Late in April we had the opportunity to visit a few wineries in Temecula Valley, California. Although our time was limited to only a couple of hours in the region, we were able to get a taste of Temecula’s wine culture, and boy was it delicious!
This emerging wine region is located in Southern California’s Riverside County (about an hour from San Diego and Palm Springs) and is home to over 35 wineries. Known for it’s rolling hills, beautiful vineyards and exquisite tasting rooms, you’ll find a variety of great tasting varietals within close proximity of one another. Common Rhone and Bordeaux varietals in addition to a growing presence of Italian grape varietals are all growing well in the warm and dry climate of Temecula. While most wineries offer the standard tastings that we are accustomed to in Virginia, many have additional features similar to their Northern California competitors, providing Temecula Valley Wine Country with a plethora of fun activities to choose from. It’s common to see wineries serving as hotel and spa resorts, 5-star dining establishments or offering hot air balloon rides for tourists and locals alike. All in all, Temecula is a great place to spend a few days wine-ing and dining amongst the gorgeous vineyard views.
Our quick trip took us to three Temecula wineries– Wilson Creek Winery, Ponte Family Estate Winery, and Leoness Cellars.
Our first stop of the day was by recommendation at Wilson Creek Winery. We were told that they were home to the fabulous Almond Sparkling Wine and that sounded like the perfect way to start off our day! The tasting consisted of five wines (that you selected yourself from a substantial menu). In addition to the Almond Sparkling Wine, they offered several other sparkling wines (and whites and reds) for the palate. The tasting room and property were both sprawling and gorgeous– featuring plenty of tasting bars (indoors and outdoors), a marketplace, an on-site restaurant, a stage for musical performances and plenty of seating. The highlight for us though? Walking through some of the vines on property and seeing the well-developed buds (growing season was in full swing in the warmer climate).
Departing Wilson Creek we made our way just down the road to the Ponte Family Estate Winery tasting room. The vineyards at Ponte Family have been around since the mid-80’s and the winery officially opened in 2003. They offer a variety of whites and reds, something for every palate. Here, we decided to split a tasting of 6 wines, each selecting three and sharing amongst ourselves. Interestingly enough we tasted a Viognier (VA’s state grape) which offered more citrus and less floral notes than our typical Virginia vintages, as well as a Chardonnay, Tempranillo and Zinfandel. In addition, we tried two Bordeaux-style blends, the Super T and the Meritage which were both fabulous. The winery also features an on-site restaurant and serves as a hotel for those spending the night in wine country.
Our last stop of the afternoon was at Leoness Cellars, a sprawling estate home to one of the most unbelievable wine country views we’ve every seen. The spectacular property features more than 500 acres of vines (varietals grown include Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, White Merlot, Viognier and Syrah), an event space overlooking the rolling hills of Temecula, and a beautiful restaurant situated in the vines. We opted to dine in the vines and sample our wines alongside lunch. The restaurant offers several wine flight options– some pre-selected options or a create-your-own fight. We picked 6 wines and enjoyed pairing them our AMAZING lunch of a tomato & onion salad, the quiche of the day and creme brûlée for dessert. It was an unforgettable meal in an unforgettable location.
In addition to the great tasting wines, unbelievable views and delicious local food, the Old Town of Temecula offers a small-town feel complete with adorable boutiques, cozy restaurants, coffee shops and craft beer. If you’re in the Southern California area, we highly recommend spending some time in Temecula to see what the region is all about!