This week I attended an exclusive dinner party and private tour at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley (California).
Having been to this rustic, yet elegant venue a couple times before (once to attend a gala fundraiser for the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association, and another time for a guided horseback tour), I thought I knew what to expect. But to my delight, this visit was an even more enjoyable and memorable experience than anticipated.
Tuesday evening’s balmy 70-degree weather set the stage for an idyllic summer night, and the majestic Santa Lucia Highlands served as the perfect back drop to this gorgeous 400-acre property.
“Tucked away in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, historic Holman Ranch provides a unique and memorable setting for weddings, special events, family gatherings, corporate retreats, and team-building events. With its charming gardens, stunning mountain views and serenity, this private estate affords old-world charm while providing modern day conveniences. This impressive property includes a fully restored stone hacienda, overnight guest rooms, vineyards, olive grove, horse stables and more.”
The evening started with wine tasting and appetizers in the stone courtyard, followed by a guided touring of the property.
After walking through the landscaped gardens, authentic Carmel stone paved pathways, and multiple venue spaces (both indoor and outdoor), we ate an exquisite farm-to-table buffet dinner on the outdoor patio, underneath a vine-covered trellis.
The table was adorned with fresh summer flowers, the sound of chirping frogs acted as musical accompaniment, and the conversation and wine flowed freely. The delightful evening was capped off by roasting marshmallows and making smores at the fire pits, watching the sunset over the tree-lined mountains.
The ranch is steeped in California history. It started in 1928 when a businessman bought 600 acres of land in Carmel Valley, part of which would later become Holman Ranch (a Spanish style hacienda). In the 1940’s, the ranch came under the ownership of Clarence Holman. After putting much work into the restoration and expansion of the property, the ranch “had the pleasure of hosting Hollywood’s finest: Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford and Marlon Brando to name a few.”
Decades later, the ranch changed owners again. In the late 1980’s, a woman by the name of Dorothy McEwen took over, turning the property into a private estate and event facility. In addition, she planted vineyards on the grounds, with the aspirations of one day opening a winery. Her visions soon became a reality.
Nearly twenty years later, Thomas and Jarman Lowder took over the property. “In 2009, the Lowders finished restoring and completely refurbishing the property to its original grandeur. They have maintained the Ranch’s old-world charm, while providing every modern convenience including heat, air conditioning, Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs, abundant indoor and outdoor electricity, and an integrated sound system. Their daughter, Hunter, who continues in the fashion of all previous owners, runs all of the property’s special events.” In addition to being a charming special event venue, the ranch now produces its own wine and olive oil.
The Holman Ranch truly lives up to its soulful slogan, “where the past is always present”.