Elaine and Scott Harris
A few miles off scenic Highway 1 lies the winding road to Carmel Valley, a place that offers a treasure trove of dining, leisure activities, and, of course, wine tasting.
Carmel Valley now boasts one of the fastest growing wine regions (no pun intended) in the nation — and with an ample amount of quaint wine tasting rooms to choose from, count on spending a few days getting acquainted with the area’s terroir and tasting options.
Garland Regional Ranch — a 4000-acre park that includes hiking, biking, and horse riding trails along the pastoral setting of the meandering Carmel River — is a favorite for the outdoor enthusiast. Whatever your wanderlust may be, Carmel Valley is the place for exploring, enjoying, and elevating your senses. A few standout spots that we came upon on our short visit to the area were Bernardus Lodge, Earthbound Farms, and the newly opened Folktale Winery, all of which provided a great example of Carmel Valley’s ability to transport the traveler into a world that is synergistically connected to Mother Earth’s bounty.
From the farm stand that started it all years ago to being a premier brand of organic foods, Earthbound Farms is a household name that is trusted nationwide. This stop was delicious, inspirational, and educational, and will please and captivate even the youngest of travelers. A world of health and wellness awaits at this quaint “farm stand” with the lovely rows of organic fruits and vegetables, as well as a small, made-to-order, all-organic kitchen where you can customize a smoothie or pick a healthy menu item to be eaten in the lovely picnic area outside, surrounded by nature’s abundance.
Elaine and Scott Harris
After your meal, take a tour of the organic gardens or a guided flower walk. Patrons can pick fresh herbs at their leisure. The retail store offers gourmet groceries and an array of lovely gift items too. Seasonal events are often held here, including the very popular lavender festival. Corporate programs can also be held on the premise. Traveling with small children? They will love the bug walks or taking a curious look at the bee enclave (don’t worry, these insects are far more interested in doing their job then bothering children). Although kids are more than welcome at Earthbound Farms, please leave Fido at home due to the organic farming restrictions. At the end of your visit, everyone will leave well-nourished, more knowledgeable, and entertained by a place where nature and nurture are intertwined to provide the best in organic produce and wellness education.
Put this on your bucket list: a stay at highly acclaimed Bernadus Lodge and Spa, where the use of local produce in preparing the freshest and most delectable meals have such notable names as Bradley Cooper and Leonardo DiCaprio spending time dining in the kitchen enclaves of Lucia restaurant.
This acclaimed resort, surrounded by glorious flora and fauna, lends the perfect setting to a veteran chef of two decades, Cal Stamenov, in creating cuisine that is inspired by nature. Chef Stamenov is the proud winner of numerous awards that showcase his culinary artistry and excellence, and Lucia is sure to captivate your culinary desires and elevate them into a new awareness and appreciation for the chef’s artisanal ability.
Several dishes were highlighted on our recent visit that showcased the local fare, including the Monterey Bay abalone with smashed garden potatoes accented with Australian truffle and scallion, Pacific gold oysters from Morro Bay with a ginger-shallot mignonette, and the local grilled king salmon with Hass avocado and summer squash.
Chef Cal sources and forages for the freshest sustainable and decidedly delectable ingredients in creating the most memorable meal of a lifetime whether you are a carnivore, a vegetarian, or even a vegan. And don’t forget to pair your menu selection with a Bernardus wine that will complete the culinary salute to the Monterey Peninsula.
Elaine and Scott Harris
Carmel Valley has a myriad of wine tasting rooms and a mini-chateau winery and tasting area known as the aforementioned Folktale. The Folktale winery just celebrated their first anniversary with a new sequel filled with passion and purpose. With a penchant for perfection, President and CEO Gregory Ahn is building upon the former Chateau Julien brand by adding family-friendly areas and notable music and speaker series events, coupled with property tasting tours and venues for wine dinners and special occasions. Ahn is dedicated to making this winery a showcase for the grape varietals that are the main characters of the central coast soils. His passion has paid off, and within a year the California Travel Association awarded Folktale the 2016 Winery of the Year award.
We sat down with president and CEO Gregory Ahn and wine maker David Baird to explore some of the wonderful wines, and what better way to start our wine tasting than the Folktale’s sparkling brut of pinot noir. Subtle notes of pear and apple are delicately interwoven in the effervescent bubbles of this refreshing brut — a perfect sparkling wine to set the mood to any story. A lovely summer day would also not be complete without a sip of the Folktale rosé that exudes lively acidity and strawberry and honeysuckle characteristics on the palate.
The Folktale pinot noir is considered the flagship wine, with its signature black cherry, blueberry, and cola characteristics; light to medium body in the glass; and well-balanced acidity. The chardonnay reigns as one of the area’s most prolific grapes, and Folktale does an incredible job telling the story of this often over-oaked wine. It spends just enough time in French oak to give it a creamy mouthfeel and a touch of crème brûlée on the palate. Tropical fruit notes of pineapple and guava along with underlying floral characteristics create a wine that can be paired nicely with any seafood dish.
A great story always has an ending that either leaves you relieved, elated, or left hanging for the sequel, and Folktale’s Le Mistral may have you coming up with similar conclusions. Le Mistral tells the tale of great winemaking beginning with the iconic Joesph Phelps 35 years ago. Today, this 2011 vintage still speaks of outstanding winemaking with its classic blend of Syrah, Grenache, petit Syrah, and Alicante Boschet.
Le Mistral white spends three years developing its outstanding qualities, and is comprised of 50 percent Viognier blended with Rhone white varietals of Marsanne and Roussanne. This wine is replete with citrus, honeydew, apricot, and delicate minerality. Folktales often give a life lesson developed in a fantastical setting with unusual characters, and Folktale winery will help you in crafting a wine story that is imbedded in your memory forever.
Carmel Valley is the perfect setting for a fantastic vacation story for travelers of all ages. You will revisit the area again and again, just like your favorite book.