Thursday, January 29, 2015

15 More Great Wines From the Temecula Valley (CA)

 
Did I happen to mention that I love the Temecula Valley? Luckily for me, my sales conference came at the height of the Snowmagedden that wasn't. So my flight got cancelled into Newark, NJ, and ha to be rescheduled for another day. Damn! Another day to explore wine country! 
 
 
So up into the hills I went, that are south east of Los Angeles and north east of San Diego. It's a beautiful drive. Temecula Wine Country is located just 22 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, on the eastern side of the South Coast Mountain range, with vineyards at approximately 1400-1600 feet in elevation. A break in the mountains to our west, known as the Rainbow Gap, allows the cool fog to flow inland from the pacific before slowly receding in the late morning. This cool coastal air combined with the warm air that we get from the east creates a micro-climate which is ideal for producing wine grapes.
 
 
Looking back, this being my second mini-tour of the region, it was quite clear that Temecula Valley is a region that needs to be reckoned with. The complex whites and res of the region are spectacular, and deserve more national attention! The second tour absolutely confirmed that for me. Instead of s=finding what I thought would be a few secondary wines, I found wines that were as impressive if not more so than from my previous day's visit.

 
When you live on the east coast, it's hard to get a real appreciation of Callaway Vineyards. It's their less expensive product that usually makes it to the shelves by us. So as I ascended the hill that the winery, tasting room, and restaurant are on, happy to finally get a chance to taste some of their better wines. And I was not disappointed. Callaway's wines were excellent!!!
 
 
Callaway Vineyard & Winery currently grows seven different varietals. The winery property now has 20 acres of Estate vineyards planted with Viognier, Syrah, Dolcetto, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Grenache, Roussanne, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Lin family owns an additional 200 acres of property at the corner of De Portola Road and Monte de Oro, of which approximately 50 acres are currently planted with Chardonnay, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Muscat Canelli and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
 
 
The grounds are absolutely spectacular by the way.

 
As stated before, the Temecula Valley grows Viognier very well, and Callaway's Viognier Special Selection 2012 is a very nice entry. One of the better California Viogniers I have tasted. Nice aromatics. Light, bright, and with a nice zesty finish. Floral and filled with tropical fruit. Lovely!

 
I love Roussane. And I loved Callayway Winemaker's Reserve Roussane 2012. Brambly cherry dry red was a gorgeous medium-bodied fruit bomb with nice, long-lasting acidity and well balanced tannins. Good complexity. Great finish!



And for all you lovers of Rhone-ish styled wines, this lovely Callaway Special Selection Grenache 2010 completed a trifecta of sorts. A beautiful wine with lovely red fruit and beautiful complexity. A gorgeous wine!



 

 
Next on my list was Baily Vineyard & Winery. Owner and winemaker Phil Baily has crafted great wines for more than 27 years, all made from grapes grown on family owned property in the Temcula Valley. The Oxford Companion to Wine calls "Baily Winery one of the two most artistically successful of the small pioneering wineries in Temecula". Wine tasting is available at two locations: the main Tasting Room on Rancho California Road for current releases, and the Baily Estate tasting room at the production facility on Pauba Road for library wines (aged, older, red wines). I was at the beautiful and spectacular grand tasting room on Rancho California Road.

 

 




If you go to Baily's you might be lucky enough to see Target, one of the biggest domesticated cats I have ever seen. It was a relatively quiet Tuesday, so the winery cat was roaming inside. He's usually not inside during the weekend. But he is as affectionate as it gets. A huge!


 
The Baily Estate Bottled Rose of Sangiovese 2013 hit me like a sledgehammer - not because it was big or overpowering, but be cause it was light, and full of favor and texture.  A big strawberry fruit bomb, with hints of lime and a nice, zesty acidity. A delightful, refreshing, flavor-packed rose made from Sangiovese. A fantastic wine!

 
No question winemaker Phil knows his way around Sangiovese.. Baily Estate Bottled Sangiovese 2011 had a big explosion of strawberry and cherry, with lovely acidity, and a beautiful dry finish. Great complexity, and a gorgeous linger flavor. An absolutely beautiful wine!

 
While a number of Rhone and Italian grapes do very well in Temecula, I was also heartened to see Malbec at quite a few of the place. The Malbecs are not what you expect at all. Unlike Argentine or Chilean Malbecs, these are more medium bodied wines here in Temecula. I found that to be a good thing. The Baily Estate Bottled Malbec 2010 is a medium-bodied red, with big jammy favors of dark cherry and blueberry. Still jammy, and friendly, but in a different dress. Instead of a black velvet evening gown Malbec wears in those regions, the Malbec in Temecula dons a bright red cocktail dress. Malbec is even more sexy and approachable in Temecula. Baily's is an excellent example of what the region can and does do with this grape. It is breathtaking.  
 
