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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.



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