A few miles off scenic Highway 1 on the Central Coast of California lies the winding road to Carmel Valley, a treasure trove of leisure activities, dining and of course, wine tasting.
Carmel Valley is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the nation and has a plethora of quaint wine tasting rooms from which to choose. Count on spending a few days getting acquainted with the area’s terroir and tasting options.
Another big reason to visit is Garland Ranch Regional Park, 4,000 pastoral acres of hiking, biking and horse riding trails along the meandering Carmel River, a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts.
Whatever your wanderlust may be, Carmel Valley has many ways to explore, enjoy and elevate your senses. Earthbound Farms, Bernardus Lodge & Spa and the newly opened Folktale Winery highlight Carmel Valley’s ability to transport travelers into a world that is synergistically connected to Mother Earth’s bounty.
From the farm stand that started it all years ago to becoming a premier brand of organic foods, Earthbound Farms is a trusted household name. This inspirational, delicious and educational stop will captivate even the youngest of travelers. A world of health and wellness beckons. With lovely rows of organic fruits and veggies and a small kitchen, you can customize a smoothie or pick a healthy menu item to be eaten in the picnic area. After your meal, take a tour of the gardens or a guided flower walk.
Patrons can pick fresh herbs at their leisure. The retail store offers gourmet groceries and an array of gift items. Seasonal events include the popular lavender festival. Corporate programs can be held on the premises as well. Families with young children will love the bug walks or taking a cautionary look at the bee enclave. Don’t worry! These insects are far more interested in doing their job than bothering children.
Another item for your bucket list is a stay at the highly acclaimed Bernardus Lodge & Spa, minutes from Earthbound Farms. Notables such as Bradley Cooper and Leonardo DiCaprio have dined at the lodge’s Lucia, where chef Cal Stamenov creates award-winning cuisine inspired by nature. Restaurant Lucia is a sanctuary that will captivate your culinary desires.
Several dishes on our recent visit showcased the local fare: 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 memorable meals, whether you are a carnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan. And don’t forget to pair your menu selection with a Bernardus wine to complete your culinary salute to the Monterey Peninsula.
To further explore the grapes of Carmel Valley, the mini-chateau winery and tasting area Folktale is 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, music and speaker events. With tasting tours and venues for wine dinners and special occasions, this winery is a showcase for the grape varietals that are the main characters of the Central Coast soils. Ahn’s passion quickly paid off: Within a year, the California Travel Association honored Folktale as 2016 Winery of the Year.
Explore some of the wonderful wines with Ahn and wine maker David Baird. What better way to start our wine tasting than 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 sip of the Folktale rosé exudes lively acidity as well as strawberry and honeysuckle characteristics.
The Folktale pinot noir and the chardonnay are reflections of the region’s most notable grape varietals. The pinot noir is considered the flagship wine with signature black cherry, blueberry and cola characteristics. It has a light to medium body in the glass with well-balanced acidity.
Chardonnay is one of the area’s most prolific grapes, and Folktale does an incredible job telling the story of this often over-oaked wine. The Folktale chardonnay 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 with underlying floral characteristics create a wine that can be paired nicely with any seafood dish.
A great story has an ending that leaves you relieved, elated or left hanging for the sequel: Folktale’s Le Mistral is no different. Le Mistral tells the tale of great wine making, beginning with the iconic Joseph Phelps, a pioneer in Rhône-style wines, more than three decades ago.
The 2011 vintage still speaks of outstanding wine making with the classic blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petit Syrah, and Alicante Boschet. Le Mistral white wine is the flagship wine that spends three years developing its outstanding qualities. It is 50 percent Viognier blended with Rhone white varietals, 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 to craft a wine story embedded 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.