By Laura Ness
Let’s say you just have a single day to spend in this sweet little bohemian hamlet that is home to many horse lovers and sun worshippers. It’s just close enough to Carmel to get your ocean fix quickly, yet far enough away to eschew the fog when the autumn sun burnishes the blonde, oak-covered hills, turning them a brilliant shade of bronze as they march east towards Arroyo Seco and West towards the Pacific.
If you haven’t had breakfast and are in need of some sustenance, the Wild Goose is perfect: great coffee and all manner of baked goods for a light bite, although you can get egg dishes too. Toast is the place for serious breakfast lovers, with omelets and huevos rancheros.
All the winetasting rooms in the Village are a fairly easy walk from one another, so you need only park once, but wear good shoes. If you are coming from Carmel, take the Trolley that ferries visitors back and forth between the two Villages.
In Carmel Valley Village, your first winetasting stop of the day should be the Chesebro tasting room (open Thursday – Sunday, and holiday Mondays), because winemaker Mark Chesebro has a really fabulous white lineup, starting with Albariño, Roussanne, Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. Then go deeper into the reds with Pinot Noir, followed by rich and distinctively statuesque Grenache and Syrah blends. They have some nice bottle age on them, too. Every single wine here is well crafted, and the setting is wonderfully gallery like, where the paintings seem to invite you in rather than make you feel underdressed in the wallet area.
Next up, I’d do Dawn’s Dream (open daily, 1 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.), a cozy little place where Chardonnays and Pinots rule. She names them after her daughters, which is very sweet, and the glassware and other retail items are fetchingly girlie. If that’s not your style, visit Parsonage instead, home of beautiful art quilts and some powerful reds.
Head west towards the other cluster of tasting rooms now, to Boekenoogen (open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), where everything will amaze you, especially the Chardonnay and Pinot – after all, they have vineyards right in the Santa Lucia Highlands where these two varietals perform like Olympic athletes. But, save a few tastebuds for their devastatingly alluring Viognier and their bright and spicy Zinfandel, too. Now, it’s time for lunch, and you’ve got ample choices here.
Depending on your mood, you can grab sandwiches at the local market, buy a bottle of wine at Talbott (open daily, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; weekends until 5 p.m.), and enjoy a picnic outside their lovely new tasting room, where you will drool over the amazing collection of vintage motorcycles and pedal cars, as you sip some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinots on the planet, crafted by the legendary Dan Karlsen, who also makes the wines at Chock Rock, also in the Village. My absolute Talbott faves are the Diamond T wines from Carmel Valley, but all the wines from the famed Sleepy Hollow Vineyard are consistently delicious.
Or head to Corkscrew where the food is outstanding, especially the wood-fired pizzas, and you can have a beer. There’s Café Rustica, too, right next to Twisted Roots wine tasting room, where their old vine Zin from Lodi is quintessential blackberry jam with zest. Sit outside in the courtyard, where the soothing sound of water coming from a row of spitting lions acts like a brain tonic.
After lunch, head to Mercy Wines (open Thursday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), where they specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot from Arroyo Seco, a very distinctive AVA that is celebrating its 30th year. These wines are done in more of a French style, very minerally and expressive of terroir. A wine flight costs $10 and includes seven wines, with each tasting including a souvenir Riedel glass.
Head back towards the east end of town and finish up your tasting at Joyce (open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), where you’ll be regaled with a delightful Tondre Grapefields Riesling, one of the few wineries to make this delicious treat. Don’t miss the Vigna Monte Nero Pinot or the Paicines Cabernet and Merlot. The latter are a must for Bordeaux lovers.
That’s a wrap on a completely full day of tasting in Carmel Valley Village. Stay tuned for a longer story on Carmel Valley Village wine tasting and other things to do there in my Weekender in Carmel Valley Road Trip piece, coming soon.
Photo at top:A 1946 Ford half ton which belongs to Walter Georis, owner of Georis Winery and Corkscrew Cafe, both in Carmel Valley Village. From the old Odello Artichoke Farm in Carmel, this beautiful old beast was used for years to haul artichokes. Photo by Laura Ness.