Champagne, Burgundy, Napa, and... Temecula? For those of you who are not from Southern California, it may surprise you to know that just about an hour north of San Diego (or an hour southeast of Orange County and and hour southwest of Palm Desert) is a delightful wine producing micro-climate in the Temecula Valley. The first wineries began commercial production in the late '60's and early '70's so the region is still very young compared to the more established areas mentioned earlier. Over the past 40+ years over 25 wineries have started production in the area and makes for fun day trip to spend with friends or out of town guests. I unfortunately did not have my fancy camera with me so I apologize for the lack of photos -- what I do have to share are courtesy of my handy-dandy iPhone... :-)
A couple of weeks ago, on a rare rainy Saturday in San Diego, I headed up for a day trip with my friends Robin and Carly. We made our first stop at the Hart Winery which was a first for all of us. It is a quaint little wine farm with a simple tasting bar inside what I would call a barn. The couple running the wine tasting were very nice and informative when talking about the selection. On the weekends, you can taste 6 wines for $10 and you get to keep the wine glass - not a bad deal! They had a few white wines but mostly reds in their collection. I had trouble selecting only 6 to test but I wanted to go beyond just you usual Cab and Merlot so I branched out and tested their Sangiovese, Meritage and Mourvedre. These three were my favorite of the bunch but didn't strike my fancy enough to buy any bottles at this point.
Our next stop is a fantastic place called Ponte Winery. Since Robin is a wine club member here, we were treated to unlimited tastings which was great! Saturday and Sunday wine tastings are usually $12 for 6 tasters and you get to keep your souvenir wine glass. The Ponte Experience was absolutely first class in my humble opinion. The winery is in a beautiful spacious building with a nice rustic decor. Inside is a large marketplace with fun modern decor pieces for sale in amongst their signature sauces, condiments, wines, etc. We tasted some wonderful wines including their Sangiovese, Nebbiola, Beverino, Barbera, Zinfindel, and Super T. Each wine was delicious in its own way but the most unique was the Beverino. It is a slightly sweet red wine that can be served room temperature or chilled. Ponte will serve it to you both ways at the same time so you can taste the difference. Chilled it tastes almost like a rose or red champagne which is beautifully refreshing! At room temperature it is a nice, smooth, fruity red. Although I really enjoyed the tasting, I ended up taking a bottle of the Nebbiolo home with me. It was my absolute favorite for the day! In addition to the wine, I walked out of there with a set of three amazing zebra striped metallic serving platters in addition to their signature Scallion Oil and a Gorgonzola Marinade. Yum! :-)
In addition to the fabulous wine tasting experience, they have a great restaurant out back. We had hoped to eat lunch there but unfortunately the restaurant was closed due to flooding from the heavy rains that we had recently. At this point we were starving so headed just up the road to the Wilson Creek Winery for lunch.
Wilson Creek is probably one of the largest (if not the largest) wineries in Temecula. They have a very large property with lots of outdoor seating and a huge wine tasting area indoors. A second building (entrance shown in the photo above) is the restaurant and banquet facilities. We headed straight for the Creekside Grill and enjoyed a wonderful (and warm!) lunch of baked brie to start, followed by butternut squash soup and a greek-calamari salad for me. The food was very good so I would definitely recommend a stopover here for a snack or bite to eat if you have time.
Wilson Creek is also known for its Almond Champagne so you must give it a taste when you visit. It is a nice twist on champagne and has a nice sweet taste, but I can only drink one glass and then it becomes too sweet for my taste buds!
These three stops concluded our tour for the day, but on a previous trip I had visited Thornton Winery and Stuart Cellars. I enjoyed both of those wineries (from what I remember) so I would definitely make a second stop at each of those on my next trip.
Happy Wine Tasting everyone!