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Review: Holman Ranch in California’s Carmel Valley

By October 19, 2016November 24th, 20183 Comments

When I heard the words “stinky cheese aroma”, I knew our wine tasting adventure was about to get interesting.

Nick Elliott, Holman Ranch’s resident wine expert, offered us pinot noir—the ranch’s specialty—straight out of the barrel. As he placed the deep red wine into our glasses, he discussed the chemical process of malolactic fermentation that was causing the funky smell.

Holman Ranch wine cave

We were standing in the middle of the Carmel Valley ranch’s wine cave, an underground cavern that offers natural temperature controls that are ideal for the aging process. Barrels lined the long entryway while more barrels and machinery were expertly arranged at the end. These caves are the site of the property’s pressing, fermenting and aging for the European-inspired Holman Ranch wines as well as their Jarman labels.

Holman Ranch vineyard

Up above, workers tend to 400 acres of grapevines, including those that produce pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. As we wandered, we learned about the vineyard’s history—how the cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes were taken out and replaced, how the burgundy varietals fare well due to the proximity to the coast and how hawks, owls, lady bugs and spiders keep the pests at bay.

Celebrate Good Times

While their delicious wines were a plus, the heart and soul of Holman Ranch is in their event spaces, which just happen to be perfect for big groups. The main attraction is Casa Escondida, a gorgeous old-fashioned hacienda that is filled with plenty of spaces for all types of parties.

Holman Ranch game room

The Great Room was easily one of my favorites; the oversized terracotta tiles, leather couches and a massive fireplace are the ideal spot for relaxation, especially during the cooler months of the year. Another space serves as a game room with plenty of activities to entertain everyone in your group. While there are darts, puzzles and a flat screen television available, we stuck to playing pool and dancing to the tunes on the jukebox; there is also an antique bar along one wall.

If you prefer the outdoors, Holman Ranch offers the hacienda lawn, the stone terrace, the rose patio and the veranda, which offers spectacular view of the vineyards and the mountains beyond. But the most stunning outdoor spot is the Spanish Colonial garden courtyard, an intimate shaded space in the center of the hacienda that makes for a truly unique setting.

Holman Ranch veranda

Whether you’re looking to host a small cocktail party, a wedding or a family reunion, Holman Ranch has both the space and the activities to captivate groups of all sizes.

You Won’t Have Far to Travel

When you start planning a group event in Carmel Valley, you’ll realize that Holman Ranch has everything you could possibly need. Their stunning event spaces and delicious wines pair perfectly with charming cottages, located just outside of the hacienda.

Holman Ranch cottage

We stayed in number eight, a room located on the edge of a ravine. The trees outside the windows were filled with little birds chirping as we walked across the wide wooden deck, past the rocking chairs to the front door. We were greeted with two queen beds, covered in deep red and beige comforters. Massive wooden chests, wood and wrought iron bed frames, ornamental mirrors and old-fashioned artwork on the walls deepened the rustic atmosphere.

Carmel Valley ranch

Other rooms include a variation of two queen beds or one queen with a pull out sofa, but there is also an additional cottage that can sleep up to six people. All of the rooms plus the larger cottage ensure that key members of your group can stay on site to prepare or just enjoy one another’s company after the festivities are over.

It’s Not a Resort, But…

Holman Ranch is definitely not a destination resort, as their focus is on the events they host, but that doesn’t stop them from offering plenty of exciting amenities and activities for guests.

Holman Ranch swimming pool

The on-site swimming pool is one of the property’s most picturesque spots: surrounded by verdant grass and red brick, the aqua oasis overlooks the neighboring vineyard, the mountain range and a wealth of vibrant plants and flowers just outside its gate. The grounds are also home to horseshoe pits and Bocce balls.

Holman Ranch stables

Hiking paths around the ranch also reveal hidden treasures like sweeping scenic views and local wildlife—endless birds zip by, chattering in the mornings while deer come out around twilight. Holman Ranch is also home to some stables that house horses like Maia and Bingo; stop by to give them a few pats before you leave.

Carmel Valley

Maybe the ranch isn’t your typical vacation spot, but for destination events, it definitely has everything you could ask for and more. Just make sure to order enough wine!

Ashley Ryan

Author Ashley Ryan

Ashley Ryan is a southern California native with a background in journalism and anthropology. She loves learning about other cultures and combines her passions for traveling, writing and photography in her professional work. To learn more or get in touch, visit

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • This looks like an amazing place to visit. I’ve never been to a wine tasting session before. I had quite an experience with pinot grigio a few years ago that I would rather forget.
    The ranch looks amazing! I love the rustic-ness of the bedrooms

    Laura x x x

  • Anca says:

    The ranch looks lovely, I like the open space and how peaceful it seems. Wine tasting is definitely something that makes a trip there even more special.

  • What a fantastic place to stay. I work for a travel mag and I sometimes come across a company called Ranch Rider that offers Brits access to the ranch way of life – I often wonder what it would be like to stay on one!

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