Saturday, November 12, 2011

Exploring and Tasting Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley is one of the warmest places in Monterey with accommodations of all kinds. Koleen, the Monterey County public relations representative, and I were staying at some of the top properties in the valley (no argument here), starting with Bernardus Lodge.  I had such a great time there -- especially in the spa -- it was hard to leave, but I knew there was another great place at the end of an exciting day.

We were prepared to spend the day downtown after stopping to look at some great little hotels, like Tasa Hara Hot Springs Resort and Los LoralesLodge & Saloon. We then made a quick stop at the gallery of Jean De Luz, who collects everything from sculptures to Italian fountains from Europe to sell to homes around here. Then it was off to the wineries.

Our first stop was Parsonage, a family owned winery that only does 2,000 cases a year. I liked their 2009 Sonsrap Chardonnay. Which was done half in stainless and half in oak, giving it lots of butter, but not too much oak. I was surprised to see how much art there was in downtown Carmel Valley, even in the wineries.  The pictures at Parsonage were especially interesting, as was their wine.

We went next door to Boekenoosen Vineyard and Winery, which has a big collection of wines, including a Dijon/Pommard Blend. The wines were a bit dry for my taste, but Koleen was a huge fan of the 2009
Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.

I was really impressed with a number of the wines at Chock Rock, including the 2010 Chardonnay, which certainly didn’t taste like it was 100% barreled, and the 2009 Monterey County Pinot Noir, full of fruit with less pepper than most.

After all the rich meals, I was craving something simple and vegetable filled and I found it at Café Rustica. The pizzas, with a thin and flaky crust, were a perfect break from the wining tasting and quite large. It looked like we hadn’t even made a dent, but we were both quite full.

Our last winery stop was at Carmel Hills Winery, which had an interesting Unfiltered Chardonnay. Then it was off to the place we were staying for the night – Stonepine Estate.

We toured the estate and I could easily understand why this was such a popular place for weddings. The landscape was so immaculate and the grounds and chateau looked like they belonged in France. As lovely as it was, I was most drawn to the horse stables. This is the home to many retired thoroughbreds and I could have pet them all day, dreaming about my riding days.

The chateau at Stonepine Estate has some beautiful rooms, but we had our own little (ok, not so little) cottage. It is called Hermes and as if the perfectly appointed rooms weren’t enough on their own, I had a masseuse waiting in my bedroom! Sage gave me a relaxing massage and I got to relax a little while after.
Dinner was a quiet, but elegant, table for two as Koleen and I headed up to the main chateau on the estate. We started with champagne and hors d' oeuvres in the library (of course) and enjoyed some of the chef’s specialties.  He had me at the start with an Eggplant and Fresh Mozzarella appetizer.

We got back to our little cottage at a reasonable hour and watched a little television in the very comfortable living room before I retired for the night. We had a much busier day ahead, as we were heading into Carmel by the Sea.


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