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Savoring the Temecula Wine Country


A trip to Temecula Valley Wine Country, especially for those who haven’t visited in a while, is likely to uncork a tasting experience more comparable to Napa than one in a neighbor’s converted garage, as was the case during the early days.

Despite the growth, each of the region’s more than 35 wineries has successfully harvested its own version of quaint and charming. And since it would be impossible to sample the liquid fruits of labor of about three-dozen vineyards in one day, lodging opportunities are now available in the heart of wine country.

Temecula Creek Inn features championship golf and is pet friendly, while The Inn at Europa Village offers ten intimate guest rooms and gourmet breakfast by award-winning chef/owner Dean Thomas.

With 76 private villas and 50 decadent suites, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa provides endless luxury.

Ponte Vineyard Inn, which also offers pet amenities and is home to the area’s only cocktail bar, will appeal to the “green” minded. Guest rooms are eco-friendly and a 12-passenger electric bus takes visitors on a sustainable tour of Ponte’s 310-acre ranch to learn about the grape-growing philosophy and taste three signature wines right next to the vineyards from which they came.

Temperatures in Temecula are perfect for growing Mediterranean grapes, and Ponte, pouring perhaps the best Italian selections, is one of several wineries that favor the flavor of that region.

French, Italian, Spanish, and Argentinean wines also prevail at Cougar, Danza del Sol, Doffo, Europa Village, and Robert Renzoni, one of the last to offer a casual tasting experience. That facility, however, is in the process of expanding and, along with Oak Mountain, will soon feature Temecula’s first-ever wine caves, subterranean structures where wine is stored and aged.

An integral component of the industry worldwide, they have been described as a novelty with a purpose. Underground storage is energy efficient, offers optimum land use, and naturally provides most weekends. Several wineries now include restaurants and many are pet friendly.

There are special activities throughout the year, including summertime concerts, World of Wine Weekend in March, and Harvest Celebration Weekend in November.

But September, in recognition of California Wine Month, is the most exciting time. To celebrate the harvest, Temecula Valley offers its SIP Passport that allows visitors to experience several wineries throughout the month at a reduced rate. Discounts are also available for lodging and transportation packages.

Highlighting the month is the annual Crush, which will be held September 13 at Wiens Family Cellars. The gala event brings together the entire region’s wineries and features food, entertainment, and an opportunity to meet the winemakers. Tickets are on sale in July.
If possible, try to make it wine o’clock during the week, when discounts are offered, crowds are smaller, and staff members can provide a more intimate and informative tasting experience.

Before leaving the area, try a different sort of tasting at Temecula Olive Oil Company, where the growers are eager to share their knowledge of the ranch’s sustainable agriculture and traditional hand-pressed techniques. Also available are olives, balsamic vinegar, spreads, sea salts, herbs, rubs, soaps, and lotions. If you find some favorite items, they are available at locations in Old Town and in the Cedros Design District in Solana Beach.

Oenophiles or occasional indulgers who prefer boutique wineries should consider a visit to Doffo, Danza del Sol, Palumbo or Cougar. Be sure to ask the name origin of the latter.

To conveniently arrange a visit to Temecula, visit the user-friendly Web site. (www.temeculawines.org)   BIANCA KAPLANEK



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