You might not think that shopping would be a reason to visit Carmel Valley, but think again. New shops keep popping up, each one-upping the next. A good place to start is Lights of Rome, which opened in September and is a must-stop for designs in the Old World style. Furnishings are imported from Europe and can be custom made to fit most decor. Besides sofas and chairs, you'll find La Contessina's luxurious sheers, pillows, velvets and bedding.
A few doors down is Avant Garden and Home, twice voted best retail business in the valley. Three rooms are pleasantly packed with tableware, body products and jewelry for most occasions. Also popular for jewelry and table décor is Casa del Soul, where owner Linda Jacobs maintains a well-edited selection of gifts ranging from mod watches to elegant spreaders. Sunriver highlights shoes and bright totes, plus its own line of soy-based candles and lotions. For Asian-inspired art and antiques, don't miss Mix's warehouse of tansus, altar tables and lifesize buddhas.
Wining and dining
Eight wine-tasting rooms make their home in the village, including Georis, Bernardus, Talbott, Joullian and Heller Estate Organic Vinyards. Valley wineries are known for producing superb cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay. A good place for sampling them is Zagat-rated Marinus at Bernardus Lodge, run by superchef Cal Stamenov, who grows his own produce. Café Rustica is also worth seeking for its Mediterranean cuisine, which includes wood-grilled lamb and smoked salmon pizza. Juicy, corn-fed steak is the specialty at Will's Fargo, housed in a revamped roadhouse and a neighborhood favorite since 1959.
After a night out, hikers and joggers head to the 4,462-acre Garland Ranch Regional Park to partake of the trails, the visitor center and maybe even a round of steelhead fishing. If golf is on the agenda, championship courses are found at Carmel Valley Ranch, East Rancho Canada, West Rancho Canada and Quail Lodge. Most resorts offer tennis.
Next to Stonepine, the former Crocker equestrian estate and villa converted to a luxury inn, the crown jewel of Carmel Valley is Bernardus Lodge, a 57-room Mediterranean style resort built by winemaker and former racecar driver Bernardus Pon. Set in a garden-vineyard setting, the resort rooms have fireplaces, marble bathrooms and patios or balconies looking out to the Santa Lucia Mountains. Play bocce ball, tennis or visit the spa by day. Linger by the fire in the lobby and enjoy live piano and a glass of Bernardus' famous wine by night. Quail Lodge is another luxury resort where golfers take advantage of the course and peaceful surroundings.
|Avant Garden and Home
|Casa del Soul
|Lights of Rome