Organized Trail Rides
BY AUDREY PAVIA Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery, situated in Carmel, California, provides miles of trails to explore on horseback while basking in the estate winery experience.
CCarmel Valley, California, is one of the most scenic and beautiful places to ride in the Golden State. Rolling hills bathed in sunshine and dotted with live oaks set the backdrop for wineries and luxury estates. Riding trails abound in the valley, making it one of the most amazing places in California to enjoy with your horse.
One way to experience this part of Central California with your horse in tow is by visiting Holman Ranch, an estate winery occupying 400 acres in the heart of Carmel Valley.
Complete with vineyards, a winery, guest cottages, and a remodeled equestrian facility, Holman Ranch provides miles of trails you can explore on horseback while basking in the estate winery experience.
(For three more Central Coast riding destinations, see “Explore the Coast” on page 44.)
The family-owned Holman Ranch was once part of the Los Laureles Rancho land grant. Awarded by the Mexican government in the 1700s to one of the first ranchers in the Carmel Valley, Don Jose Manuel Boronda, the original land grant consisted of 6,625 acres and includes what’s now Holman Ranch.
Formerly a cattle ranch, the property was purchased by businessman Gordon Armsy in the 1920s, who turned the ranch into an exclusive hideaway for Hollywood celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara.
Much of the allure was in the classic Spanish-style hacienda Armsy built on the grounds, which featured dramatic walls built with stone from Carmel Valley. The hacienda also included handmade Mexican terracotta roofing and hard-carded oakbeamed ceilings.
Armsy sold the estate to the Holman family in the 1940s. The Holmans turned it into a guest ranch. It then went from a gentlemen’s retreat to a small heritage cattle ranch, with the only rodeo arena in the community.
During this time, the ranch’s guest cottages, stables, and swimming pool were added. The ranch eventually became the center of social life in Carmel Valley, hosting parties attended by the likes of Clark Gable, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford, and Marlon Brando. Complete with vineyards, a winery, guest cottages, and a remodeled equestrian facility, Holman Ranch provides miles of trails you can explore on horseback while basking in the estate winery experience.
The buildings fell into disrepair over the years, but in the late 1980s, the hacienda was restored by Dorothy McEwen, a new owner who wanted to rescue the historic landmark. She built the current stables and planted vineyards, and began the plans to establish Holman Ranch as a winery.
Some 20 years later, Thomas and Jarman Lowder purchased the property and completely refurbished it, bringing it back to its original state. Their daughter Hunter Lowder currently manages the property as a guest ranch and winery.
Riding at Holman
A visit to the Holman Ranch with your horse means boarding overnight at the Stables at Holman Ranch.
The facility, which permanently hosts nearly 100 boarders, also includes guest
stalls for visiting horses and facilities for clinics. Jumping, dressage, and Western arenas are part of the amenities, along with a 200-stall show barn and 50 pipe corrals.
Miles of private trails wind through the 400-acre Holman Ranch property, and feature shady treks and mountain vistas.
Views of the vineyards and forests of live oaks make the ranch a special place to ride. The land is also home to a variety of California wildlife and birds, and is off limits to mountain bikes, making it a peaceful place to ride.
After a long day on the trail, the Holman Ranch guest cottages are a great place to unwind. These cottages are nestled among large oak trees and a flowering garden. Each room is adorned in ranch décor and graced by a movie poster featuring one of the stars who visited the ranch during its Hollywood heyday.
One of the highlights of being at Holman Ranch is touring the vineyards. All the wine produced under the Holman Ranch label is made from grapes grown on the property. Twenty acres of the ranch is devoted to organic vineyards, which are home to pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris grapes.
Only 3,500 cases are produced each season, with the wine sold directly to consumers through the Holman Ranch wine club, poured in restaurants, and served at Holman Ranch hosted events.
The winemaking process at Holman Ranch includes a self-sufficient wine cave with 100-percent French oak barrels. The entire winery is self-sustaining, and relies significantly on the unique weather of the Carmel Valley. The local hills provide a higher elevation, providing a perfect environment for growing quality grapes.
The Holman Ranch wine-tasting room is located down the road from the ranch in the quaint town of Carmel Valley. Here, you can taste the ranch’s varietals, along with Holman Ranch olive oil, also grown on the property.
Carmel Valley is famous for its wines, born of the ideal inland California terrain and climate. Holman Ranch takes complete advantage of what this part of the state has
to offer when it comes to growing grapes, evidenced by its high-quality varietals.
Produced on 20 acres of organic vineyards, where ladybugs, hawks, and owls keep pests at bay, Holman Ranch grapes are the product of the warm inland valley coupled with the cooling marine layer from the ocean, 12 miles away.
Pinot noir and chardonnay grapes are the Holman Ranch specialty, producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rose of Pinot Noir wines. Holman Ranch is an estate winery, meaning all of the wines are produced on the property, from start to finish.
The grapes are grown European style, meaning they’re picked under-ripe for more acid, and less sugar and alcohol than most American-grown grapes. Only the grapes grown on the Holman Ranch property are used for the Holman Ranch label.
In 2012, an underground winery was built on the ranch to process the grapes produced in the vineyards. Called The Caves, this 3,000-square-foot wine cellar is located completely underground to take advantage of natural cooling and humidity features.
Maintained at a constant temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit, the cellar houses four 750-gallon tanks, four 1,200-gallon tanks, and four open-top tanks that can each hold two tons of wine.
All the winery operations take place in the facility, including destemming, press- ing, fermenting, and aging. Bottling is done directly outside the building using a mobile bottling line.
The elegance of the Holman Ranch estate is evident in its wines, which are full-bodied, light and fruity, or subtle or crisp, depending on the varietal.
Besides being served at the ranch’s Carmel Valley wine-tasting room, the wine is available through the Holman Estate and Grand Estate Wine Clubs. (For more information, visit www.holmanranch.com/ wineclub.)
Whether you’re riding the pristine trails of Holman Ranch on your horse or lounging on the front porch of a guest cottage, the peaceful serenity of Carmel Valley will leave you feeling like you’ve discovered paradise. You’ll want to come back again and stay even longer just to absorb all the tranquility Holman Ranch has to offer. TTR
One of the highlights of being at Holman Ranch is touring the vineyards. All the wine produced under the Holman Ranch label is made from grapes grown on the property.
Miles of private trails wind through the 400acre Holman Ranch property. Trails feature shady treks, views of the vineyards, and forests of live oaks.
A visit to the Holman Ranch with your horse means boarding overnight at the Stables at Holman Ranch. The facility, which permanently hosts nearly 100 boarders, also includes guest stalls.