Our Laguna: Sipping through Temecula's wine country

August 12, 2010|By Barbara Diamond
  • Jeremy Hoang looks at his medal as one of the winners of the Festival of Arts and PIMCO Foundation Junior Art Awards.
Jeremy Hoang looks at his medal as one of the winners of… (Coastline Pilot )

I spent a few days last week sipping and shopping my way through Temecula.

Temecula Valley is a growing community — in terms of population, now up to 105,000, and vineyards, which now number more than 30.

Wine tasting is the hot ticket in Temecula, and the wineries are easy to find. Fifteen of them are along Rancho California Road. More are located on De Portola Road. A few are on roads leading off of the two main stems, including Briar Rose, the first appointment-only winery in the valley.

The 1,100-foot elevation and well-drained decomposed granite soil of Temecula, as well as the expertise of the vintners, is credited for the award-winning wines.

I stuck with tasting champagne, one of my favorite tipples, even trying out a raspberry champagne — UGH. I also tried a pineapple champagne — not so ugh, and one I might mix with pineapple juice as a different take on mimosas and Bellinis.


My sister-in law and traveling companion, Patsy Hadlick, favored "flytes," the term used for sampling a variety of wines: all whites, all reds or a combination thereof.

She was on a mission to find a really good viognier, a light crisp, aromatic white, and found the one she wanted after several stops.

Tasters are advised to limit tastings to two in the morning, followed by lunch, and two in the afternoon — advice not always taken. But trolleys, like Laguna's, cart visitors from hotels to wineries.

The wine is served for the most part at bars, not in caves, as is done is some Napa wineries. Smaller Temecula wineries will have one bar. South Coast Winery has three, all of them three deep with tasters on our two visits there.

Most of the wineries also have gift shops, with inventories ranging from cutesy aprons to costume jewelry.

And some serve food — excellent food at South Coast, where rolls are accompanied by an herb butter to die for. By taste alone, we figured the herbs included dill and shallots, but unfortunately, the staff refused our bribes for the recipe.

We also had lunch at Bailey Vineyard & Winery's restaurant, which is only open on weekends.

Many of the wineries provided entertainment, from concerts to barn dances, and they all have wine clubs.

Club members receive bottles from the winery on a regular basis. Patsy joined South Coast on this trip.

Wineries also offer banquet and wedding facilities.

Other attractions in Temecula Valley include golfing, horseback riding and ballooning.

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