HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Are you making a specialty food? Get great advice
TELL US

Temecula Wine & Almond Champagne?

Midlife May 10, 2007 02:46 PM

We went wine tasting in Temecula,CA last weekend. It was a food/wine pairing event put on by 20 of the 25-30 wineries in that area and we were given tickets by one of the winery owners. I think you have to applaud the wineries there for a valiant effort to develop that area, but they are at a distinct disadvantage in a state with the best wine regions in the country if not much of the world. The wineries are fun, and certainly worth the experience, particularly if you can't make it to the 'better' wine regions or if you're just starting out enjoying wine. But...... if you do a lot of tasting and have a well-developed palate, Temecula is a challenge.

I was wondering if any of the wine lovers here have found any Temecula wines that compare favorably with the mid to upper quality wines of the Central Coast, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino or even the Foothills area of California. I had a Sauvignon Blanc at Baily and a Syrah at Leonesse that were OK, but that was about it. Part of the problem, I think, was that the pre-paid wine/food people were directed to separate areas at each winery (to keep them separated from regular tasters who hadn't paid for the food) and often the wine we were served had been sitting outdoors for long enough to get too close to the 90 degree temps of the day...... not showing them at their best.

On another note..... Wilson Creek Almond Champagne (Temecula) is very popular in Orange County, and is sold at almost every supermarket in the area. It is made for them by Weibel, near Lodi, and it is a mystery why they think they can call it "Champagne" when the 'real' California sparkling wine makers are careful to avoid the use of that word on their products. Anyway......... This is reasonably decent budget sparkling wine with almond oil infused into it, making it sweet but interesting, especially in Mimosas,etc.. My question is whether there is a better quality, less 'mass-market' infused sparkler out there that anyone knows about.

  1. dockhl Jun 6, 2008 07:57 AM

    RE: almond "champagne"
    I actually found this to be ....not too bad.... with Trader Joe's Stroopwaffles, warmed in the microwave for about 10 seconds ! Definitely sweet, and not very champagney (other than the bubbles) but a novelty.

    1. vickib Jun 5, 2008 09:12 PM

      Thank you for posting this. I'm going to be out in that general area the first week of summer, and was wondering if the Temecula wineries were worth the extra effort. I'll just take some bottles from my closet with me, and enoy them there while I unwind from a long, hectic school year in LA.

      3 Replies
      1. re: vickib
        z
        zin1953 Jun 6, 2008 06:17 AM

        Generally, that's much better idea. HOWEVER, the wines of Orfila are definitely worth checking out! So, too, the Bailey Riesling and, occasionally, one or two others . . . .

        1. re: vickib
          Midlife Jun 6, 2008 11:05 AM

          Stop by Leonesse while you're there. They're on the southern loop of the main winery road. It was one of the highlights for us.

          1. re: Midlife
            vickib Jun 6, 2008 09:36 PM

            Thanks to both of you. The Orfila does sound intriguing. And I'll look up Leonesse.

        2. k
          Kendivallyn Jun 29, 2007 02:05 PM

          My favorite winery in Temecula is Thornton Winery. They have many sparkling wines - their 04 cab is very good - they're definitely the most consistent of the wineries in the area and the tasting is enjoyable as they do flights served with bread and cheese. The only other winery that is good enough to mention imo is Santa Margarita Winery. It's a tiny barn run by this older guy. Free tasting (the ONLY free tasting in Temecula) and all his whites are 5 bucks and his cabs are 10 bucks. They're not the greatest wines I've ever had, but darn fine as every day table wines - and you've just GOT to support the guy who won't join the association and charge his curstomers for tasting. Ha :)

          1. c
            cooknKate May 23, 2007 04:46 AM

            I have had the Thornton Almondage and it was wonderful! I loved it's 'dessert' taste.

            1. r
              rafloh May 11, 2007 11:51 PM

              Wow so many things to say about this post:

              1) Better quality less mass market infused champagnes
              This is a difficult request because anything that has an infused flavor is (1) rare and (2) already intentionally targeting a mass audience. I have never had another flavor-infused champagne. That almond-gig is a real freak show, it was sold at the Costco in San Diego for a bit because it was wildly popular. Why? Because the average non-connoisseur obviously loves it, it reminds me of a wine cooler and less of a champagne. PS, if i misunderstood and u just want a solid sparkling wine (not infused) your best bet in temecula is Thornton -- pretty solid champagnes

              2) Temecula at a distinct disadvatange
              I totally see what you're saying, but think about it this way. Temecula is at a distinct *advantage* in that they are the only palatable wine-producing region anywhere outside of the central coast. It reminds me of why Snow Summit and Bear Mountain (the two only "legit" so-cal ski places) are swamped w/ ppl but their snow sucks. Because they are the only option within hundreds of miles. Tasting room prices in Temecula were (recently) approx $5 -- last time i went many places were now up to the $10 mark -- it's not because their wines are amazing, it's because the have the market cornered (for the "winery" experience) in this region.

              3) General "favorites" in temecula
              There are winners that can compete.
              #1) Stuart cellars. http://www.stuartcellars.com/ -- haven't been there in a few years now but amazing quality
              #2) http://www.doffowines.com/ used to need a reservation - solid structured wines
              #3) Hart - http://www.thehartfamilywinery.com/ -- not neccesrily the "best", but great relatively inexpesive wines, and just GREAT freaky blends. They have a ton red blends that you won't find commonly ....
              #4) Keyways - http://www.keywayswine.com/ Out of the way, but great pricing, and generally solid wines.

