Two wineries to know in Temecula wine country

Two wineries to know in Temecula wine country
Rick Buffington has produced 100 percent Italian varietals at his Cougar Vineyard and Winery in Temecula Wine Country. Photo by Frank Mangio

Last week we brought you up to date on the big gains logged in by Temecula Wine Country and its 35 wineries. 

There are a group of wineries in that district that are making great strides in moving up to VIP status, so let’s take a closer look at two that I would recommend you add to your list of wineries to visit Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 at the big Temecula Wine Country Harvest Celebration.

It’s been a year or so since Rick and Jennifer Buffington broke ground on the new and enlarged Cougar Vineyard and Winery with more improvements to come to accommodate the substantial increase in traffic and sales for their Italian varietal wines. Rick is also the winemaker for some 18 wines from 17 acres of family owned vineyards, including a new Italian wine that was just approved to the sold in the U.S., Lambrusca di Alessandria ($44.) This wine originally came from the Piedmont area and is a genetically unique Lambrusca and assumed to be from the Nebbiolo family, the powerful red grape found in most fine wines in Piedmont. The 2010 vintage is available at the tasting room, with flavors of black cherry and anise revealing an earthy complement with rich Northern Italian flavors.

When I caught up with Buffington, he had a busy day pressing Sagrantino and Primitivo grapes. “We’ve been operating Cougar for about 20 years, first making our wines out of a garage in Fallbrook before we moved to Temecula and decided to offer something different. We loved the Italian style of wines. We farm 100 percent estate Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nebbiolo, Primitivo and Montepulciano.”

Taste Of Wine’s favorite is the elegant Montepulciano 2010 ($41).

It has a silky smooth entry with earthy Italian qualities and a long-lasting finish. A new deli is a popular addition to the tasting room, with cheeses, pizzas, salads and sandwiches. See more at

Monte De Oro means Hill of Gold, and in just a few short years as a winery, the gold awards are growing for this premier name. Evidence the results of this year’s California State Fair competition, where the 2009 Cabernet ($36) scored 94 points, earned a Gold Medal and was declared the single Best Red Wine of the South Coast Region of California. In other competitions in the state, gold was awarded to the 2008 Syrah Reserve, the 2010 Tempranillo and 2010 Petite Syrah.

Of special note, Monte De Oro produces an outstanding blend that I have applauded in an earlier column: the 2009 Synergy 65 ($35). This is the 5th edition of this wine and is named after the 65 original investors. This blend was barrel aged in new French Oak for 28 months, then bottle aged for another 14 months. The rich ruby-burgundy color opens up to a smoky, fruit flavor of black cherry, blackberry and plums, with cinnamon and pepper notes. This wine has won gold, and was awarded Best of Class for the South Coast region at the California State Fair.

Monte De Moro wines will be featured with a five-course dinner event at Capri Blu Restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. Synergy 65 will be the spotlight wine. Cost is $55 per person. RSVP at (858) 673-5100 or visit their website at

Wine Bytes

SDSU’s wine fall classes have an Italian Wine intensive series starting Tues. Nov. 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wine & Culinary Center in San Diego. Emphasis will be on Tuscany and Piedmont. Call (619) 594-1138 to register.

Club M at the Grand Del Mar Resort will spice up your night with Rum & Rhythm Nov. 7 starting at 7 p.m. Live Salsa music, premium rums, hand rolled cigars and a special tapas menu make the night. No cover charge. RSVP is requested at (858) 314-1996.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has a Zin and Blend event, Fri. Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Call for names at (760) 479-2500.

Cougar and Frangipani Wineries are partnering for the Dia De Paella benefit event Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy Paella tasting, a grape stomp and live music, as well as lots of wine tasting. $75. Call (951) 491-0825.

Frank Mangio is a renowned San Diego wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at Reach him at




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