Peaches, ice cream and wine?
Heck, why not.
With temperatures in the low 90s, it’s definitely an ice-cream day. And, of course, any day is a wine day, especially here at Lumiere Winery.
It’s late afternoon, so the shadows are long, the colors vivid and the mood relaxed. We are sitting in the aptly named Breezeway Grill, a covered patio with a commanding view of the Temecula Valley. The rolling hills are layered with recently harvested vineyards and guarded by well-defined mountains. On a far summit, we see the distinctly white globe that is Palomar Observatory.
Owner-winemaker Andrew Kleiner is telling us about the operation of his family’s winery when he suddenly switches gears.
“My mother is trying out this new dessert,” he says. “Would you like to try it?”
Twist my arm.
In a few minutes, champagne flutes are set before us. They are layered with peaches from Kleiner’s orchard, vanilla ice cream and Lumiere’s late-harvest (read sweet) Sauvignon Blanc. Heaven in a glass – and it’s unanimous; this dessert is a winner.
Kleiner never expected to become a winemaker. He worked the vineyards as a kid after his parents bought it in 1987 “and I hated it.” But by 2002, he was learning to make wine. When his father died in 2006, Kleiner and his mother, Martha, took charge. The boutique winery now produces about 1,000 cases a year from 17 of its 21 acres. Lumiere’s white Merlot is a best seller.
“We’re inching up to 2,000 cases but we keep production low so we can keep quality high,” Kleiner explains. “I let the grapes decide what we do each year. You can predict some things, and others you never know what’s going to happen.”
It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the first vineyard appeared in Temecula Valley, which, as winemakers, discovered, is so naturally suited for cultivating grapes. The valley enjoys the perfect mix of altitude, breezes, fog and hot and cold temperatures at just the right times.
Today, the valley supports more than 40 wineries — all family-owned, which means that it’s not unusual to visit a tasting room and meet the owner and/or winemaker. That we did at Peltzer Farms, just south of Lumiere Winery on Calle Contento Road.
The uphill driveway takes us past a pumpkin field shaded by feathery pepper trees. Families are choosing future jack-o-lanterns, panning for gold, riding ponies, posing for pictures, and enjoying pig races and their petting zoo. The farm is the model of agricultural tourism.
Owners Charlie and Carrie Peltzer are fourth-generation farmers. Charlie’s family originally owned acreage in Orange County, then sold to Walt Disney who turned the land into The Happiest Place on Earth.
Charlie and Carrie came to Temecula Valley in 2004, but didn’t plant their first vines until 2008.
They made their first wines in 2014, and opened their new wine-tasting room and event space — the Crush room — and sold their first vintage October 1.
The Crush Room was designed by Carrie with a goal of maintaining green, that is, as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.
“Much of the materials are re-purposed,” she says. “The lumber (in the Crush Room) is from an old barn and Amish schoolhouse in Ohio. And there are underground tanks capable of catching 40,000 gallons of water — if it ever rains.”
Our last winery of the day is Vindemia, which gives a positive meaning to “the end of the road.” It is the last winery on Calle Contento and sits at the crest of hill.
Here tasting is strictly an al fresco affair. We sit under brightly colored umbrellas, and with the light breeze and a bird’s eye view of the valley, all is right with the world.
Though Vindemia is one of Temecula Valley’s newest boutique wineries, owner/winemaker David Bradley is not new to Temecula Valley.
He and his wife, Gail, have owned California Dreamin’ Hot Air Balloon Company for 35 years.
“Being a balloon pilot, David has a great ability to grasp weather,” says April Ragsdale, a former Texas wine-bar owner who arrived at Vindemia two months ago. “The Bradleys are really proud that (the grapes used in) the wine are Temecula grown and mostly estate.”
For more photos of the wineries and countryside of Temecula Valley and Old Town Temecula, visit facebook.com/elouise.ondash.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org