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Wineries in Temecula?

We're going to San Diego at the end of March and want to pass through Temecula on the way. Anyone have any recs for tasty wine/beautiful wineries in the area? Thanks!

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  1. If you go to Temecula go for the scenery and not the wine. Not up to any other wine region I've visited in California and I've been to most of them. Take a picnic lunch. And some wine from somewhere else.

    It's a pretty good place to pick up drunk O.C. chicks though...... LOL

    6 Replies
    1. re: Strawman

      2nd that, the only vineyard I think is worth trying is Orfila in Escondido, the wine maker is from Sterling Vineyards and knows his stuff, it's also a nice place, with great views, to picnic.

      1. re: cstr

        If you were referring to Leon Santoro, who was the winemaker at Orfila, he passed away last week. http://tinyurl.com/bomj5j

        But his wine is still great.

        1. re: araknd

          Oh my, how sad, I hadn't been for a while but had many nice times with Leon and the Orfila group. Yes, he was an excellent winemaker. I've been buying wines from Orfila since they took over the vineyard in the early 90's.

          1. re: araknd

            You know this passed right by me. I knew he wasn't old, but 58, wow. He really did a lot to bring some respectability to San Diego county wine efforts. His wines were probably better than most of the Temecula AVA.

        2. re: Strawman

          Um yea, I'm a chick and not into "drunk chicks" - thanks for the advice. ;-)

          1. re: Strawman

            Classic Strawman!
            'It's a pretty good place to pick up drunk O.C. chicks though'..

            Ponte Winery is nice..


          2. The best of the lot, I've found, are Baily and Leonesse though they unfortunately do pale in comparison with most wineries farther North. I've heard very good things about Orfila (in Escondido, near the wild animal park) but haven't had a chance to try it first hand.

            Just relax and enjoy. Most wine is far better than no wine at all.

            1. Cafe Champagne has a beautiful view and you can take a tour to see how Champagne- style sparkling wine is made. However the food is inconsistant, and as mentioned there really is not good wine Temecula.

              1. If you just want to devote a day or part of a day to Temecula, I'd make Old Town a home base rather than the Rancho California Road area where most of the wineries are. Old Town is right in the midst of a terrific revitalization and it'll make a fun day, plus since you're posting on Chowhound I assume wine & food is your focus and there's plenty there in that regard.

                Old Town is just a few blocks long so it's very manageable to park & walk/explore. Some high points:

                * Temecula Olive Oil Company (Old Town Front Street at Main) - they have a beautiful store w/tasting room selling locally produced specialty foods. Also if you are doing more of a drive, pick up some of their dips, tapenades, oils etc and a baguette for a nice snack:-)

                * Public House (Main Street about 1/2 block up from Olive Oil Co) - newish "gastro-pub" serving beer, wine and food in a converted old house --- BUT sit outside! They have a great outdoor seating area w/fire pits, music, family style seating and also a mix of comfy chairs, loungers etc. They also have an enclosed patio on the front with seating.

                * Bank of Mexican Food (Old Town Front Street at Main) - good Mexican food, also have a fun bar scene on the patio

                * Penfold's Building -- this is on Fourth & Old Town Front Street (NOT Penfold's Cafe, which is their older diner-style restaurant which is a locals spot for bkfst, but the Penfold's Steakhouse building) - this complex has the Temecula Cheese Co, which is a bustling real authentic super cool cheese shop with tasting; Jack's Nuts, which is the cutest place, with nuts, dried fruit, gifts; Temecula Spice Co - teas, spices etc.; Tesoro tasting room for wine.

                Longshadow has a tasting room in Old Town about midway between the Olive Oil Co and the Penfold's building.

                Now if you do venture to the wineries, don't try to do too many - just choose a couple whose wines you really like. Leonnesse has been well-reviewed, South Coast has some good ones, Baily, Stuart Cellars....but it gets SO crowded on weekends (including Fridays) so you may just want to avoid those times altogether. Any winery not on Rancho California is super close but make sure to Mapquest so you don't get lost (it can get confusing out there.) Palumbo is good. We were at the Lodge at Torrey Pines earlier this month and I was pleased to see A.R. Valentien serving a Palumbo meritage as one of three wines on their wine/cheese tasting/pairing. (Several of the Temecula wineries are specializing in creating Bordeaux-like meritages.) For eating at the wineries, the best restaurant out there is probably The Smokehouse (Ponte's.)

                http://www.temeculawines.org -- Temecula Winegrowers Assn

                Enjoy -- oh and I have a blog that covers (among other things) Temecula -- http://thanksgivingfeast.blogspot.com

                1 Reply
                1. re: drucie

                  Is it only the big ones like South Coast and Wilson that get crowded on weekends or all of them? We were planning on going on a day trip on a Friday since some aren't open on weekdays, but I really, really don't want to deal with drunk limo people.

