Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Quick Visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country

During our craft beer centric stay in San Diego, we did allocate one afternoon to visit wine country - choosing Temecula Valley or Southern California's Wine Country as they refer to themselves. This wine region is located 90 minutes south of Los Angeles and 60 minutes north of San Diego off I-15. The community boasts 35 wineries - all situated due east of Old Town Temecula - and grows over 50 grape varieties. The first modern winery, Callaway Vineyard & Winery, opened in 1974 and the region gained its AVA designation in 2004. The landscape is very scenic, dry rolling hills interspersed with lush green vineyards. And the wineries are tightly packed making a wine excursion quite simple to navigate. And as always, theCompass Winery, Brewery, Distillery Locator Mobile App helps.

Our first stop was at South Coast Winery, prehaps the most prolific producer in the region. The winery was established in 2003 and since then has been awarded the Best California State Winery four times (2016 the latest). Besides the extravagant facility - it includes a resort and spa - they produce wine from at least 20 grape varieties including many Rhone such as Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne. These three are blended into a delicious GVR and also bottled as 100% varietals. Excellent wines. Another tasty white was the 2015 California Verdelho, with its lemon profile, velvety texture, and fresh acids; it reminded of the new Nationals star Trea Turner - light and speedy, but possesses surprising power. As for reds you can remain in Portugal with a solid Touriga, move to Bordeaux with several offerings or return to the Rhone with my favorite, their 2014 Grenache or 2014 Mourvedre both $18. Great values for two delicious wines. South Coast also includes a nice portfolio of sparkling wines so as you can see from the range of offerings, a must visit.

The next stop was to Falkner Winery, primarily because they had answered a tweet I had posted on suggestions. The winery is much smaller, but includes a restaurant, and provides a grand view of the surrounding countryside. The winery opened in 2000 and specializes in a smaller portfolio of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, a Meritage, and the "Amante" Tuscan proprietary blend. Prices are much higher than at South Coast, most likely from smaller volumes. The "Amante" ($55) is a big Super Tuscan plenty of leather, tobacco, and fruit. Their off-dry 2015 Risqué Riesling was a group favorite and the wine we enjoyed while studying the scenery on their deck.

Our last stop was Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyard because our hosts wanted us to sample their specialty Almond Sparkling Wine and chocolate. The Wilson family opened this winery in 1998 and currently run a large operation. This was the most populated of the three with a small wait at the tasting bar. The most interesting wine was the 2014 Variant Series White Cabernet ($26), which was both fully textured and lively. For reds, Syrah and Petite Sirah were the leaders particularly the 2012 Family Reserve Petite Sirah ($65). Pricey yes, but also big and bad. They also provide a range of low cost sparkling wines like the Almond which seemed rather popular. Take a glass and walk down to the shallow creek and try to find the crawfish.
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