With almost all of California’s vineyards up in the northern end of the state, it’s easy to forget what’s happening wine-wise in Southern California. It’s easy to forget Temecula.
This vibrant wine region is just an hour north of San Diego, and it has the balmy Mediterranean climate so perfect for Rhone varietals. You might think it would be too hot for decent grape growing, but there are several factors that make its climate moderate. Two gaps in the coastal mountains allow cool, moist marine air to drift in. Also, situated at 1,500 to 2,500 feet above sea level, Temecula is surrounded by mountains ranging from 2,000 to 11,000 feet high. Cold air collects between the peaks and flows down into the valley at night, setting the stage for great acidity in Temecula’s wines.
If you’re thinking of visiting, don’t worry about time of year — with just 14 annual inches of rain, it’s unlikely you’ll get rained out. Sunshine prevails.
Just as attractive as its climate is Temecula’s laid-back
Southern California ambiance. And we’re not talking L.A. How to describe it? To us, it seems very South of the Border — the air has that softness you find in Baja, and the cacti you see on the hillsides, combined with birds like roadrunners, give that feeling of being 500 miles south of San Francisco, which you are.
Wherever wine country is, people tend to be in a party mode, but in Temecula, the party is combined with a special kind of warmth and relaxation that really seems to us to be unique to this wine region. It’s just incredibly easy to have fun at a lot of these Temecula wineries.
We’ve visited hundreds of winery tasting rooms throughout the Golden State, and have to say the most fun we’ve ever had was at Temeucla’s South Coast Winery and Resort. It was one big party. Not to mention great wine. This winery has really led the way as far as offering a true resort wine country experience. Their guest cottages overlook the vineyards (and are very private) and their pool and spa are world-class.
A few miles away, Thornton Winery is another trend-setter in Temecula. It was one of the first to offer premium dining with its Café Champagne and has also been a pioneer among California wineries for its outdoor smooth jazz concert series. They put on quite a show at Thornton where two generations proudly serve their own sparklers and roll out the red carpet for a never-ending stream of wine lovers.
During the past 10 to 15 years, there has been significant development in Temecula. Many wineries are now much grander than they were (such as Mount Palomar). Yet, most of Temecula’s 30 or so wineries remain family owned, where you might meet the founder over a glass of Syrah or Cab or chat up the winemaker. Didn’t meet the winemaker today? Perhaps mañana, my friend. Meanwhile, have another taste of wines like Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Tempranillo, or a Rhone Blend. Welcome to Temecula.