                2. With the disclosure that I know the owner/winemaker personally, I heartily recommend Hart Family Winery. Joe Hart is a pioneer of the Temecula wine country and has made some very good vintages, both white and red. Baily makes some great red and if you are there at lunchtime, Carol's at Baily is very nice.

                  If you have been to an champagne winery before, pass on Thornton and don't even think about Wilson Creek. The drunken bus loads of LA posers at Wilson Creek alone are enough to turn anyone off, much less the spew that they serve.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: araknd

                    Do I know you LOL?! Maybe....small town! Agree on Wilson Creek unfortunately. They just added this new event center for weddings etc and it's a beautiful venue M-Th but even on those days can get crowded. The other one that is beautiful but unfortunately gets way too crowded (and with a horrible crowd of totally obnoxious drunks) is South Coast.

                    1. re: araknd

                      I am not friends with Joe Hart, but his winery is by far and away the class of the valley. 2nd the comments on Wilson and Thornton. Ponte and Leonese are decent. Keyways is also fine. If you are coming up from SD then just stop at Orfilia and call it a day. Temecula ius just too crowded on the weekend with way too many guzzelers from OC and LA

                    2. My 2 cents ...
                      Temecula wineries are hit-or-miss, as should be expected with a wine region that has grown to cater to "white zin" wine tourists. But there are some very good wineries there, and I expect that most of the Temecula haters out there rarely have gotten past the few big stops on Rancho California Road.

                      Hart is great and has been around forever. The man knows how to grow grapes in this valley.
                      Most people go to Thornton for champagne, but the winemaker hails from Renwood (Amador county area) and knows how to make big juicy reds.

                      Baily is fine and is usually a good value but don't expect to be bowled over. I like Carol's Restaurant very much.

                      Weins moved down from Lodi a few years back and specializes in big reds. They have grapes all over the state and most this is usually the favorite place of my winesnob friends and visitors.

                      South Coast's wines were unimpressive for their first few years, but has seemed to come into its own in the last year or so. I heard that their first plantings finally fruitted and they have been able to crush their own grapes instead of buying and blending, so maybe that's the change. Anyway, the wine is terribly overpriced for Temecula, but I've had a change of heart about South Coast's wines.

                      Wilson Creek may have decent wine (do they? I don't know because I'm not willing to shove through the throngs to taste), but it's such a cluster to get in and out and actually taste anything, the experience is terrible. In my experience, it's not a whole lot better on weekdays.

                      The only thing good about Ponte is their restaurant.

                      It may still not be on the Temecula Valley Winegrowers maps, but Frangipani winery (out on De Portola Road) is the place to go if you want French-style instead of Cali-style red wines. Don't make this the last tasting stop, though ... the wines are delicate and a Zin-and-Syrah-covered tongue won't be able to taste much in them.

                      No one gives Temecula much respect, but on recent trips to Amador, Lodi, and Monterey, we've gotten "in the know" wink-winks from winemakers who predicted that Temecula could be the next big thing in California wine. Too bad it's so touristy that you pay out the nose just to taste and have to fight through the limos and Grapeline buses and the hordes that come with them on the weekends.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ohm86

                        "No one gives Temecula much respect, but on recent trips to Amador, Lodi, and Monterey, we've gotten "in the know" wink-winks from winemakers who predicted that Temecula could be the next big thing in California wine."
                        I'll bet the Don't Pass Line on that happening.

                        1. re: The Old Man

                          Yeah, well, I was a little taken aback too ... I think perhaps they were referencing the potential of the climate and the terroir and not necessarily the bulk of what comes out of the region now, although most winemakers I talked to knew a few Temecula names, like Thornton, Weins, and South Coast and thought well of those wines.

                          1. re: ohm86

                            I really am suprised about South Coast. I thought their wines terrible. I was there first thing one Sat., so it was not crowded. The staff was pleasent enough, but all they wanted me to do was join the wine club or book a room at the resort for a weekend stay. The wine took the back seat. While they raved about their cabs, all I kept thinking was that I could buy a 8 buck Fetzer, and it was twice the wine at a fifth the cost. Maybe they have canned the winemaker or they have dropped the price of their wines (sharply), then I might go back and give them a try. I forgot about Weins, they really are not too bad but avoid the tour bus crowd.

                            1. re: littlestevie

                              I had to go there in November to pick up a friend's wine club package and they encouraged me to "give it another go" while I was there. I hadn't tasted there in probably 2 years til that point and I had bad memories of their wine ... it's definitely better than it was. Some of the wine (I think it was the special reserve tasting list) was actually quite good but astronomically expensive ($65/btl WINE CLUB PRICE?!). The staff was great, friendlier than most even though it was crazy crowded, but I don't think I'm going to go back anytime soon. A lot of the wine in the valley is overpriced ... South Coast's was ridiculous.

                          2. re: The Old Man

                            Yah but, being able to grow grapes, in a favorable climate, does not guarantee a good wine. Case-in-Point, Temecula wineries, it takes skill.