Last Thursday I visited Temecula Wine Country with my mother and her mother (Mema). I didn’t quite know what to expect since I’ve heard mixed things about Temecula, and because I have been spoiled by the Northern California wineries. But it turned out to be a really wonderful day – mostly because the three of us got to do something special together – but some of the wine turned out to be pretty good too!
We started off at Thornton Winery where we had a delicious seated lunch at their Cafe Champagne, intermixed with the Winemaker’s Flight (their 2004 Brut Reserve Natural, 2004 Brut Reserve, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Estate Petite Sirah). The food was very delicious, and our server was more than friendly (in a slightly annoying way, referring to everyone as “my girlfriends”). The wine was not too bad, and I particularly enjoyed the Brut Reserve, as did my mother and Mema. For dessert we shared a salted caramel vanilla pudding, which was heavenly.
After Thornton we continued down the road to Wiens Cellars, which was recommended to us by our family friend. We had also checked out the mid-week suggestions on the Temecula Wines website, which recommends Wiens as well. The space was beautiful, with high ceilings and wooden beams, and a long L-shaped bar. It was somewhat crowded for a weekday, but I suppose that was due to the tourism season. They had lots of nice wine accessories for sale, including these neat wine glasses made out of mason jars, which I was tempted to buy. My mother and I each did a tasting and Mema tried some of our wines. With my industry discount, we each got to try 8 free tastings of our choice. I thought all the wine was pretty young and thus quite acidic, but the most enjoyable were the 2010 Solace and the 2010 Reflection (both blends). Our server also let us try the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was much better than the 2010 but not worth buying. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed by Wiens but apparently San Diego locals love it, especially the seated tasting in the barrel room.
Our last stop of the day (and my favorite) was Leonesse Cellars. The view of the Temecula Valley was stunning, and the tasting room (complete with an outdoor patio, though it was too hot to sit outside) reminded me of something I would see in Sonoma. The three of us decided to share one tasting, which was comped with my industry status. Our server, Heidi, was fantastic. She told us the story of the vineyard, and how the owners started off as farmers selling grapes since the early 1970’s, and only eight years ago did they start making their own wines. A lot of the wines are Rhone-style blends, and all of the grapes are grown on their estate in Temecula Valley. Heidi gave us small pours of everything on the list, plus some things that weren’t on the list. I also noticed that most of their vintages for the reds were 2008, and I appreciated the couple of years of age that helped to soften the wines. My favorites were the 2009 Cinsaut, 2008 Mouvedre and the 2008 Melange de Reves (a blend of Syrah, Cinsaut, Mouvedre and Grenache). I purchased a bottle of each to bring to MM’s apartment in Irvine so we have something to drink when I come visit him. We also tasted a fantastic dessert wine, similar to a Port, which I purchased as a gift to MM – though, he will have to wait to drink it with me!
Leonesse was a wonderful place to cap off a great day with three generations of wine-loving women. I hope to go back there again some day, and I welcome other suggestions in the comments section of great places to visit in Temecula.