The editor and I tasted many elegant, well- balanced wines on our recent visit to Temecula. Here are a few reasons why the wines from Temecula Valley shine:
The valley has a unique microclimate, warm days and cool nights. Daily ocean breezes make their way through an opening in the Coast Range called the Rainbow Gap and cool the valley.
The 1,300 acres of grapes have well-drained, decomposed granitic/sandy loam soils.
Temecula has dedicated winemakers who believe that good wines begin in the vineyards.
South Coast Winery Resort and Spa has given the area a boost by being named the Best California State Winery of the Year for two consecutive years. South Coast Winery owner and grape grower Jim Carter delivers excellent fruit to two top-notch winemakers, Jon McPherson and Javier Flores, and voila, award winning wines at very fair prices.
We tasted excellent reds made from the Bordeaux varieties. Wiens Family Cellars offered a 2011 Member's Blend (merlot, cabernet and cabernet franc), a 2008 reserve cabernet franc and a 2007 reserve cabernet sauvignon that blew me away. The sign outside said "Big Reds." Believe it. We tasted a 2009 Tre Fratelli Meritage from Palumbo Family Vineyards that is smooth and elegant with dark blackberry flavors, definitely a wine for a special occasion. Baily Vineyard and Winery had a delicious montage that is a blend of sauviginon blanc and Semillon and a very rich and approachable 2009 cabernet sauvignon.
The region does well with warm climate Mediterranean varieties. Danza del Sol Winery had a terrific 2011 vermentino and 2010 tempranillo. We tasted Hart Winery's 2011 Montepulciano and its delicious sauvignon blanc, one of the best in the valley. Our favorite dry rosé was the Hart 2011 cabernet franc rose called Blanc de Franc.
Rhone varietals: Syrah, petite sirah, grenache, mourvedre and cinsault do very well here, and most wineries produce a viognier by itself or blended with roussanne. Leoness Cellars appears to be the Rhone Ranger leader of Temecula Valley. Together, owner/growers Mike Rennie and Gary Winder and winemaker Tim Kramer produce seven distinct Rhone varietals.
Once again, good farming practices lead to excellent wines. We liked the 2009 Fitzpatrick Vineyard syrah, with flavors of back raspberry and cherry, finishing long with bacon and black pepper notes. The 2009 Melange de Reves ("blend of dreams") is the classic GSM blend with a touch of cinsault added. This was my favorite Rhone blend in the Temecula Valley. We finished our tasting at Leoness Cellars with a 2006 Cinsault Port, a delicious dessert in a bottle. Yummy.
We enjoyed our stay in Temecula and look forward to returning. If you go, here are a few tips. Avoid weekends; they can get busy. If you like a wine, buy it. All the wineries sell direct in the tasting room or through their wine club and very little is distributed. Take advantage of the winery restaurants; they have exquisite food. Taste early, have a late lunch, take a nap, visit Old Town or play golf or gamble at Pechanga Casino. You'll have a great time.
For more information, visit www.temeculawines.org. Cheers!
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