My love for wine was just starting to develop in the late 90’s. Never much of a beer drinker, and very much a food lover, wine just went better with a meal. Then in 2000, my parents moved to Murrieta, a small but booming track home community just North of Temecula. Back then Temecula wine country could still be considered fairly small. Since then, the valley has blossomed into a vacation destination with 40 different wineries, some with hotels and restaurants.
I credit my love for wine, and especially tasting wines, to Temecula. It was there I first hopped from winery to winery with my parents. Meeting winemakers in the tasting room and sampling all their different wines. At the time I just knew I liked red wine. Not really knowing the difference between a Syrah or Zin, and hardle able to compare the influences of the local terroir to other wines I had tasted.
Fast forward 15 years later. I love wine and I drink a lot of it. Which is fitting that I was invited to a virtual Mediterranean wine tasting with three very good wine makers from Temecula, including Nicholas Palumbo, Robert Renzoni and Jon McPherson (from South Coast). All three are excellent examples of winemakers doing great things in the Temecula Valley. We tasted through a Tempranillo from South Coast, a Brunello di Sangiovese from Renzoni, and a Syrah from Palumbo.
The three wines were excellent. We really enjoyed the Sangiovese. With cocoa and lightly toasted oak on the nose and boasting flavors of cranberry, cherry and bright red fruit flavors on the palette. We also really enjoyed the Tempranillo from South Coast which is noticeably packed with cherry and blackberry fruit aromas and a hint of dark chocolate. Both are great food pairing wines. You can watch the entire archived tasting here.
But why wines of the “Mediterranean”? Aren’t these from Temecula? Temecula has a very similar growing condition to the Mediterranean and grapes from that region thrive here. As the sun warms the inland valleys, the cooler heavier air from the coast, just 22 miles away, is drawn inland. These cool nighttime temps are critical in developing high-quality fruit.
If you love Italian and Rhone wines, you’ll really like the wines coming out of Temecula. There are 40 distinct varieties growing in the area. Of course you can find your classic California Chardonnay and Cabernet. But you will also find Rhone varieties like Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. Italian varietals that can be found in the region are Vermentino, Arneis, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and even lesser-known varieties such as Aglianico, Nero d’Avola and Lagrein.
South Coast Winery
It can get a bit crowded, but we love the welcoming and friendly tasting room staff and their large library of wines to taste. There is something for everyone here. They also have villas for rent and offer wedding services.
We love Doffo’s deep rich red wines and their motorcycle themed tasting room. Their reserve wines are worth the higher price tags. Malbec, Zin, Cab Franc and Syrah. Perfect for your charcuturie picnic basic.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards
Simply marvelous Italian inspired wines. Priced just right too. Rich, luscious Barbara, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and a Moscato d’ Asti imported directly from Italy. Prefect food pairing wines. Mangia! Mangia!
If you can go with a wine club member, we recommend it. Head through the vineyard and down into the barrel room at this winery specializing in everything from Merlot and Syrah to Viognier and Riesling. They also have a restaurant located on site with a wonderful patio overlooking the vines.
If you love bubbles, Thornton is a must visit winery. Its sit down tasting of California sparklers is a delight.
Old Town Temecula
While you’re there, check out Old Town Temecula. Filled with old western store fronts, antique markets, gift shops, gastro pubs, restaurants and bars. You can find additional tasting rooms if you want more wine and some bars specializing in micro brews if you’re ready for a cold one.
Stay up to date on Temecula Valley happenings on their web site.