 
 
Next I visited Longshadow Ranch Vineyard and Winery. Their hillside vineyards are the home to a wide variety of the finest quality grapes including: Estate Cinsault, Estate Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot. Longshadow Ranch Winery is solely operated by the Brodersen family comprised of John, Susan and their three young children along with great help from their excellent staff. John is the wine maker and prides himself in producing only the best handcrafted wines possible. Involved at every juncture in the process, he oversees the vineyards as well as production activities while Susan handles the very busy office and wine club duties.

 
Temeculais horse country. And more than several have horses and horse themes. Longshadow is unique. The Brodersens apparently also have a real affection and appreciate for draft horses. Several were in the paddocks that surround the winery and barns while I was there. He was a very young male Clydesdale they had rescued. He was a big boy, the size of a thoroughbred, but he has a lot more growing to do. Some Clydesdales do not stopping growing until the age of six years old. They just keep getting bigger.




Longshadow Ranch Estate Sangiovese 2012 was another beautiful example of this varietal wine from this region. John Brodersen has crafted a beautiful red here. Fruity, complex, but incredibly drinkable. A beautiful medium-bodied red. Great complexity and lively execution.


This Longshadow Ranch Estate Temparanilo 2012 was a lovely surprise. Gorgeous cherry fruit on the front seems to last forever. Nice tannins balance out this wine. Complex. Layered. Very, very impressive.
 


 
I didn't know much about Longshadow Ranch before I got there. But the one thing I will remember was continually being very nicely surprised. This Logshaow Ranch Petite Verdot 2011 was lovely!! A nice, chewy Petite Verdot, dark purple, and well built. A very pretty example of this varietal.

 
And this Longshadow Estate Cinsault 2012 was the absolute capper to a fantastic tasting. If you like Cinsault, it seems you need to come to Temecula. Great wine here. The Longshadow exhibited gorgeous ripe cherry, hint of bramble berry, red cassis, and dried cranberries. Complex, layered, balanced. This was a fantastic wine!
 
 




 
 
Judged Best California State Winery of the Year for the third time in the past five years, South Coast Winery is a must see while you are in Temecula. The warm and friendly tasting room serves up award-winning wines, while the estate vineyards of this 39-acre resort house an award winning restaurant, luxurious spa and private villas, providing the ultimate wine country experience. Their winemaking philosophy comes from South Coast Winery’s winegrower and proprietor, Jim Carter. He hired the award-winning winemaking team of Jon McPherson & Javier Flores. The winery's vineyards, located on the eastern side of Mount Palomar, are set in the native terrain of Southern California.

 
 
South Coast Winery is another of those horse wineries. Here, it is not unusual to see riders still in their jodhpurs and muddy boots, sipping at the tasting bar. The walls are studded with horse art, and countless riding awards tacked to the walls of the winery won by local riders and wine club members.
 

 

 
My first and instant favorite was South Coast Winery GVR 2010. The beautiful, fragrant white was a classic blend of 41% Viognier, 40% Grenache Blanc, and 19% Roussane. GVR is an acronym for a blend of white Rhone cultivars that are often found as stand alone varieties. A small portion of the Viognier used in the GVR was barrel fermented in French Oak. This portion of Viognier wine added a genuinely complex fruit flavor and aroma to the finished blend. GVR is a very rich white wine with a long finish. Big lush fruit up front, this was as complex a wine as you would find in the Rhone region itself. A beautiful white wine. Absolutely impressive!

 
South Coast Winery GSM 2010 was another absolute eye opener! Wow! A blend of estate Grenache 18%, Syrah 40%, Mouvedre 30% and Cinsault 12% this was perhaps my favorite. The nose is a giant bouquetof lavender, rose petal and violets, set on a table filled with earthy figs, berries and wild dried spices. The wine was aged exclusively in French oak barrels. This is a complex, layered, and sophisticated wine. A voluptuous seductive red, that could easily have come from Southern France. Absolutely impressive and fantastic!
 
 
This was a thriller! The South Coast Winery Touriga Nacional/Tempranillo 2011 was a winner right off the bat! Affectionately known in the tasting room as TNT! Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo, are signature cultivars for Portugal and Spain, respectively. Tempranillo is a dynamic red cultivar that makes a great stand alone wine, or blends well with others. Likewise, in Portugal, Touriga Nacional is a well known grape and is most often fortified for use in port. But red table wines of the Dao and the Douro valley have become increasingly popular, and blends made from Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (the name for Tempranillo in Portugal) are in quite high demand these days.
 
