Continuing in the vein of my first regional wine and food review of the Napa Valley, I will now travel south down the Central Valley to another loved wine region, Carmel Valley [WL]. Carmel Valley sits due Southeast from the beautiful and famous hamlet, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and is overlapped by the Monterey County and Central Coast appellations.
Beth and I adore the little seaside town and its accompanying wine region and have made numerous trips over the years with our little Pug Sebastian, always finishing each day with applause at sunset on the its white sand beach. This whole region is well-known as one of the most dog-friendly vacation spots in the US, as well as for its incredible beauty, both natural and man-made.
My list of recommendations span both Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Carmel Valley. I have included links to each individual website, as well as the accompanying information we have on WineLog [WL]. Enjoy!
Places to sip some wine:
Carmel Valley [WL] is our favorite wine appellation. It is dominated by Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot and meritage blends. Most of the tasting rooms are within a half-block of each other in Carmel Valley Village. Excluding Parsonage, the actual wineries and vineyards are usually further South and higher up on the valley walls. Most of our favorites grow their fruit in the Cachagua Valley, which is included as part of the Carmel Valley appellation.
Georis Winery [WL]
Our favorite winery, ever. All of their wines are outstanding, especially their Cab, Merlot and dry rosÃ©. They were the first winery to convince me that Merlot and dry rosÃ© are beautiful things in this life. They are a little pricey to taste, but that’s only because they do full flights not just little tastes. You are served in their garden that surrounds the historic adobe tasting room. The flights include cheese and crackers from the Corkscrew Cafe that they own on the same property. This is a very romantic spot and it is also great for dogs. Owner Walter Georis, the quintessential “Renaissance Man,” also owns the Carmel Valley Art Center across the street and Casanova, as well as a new cafe in Carmel called La Bicyclette. We’re longtime members here and make it out at least once a year for their fantastic member parties each September (latest writeup is here). Tell them Ward, Beth and the pug sent you!
Parsonage Village Vineyard [WL]
This is now our second favorite winery, ever, heh, and another one of which we are members. It’s a tiny, tiny producer of mainly very high end Syrah, but still at affordable prices. They also make some incredible Cab and Merlot, but we’re focused on their Syrah. They are the first producer that has ever made Beth and I lovers of Syrah. The wine-maker Frank Melicia is a fantastic guy too, and was the kind host to my first barrel and blend tasting (photos are here). Tell them Ward, Beth and the pug sent you, too!
Galante Vineyards [WL]
Very convenient compared to the others listed here, Galante has a tasting room in-town in Carmel. It’s tucked into the center of a few other stores and a small park on Dolores between Ocean and Seventh. We’re past members of it’s wine club and they have some tremendous Cabs. Total Western themed, their vineyards are right next to Georis’ in the Valley!
Heller Estate Vineyards [WL]
Similar lineup of wines as Georis and we used to be members. Not quite up to Georis’ quality, but still outstanding and all of the grapes are organic. They have a great sculpture garden on the property, as well.
A little run-down but with some good Bavarian charm, we’ve stayed many times at this place. It’s great for dogs too, and on the less expensive side.
This place is nicer than the Hofsas and has done a lot of recent renovations, making some of the rooms into suites with their own huge jacuzzi bathtubs and private balconies or patios. We’ve spent a week in one of those suites and loved it. Unfortunately they no longer allow pets.
These two sister hotels are across the street from each other and a little further out from the main drag of Ocean Avenue than the rest of the properties. The Ocean View is made up of a few well-priced suites that are virtually cottages, complete with fireplaces and small kitchens that are set up the hill a bit to capture those Pacific views. The Horizon is newer and nicer, with private balconies that have great views of their own, private jacuzzi’s and spacious suites. The Ocean allows pets but the Horizon does not allow pets.
This is the original Grand Dame of Carmel-by-theSea. Total turn of the century elegance, with the nicest Il Fornaio inside that we’ve ever seen. It is older (but perfectly kept up) so the rooms will all be a little smaller than you’d expect. The cafe that’s attached is also nice and check out the 2nd story patio in the sun with a great view of the ocean.
Other places where we’ve never stayed at but want to very soon!
Famously owned by Doris Day, this is the premiere (and high-priced) hotel to stay with your pets in Carmel. We’ve heard mainly good things about it, but that it can be kind of loud sometimes. It does have a great indoor/outdoor bar/tea area for those lazy afternoons with the pooch, regardless!
Lamp Lighter Inn
Perfectly situated closest to the beach, this has a handful of unique suites that are pet-friendly.
La Playa Hotel
Completely renovated two years ago and probably the nicest and priciest out of anything on this list.
Places to Eat:
No matter what, always make reservations the morning/noon of the day that you want to eat somewhere, at the latest, regardless of how busy Carmel seems.
Best seafood in Carmel, bar none.
Forge in the Forest
Awesome Hobbit-like steak house, tho the recent renovation has changed some of the famous outdoor eating exterior. Great for dogs, even has a menu just for them!
Best restaurant in Carmel. Also the nicest and priciest, with a gigantic wine list and cellar. Absolutely romantic, has country French and Italian foods. Dress up! It is also co-owned by the same gent that owns our favorite winery, Georis Winery.
La Dolce Vita
Best Italian in Carmel…and there’s a lot of it! Good for dogs.
The best breakfast and brunch spot, tied with…
The most famous breakfast spot in Carmel.
Hog’s Breath Inn
The say it’s Old West themed…we think it’s more like Hobbiton! It’s a pretty good steak house, but it shines for drinks by the fire when it’s drizzly at night. Sip some dark local reds or a little bourbon (with lots of great bar food). Great for dogs, too. Owned by Clint Eastwood, a lot of locals end up here, too.
Though it might seem that Starbucks has taken over Carmel, there’s still some great coffee shops that are home-grown. This one is the best and I love it! Free wi-fi and great for dogs.