rehearsal dinner in the wine cave! (If we were getting married on the West Coast, Holman Ranch woould be number one on my list).
We had dinner at Will’s Fargo, which has been serving up delicious food since 1959 in a building that was constructed in the late 1920s. Will Fay established Will’s Fargo Restaurant, which he called the “dressed up saloon.” This steakhouse has a parlor/saloon aesthetic with antiques, dark walls, a wooden beamed ceiling, and animal trophies throughout. The food was out of this world with a modern twist and paired perfectly with the wines from Holman Ranch. Executive Chef Greg Karjala created a perfectly balanced, unique, yet comforting meal. We started with a salad of shaved cucumber, a poached egg, watermelon radishes and a wasabi dressing. From there, all I can say is lobster butter! We had sea bass over polenta with Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, lobster butter, and olive oil made right on the Holman Ranch. It was melt-in-your-mouth savoriness with flavors that worked perfectly together. Dessert was a butterscotch cookie sandwich with house made ice cream. It was a perfect meal to end a great day.
From the sea to the valley, Carmel has it all. It’s a beautiful, quiet area in Northern California full of delicious tastes, friendly people, history, and gorgeous views. It’s the perfect getaway to enjoy with your significant other, friends, or your whole family.