According to the winemaker, "South Coast's Wild Horse Peak Vineyard is the home to both the Touriga Nacional and the Tempranillo. This wine was aged in a combination of new American and once used French oak barrels; the mixed use of oak barrels gives the right amount of woody, spicy, smoky oak tones to the wine. It is noticeably packed with cherry and blackberry (lingonberry) fruit aromas and a hint of dark chocolate." It's all absolutely true. One of the biggest and best reds of the trip. A fabulous wine. A collectible.


 
The South Coast Winery Mouvedre 2011 was another exceptional entry of Grenache in the Temecula Valley. This one had great fruit and layers of cherries, bramble fruit, and dried cranberries along with lots of spices. A beautiful red wine that deserves more attention. Fantastic!
 


Last, but certainly not least was the South Coast Winery Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard Reserve Block Petite Syrah 2010. OMG! Amazing. Big, chewy, dark with dark cherry, blackberry, cassis, and other fruits as well as several notes of spice. Big, complex, luxurious. Impressive. Am I gushing enough? If you flew in, buy two or three bottles, if you drove in, buy six, lay four down, and drink the other two when you get home. Then invite friends over, and pour them some, and impress them with you wine knowledge. A tremendous wine.


Monday, January 26, 2015

13 Great Wines From Temecula - There's Gold in Them Thar Hills (CA)

 
Temecula Valley....California? Yes. I always write when I am travelling. Think of this as the occasional travel piece. Enjoy!
 
So I was going to Los Angeles, and I had already been to the Santa Barbara wine country several times, and I thought it was time to visit the wine country northeast of the Newport Beach area in Southern LA and of course finds itself the jewel of San Diego....Temecula. However, it was funny, when I attempted to crowd source some responses on the Temecula Valley wine region, I got lots of puzzled looks and shrugs? How was this possible? So I did some research.
 
According to Wikipedia: Vincenzo and Audry Cilurzo established the first modern commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley in 1968. In the same year, Guasti-based Brookside Winery planted its own vineyard. In 1971, Brookside produced the first wines from Temecula grapes at their Guasti winery. Callaway Vineyard and Winery began farming grapes in 1969, and opened the first Temecula Winery in 1974. Its Founder, Ely Callaway Jr. went on to gain fame and fortune in the world of golf with his namesake company, Callaway Golf. John Poole's Mount Palomar Winery opened in 1975, and in 1978 the Cilurzos opened the third Temecula winery at a new site. Their original vineyard, Temecula's oldest, is now owned by Maurice Carrie Winery. Other notable stories regarding the start-up of the more than 25 wineries in the region abound, making Temecula Valley a small but significant wine production center. Its wines are generally less known than those from higher-production California wine districts such as the Napa Valley AVA in northern California and the Santa Ynez Valley AVA (made famous in the Academy Award winning movie Sideways).
 

The United States Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau established the "Temecula AVA" in the Federal Register on October 23, 1984. The TTB renamed the same viticultural area "Temecula Valley AVA" effective June 18, 2004, approving an application made by the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. This is the only American Viticultural Area to change its name following initial approval. The Federal Register lists the official area for the Temecula Valley AVA at 33,000 acres (134 km2). Within the appellation there are 5,000 acres (20 km2) located in a "protected" area referred to as the Citrus/Vineyard Zone. This area is generally located in and around the Rancho California Road area within the County of Riverside. County guidelines strictly enforce number of acres needed to build a winery, lodging and other limited housing and commercial ventures.

So my goal was to unearth some quality wines from the region. Armed with a small handful of recommendations and some results from research, I drove forewarned and forearmed into the region.

I drove from Newport Beach, and the drive could not be any more magical. Whether you are starting from anywhere in Los Angeles or San Diego, you soon leave the beaches behind you and climb into the hills of the Temecula Valley. Its as stunning a drive as the spectacular drive up into Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez and Santa Rita mountains. Long winding roads. And downtown Temecula is actually very quaint. A really enjoyable drive.


There is no question that this region produces lots of good syrah, cabernet franc, and a solid compliment of Italian grapes as well. The zinfandels from this region are also very good, but they are not the opaque varietal wines produced in Napa and Sonoma. They are more medium bodied, with bright cherry and slightly more acidity, and I found them surprisingly intriguing.


