A Day of Wine & Roses

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Cynthia Dial | A Day of Wine and RosesHave you ever awaken and thought today I would love to be in Tuscany or Loire Valley or Napa, basking in the sun, sipping fine wines and overlooking acres of vineyards?

If, like me, you live in Southern California, your reality is that Mexico is closer than any of these dream destinations.  Then again, if you’re a So Cal resident, you’re in luck as Temecula Valley’s wine region is nearby 90 minutes or less from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County and Palm Springs.

Temecula winemaking has a rich history.  Beginning two centuries ago in California’s original missions, the padres were the region’s first winemakers.  Opening in 1974, Callaway Vineyard and Winery was one of the area’s first modern commercial wineries; its founder Ely Callaway went on to continued fame with another namesake venture, Callaway Golf.  And Temecula Valley’s growth is equally impressive.  Whereas there were 14 wineries in 2000—today the number approaches 40.  Rivaling its quick growth are its numerous awards, including top honors from many major wine competitions.

How apropos that the name Temecula means “place of the sun.”  With a 1,500-foot elevation that translates to cool summer evenings and an ever-pleasant atmosphere for serene sipping, here’s a brief intro to a selection of my favorite wineries in the region.

Briar Rose Winery – Designed by Beldon Fields, one of Disneyland’s creators in the 1950s, this family winery’s façade is of storybook proportions.  Briar Rose is a bit off the path of the typically traveled wine trails, but it is well worth the additional effort to seek out this life-size replica of Grimm Brothers Snow White’s Cottage.

Doffo – Away from the prime concentration of the valley’s wineries, Rancho California Road’s east end is home to Doffo Winery, which has been called Temecula’s first true petite winery.  Situated on 15 acres, Doffo’s annual yield is modest (2,000 cases) but it’s in high demand.  Owner/winemaker Marcelo Doffo heads up a true family operation, consisting of his wife and five children (most of whom work in the winery).  The secret to his success with grapes: music.  Doffo shares that classical music is piped into the vineyard, and on his infrequent days off he turns to a selection from his motorcycle collection for fun.

Europa Village – Presented as a trio of tributes, this European-inspired winery pays homage to France, Italy and Spain in both its environs and its wines (Italian wines are under the Vienza label, France is represented by the C’est La Vie label and the Spanish wine label is Bolero Cellars).  Where better to spend an afternoon than on the patio of the winery’s French-like bistro?  And where else would a group select for an evening of food and wine than the Europa Village’s Italian grotto, the setting for musical wine dinners (French, Italian and Spanish), culinary classes and sommelier workshops?  Add to this mix the Inn at Europa Village—the winery’s bed and breakfast, which sits hilltop overlooking the Village and the valley—and your European getaway is complete.

Lorimar – Newest on the scene, this Tuscan-style winery, complete with a Founder’s Tower, is Temecula Valley’s 37th winery.  Its uncorked delights are some of the valley’s best, though not necessarily the most expensive.  “Our intention was to produce wines that would fall into the mid-range, price-wise,” explains owner Mark Manfield.  Manfield and his brother-in-law/partner Lawrie Lipton offer an additional benefit to Lorimar’s guests, a hospitality/restaurant background; and it shows.  Explaining the decision for a grand entrance, Manfield explains, “We envisioned a bride when we designed the winery.”

Ponte Family Wine Estate – Situated in the center of the region’s heart, this 300-acre winery is the setting for the Ponte family’s 40-year-old vineyard, award-winning restaurant, world-class gardens and top-notch gift shop—all in a highly polished, sophisticated setting.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa If Temecula Valley had a town square, it would be South Coast Winery.  A neighbor of Ponte winery and named the “Best California State Winery of the Year” two years running, a visit here is like one-stop-shopping—dining, tasting room, spa, luxury villas and of course, fine wines.  Its wines are a true tribute to the commitment of proprietor/winegrower Jim Carter and his award-winning winemaking team Jon McPherson and Javier Flores.

Thornton Winery – Known as the gateway to Temecula Valley Wine Country, a stop at Thornton’s French-style chateau will be a memorable kick-off to a day of California wine tasting.  Known for its sparkling wines, it’s earned more medals in major national competitions than any other sparkling winery.  Thornton Winery’s highlights include Café Champagne, the Champagne Jazz Series and unprecedented views.

Wilson Creek Winery – You’ll know of Wilson Creek Winery if you’ve ever celebrated over a glass of its well-known bubbly, Almond Champagne.  In addition to fine wines, signature features of this Tuscan-themed winery include premier gardens, a bridge spanning a meandering stream informally named Wilson Creek, and a 25-foot gazebo overlooking the stream.

Places to Sip, Swirl and Socialize

With oenophiles in mind, I raise a glass to Temecula Valley.  Cheers!


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Cynthia Dial

As a freelance travel writer and photographer since 1988, Cynthia Dial has visited the world’s seven continents (most recently Antarctica) in quest of a good story . . . from getting her hair cut in Paris, horse whispering in Hawaii and touring Burma (Myanmar) only months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s release . . . to celebrating Summer Solstice within Finland’s Arctic Circle, hiking to Machu Picchu and visiting Molakai’s former leper colony atop a mule alongside a plunging cliff.  In short, she experiences and writes about topics at the top of many readers’ bucket lists.  Cynthia is author of the award-winning non-fiction book, Get Your Travel Writing Published.  Now in its third printing, it was published in London, England, and sold worldwide (U.S. distributor is McGraw-Hill).  Among her outlets are national and international newspapers and magazines including, Time magazineHemispheresDestinations Weddings & HoneymoonsShapeDallas Morning News and the Toronto Star (which featured her around-the-world shopping column, Shopping Trips).  She also contributes to TraveLife Magazine (distributed throughout Canada) and JustLuxe.com (a luxury portal receiving 2.1 million monthly hits).  Cynthia’s radio experience includes World Footprints Radio (formerly Travel’n On) and the Travel Hub show on WorldTalk Radio, on which her No Passport Required segment was a regular feature.  She additionally appears as a travel specialist on LiveFitMagazine.com.  The travel-addicted writer admits that each time she steps onto an international flight, boards a train or steps onto a ship’s promenade deck to go to work, she congratulates herself on her career choice.

Follow me around the corner and around the world as I share the ins, the outs, the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – all pieces of the traveling puzzle.” – Cynthia Dial


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