“California Dreaming/On such a winter’s day.”
One of the best things about moving to the West Coast has been my newfound proximity to California. At the Los Angeles Travel Show a few weeks ago, I learned that California is the number one state that American leisure travelers want to visit. It seems to be for me: I’ve gone to California six times in less than two years. From Los Angeles to Monterey to Napa Valley, I’ve enjoyed it all – and I always look forward to my next trip down.
During February, I’m going to focus on California, and some of the places I’ve discovered in the past 18 months. First stop: Carmel by the Sea.
I had been to Carmel once before, on an RV trip that my family took when I was a teenager. I remember my father exclaiming over the golf courses of Pebble Beach (which he did eventually play), and the scenery of Big Sur. And of course, Clint Eastwood made the town famous when he became mayor in 1986.
Coming back to Carmel as an adult has its advantages. For one, I was able to enjoy the fruits of the wineries that have sprung up in Monterey County. Downtown Carmel now has enough tasting rooms that they’ve developed a Wine Walk, complete with a downloadable map.
I sampled a few of the Wine Walk stops on a lovely October afternoon. One of my favorites was Galante Vineyards, the first to open a tasting room in Carmel (the owner is the great-grandson of one of the town’s founders). I loved the big reds, and hope that I get a chance sometime to visit their vineyards and ranch out in Carmel Valley.
Looking at the Wine Walk map, I see that Wrath Wines has a tasting room on the ground floor of Carmel Plaza. My group enjoyed a dinner out at Wrath’s winery in Soledad, a small town in Monterey County. I absolutely loved these wines, made by Sabrine Rodems, and I ordered several to drink at home.
For those who want to try a bunch of Monterey County wineries, the Wine Walk Passport, which allows you to visit eight tasting rooms for $30, is a good bargain. The passport, which you buy online for $30, also allows you to waive corkage fees at several participating restaurants.
Besides wine, one of Carmel’s main draws is the art at the numerous galleries in the walkable downtown. I was happy to see that one of my favorite New Orleans galleries also has a Carmel outpost. I also enjoyed window shopping at the Winfield Gallery.
Carmel has several hotels in town, although I ended up staying in Big Sur. For a splurge, there’s always the L’Auberge Carmel (a Relais & Chateaux property), which appears on the Travel + Leisure 500. While walking through town, I spied the cute Lamplighter Inn, which has a few rooms under $250 and receives excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.
My Monterey County trip was sponsored by See Monterey, but my opinions remain my own.