Hart Vineyards was my first stop. They are one of the first wineries you will see as you come in from the southern entrance into the valley. And they are easily one of it's best producers. Hart Sangiovese 2012 was wonderful! Medium bodied with bright fruit and long finish. Marvelous! Among the best domestic Sangiovese I have had.

 
Hart Estate Cabernet Franc 2012 was spectacular. Mature fruit. Not a hint of weed or herbaceousness. Absolutely a fantastic win with nice long finish. Great balance. Complexity. Impressive!


 
Jime Hart, winemaker, with his dad. Father an Son. A whole separate article will be coming on them.




A quick stop at Mount Palomar yielded one of the most unexpected finds - Mount Palomar Cinsaut Blanc 2013. This is a blanc de noir, meaning it is a white wine made from a red grape The wine has a slightly dark white hue. More golden/salmon hint. But not as much as you might expect. It is definitely a white. Very nice fruit. Great complexity. This was a stellar find!





 
 
The Wilson Creek Syrah Cammi Ridge Vineyard 2012 was lovely. A big plum, prune, bright cherry wine, with long, long lasting fruit and wonderful layers of flavors. Immensely enjoyable.

 




Doffo is big with the locals. They are among the region's top producers. The winery is very cool with a motorcycle collection to compliment your wine tasting. Tour the barrel room and motorcycle museum. Doffo Mistura 2012 was a revelation. A gorgeous red wine with bright and dark cherry and hints of cranberry. A lovely, lovely proprietary blend.



 
The Temecula region produces lovely syrahs, and so it's no surprise that the Doffo Unfiltered Syrah 2012 makes this lis. A spectacular wine, with plum and cherry dominating the profile. A bit of afruit bomb up front, the wine eventually untangles gorgeously on the tongue and results in layers, and layers of flavor that linger. An excellent, complex wine that is wonderfully balanced.


 




Chapin Vineyards is another of the real quality focused producers. A beautiful setting, I found their Chapin Syrah 2012 and their Syrah Private Reserve 2009 to both be a pair of heady Syrahs that were incredibly impressive, especially the Private Reserve.



The Chapin Petite Syrah 2011 was also a spectacular wine. Again, not as big and opaque as some of the Napa or Sonoma versions of this varietal wine, a dark garnet color, was a big, jammy wine, with huge dark fruit up front and a big mouth feel. But more bright/ripe cherry than you would normally get. And, there's a touch more acidity here, so the red fruit lingers and luxuriates inside your mouth.


 


Palumbo Family Estate Cabernet Franc 2011 was a beautiful wine. Again, Cabernet Franc down here tends to be a lovely wine, absent of herbs and grass. All you get is big, ripe cherry, a hint of graphite, and a beautiful wine that exhibits cranberry and red cassis. Lovely!





 

 Lorenzini is another of the better producers, and their Lorenzini Estate Sryah Signature Series Reserve  was another absolutely lovely Syrah from the Temecula Valley. Lorenzini made a small host of lovely, lovely red wines.
 

 






 
Last but not least was Leoness. They had some absolutely stellar wines.

 
The Leoness Mouvedre 2011 was an absolute revelation. Big, lovely fruit, filled with pllum, prune, cherry and spice, this wine showed exceptional finesse. An elegant re wine that immediately catapults it to major appreciation. As lovely a Mouvedre as I have experienced.

The Leoness Tucalota Vineyard Cinsault 2007 was another shocker. As good an any of the other varietal wines of this same name domestically produced. Fantastic. Impressive. Belongs right up there with the Turley Cinsault and my other favorite from Unoinville. This is an incredibly delicate wine with a broad range of gorgeous red berry flavors. Truly amazing.
 
 
There's no question the Temecula Valley is producing great wine. Like other smaller regions in California and on the west coast, it seems to fall under the long shadow of Napa and Sonoma. And especially being down near LA and San Diego, there is some eye rolling sometimes from the wine cognoscenti, suggesting that no wine of great quality might be found there. But I found absolutely the opposite. It is a quiet wine country, that has experienced some growing pains over the last 15 years, but is now at a juncture, where wonderful wines are rising from this region in a much greater rate than ever before. Any wine person worth their salt, must absolutely find this little gem of a region. Everyone in a rush to emulate Sidways, rushes to Santa Brabara, and with good reason. But if you want to find some real treasures, take a turn, and go down the coast, and up into the hills of Temecula. There's gold in them thar hills!
 
Read more:
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/nov/20/san-diego-riverside-county-wineries-hp/#&panel2-1