By Charly SHELTON
It’s hot outside – really hot. What better way of staying cool than getting out of the L.A. basin and taking in some refreshing sea air at Carmel-by-the-Sea?
As I sit writing this, it is 102° in the Crescenta Valley area and it is 70° in Carmel. Its high next week will get up to 72°. That alone is enough to make me want to go north right now, but there is so much more than cool weather to discover.
I was invited up to Carmel-by-the-Sea to experience a cute little hotel right off the main drag in town. The Hofsas House has been a favorite of mine for years, as this was the first place I stayed when I discovered Carmel. A wine-centric town, Carmel-by-the-Sea is scattered with winery tasting rooms, wine-themed restaurants and wine shops. Carmel and the Arroyo Valley are fast becoming the wine capital of California as Napa is becoming harder and harder to farm. When I came to Carmel at the tender age of 24, I knew nothing about wine. After spending a weekend in town, learning and tasting at the various tasting rooms with wine experts who are so inviting and passionate about helping novices learn, I felt more confident in my wine knowledge and how to select and enjoy a good wine. It was a rush of information but I came out knowing more than I expected to.
Two years have passed and I have visited Carmel a few more times and continued to learn. This most recent journey took me to the same places I went on my first trip, and the difference now is in my knowledge of wine, which expanded my enjoyment of the town.
Entering the tasting rooms of some of the best wineries in California and knowing nothing is like going into a casino to learn to play poker. You fumble around and make mistakes, not fully appreciating what you have in front of you, but you enjoy it all the same. Going back to these same rooms after having had some really great wines (and some really bad ones) outside of the Carmel scene gives perspective on how good these wines really are. For example, there is a winery named Galante Vineyards. My girlfriend and I go to this tasting room every time we are in Carmel (because romantic wine weekends are more fun when you aren’t alone).
At first, I only drank reds and their reds were too bold and tasted of leather and alcohol, not a good combo for wines. I was more drawn to wines at other tasting rooms, like Figge Cellars, which makes a great Pinot Noir that was right up my alley at the time. Since then, my palate has refined and I have come to love Galante’s wines – whites and reds. The subtle nose of leather and notes of tobacco and oak play really well with the light fruity tones and gentle feel. I even went home with the best bottle of white wine I have ever had – a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. It was super light and sweet without being syrupy, and had notes of pineapple, honeydew and the most powerful white peach flavor ever. I tried to save the bottle as long as I could but I lasted less than two weeks before I had to bust it open. Two years ago, I would not have enjoyed this wine because it was white and I couldn’t pull the subtle flavors out. Now I have found one of the best wines of my life.
My point is this – whether you know about wine and are looking to expand your knowledge base, or you know nothing about wines and want to learn, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a cool place to spend a summer weekend and find the right wine for your palate.