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Oct 7, 2012 06:00 AM

Help. Obligatory tasting trip in Temecula.

I've been asked to design a tasting trip (3 vineyards) in Temecula for a group of sophisticated, well-traveled, knowledgeable wine drinkers and collectors visiting San Diego. Here are the wineries I've come up with to choose from. Please pass along your experience re: my selections or offer new ones. Also any particular wines to look for. Thanks!

Mt Palomar
Masia de Yabar
Wiens Family
(Palumbo is closed the day we're going)

Orfila (Escondido)

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  1. So, I'd go to Temecula with low expectations so that you can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed. There's a lot of bad wine out there, and they're still figuring out what's best to grow there while still being marketable. I'd book appointments//tours wherever possible. That said I'd go to:

    Wilson Creek

    I'd drop Mt Palomar

    1. I've never been there. I've talked to someone who's judged a couple of competitions for Temecula wines. I asked if there was anything good there. His advice: Ignore the hype from the wineries and avoid Bordeaux varietals. They just don't grow properly. But If you want to get big bucks for the wine, you have to grow a grape people recognize. So that's why they continue to grow cabernet sauvignon, etc.
      He felt Rhone, Italian and Mediterranean varietals tended to do better.

      1. Excellent, easy-to-follow advice. Exactly what I needed.

        What about Orfila? Is it worth an extra stop?

        1 Reply
        1. re: pickypicky

          Have no experience with Orfila but based on what I can gather I would skip.

        2. I'd definitely stop at Orfila -- I've always preferred their wines to anything out of Temecula. Your choice, but I'd make it the first stop so as not to have it drop from your itinerary **just in case** you end up running late. (Note: I haven't had any of their wines since the new winemaker took over, following Leon Santoro's passing in 2009.)

          I'd listen to Steve's advice, and avoid the classic Bordeaux varieties. The best Cabernets I've had from Temecula wineries came from grapes grown in Sonoma. That said, Orfila's red Bordelais varietals have been pretty good in the past.

          Other than that, I only have suggestions as to what to avoid, not what to go to. Sorry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: zin1953

            Any to avoid in my list? (I'll make Orfila a definite. I'm intrigued by their winemaker from Sonoma who looks like a movie star.)

            1. re: pickypicky

              None specifically. I truly try to avoid the region entirely. That may not be completely fair, I know, but the best wines I've ever had from Temecula-grown grapes were what I would describe as "very good." Not great, not exceptional, not outstanding -- just "very good," and those were (overall) few and far between.

              Bailey has made some very good Rieslings, for example, which is well worthwhile. But most of what I've had from Temecula grapes is eminently forgettable.

          2. Orfila for sure. Though it's not in Temecula, so time could be an issue.

            Doffo has been the best wine I've had there (relatively speaking), though bottles are really expensive for the source.

            Palumbo has been good.

            I keep hearing that Briar Rose is good but haven't been there.

            I've found some decent wine at Baily and Hart as well.

            But........... tasting in Temecula is, overall, a matter of 'what will you compare it to".

            9 Replies
              1. re: zin1953

                A friend compared it to tasting wine in Texas, which goes a bit far. It sounds like TX and Temecula have the same issue, which has been a slowness to discover, grow, and make wine with grapes well suited to the area.

                1. re: pickypicky

                  OR . . . in many cases . . . bad winemakers!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Agreed. Many of the Temecula wineries I've spoken with have told me that they buy a good portion of their fruit from pretty decent growing regions in the Central Coast or Northern California, so I've always felt that winemaking MUST be a factor at work here.

                  2. re: pickypicky

                    I dunno about that comparison.... I lived in San Diego in 1987-88 and the wines in Temecula were..... some were not terrible, (some were) but none were wonderful. OTOH, in 2005 I was in Dallas for a conference, and attended a seminar of Texas wines -- most from the Hill Country. There were a couple in that tasting that were quite delicious. I'd say Texas ranks above San Diego -- at least in my mouth.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Agreed, although there seems to be enough mediocre-to-terrible wines to go around . . . in both locations, but -- yes -- I'd probably pick the Texas Hill Country over Temecula!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I'm a native Texan. My mom has lived in the Hill Country 38 years. And I can't agree. They are equally uninteresting wines. Until a region develops a grape growing industry, fine wines won't happen. THAT'S what Texas should focus on: subsidies for ranchers to grow grapes. Both Temecula and Texas wine industries focus on tourism, not wine, and the results are not pretty.

                        1. re: pickypicky

                          I'm not sure what being a native Texan has to do with anything, nor your mother's home address, but there are several wines from Texas that I would choose *over* wines from Temecula. Indeed, I'd choose them over and over again, over the wines from Temecula.

                          C'est la vie . . .

                          1. re: zin1953


                            I cite my native Texan status because most native Texans will argue everything Texan is better. My mother's long stay in the Hill Country has given me 3 or 4 visits a year to watch and taste as the wine industry has grown. Most Texas grapes are grown in the panhandle. HC wineries source from the Panhandle and from CA. Very small percentage of grapes from the Hill Country make it to wine. The Hill Country is like a showroom. Because that's where tourists come, that's where the wines are sold.

                            I know a French winemaker, schooled in Sonoma, who works for a Texas winery. She commutes between the Panhandle and the Hill Country. Her grapes are in one place, the winery in another. Not unusual, but it's tough to learn this information from wineries or labels in Texas. Even my friend is reticent to discuss the Texas wine industry, which is still experimenting with the best grapes for the various regions -- like Temecula.