We rented a home in Carmel during December. While I’ve been to the wineries of nearby Carmel Valley on numerous weekend getaways to Carmel, having a longer period of time to explore the area’s wine opportunities unearthed some new jewels. It also allowed me time to revisit some of my former favorite wineries to see if they were keeping up the new kids on the block.
Below is a recap of my picks…listed in alphabetical order. All are close together and can be done during a weekend escape to the tony village of Carmel.
- Bernardus: A long time fave producer, this one offered the largest selection of wines (>25) . It wasn’t the quantity, however, that was impressive…the quality was superb. Knockouts were Ingrid’s Chardonnay (2009) and the Sobrantes Char (2010), both at $40. The star of the show was the Sierra Mar Pinot Noir (2010) that sells for $50.
- Boekenoogen: Our waiter at the Rio Grill in Carmel (a perennial choice of ours for >20 years) recommended this winery and I’m glad he did. I’m crazy about Viognier, but am always disappointed with American renditions. The 2011 Estate Bell Ranch reminded me of this French varietal in all its glory in the Rhone Valley. Superb. $30.
- Heller: While the winery has been in business since 1968, this was my first visit. I thought there were a couple of standouts in the lineup. The 2010 Dancers Meritage (a Bordeaux blend with the addition of Petite Syrah) was one of the best buys in the wine country at $30 and was chocked full of complexity for the price. Petite Verdot (2009) was another winner at $50.
- Talbott: I’ve been a fan of Talbott for too many years to count and a return visit confirmed all my warm and fuzzies about this winery. Their entry level wine (both the Char and Pinot are called Kali Hart) is a consistently good value in the <$20 price group, especially the Char. The 2011 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, on the other hand, was in a whole other league---more complex and a considerably longer finish ($40). The 2010 Sleepy Hollow Pinot was another gem for $40 but the same vintage’s Diamond T Pinot was a show-stopper at $50.