Visits in This Issue:
(Journal and tasting notes on Temecula. Regarding tasting notes, each wine was scored using the requisite sight, smell, and taste impressions. Scores reflect the tasters opinions (EA first, MP second), and use an alpha-oriented rating system. "n/n" indicates no notes taken by the taster, and "n/t" indicates the wine was not tasted by that taster. Although more extensive note-taking took place, specific descriptions are not included here. However, you are invited to examine the full set of tasting notes. Merely enter the tasting date (eg. 7/22/95) and winery name on the search page.) All appellations are local (Temecula or South Coast) unless stated otherwise.
Left Irvine at 9:35 for a return visit to Temecula. First time in town (Jan '95) we'd managed to visit 7 of the area's wineries, and found some interesting wines in the process. This time, in addition to re-visiting a few, we were back to discover more. Arrived 11:10 at Thornton, the first winery on the right after you leave town. Home of the Culbertson line of sparkling wines, they're now also putting out their own line of still wines. A good start to any Temecula tour begins with a stop at Thornton for some sparkling wine. Sipping at sparklers while sitting out on the patio in Summer, or cozied up by the fireplace in Winter is so relaxing. You almost don't want to go anywhere else (especially considering some of the other wines out there!). Browsed the gift shop and out at 12:05.
Tasted at Thornton:
Arrived at Hart Winery, in it's rustic barn-like winery right across the street. Tried 5 reds from their list. Hart does an above average job in its Rhone program, and it appears that they are now having some success with Merlot as well. Cab continues to be a poor choice of grape for the area, however. Out at 12:35.
Arrived at Maurice Car'rie 12:35. Usually an extensive list of wines available here. The large tasting room and gift shop give this stop a Knott's Berry Farm appearance. Our pourer, Scotty, was the same gentleman we had on the last visit. Tasted 10 wines N/C, and got an invite from Scotty to visit the back room and sample some Riesling from the tank. We'd ordered some of their brie baked-in-bread sourdough when we arrived, and our lunch was now waiting for us. Finished tasting/tour at 1:30, browsed the gift shop, and picniced outside with our sourdough bread. (Weekends only on the bread.) finally left at 2:25
Arrived at Van Roekel Winery at 2:30. The sister winery of Maurice Car'rie (both are owned by the Van Roekel family). Tasted 5 wines, none of which measured up to those at Maurice Car'rie. The sparkling was particularly poor. Out at 3:10.
Arrived at Filsinger at 3:20. Tried 5 pours of some pretty marginal wines. They all added up to a real tour-de-force in cooked fruit, with veggie smells and flavors thrown in for good measure. I'm sure they try, but most of this stuff should be put into Mason jars and labeled as preserves. Out at 3:40; tailgated for a bit, and headed out for next stop.
Arrived at Keyways at 3:55. Tried 4 wines of average to above-average quality. With the electric train, license plates, and other kitch adorning the walls, it was sort of like visiting a home winemaker in his garage. Interesting place, and the wines weren't half bad either. Out at 4:15.
Arrived 4:35 at Clos du Muriel. Curious place. Several wines available, but most are from non-Temecula appellations. Tried 3 tastes of "imported" reds -- imported from Napa and Sonoma Counties. In addition, they also have several with California appellations. It looks as though they're sort of the maverick in town, too. They don't belong to the Temecula Valley Vintners Association, so they don't show up on any of the local winery maps. Out at 4:55.
Good trip. Stats for the day: 7 wineries, about 37 tastes. Thoughts on trip: it still looks as though a Rhone or Italian varietal program will be more successful for any/all of the wineries in this valley. All other varietals seem do poorly in the local climate, and it seemingly takes a localized or virgin palate to appreciate any of them. That being said, maybe it's better to judge the wineries of Temecula on a common benchmark -- their own! That is, consider their quality levels not based on a knowledgebase of Northern and Central California, but as compared to each other. Naw! If it doesn't taste good, it's just not good stuff.