A collection of photographs and media clippings hang in the great room at Holman Ranch, chronicling the property’s rich past as a working farm, guest house and centerpiece of the Carmel Valley social scene. Portraits recall past visitors Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price and Clark Gable, along with actresses Cybill Shepherd and Theda Bara. There’s also a blackand- white of Joan Crawford, her hair styled and her makeup flawless. She’s wearing pajamas and milking a cow.
“We’re pretty sure it was taken here,” says Holman Ranch Director of Hospitality Hunter Lowder, who found the photo when her family took over the property in 2006. “We haven’t had it authenticated, but there have always been cows on the property. [The photo] has been here so long that we think it was shot here.”
From classic film stars and rodeo riders to corporate groups, wedding parties and charity event attendees, Holman Ranch has long welcomed an interesting and impressive guest list. A San Francisco businessman purchased the property, originally part of Spanish land grant territory, in 1928. He constructed the hacienda before selling it in 1940 to Clarence and Vivian Holman, of the Pacific Grove department store family. The Holmans added guest rooms and hosted frequent gatherings, including the annual Fiesta de los Amigos celebration that still takes place in conjunction with each fall’s harvest. Dorothy McEwen then purchased the ranch in 1989, renovating select buildings and planting the property’s first vineyards.
When Thomas and Jarman Lowder took possession five years ago, they continued restoring Holman Ranch. After completing hacienda improvements, they planted 17 acres of vineyards and 100 olive trees, re-landscaped the gardens, brought the property’s stables up to date and refurbished all eight guest rooms. This winter, construction will finish on a new underground winery slated to produce up to 3,000 cases of estate-grown blends a year.
Initial Holman Ranch Vineyards releases are already available at area restaurants, and a tasting room is set to open in Carmel Valley Village by the end of the year. The on-site winery is rare in this region, explains the Lowder’s daughter Hunter, and so is Holman Ranch’s combination of hospitality, agriculture, horses and history. “We’re just about everything that California has been: cowboys, agriculture, events, oldtime celebrities,” she says. “There’s such a great history here.”
With sun-drenched facilities set high in the hills above Carmel Valley Road, Holman Ranch boasts both cozy, country charm and must-have conveniences. Guests rent the entire property— event venues and guest rooms—as a package, which ensures a private, personalized experience. Continental breakfast is catered every morning, and from there, Lowder can connect parties with local vendors for banquets, events, spa services and more.
“It’s like renting a private estate, but with the amenities of the hotel,” she explains. Special events and weddings typically take place in a combination of indoor and outdoor venues. Surrounded by native plants and brilliant blooms, the ceremony veranda and lawn offer vineyard views and seat upwards of 200 guests. From there, it’s off to cocktails on the stone terrace or quiet conversation in the great room.
Here, the hacienda’s central living space retains its original stone fireplace and tile floors. Antique furnishings, leather couches and a high, oak-beamed ceiling add to the room’s comfortable allure. Steps away, arched stone doorways open to the garden courtyard. With a fountain bubbling in the background and striking early California architecture, this is an ideal space for photographs. For larger sit-down dinners, the spacious rose patio accommodates a variety of seating arrangements, plus cake tables and musicians. Afternoon shade makes for a pleasant atmosphere, and the patio can be cleared for dancing when sunshine gives way to stars.
Guests also have access to the carriage house, which can be set up for formal meals, dance performances or poker nights alike. A small chapel, created in a former garage that once housed carriages, is available for private ceremonies and memorials. The airy, open game room has an antique pool table, board games, darts, a fireplace and a bar area. Other on-site activities include swimming, skeet shooting, scavenger hunts, hiking, horseshoes and roasting s’mores around the fire pits.
Corporate groups often gather in the Holman Ranch conference room, which has a homey feel but is fully equipped for presentations and meetings. The small space works well for board retreats, VIP events and brainstorming sessions. Lowder’s clients appreciate that the room capitalizes on Holman Ranch’s natural setting, without sacrificing professionalism. “We can hold a meeting in the middle of a field, surrounded by hay bales and dirt. But most people, even if they’re in their jeans and cowboy boots, want to be in the leather chair, in the air conditioning, with wireless access and a phone,” she says.
The remodeled guest rooms present a similar best-of-both-worlds appeal, with both rustic and refined highlights. Standard and suite spaces feature fine linens, modern amenities and posters of past celebrity guests—Gene Autry, June Allyson and Ava Gardner, among others. At the same time, open-beam ceilings and tile reflect the property’s working ranch reality. “Holman Ranch has gone from a hunting retreat to a total guest ranch facility,” says Lowder. “Now that we’ve taken over, we’ve tried to bring it back to what it has always been.”
Holman Ranch is located at 60 Holman Road, on the outskirts of Carmel Valley Village. To learn more about weddings and events, or to order from Holman Ranch Vineyards, visithttp://www.holmanranch.com or call 831/659-2640.