Visits in This Issue:
Temecula? Yes, even they have wine!
(Journal and tasting notes on Temecula. Regarding tasting notes, each wine was scored using the requisite sight, smell, and taste impressions. Scores reflect two of the tasters opinions (EA, first column, MP second), and uses an alpha-oriented rating system. "n/n" indicates no notes by one of the tasters. Although more extensive note-taking took place, specific descriptions are not included.)
Saturday, January 21, 1995
Well, after years of bad-mouthing the wines from this area (a major case of snobbery), EA bit the bullet and agreed to accompany the rest of the clan (7 of us altogether) to sunny Temecula for wine touring in the land of gleaming Stainless Steel.
Arrived at Thornton about 10:30AM. Nice winery and tasting room, plus large outdoor patio and small bistro. Our tasting was a sit-down affair; 4 wines plus logo glass for $6. We picked up an extra taste of Nebbiolo N/C. Our host, Domenic Provenzano, was quite a character. He gave us a welcoming speech in Russian, and generally tried to liven up our somber pre-wine bunch. And, after the first couple of tastes, we did indeed start to warm up. They supplied a little bread and herb-cheese spread, and our table for 8 inside the bottling room was a great location for the event. We did a little browsing in their gift shop, and left at 11:45.
Tasted at Thornton
Arrived at 11:49 at Hart Winery back down the road and across the street about 1/2 mile (exhausting trip). Up a muddy driveway to a small barn-like winery and tasting room. Nice rustic digs. Busy room. Just enough room at the bar for refills, 'er, I mean subsequent tastes. Bill Hart was pouring 6 varietals. Tasting $2 incl glass. Interesting selections; I'd return. Left at 12:38 for next stop.
Tasted at Hart:
Arrived Callaway at 12:42. The 2 tour buses in the parking lot should be considered a warning sign, but it could've been a lot worse. This place is built for visitors! Large tasting room and bar area, with an equally large gift shop. $3 for 4 tastes, incl logo glass. Tasting coupons, bought from a cashier on the way in, are presented to pourers on a per-taste basis. (Seems the pourers were not always vigilant about taking these, either.) List of 9 wines from which to choose. A combination of Deb's coupons and a few extras allowed some of us as many as 8 tastes! Pouring staff was very informed and wine knowledgeable, as well as friendly and outgoing. If Knott's Berry Farm ever did a winery, it would look like this! Out at 1:23.
Tasted at Callaway:
We backtracked to grab lunch in town at Temecula Pizza Co. Departed about 2:35, and headed for next stop. Arrived Mt. Palomar Winery at 2:50. Another rustic structure, but, substantially larger than Hart. Merchandised well; busy tasting room. Although, you'd think lunch would've rejuvenated us, some of our little band of tasters were beginning to slack off, and not everyone is participating. $3 for 4 tastes; per-taste charge after that. Friendly staff. Out at 3:34.
Tasted at Mount Palomar:
Arrived Baily at 3:42. Hilltop tasting room appears new. Kind of sparse digs; so-so wines with catchy names (TV White, TV Red), plus an odd group of tasters present (besides us, that is). This is a family-owned operation that also owns a local restaurant, and has purchased another winery in the area (Temecula Crest). Short visit. Drank up our tastes, and left at 3:55.
Tasted at Baily:
Arrived Cilurso at 4:00. Pretty standard rustic winery bldg on the outside, but a funky mish-mash on the inside. It looks like they've added-on to this room and building on multiple occasions, bearing no resemblance to any tasting rooms I've ever seen. After paying $1 for tasting, we were motioned over to one side of the large room, where we seated ourselves amphi-theater-style facing the wall. 2-3 pourers circulated thru the crowd (well, the people seated), running back and forth fetching bottles from a table at the front of the area to pour our tastes. What a model of inefficiency! It looked as though this may have been setup this way to include a lecture about the wines or winery. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Mrs. Cilurso was doing the welcoming at the door, and Mr. Cilurso was running the cash register. Weird deal. If the Three Stooges ever did a winery, it would look like this! Out at 4:30.
Tasted at Cilurso
Arrived final stop of the day about 4:30 at Maurice Car'rie, after choosing this over Temecula Crest as our last visit. Has a general store-looking quality to the heavily-merchandised large front room, along with a large tasting bar. Tasting N/C. They offer a loaf of sourdough with a center of brie cheese for $10, either to-go, or eat-in with your tasting. Clever idea. Friendly "Scotty" was our pourer. Finally out at 5:12, just past closing. EA unfortunately managed to break a piece of stemware. And, in a little-noticed scene, a couple of tasters rejected their White Zinfandel tastes untouched, by pouring them into Cindy's glass.
Tasted at Maurice Car'rie
Arrived back home at 6:50. Had an excellent trip. We were all introduced to a new wine area, one that turned out to be far more interesting than anticipated (at least for this taster). With a couple of exceptions, visits averaged 30-40 minutes, with about 4-5 tastes. Totals for trip: 7 wineries, 33-36 tastes. Impressions: many of the red wines tasted had a "California" appellation, but there were a few local efforts. It appears that the Temecula Valley vintners do a creditable job with their local fruit (mostly white), and yet, are wise enough to buy grapes (mostly red) from throughout the state in order to offer a broader spectrum of varietals. A good call on their part, because there is an austerity to the local Cab and Merlot. The most successful reds made with local fruit seem to be those of Rhone or Italian varietals. Whites from the local area are largely crisp, some with pronounced acidity, and many with a residual sugar quality.