California’s Carmel Valley lies just inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea but feels worlds away. The weather in the valley is perfection and the rolling hills and vineyards have a Napa Valley feel with the benefit of an ocean breeze from the coast line that is just a few short miles away. It’s absolutely beautiful. So, when I received a press invitation for an overnight visit to tour Carmel Valley’s Holman Ranch, I grabbed the husband headed out.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect as we drove up a winding hill, through a large gate with beautiful horse stables just off the road. There were vineyards dotting the hills and blue skies above.
Holman Ranch has a rich history dating back to 1928. The property is several hundred acres in size and houses vineyards, a tasting room, horse facilities, an olive grove, overnight guest rooms and a classic Spanish-Style hacienda. The grounds are impeccable and very well appointed, yet it has a wonderful rustic vibe. It provides a unique and stunning setting for private events.
We were running late and pulled up as the property tour was beginning but were promptly handed a glass of Holman Ranch Sauvignon Blanc to get us through the tour. My kind of Ranch! My immediate reaction was: what a fun place to throw a birthday bash with friends for a lazy, secluded weekend celebration…
The tour was led by Nick Lowder, one of the current owners and operators of the property. He and his wife Hunter were so friendly and welcoming. They taught us about the property and made us feel right at home. It was immediately clear that they have gladly taken on the painstaking process of maintaining the integrity of the initial design and enriching its beauty. We wandered around the property, soaking in the history, and ended up on perfectly maintained greens overlooking the Valley, an absolutely ideal location for a wedding celebration.
In 2006, they started a redesign with the help of Architect, Paul David, Jr , Contractors, Stocker and Allaire and Interior Designer, Howard Tutwiler. I was intrigued with the Carmel Limestone prominently used throughout the grounds. Carmel Limestone looks very similar to Texas Limestone but, as the name implies, is local to the area. In fact, the Carmel Limestone used at Holman ranch was quarried locally from the property itself.
After the tour we sat down for a family style meal outside and under the cascading grape vine trellis. They served Holman Ranch wines and food prepared by Wild Thyme Deli and Catering. The meal, the Holman Ranch wine and the company of other bloggers, writers and press was festive and inspiring. Thank you for the lovely evening Nick and Hunter, it was such a perfect visit.
Chef/Owner Terry Teplitzky of the Wild Thyme Deli and Catering Company, who hosts most of Holman Ranch events, was kind enough to provide a recipe from the evening for me to share with you. I hope you enjoy cooking the recipe as much as we enjoyed eating it.
A light version of the recipe from the Basque region of France, we use it on a juicy roast chicken, but it is equally at home on a seared fish filet or an omelet.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, cleaned, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 4 medium red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers, washed, cut the top and bottoms off, sliced the pepper and clean out the seeds and membrane. Slice the pepper in to ¼ inch strips
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium dried bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
- Kosher salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
- Chiffonade of fresh basil
In a heavy bottomed pot heat the oil , then add the onions , garlic, peppers, and bay leaf turn the heat down and stir. You want the mixture to cook but not get any color, so keep stirring as needed and keep watch on the flame. After 20 minutes the onions should be translucent and the peppers very tender, almost melty. Add fresh thyme and parsley, cook five minutes more. Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and add salt and pepper to taste. Can be served hot or cold.
Spoon the Piperade on the chicken and garnish with the basil.
One last idea for a quick appetizer, spoon on crostini, top with basil, prosciutto, and some shaved asiago or parmesan.