Some of the best wine in Carmel Valley is poured at a location so unassuming from the outside that it's almost undercover. Bernardus Lodge may be nestled amidst the grapevines, but to taste the magnificent end product made from those grapes, head two miles east to the Bernardus Winery tasting room, located in the former Bank of America building in Carmel Valley Village. Bernardus Winery While the exterior may be low-key, the luxe wood paneling throughout the interior makes the tasting room feel like a rich man's wine cellar. Fittingly, the bulk of the wine is stored in the former bank vault. Bernardus Winery The Bernardus tasting room is staffed with associates as generous and knowledgeable as they are hilarious. They’re also as interested as they are interesting; they engage with every customer in a way that makes tasters feel like they’re special rather than another anonymous wine drinker. In between the sips and the laughs, you're sure to learn a lot about wine. Our tasting crew learned, for example, that the British call sauvignon blanc "savvy b" and that high-end pinot noirs tend to be bottled in fat Burgundy-style bottles. Owner Ben Pon's goal was to make wines that rival the finest traditional wines. With Burgundian-trained winemaker Dean DeKorth at the helm, the traditional characteristics really come to the forefront. The wines are flavorful and nuanced, with a surprisingly delicate quality to them. The Bernardus Winery tasting room offers multiple tasting menus, depending on your interests. Generous pours ensure that you'll be able to savor the wine and make an educated decision when you're ready to purchase. Bernardus Winery On some days, you may be lucky enough to try something that isn't on the menu. Our group had the luck to sample the exquisite 2004 Estate Vineyard Swan Block Merlot and taste a sneak preview of a buttery not-yet-on-the-menu 2009 Chardonnay. Were they worth bringing home? Let's just say our wallets were a little lighter and our car trunk a little heavier on the way out. Bernardus Winery 5 West Carmel Valley Road Carmel Valley, California 93924 [map] Phone: 831-298-8021