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    Visit to the Temecula Valley Wine Country in Southern California

    IMG_2399While the Napa and Sonoma valleys are an ubiquitous part of every wine lovers vernacular, there are many other areas in California making excellent wines, from north to south.? One of these, and one of the lesser known, is the Temecula Valley.? This region, just over an hour’s drive north from San Diego, or two hours southeast from LA, is home to rolling vineyards and a host of wineries, both large and small.? Italian and Rhone varietals seem to be the most prevalent, however you’ll also find traditional Spanish and Portuguese, and Bordeaux grapes.? There is no shortage of wine.

    I was recently in San Diego over the weekend, and finally had a chance to get to Temecula.? It’s an easy, and scenic, drive straight up Rt. 15.? The mountains creep in around you, and the roadsides were dotted with brilliant patches of golden yellow flowers as well as purple sage.? This might be due to the greater than normal rainfall the region has experienced.? Boulder strewn hills become more of the norm as you get nearer to Temecula itself.? Some of the valley vistas are breathtaking.

    Get off of Route 15 in Temecula, at ext 59, and head east on Rancho California Road.? You’ll pass some plazas and a long stretch of tvwa_50_logoresidential communities, which leave you wondering what is so special about this place.? When you get to the traffic light at the intersection with Butterfield Stage Road, be prepared for a change.? As you go through the light you enter wine country, and the scene on both sides of the road transforms to one somewhat reminiscent of Tuscany.? Rolling hills are on both sides, covered in vineyards.? On either side there are large, villa style wineries commanding their individual hilltops.? There are also smaller, more family oriented wineries.? This goes on for some time, and you could spend days visiting.

    The other major road for wineries here is De Portola Road, and you’ll find many more there, both large and small.? If you’re visiting on a weekend, and can’t seem to find a winery (almost impossible), just look for the next tour bus or stretch limo and follow it.? It is surely filled with a gang of people enjoying their winery trip without the need to worry about driving themselves.? If you’re going to be visiting multiple wineries this is likely a good idea, or have a designated driver.? I made due by not actually drinking any of the wine, although that was hard at times when they poured a really, really good one.

    With only a single afternoon to spare, I was only able to visit five wineries, and the experience was quite different at each.? They ranged from a smaller, family run winery, to a large hilltop villa and restaurant.? In between were more variations on the theme, one a rustic feeling establishment with Argentinean roots, another a more laid back atmosphere, and finally a vertical tasting of library Cabernet Sauvignon.? The last I basically stumbled on as I was leaving the valley for the day.? Actually, the first and the last visits of the day were the best, the Alpha and Omega.? It always seems when we go to wine events that one of the best finds of the day happens right out of the gate, and then we always find another favorite on our way out.? This went exactly according to that script. Don’t you love it when things like that happen?

    We’ll do a individual article on both our first stop, Hart Winery, as well our last – the vertical library tasting of Cabernet from Baily Vineyard and Winery.? They were pretty amazing.? There were certainly other excellent wines along the way, and we’ll tell you about some of them here.? First on the list is Doffo Winery.

    IMG_2438Doffo winery is located at 36083 Summitville in Temecula.? The owner is from Argentina, not far from Mendoza, and as you might suspect Malbec plays an important part of the grape mix here.? There is definitely a family, rustic feel in the tasting room, and it is not flashy like many of the larger wineries.? You’ll find a rich group of red wines at Doffo, along with a particularly good Viognier.? In the tasting room you can choose one of two tasting menus, the Misto tasting for $25, or the Rosso tasting for $35.? There is a good deal of crossover between the two lists, however the Rosso will forego the Viognier (which would be a shame), but you’ll get some Reserve reds.

    Many of the people tasting were doing so to help shape their wine club deliveries.? This is a recurring theme at the wineries here, as most of their sales are direct to consumer.? If you’re local it is a convenient way to make sure you get the wines you really want in the wine club shipments.? How many they’ll let you change up will vary, depending on the winery.? I heard the same thing many times at several of the wineries.? Wine club prices will be significantly discounted from those we list below, which are standard retail.

    Some of my favorite wines at Doffo Winery are described below.

