It was a perfect day to embark on a little excursion, so
we headed east, along Carmel Valley Road, toward the village of Carmel
Valley. Our chosen destinations were three wine tasting rooms there:
Bernardus, Heller and Joullian. All of them offered pretty much the same
types of wines to sample, which made it a little easier to make comparisons.
We sampled various vintages – mostly 1999 and 2000 – of Chardonnay, Chenin
Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.
At Bernardus, Cecile, a knowledgeable young lady from the Bordeaux region of
France, helped us in understanding the subtleties that gave each wine its
distinctive flavors and aromas. Our favorite was the 1999 Chardonnay. It was
soft and buttery and its subtle flavor was full and round. We also tried a
Sauvignon Blanc. It had only 5% Semillon grapes and we found it to be a bit
too tart for our liking. There was also a very good Pinot Noir and a special
blend of reds called Marinus. The tasting room is open 11:00 – 5:00 daily.
We bought two half bottles of the Chardonnay to sample later.
Bernardus also owns Bernardus Lodge. A very impressive place to relax and
unwind, the Lodge boasts 57 guest rooms – each one with its own limestone
fireplace, two-person bathtub, feather bed, French doors and outdoor patio –
on an estate-sized piece of property that melts right into the foothills.
Chef Cal Stamenov’s culinary creations in several on-site venues offer a
world class dining experience. Now that’s a place I want to check-in to the
next time I need a break from the rest of the world!
At the Heller Tasting Room, Tanya was our wine tasting “guide” and she
offered us samples of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, Cabernet
Sauvignon and a port, along with some light conversation. After sampling, we
opted for a bottle of Chenin Blanc. It had a simple yet enjoyable and crisp
finish; this was our choice to purchase from Heller – to be saved for a day
when we could simply relax in the warm sunshine and reminisce while sipping
on a chilled glass of wine. The tasting room was filled with lots of
souvenirs to purchase and outside was a great little sculpture garden to
perhaps sip a glass of wine while munching on an appetizer or two. Hours
here are also 11:00 – 5:00 daily.
Our final stop was the Joullian Tasting Room. Deborah was the tasting room
manager and she impressed me as the ultimate host at a dinner party. Easy
going and always smiling, she conversed with us as if we were old friends,
sharing recipes as well as some information about the winery. More
impressive to us was the fact that all of the wine samples we tasted were,
at least to our palettes, extremely tasty. While I am sure that is not a
phrase used for wine tasting, I can’t help it – it fits. We were impressed
enough by the wines that we signed up for their wine club – I can’t wait for
the first two bottles to be delivered!
Owned by Ridge Watson, Joullian Vineyards opened in 1991. It is a relatively
small winery, producing only about 12,000 cases annually. Due to the
winery’s remote location, Joullian opened its tasting room in Carmel Valley
Village in mid-March of 2000 in the Joseph DeMaria building about a half
block south of Carmel Valley Road. The building itself is very cool, with
beautiful Arroyo Seco river rock on the exterior and inside, a tasting bar
made from cypress wood. Joullian’s tasting room is open daily for tasting
and sales from 11 am ‘til 5 pm.
Next time you are in the area of Monterey or Carmel, California, do
yourselves a big favor and take a taster’s tour in Carmel Valley. I promise
that you will thoroughly enjoy the wines as well as the village.