              The only other thing i can say ... don't buy at the wineries -- hit up the longs drugstore in T town for your purchases. Amazing discounts, close to half price. Mind you, they don't have everything so you run a risk going this route -- but they stock a lot of the winners from T town.

              4) ... somebody else mentioned Orfila
              Orfila winery is about 30 minutes south of Temecula. If you're driving up that way anyways, hit it up. Well worth the visit.

              1. Bill Hunt May 11, 2007 10:04 PM

                Last trip to Temecula was a bit short and some years back. Nothing really struck me, but we did not venture off the main trail. Since then, they have been hit by several plagues, that have devestated much of the vineyard land, that we sampled wines from. I'd go back, if I was in the area, because of the wonderful folk, that we met. They took their wines seriously, but not themselves. Unfortunately, last trip through, we had dinner reservations in La Quinta, so could not stop.

                I wish the folk there, the best of fortune in their efforts, but have yet to find a wine from there, that I'd put in a few cases of.

                Hunt

                1. z
                  zin1953 May 10, 2007 04:20 PM

                  >>> My question is whether there is a better quality, less 'mass-market' infused sparkler out there that anyone knows about.<<<

                  No.

                  >>> I was wondering if any of the wine lovers here have found any Temecula wines that compare favorably with the mid to upper quality wines of the Central Coast, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino or even the Foothills area of California. <<<

                  Phil Baily produces some very good Riesling, but other than that . . . very little I've ever had from Temecula has ever come close to the Central Coast of the 1980s, let alone today . . . or Napa or Sonoma or . . . . (OK, the exception has been some of the "Sweet Nancy" vintages from Calaway, or some of the methode champenoise sparkling wines from Culbertson (now Thornton).

                  The best I've found from down there actually comes not from Temecula but from the San Pasqual Valley. Leon Santoro at Orfila -- www.orfila.com/ -- makes some very intriguingly good wines.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: zin1953
                    Midlife May 11, 2007 03:31 PM

                    Thanks. I was at a softball tournament within a few miles of Orfila recently but didn't know about it then. I'll check it out.

                    I've heard that Gruet makes an almond sparkler somewhere in New Mexico. Any word on that one? I know the idea of an 'oil-infused wine' is sortof an oxymoron, but, well..... sometimes people just like what they like.

                    1. re: Midlife
                      z
                      zin1953 May 11, 2007 04:05 PM

                      If Gruet (and it's a really big IF) does make that sort of wine, it's not mentioned on their website. http://www.gruetwinery.com/

                      Personally, I would be VERY surprised if they did that. Gruet only produces methode champenoise sparkling wines -- along with some table wines -- and they're really quite good. "Almond Champagne" is made by a different process -- the Charmat process, aka cuve close -- and Gruet is not set up to produce that type of wine.

                      Doesn't mean they don't buy it from Franzia and/or Weibel, and put their name on it!

                      1. re: zin1953
                        Midlife May 11, 2007 04:41 PM

                        H-m-m-m. Except for a couple of tasting references to "almond notes" you're absolutely right. I'm pretty sure I remember something more specific from a few years back but it's very likely that, if they ever did make such a product, they've stopped. Wouldn't surprise me as Weibel and Wilson Creek are differerent caliber operations. Trader Joe's, I'm told, sells a 'knock-off' for $8 or so. I was just looking to see if a quality winemaker made something like that. Thanks.

                        1. re: zin1953
                          g
                          Gruet Winery Jun 5, 2008 08:44 AM

                          ZIN - you're correct, we DO NOT make any "flavored sparklers" and all of our sparklers ARE methode champenoise. Our grapes are grown in NM and we definitely don't buy from Franzia!! :)

                          1. re: Gruet Winery
                            Midlife Jun 6, 2008 11:02 AM

                            Thanks for the 'word'. I couldn't imagine that type of product coming from a quality maker, but thought I remembered something about it from a few years back.

                        2. re: Midlife
                          Bill Hunt May 11, 2007 10:06 PM

                          Being in AZ, we get Gruet quite often - good sparklers, but none, that I recall with almond.

                          Sidenote: was looking at some wine lists in the Midwest, and Gruet was prominently featured.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Midlife
                            w
                            wally May 23, 2007 10:46 AM

                            I have had one in the Amador area at the place that use to be the Sonora Port works. It wasn't to my taste but others seemed to like it. I found the almond really overwhelming.

                          2. re: zin1953
                            b
                            bonerep May 12, 2007 10:03 AM

                            I agree with you about Orfila they imho make about the best Merlot around. It's also nice because I live about 4 miles from them !!!!

                          3. v
                            Vegas_Vic May 10, 2007 03:52 PM

                            I like Thornton a lot. They have a good Sauvignon Blan and a really good Cab - Merlot blend that I buy by the case.

                            1. ibstatguy May 10, 2007 03:33 PM

                              I seem to recall that Steve Hagata at Falkner was making some wine under his own label that I liked. I recall liking something from Joe Hart but don't now recall what it was. As to your question about "wines that compare favorably with the mid to upper quality..." I'd have to say, IMHO, no way.

                              Show Hidden Posts