On the Pacific

The Wines of Carmel Valley

View of Joullian vineyards in Carmel Valley

It was a perfect day to embark on a little tasting exploration, 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 many of the same varietals to sample, which made it a little easier to make comparisons. We sampled various vintages of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Note: Hours and rates of tasting rooms may have changed since this article was written. Please verify hours and rates on the individual winery websites. (This page may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure about affiliate links here.)

Bernardus Winery

Bernardus sign in Carmel ValleyAt Bernardus, 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 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 tad too tart for our liking. There were also a very good Pinot Noir and a special blend of reds called Marinus. We bought two half-bottles of the Chardonnay to sample later.

Bernardus also owns Bernardus Lodge & Spa. 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. The Bernardus chef’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!

Massa Estate Organic Vineyards (formerly Heller)

Massa EstateAt the Massa Tasting Room, our wine tasting “guide” 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.

Joullian Vineyards

inside the Joullian tasting roomOur final stop was the Joullian Tasting Room. The tasting room manager 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 to describe wines, 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! (This was also the first time we had seen a Drop Stop in use. We were impressed and bought some for ourselves!)

Now owned by Tom and Jane Lerum of Hammler Wine Corporation, 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.

Next time you are in the area of Monterey or Carmel, California, 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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