People have told me that stress lifts the moment you come over the ridge into Carmel Valley. Doubtful? Believe it! Blood pressure down; stress factor down; happiness up! Today, we came for the wine, but fell in love with the restaurants, the people, the art, the scenery, and (most importantly, yes) the wine. In the type of town where you might get bored in 30 days, you might instead fall in love in 30 seconds. Instead of forging relationships over several years, you might instead become fast friends over tapas and a glass of Pinot Noir. We met a wonderfully gracious woman at Jan De Luz Antiques, who treated us (and our dog Cecil) like long lost friends. I don't know exactly what happened, but I like the guy who drove that charcoal Prius through town. My dog Cecil was happier, my heart was warmer, Squeak was squeakier, TheWife was ... well, TheWife is always great so I'll stop there but you get the picture.
Premiere wines in this region are typically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Carmel Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands also produce wonderful Syrah and (perhaps to a lesser extent) Merlot and Cabenet. Bernardus wines were fabulous from top to bottom, and fantasticly well made. Don't expect Rutherford dust, but do expect fabulous fruit at one-third the price. Wines at the Parsonage Valley Vineyards are also good, in a warm setting with art and friendly help (and the quilting by the patronage of the Parsons clan is unlike anything I've seen). We visited a few other places that were also nice, and didn't even get to some of the most accomplished wineries like Talbott and Galante. At more than one winery, we were admonished to stay away from any winery named Chateau anything (which we didn't follow... and wished that we had later). We advise you to do the same.
We were a merry party preparing to leave Carmel Valley, when we stumbled across Georis Winery on the way out. We pulled over to visit Talbots as our last stop, but were drawn into the lovely gardens around Georis (and the sign that said something like Good Wine and Good Friends). I've had several of their Merlot bottlings over the years -- and found them bipolar between fabulously structured giants and weedy-messes. Instead of just another tasting room, we found a lovely garden filled with brightly colored flowers, colors of all sorts, wonderful latin music, brightly colored birds, and a warmly confident environment. No false pretenses, just massively powerful red wine (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and several bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon). Our hostess was warm and engaging (and, like Joe, a surfer too), who made us feel right at home. She made us feel like anything was possible, and we ended up spending several hours in this wonderful oasis. We even had dinner from their sister restaurant Cafe Corkscrew next door (calamari, artichokes, cheese) -- magnificent!
With the economy being what it is, Joe Plonk joins few wine clubs (and has quit some very good ones). But, I happily joined the club at Georis -- thanks to the high quality of the wine, the friendly service, and a brief measure of serendipity that comes from getting a little lost.
Best, Joe Plonk
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Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux
9 months ago