Monday, April 1, 2013

Temecula Valley - A Southern California Find

During our last trip to San Diego, we wanted to explore a bit. It is always good to find something new. Weighing the options for day-trips from our Del Mar hotel, we decided on Temecula.

Temecula valley is a small wine region a little over an hour north-northeast of Dan Diego. The 30 or so wineries are mostly located along the main road going up the valley, Rancho California Road. We visited four wineries during our time in the valley, plus a restaurant. Our first stop was Thornton Winery ( Located at the beginning of the drive up the valley, the winery's Cafe Champagne offers not only tastings, but full meals as well in a picturesque setting with a view. They also have jazz concerts occasionally.

Sparkling wine with a view: at Thornton Winery

We tasted a couple of their sparkling selections, including the rose pictured above, which I liked, and two reds, which were forgettable.  We finished the tasting with one of their chocolate wines. These are reds infused with chocolate. Not being a huge fan of dessert wines, I hesitated trying this.  However, since wine and chocolate can be both excellent on their own, I was curious to taste the product of their marriage, so to speak. Mistake. Maybe I am biased, being a lover of big cabs, but the chocolate wine just did not do it for me. The best I can say about it, is that it was different. I checked it off the list and now I will never have to try one again.

The best wine we found in Temecula valley was at Doffo Vineyards and Winery. This small family estate is fairly young, it was opened in 1997. Doffo wines were very nice, and we bought several to take home. They have a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, and the Malbec, Cabernet and Zinfandel were all very good. Overall a well-rounded selection from a small boutique winery.

Our Doffo loot: four bottles of wine, a tasting glass
 and some cute wine bottle candelabras.

The owner/winemaker is also into old motorcycles, so if you visit, don't forget to check them out. You can find out more at

Next up, we checked out Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyard. This place must be on some tour-bus route, because their large tasting room was packed. We tasted their famous almond champagne. As you might be able to guess from my reaction to the chocolate wine, the almond champagne was also not to my liking.  It troubles me when manufacturers mix things that nature did not intend to mix. Champagne? Bring it on! Almond? Yes, please. Almond Champagne? No, thank you.

The rest of Wilson Creek's wines were ok, but nothing stood out for us. The tasting room/store however had a huge selection of wine-realted items and some cute signs. We picked up a few of those. (

On the way out, I had to take a picture of their signage. Horseback tours of the winery were offered, and it made me chuckle, thinking of tipsy tourists on horseback.

After lunch in a cafe down the road we found our last stop: Hart Winery. Another small family estate, Hart was established in 1974. This place had some very nice wines. We picked up a bottle of zinfandel and a pretty wine glass which is included in the tasting. I could have hung out at Hart for a while longer, chatting with the tasting room staff and patrons, but we had to make our way back to Del Mar.

A wine barrel turned planter greets guests at the
entrance of the Hart Winery tasting room.

All in all, a fun day spent in Temecula. We will probably be back.  If you are interested in visiting, check out

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