Mention the Temecula Valley wine region and eyebrows raise. "Huh? Where is Temecula? Never heard of it." Its not surprising as many of these wines never find their way to the East Coast. Temecula lies roughly 90 miles Southeast of Los Angeles in Southern California. The region has a long histroy of winemaking, dating back over 200 years when winemaking made its debut in California at Mission San Juan Capistrano, a mere 18 miles west of Temecula.
Temecula enjoys a unique micro-climate for viticulture with well-drained granite based soils and the moderating effects of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains. As the inland valleys heat up during the day, cooler air is drawn into the valley from the Pacific moderating the daytime temperatures and helping to create a pattern of warm, sunny days and cool nights--ideal conditions for the best wine grapes.
I was pleasantly surprised by the wines from Temecula, especially the reds. I discovered countless examples of elegant, balanced Syrahs and Cabernet blends that weren't overblown and extracted like some of the wines produced in Northern California.
Below are tasting highlights from several of Temecula's best:
South Coast Winery
2006 Elevation Sauvignon Blanc, South Coast--fresh and crisp with notes of kiwi, lemon citrus and herbal aromas. Lingering lemon citrus finish.
2006 Unoaked Chardonnay, Temecula Valley--fresh and fruity with notes of pear, banana and apricot, smooth mouthfeel, medium bodied.
2003 Elevation Syrah, South Coast--load of wild berry aromas, touch of smoke and toasted oak, subtle tannins, lighter bodied, easy drinking.
2005 Rolling HIlls Estate Vineyard Syrah, Temecula Valley--ripe plum and wild berry aromas plus a whiff of lavender, slight earth notes, smooth tannins, medium bodied.
2004 Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards Syrah, Temecula Valley--brooding aromas of earth, fig and plum followed by wild berry flavors, a hint of spice, silky smooth tannins, medium bodied.
2003 Shiraz, Temecula Valley--loads of sweet raspberry and strawberry notes with a touch of spice, smooth and easy drinking, light/medium bodied.
NV Vaquero del Vino, Temecula Valley--blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Grenache bursting with sweet blackberry and brambleberry notes, touch of spice, soft and round tannins, medium bodied.
Bella Vista Winery
2005 Petite Sirah Rose--a beautiful summer quencher with notes of raspberry, strawberry and watermelon, slight bit of spice, off-dry finish.
2002 Sonata--blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv that eminates aromas of leather, earth, tobacco and spice, dried red fruit flavors with smooth tannins, medium bodied.
2003 Amante, South Coast--blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc with bright, juicy cherry and raspberry notes followed by black licorice and spice, smooth tannins, lingering cherry finish, medium bodied.
2002 Merlot, Temecula Valley--black cherry and dried herb notes with a hint of coffee, soft tannins, medium bodied.
2002 Syrah, Temecula Valley--bright and spicy with plum, cigar box and a hint of chocolate, round tannins, mediu bodied.
2003 Syrah, Temecula Valley--plum and blackberry notes plus hints of smoke and dried herbs, rich and silky texture, round tannins, medium bodied.
2006 Las Piedras Sangiovese, South Coast--the winemaker's own private label that bursts with sour cherry and spice notes, hint of earth, firm tannins, medium bodied.
Mount Palomar Winery
2006 Castelletto Cortese, Temecula Valley--bright and fruity with notes of mango, passion fruit and green apples, a touch of minerality, medium bodied.
2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley--ripe tropical fruit notes followed by pear and apricot flavors, citrus notes on the finish, medium bodied.
2003 Meritage, Temecula Valley--blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc with ripe currant and plum notes followed by cedar and chocolate plus a hint of vanilla, firm tannins, medium/full bodied.
2005 Sauvignon Blanc, California--herbal and mineral notes followed by passion fruit and grapefruit flavors, lingering citrus finish, medium bodied.
2005 Malbec, Temecula Valley--loads of wild berry, black cherry and spice notes with strawberry flavors, soft tannins, medium bodied.
2003 Vintner's Special Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Temecula Valley--rich and brooding with aromas of pencil shavings, mineral notes plus plum and cedar box on the palate, firm tannins, medium/full bodied.
2004 Estate Bottled Reserve Cabernet Franc, Temecula Valley--elegant notes of tobacco, black cherry and licorice with white pepper on the finish, firm tannins, medium/full bodied.
2002 Tatria, Temecula Valley--blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc with sweet black cherry notes plus clove, tobacco and a hint of eath, soft tannins, medium bodied.
2005 Tatria, Temecula Valley--blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc with juicy black berry and plum notes, toasted oak and spice, velvety tannins, medium/full bodied.
For more information on the Temecula Valley and its wines, visit the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.