Taste of Wine

Temecula wine country update

Now that the pace of life in SoCal has calmed down and constant rounds of socializing at world class parties, events and football bowl games has faded away, it’s time to gather up 2013, put it in to the Guinness Book of World Records and look forward to ever more in 2014.

Ken Zignorski of Monte De Oro Winery, with Peggy Evans, executive director of the Temecula Wine Growers Association promoting Temecula wines at the recent San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Photos by Frank MangioJohn Thornton, left, of Thornton Winery in Temecula introduces columnist Frank Mangio to his new wine releases.

First thing I want to set my sights on are the developments in the growing wine country in Southern California’s Temecula.

Here’s a wine country that should be getting more respect in the greater wine world of the consumer that buys at big wine shops, groceries, restaurants, hotels and resorts.

I realize many of the 35 or so wineries are still small by comparison, but a closer look shows a good percentage are gaining in competition with their more established brethren elsewhere in California, in international tasting events and total visitors at the wineries.

Most of the season, Temecula has warm, dry days and cool nights, with breezes blanketing the area under vine. It took a number of years and a severe disease for Temecula wineries to find their “sense of place,” a Mediterranean style of wine, with varietals that are derived from the south of France Spain, Italy, Croatia and Portugal. Many still make wonderful Cabernets and Chardonnays, but an increasing number are discovering varietals that match up nicely with their special climate, elevation and terroir, providing them with a warmer climate wine that the central and northern coast of California cannot match.

Here is a roundup of recent developments and new releases of interest.

John Thornton along with his son Steve, from Thornton Winery, has released 5 new wines made by winemaker David Vergari. They are a 2012 Barbera, Merlot, Sangiovese and “Toot Sweet Red,” and a 2011 Tempranillo. Thornton is one of the best examples of an expanded list of wines, to include many Mediterranean styles.

Further into Temecula wine country, Monte De Oro continues to expand its list and outreach with recent appearances and tastings by GM and part owner Ken Zignorski.

Monte De Oro was a feature at the popular Capri Blu Restaurant in Rancho Bernardo and the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.

Two to try here are the just released 2010 Syrah and the 2009 Synergy 65 which made the Top Ten Tastes at TASTE OF WINE.

The De Portola Trail district of Temecula wine country is on watch with Robert Renzoni Winery constructing a beautiful new tasting villa that should open the beginning of March. Their wines are showing up in San Diego restaurants like Tony Roma’s and Petrini’s. My scouts tell me that the new “Old Vine Zin” is a new one to try. Oak Mountain Winery is starting construction on their new 10,000 square foot caves. It’s the first mined cave in Southern California. You should try their Rousanne, an unusual white wine from the south of France. Keyways Winery is under new ownership and I’m keeping my eye open for big changes. I am high in praise of their 2011 Tempranillo with lots of black fruit and minerality.

The next Temecula Wine Country event is coming March 1 and March 2 and the theme is World of Wine Barrel Tasting with all wineries participating. This two-day all day celebration demonstrates how the Temecula South Coast wineries grow varietals from all over the world and is “passport” style where guests with a glass and map can enjoy a self-guided tour through this wine country. You will enjoy new releases, barrel tasting, food sampling and live music. Ticket levels start at $79 each. Call (800) 801-9463 or visit temeculawines.org.

Wine Bytes

RELM Wine & Beer Bistro in Carlsbad has weekly live music every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. as it kicks off its 2014 calendar of events. Call (760) 434-9463 for more.

Tuscany Italian Restaurant in Carlsbad presents live comedy in its new Copa Room with CBS Late Show funnyman Bobby Tessel, Jan. 18. Doors open 7 p.m., show time is at 8 p.m. $25 advance; $30 at the door. Call (760) 929-8111.

A Taste of Bressi, benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Carlsbad happens Jan. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. This is a walk-around tasting with beer and wine. Cost is $80. Call (760) 444-4893.