Lorimar Winery is a standout Temecula Valley winery producing many Mediterranean varietals that have been award winners, such as the 2014 Tuscan style Sangiovese. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Temecula wineries roll out the barrels

Temecula wineries have finally turned the corner, not that there ever was a corner. It’s just that it took this long to discover the evolution of the image to that of a Mediterranean-themed wine country that can deliver beautifully crafted varietals originating from parts of the world like Italy, France and Spain.

The wineries themselves are a potpourri of early country cowboy alongside glitzy glamour. For those of you who may ask about location, it is a centrally located valley in Southern California, surrounded by some 20 million population in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. To the west are the Pacific Ocean breezes that moderate the hot seasonal temperatures. The soil is decomposed granite and clay that drains well, retaining moisture reserves below the root system.

At the recent Temecula Valley Barrel Tasting, a segment of San Diego’s “Grapeheads” compared tastings at Hart Winery and enjoyed their Italian-style Barbera red. Photo by Frank Mangio

Occasionally the wine association features a countrywide event where guests can choose to tour and taste from the selection of Temecula wineries as they did recently at the annual 2018 Barrel Tasting. Most wineries poured their next releases direct from the barrels they were aging in. Wine glasses were provided, along with a map and a passport to each winery on each of two days. Each winery also provided gourmet food samplings that paired with their wine tastings. This is a benchmark 50th year for Temecula Valley winegrowers and the Barrel Tasting celebration was the first of many more to come this year.

The first modern commercial winery was planted in 1968 and is now up to 40 wineries and growing, producing 500,000 cases annually.

It’s not unusual to see several limousines parked at each winery during these soirees. Large groups from big cities come together, thirsty to taste the next big varietal and compare palate reactions. 

A trend that is increasing as wine lovers get together at homes, wine bars, shops and wineries is to form groups into a club, establish a name, produce gear like hats and T-shirts and get out together and have some fun at the wineries.

I like to hang out with San Diego’s “Grapeheads, “an informal group of fun-loving wine drinkers, always on the lookout for events to gather, socialize and compare tasting notes for the greater good of the group. Their choices this day were Cougar, Lorimar, Carter Estates, Avensole and Hart.

Lorimar’s Sommelier is Penny Delgado, with a wealth of knowledge about the many wines offered at Lorimar, which opened its winery in 2012. Its current winning wines are the result of winemaker Marshall Stuart with his perfectly balanced soft tannins and medium acidity, especially evident in the 2014 Sangiovese, a Best of Class winner at the recent San Francisco wine competition ($42). This is a “new world” Sangiovese, styled similar to the Tuscany Italy grape, yet bursting with California fruit forward flavor. This wine is perfect for Italian pasta dishes, lamb and other lighter meats.

You’ll want to mark your calendar for the next winery event in the Temecula Valley, the Big Red Fest with a group of nine wineries located in the De Portola District, Sunday April 29, from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Three red wines from each winery with food samples from gourmet chefs are promised. The wineries are: Fazeli, Robert Renzoni, Gershon Bachus, Oak Mountain, Leoness Cellars, Danza Del Sol, Frangiapani, Cougar and Masia De La Vinya.  For details, call 855-398-9463 or visit deportolawinetrail.com.

Wine Bytes

• The Rancho Mirage Wine & Food Festival is happening from noon to 4 p.m. Feb.17. Fifty wineries from the West Coast will be pouring, plus 16 chefs from area restaurants will be competing for Chef of the Fest. Check all details and pricing at ranchomiragewineandfoodfest.com.

• Castello Banfi, the premier Italian winery, will be pouring its world renowned wines in a special five-course dinner at Parc Bistro-Brasserie on 5th Avenue in San Diego, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21. Banfi will be presented by their National Ambassador and District Manager. Wines will include the famed 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, served with the main entrée, a Veal Ossobuco. Price is $99 per person. RSVP at (619) 795-1501.

• Il Fornaio in Coronado is having a Tuscan wine dinner at 6 p.m. Feb. 22, along with a five-course dinner featuring Petto d’ Anatra al Balsamico Duck Breast. Wines include the 2012 Caisano Brunello. Cost is $75 per guest. Call (619) 437-4911 for your place at the table.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.