We considered just apple-c apple-v’ing the entirety of Danielle Pergament’s excellent NYTimes article about the vineyards around Carmelo, but we’re not HuffPo, so. Suffice to say we planned our itinerary based largely on Pergament’s recommendations. Considering what a wonderfully come-hither piece of travel writing it is, we were fairly surprised by the utter lack of tourist activity in the area, at least in March. We visited three vineyards and one olive oil producer during our time in Carmelo; we saw one other group of tourists. All the restaurants we ate at seemed to be open exclusively for us. At dinner the first night, over candlelight and gnocchi in the empty, beautiful restaurant at CampoTinto, we had a glimpse of what our lives would be like if we were Piedmontese duchesses, heirs to an eroded fortune with a single loyal servant named Carolina. Except obviously if Carolina worked for us and not CampoTinto, her uniform would not be a branded polo. Maybe an airy linen smock in charcoal.
A+ uniforms at Bodega Narbona, however, another lovely vineyard/hotel/restaurant complex that served up some very mediocre local cheeses and some fabulous steak. Did our server teleport from the 20’s, making a quick stop at Band of Outsiders to pick up a skinny tie?
Our favorite of the vineyards we visited was El Legado, a boutique, family-run estate that produces just 3000 bottles of wine a year. The lovely owners—Bernardo, a ringer in both appearance and demeanor for Michael Chiarello, and his wife María Marta—transformed a ramshackle building on some family property into the beautiful bodega where they make, age, and sell their tannats and syrahs.
We love a well-executed reno, especially when there are before and after stills (there were). We drank wine, nibbled at sausage and an Uruguayan Parmesan-style cheese, and watched the sun set over their grape vines.