    2017 Doffo Viognier – this wine is fermented in concrete eggs, and is a very light golden in color.? The nose has citrus, primarilyIMG_2442 lemon.? On the palate, it is clean and crisp and the lemon comes back beautifully at the end.? The first sample poured was badly corked, but the next bottle was not, and that was a good thing as the wine is pretty outstanding.? $32

    2015 Salute –?this is a blend of 72% Petite Sirah, 28% Malbec.? It was the second wine I tried and the second one to be corked! Fortunately, as with the Viognier, the second bottle was not tainted and another excellent wine emerged.? Here there is dark fruit, violets and, even though it is the minor part of the blend, more traditional profile characteristics of Malbec.? The fruit is rich and focused, and the finish is very long.? This is good juice.? $59

    2009 Syrah Reserve –?one of the cool things you can do at Doffo is try, and buy, library wines.? Clearly their big reds are very age IMG_2449worthy, and it is a treat to try them after some years in the bottle.? This particular wine saw four years in new American oak, all of which was medium-heavy toast.? When I hear that I immediately expect a very heavy oak profile, frequently the kind that leaves you feeling like you just chewed on a piece of charred and blackened oak.? Not the case here, however.? The oak is certainly prominent, but you don’t get the char, and underneath that oak is black plum fruit.? As the palate unfolds the fruit comes in waves, unfolding in your mouth in a very luxurious way.? This still drinks quite young, and the tannins are still brisk.? It is very dark in color, with only a tiny touch of amber at the rim.? The wine is spectacular, and will set you back $99.

    Winery from RoadRight across the entrance driveway into Doffo you will find another winery, this being Chapin Family Vineyards.? Here the feeling is comfortable and a little understated.? The tasting room has a nice bar area, but you can also do your tasting on the large front patio IMG_2464porch, where they will bring the wines to you.? Here the tasting fees are $15 for five wines of your choice, or $20 for seven.? The list includes white and red, as well as reserve wines. ? Here are descriptions of my favorites:

    2017 Chardonnay –?all stainless treatment here, and a very light, straw colored wine.? On the nose there is melon, pear and some tropical notes.? The same profile comes through on the palate, and the wine is very clean while maintaining some richness.? The pear and melon dominate the finish, which is very long.? This is very well done, and $25.

    2014 Aglianico Reserve –?this has dark fruit, with a stewed plum on the nose.? The fruit is pure on the palate, and the wine isIMG_2456 a bit lean but still keeps the rich fruit alive throughout.? It is bone dust dry.? The tannins are firm and build throughout, but there is enough acid to keep it fresh.? On the nose this is not your typical Aglianico, on the palate it pretty much is.? Really nice wine here, and $59.

    2016 Montelpuciano –?the wine is a medium, dusty rose color.? The nose has lots of smoky, ripe fruit.? It actually was very reminiscent of the Aglianico.? This is surprisingly rich, and has beautiful caramel and mocha notes.? A very long finish wraps up a very nice wine.? $56

    2016 Petite Sirah –?a dusty rose color, this has a big nose of plum, framed in oak.? There is chocolate and spice as well.? It has a gorgeous core of pure fruit which defines the wine.? It is very well done.? $48IMG_2461

    Both of these wineries were less crazy than many of the larger ones dominating the hilltops.? You can enjoy your tasting with less of a crowd, and in a quieter atmosphere.? Both are worth visiting.

    Clearly the weekends are busy times in the Temecula Valley.? I would definitely come on a weekday next time, when the crowds should be less and the experience a bit more leisurely.? I did try to go to another, larger winery off of De Portola Road on the way out, and could not even find a place to park!? There had to be three hundred cars there.? On the plus side, this convinced me to leave for good, and that took me past the Baily Library Tasting Room, which I’ll review very soon.? That was great.

    My visit to Temecula confirmed two things.? One – they do make some serious wine in Temecula, and some great ones.? Two – I will be back to get to some of the many wineries not visited, and maybe to revisit a few I did get to.? It is a worthwhile destination for any wine lover.

    More to come, on both Hart Winery as well as the Baily Library Cabernet Sauvignon tasting.? You can read much more about the Temecula Valley wine scene at the Temecula Valley Winegrowers website:?https://www.temeculawines.org/.

    A votre santé!



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