There’s nothing sweeter than exploring wine in the undulating hills of Tuscany, dotted with family-owned wineries and soaring Cyprus trees. But what if you could have a taste of Tuscany’s la dolce vita — in Southern California?
With its own vineyard-covered, undulating hills at the foot of the Santa Ana, Temecula Valley echoes the sweet lifestyle and gorgeous scenery of Tuscany. And if you spend time at its family-owned wineries, tasty local restaurants, and decadent resorts, you’ll understand why it’s a rising star among America’s wine regions.
More than 2.7 million folks already visit Temecula year to year. They come to explore its award-winning wines, flourishing foodie scene, and boundless activities, all while enjoying perfect weather and a laid back, sunny vibe that is distinct to Southern California.
Only 60 minutes from San Diego and 90 minutes from Los Angeles, Temecula is an easy day trip from the nearby cities and an ideal hub for Southern California travelers.
Marked by a Mediterranean climate with long, sunny days, tempered by ocean breezes (that flow in through a gap in the coastal mountain range) and crisp, cool nights, Temecula Valley is perfectly situated for growing high-quality grapes and producing premium wines.
We had Alyssa do some (tough) research for you, rounding up her six favorite wines to try on your next visit.
After tasting around sixty local wines total, the rising quality coming out of the region was undeniable. And while I was intrigued by many of the wines tasted, here are my top picks:
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is situated on 38 lush acres of rolling vineyards drenched in California sunshine. Their sparkling Pinot Grigio offers notes of pear and Golden Delicious apples, crisp acidity, and is a playful, easy-drinking alternative to Prosecco.
Since almost everyone loves a thirst-quenching Pinot Grigio, I love that South Coast Winery finishes theirs as a “brut.” I anticipate more sparkling wines from Temecula Valley in the years to come.
34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591, Tel (951) 587-9463
With Italian winemaking ancestry, it’s not surprising that owner Marcelo Doffo and his son Damian are making wines in the Temecula Valley.
I’ve long been a fan of the floral and aromatic overtones of Viognier from almost anywhere in the world. And Doffo’s is no exception. If you’re lucky, you can taste it with the father-son duo while they talk not only about wine, but their love of vintage motorcycle racing. How equally Italian…
36083 Summitville Street, Temecula, CA 92592, Tel (951) 676-6989
Don Lorenzi clonal’s study of Chardonnay delivers classic notes of Meyer lemon, vanilla, oak, butter and apple pie. Making only several hundred cases per vintage, you best buy before each vintage stocks out.
36095 Monte De Oro Road, Temecula, CA 92592, Tel (951) 506-1300
BJ Fazeli had a lifelong dream to build a winery to reflect his Persian heritage. He achieved that dream in 2006 with Fazeli Cellars. An ultra-contemporary winery, popular wedding destination, and meeting location, Fazeli Cellars is reminiscent of Napa’s Darioush.
While I’m a big fan of their Nooroz (65% Viognier, 35% Muscat Canelli), Fazeli’s Phel Phel red is equally tasty and storied. It is comprised of 95% Cinsault, and 5% Shiraz.
There are many regions in the world well-versed in making Cinsault — known in places like South Africa as Hermitage, and revered by many as the backbone of great rosé from Provence. In Temecula Valley, Cinsault falls stylistically somewhere between the earthy smokiness of a South Africa and the sun-doused juiciness of a Provençal rosé. The Shiraz provides that extra bit of blueberry, pepper, and allspice.
Fazeli’s Phel Phel is a bright, juicy wine that simply begs to be paired with food – in this case the Persian fusion cuisine coming out of Baba Joon’s Kitchen, Fazeli’s on-site restaurant.
37320 De Portola Road, Temecula, CA 92590, Tel (951) 303-3366
Hart Family Winery perfectly represents the rising quality and history of the Temecula Valley. In their own words, the family discovered the region in the 1970’s and built their winery in 1980. Over thirty years later, the family produces 4,000 cases annually — which is still considered to be “small production” by contemporary terms.
I find their dedication to studies of Italian varietals (Arneis, Barbera, Sangiovese, etc.) most interesting. Their Barbera — a grape often considered the Pinot Noir of Italy — was a tasty, perfect pairing for most Italian pasta dishes. That being said, I personally favored their medium-bodied Mourvèdre for its juicy, black fruit flavors and chewy tannins.
41300 Avenida Boina, Temecula, CA 92591, Tel (951) 676-6300
The truth is I would almost always choose a glass of dessert wine over dessert any day of the week. This limited-production, port-style fortified wine made from Zinfandel grapes and aged for eight years in French oak did not disappoint. Rich and decadent with a great balance of alcohol, sweetness and just a touch of acidity, this wine is a perfect pairing for all things chocolate and caramel.
33515 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591, Tel (951) 676-6414
I hope you get a chance to try some wines from this incredible, hidden gem of a region. Most wines produced in Temecula Valley can only be purchased at the wineries, and the passionate people shaping the region are often found in the tasting rooms interacting with guests.
What better way to bring back memories of your stay than with a glass of wine? Start planning your escape at VisitTemeculaValley.com.
~ Cheers to La Dolce Vita!