It’s no secret that Andy and I love wine. I mean, that’s how we met. So, when I was invited to stay at the Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites, a beautiful wine-themed inn about a mile from downtown Carmel, I was more than excited to visit.
When we arrived, Andy and I met with one of the Inn’s proprietors, Brian Lee, and he gave us a little background on the property, and the story behind its concept.
He explained that in 2012, he and his brother Jonathan bought the 86 year-old block of lodging with flowered wallpaper and $40 per night rooms. At the time it was called the Carmel Crystal Inn, and was not exactly the type of place travelers would recommend on TripAdvisor.
Brian then told us about coming up with a new name for the property, and how he and his brother remodeled everything they could without ruining the hotel’s historic integrity. As far as what they should call their new venture, Brian had attended UC Davis, (a university well known for its viticultural program) and had a lot of exposure to wine-centric terms during his time there. He also thought about how the number of wine tasting rooms in Carmel had multiplied since his return from college. He figured putting a wine-themed stamp on the new place (especially a local one) would create a solid brand. So, he pulled “Vendange” (a French word meaning “grape harvest) from the wine making lexicon. More specifically, it’s a French word describing late harvest fruit.
Along with the rename, they finished the bathrooms with stone and Spanish marble, gave each room brand new furniture (including one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept), linens, duvets and down pillows. They landscaped the grounds, drained a foul-smelling pond and put in a gorgeous fire pit in its place, and renovated the lobby with fixtures that compliment the hotel’s history and also reflect the family’s love of wine.
The Lee brothers then partnered with local winemakers (beginning with Twisted Roots). The wineries (13 of them now) sponsor themed rooms and suites that reflect their wineries’ personalities and the feel of their winery’s tasting rooms.
“We wanted to do a theme, but we wanted it to be modern and not antiquey, like so many other places in Carmel,” Brian told us, “We live in wine country, so we chose a wine theme. We wanted to work with the wineries because they make very good wines and we support local businesses. It seemed natural to partner with them. It’s a win-win situation: They get the exposure (and references), and we get the theme.”
After learning a little about the history of the Vendange, it was time to check in!
We were a little hungry from our drive (about 3 hours from Sacramento), so Andy and I really enjoyed the wine and cheese reception (5-7pm on weekends in the hotel lobby). There are both white and red wines from which to choose (so you can do a little tasting), and a few cheeses, salami, grapes, nuts and crackers. It was fun to chat with some other people who had also just arrived.
Then it was off to take a look at our home for the next two nights: The Ventana Room:
The Ventana room was decorated handsomely with custom canvas prints, and the winemaker’s story on the room wall. In the living area, there was a Ventana Vineyards wine barrel that had been converted into a custom snack bar, designed to hold Ventana Vineyard branded snacks and wine for sale. There was also a throw on the bed embroidered with the winery’s logo, and the wall had small vines from the vineyard affixed to them.
Here are some scenes from inside the room:
I was impressed to learn about the green features of the hotel including water saving shower heads and insulation made from recycled blue jeans. Also, the gardens on the grounds are on a drip irrigation system.
I can’t say enough about the bed. Not only was the bedding gorgeous, but the mattress was just the right balance between soft and firm. I felt so refreshed when I woke up both mornings. :)
One of my favorite things about the Vendange is the landscaping and the fire pit. Andy and I had a great time sitting outside both evenings after dinner and enjoying a little more wine by the fire. There is live music by the fire pit in the summer.
Here’s what to expect at breakfast time: A spread of fruit, bagels, pastries, granola, yogurt and coffee, and it’s there for guests from 8-10am. If that’s not early enough for you, there’s Carmel Bakery & Coffee Company on Ocean Avenue about a mile away from the hotel (they open at 7am).
The parking lot even has a wine theme, and the lines to indicate the parking spaces are painted a deep purple inside of white. Here’s Andy’s car parked just outside our room.
Wineries that have a room decorated at the Vendange include: Blair, Cima Collina, Dawn’s Dream, Galante, J. Lohr (a Paso Robles winery that sources Monterey County vineyards), Joullian, Manzoni, McInTyre, Otter Cove, Ross’ Place, Tudor, Twisted Roots and Ventana. If you belong to one of the wineries’ wine clubs, you’ll receive 25% off the rate when you stay in their room.
Vendange is conveniently located a short drive away from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, just off of scenic Highway 1, with free parking for guests. They are minutes away from downtown Carmel’s shopping and fine dining, scenic 17-Mile Drive, and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Vendange Carmel is located at 24815 Carpenter St., Carmel, CA 93923. Telephone 831.624.6400, fax 831.624.5111. Website: www.vendangecarmel.com, email: reservations at vendangecarmel dot com.