Monetery County’s Holman Ranch has been a popular destination for decades. In its heydey, Holman Ranch hosted dinners and parties for the likes of Clark Gable, Vincent Price and Marlon Brando. These days the property has stables capable of holding more than 100 horses and contains a 20-stall show barn. Nearby, olive trees soak up the warm Monterey sun.
Oh, yeah, and Holman Ranch also produces wine.
Thomas and Jarman Lowder bought Holman Ranch in 2006 with the idea of making their own wine and olive oil. The property, located in the Carmel Valley appellation, is now home to 19 acres of vines, most of which were planted in 2007 and 2008. These estate vineyards sit 12 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of about 1,000 feet. (Here’s a map of the vineyard plantings.)
The Lowders also wanted to continue Holman Ranch’s heritage as a kind of Monterey wine country destination, so they refurbished the property with all the bells and whistles and now market the ranch as a place for weddings and retreats. Their daughter, Hunter, coordinates the winery’s special events. (Judging from the view in these pictures, it does seem like an awesome place for a wedding.)
I’ll admit that the emphasis on Holman Ranch as an event space and tourist destination made me wonder if their wines might be a littly gimmicky. The ’90s script on the labels and the corny language in the press materials — “Where the Past is Always Present” — didn’t help my prejudices. I was expecting run-of-the-mill pinot and chardonnay without much personality. I’m happy to admit I was wrong.
Green melon and yellow apple fruit combine with floral notes on the nose. On the palate, high acid starts it off. Apricot, melon and yellow apple fruit, along with notes of quinine and dandelion. Fresh and floral in its approach with a medium finish. 12.5% alcohol. (85 points)
Bright strawberry-cherry colored. Smells of watermelon and wild strawberry topped with lime juice. Brisk acid on the palate, with flavors of wild strawberry and lime mixed with a spicy-herbal note that reminds me of rosemary. 12.5% alcohol, this wine is a light, bright rose that paired wonderfully with an array of hard cheeses. (87 points)
A flat-out joyous pinot noir. Mix of sour and ripe cherries on the nose, along with rose petals and pepper. Bright and juicy on the palate, with fresh cherries, cola, earth and notes of chewing tobacco. Firm tannins and fresh acid make this a refreshing pinot. Minerality and pepper linger on the finish. Not the deepest or most profound pinot noir, but delicious and very brisk for a California pinot noir. 12.5% alcohol. (88 points)
Plums, cherry pie and some dusty, earthy notes on the nose, along with rose petals and hints of pepper. The palate shows fresh, juicy red fruit and black fruit mix together with notes of cola, tobacco, cedar and soil. Medium acid with fine tannins, quite delightful. This is bigger than the estate pinot noir but not necessarily more complex. Still quite delightful. (88 points)