Southern California Wine Country

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It took a couple of pioneers to resuscitate this hilly, rather desolate inland stretch of land between Los Angeles and San Diego into a region with the greatest concentration of wineries in Southern California. Their names: Joe Travis Hart and Ely Reeves Callaway whose vineyards are side by side in the western portion of the Valley. It is the only “wine country” of Southern California in the sense that you can hop from one vineyard to the next in a matter of yards. John Moramarco, a veteran viticulturist, is really the one who believed at first the area was the perfect spot to grow premium wine grapes: hills, good soil (mainly decomposed granite), intense sun balanced by the breeze that comes from the ocean and crosses the mountain range through a dip that looks like a V and has been nicknamed “the rainbow gap”. This brings coolness in the evening and often fog in the morning, preventing the grapes from over-ripening. During the day, it can be scorching hot in the summer, over 100°F and grapes certainly do have a chance to ripen, leading to wines of great intensity and often high alcohol content. The region is best known for its Italian and Rhône varietals, but experiments are in the making and allow the visitors to sample a wide spectrum of wines. Twenty minutes away from the heart of wine country, visit historic downtown Temecula with its antique stores or, if you feel luck at the tip of your fingers, visit the Pechanga Casino a few miles south.

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Doffo Winery. The red wines from this family owned winery specialized in reds produces a beautiful Cabernet franc with exceptionally soft tannins for this grape varietal. But you can also admire the small, yet compelling, motorcycle collection. Art is in the air quite literally as classical music is playing 24/7 in the vineyards! 36083 Summitville rd., Temecula, Tel.: + 1 951 676-6989.

Access to Art of Wine

Callaway Winery

Warm welcome, beautiful modern tasting room with breathtaking view, wide variety of wines to sample and historical background to discover. The historic first winery of the area offers daily tours and the possibility to have a great meal (see Meritage). Great wines, great place. 32720 Rancho California Rd, Tel.: + 1 951 676-4001,

Hart Winery. Not a fancy tasting room, just good, honest wines that reflect the terroir more than sophisticated and uniform winemaking technology. Charming ambiance and best value tasting at $10 for 6 tastings and a large tasting glass. Beautiful Roussanne et great Syrah. Avenida Biona, Tel. + 1 951 676 6300,

Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery Family operated winery specialized in red wines with the exception of a Viognier. The philosophy is to let the grapes fully ripen which leads to intense, bold and high alcohol wines. But careful attention to picking time and winemaking process avoids any cloying jammy sensation. The 2009 merlot “Catfish Vineyard” boasts 15.6° of alcohol, but showcases such a sense of balance and harmony that one only asks to sip more of its beautiful dark fruit and spice. 40150 Barksdale Circle, Tel.: + 1 951 676-7900,

Europa Village. (invité à passer la nuit)This recent addition to Temecula Wine country is dedicated to producing great wines that respect the old world winemaking traditions from France, Italy and Spain. Besides the common wine tasting experience (with gourmet bread stick from the Europa Inn up the road,, look into the tours which encompass a walk in the vineyard, tasting of more wines and some cheese to go along with them. La Serena Way, Tel.: + 1 888 383-8767,

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Leoness. An inviting winery with a large tasting room and beautiful grounds often used for weddings. Advance booking for tours allow walking in the vineyard and enjoying 6 tastings along the way including in the cellar. The handpicked grapes go along with sustainable practices, such as planting barley between rows to prevent erosion and releasing wasps which limit the proliferation of destroying bugs. Tasty 2009 Syrah. 38311 De Portola Rd, Tel.: + 1 951 302-7601,

Access to Organic wine

The Inn at Europa Village

Not a restaurant per se, but well worth spending the night in this charming B&B with 18 rooms surrounded by vineyards, just to taste the outstanding breakfast chef Dean Thomas prepares and serves in the morning on the terrace overlooking the sea of grapes to be picked. His wife Nicole from Quebec makes you feel at home and will help you plan your stay. 33350 La Serena Way, Tel.: + 1 951 676-7047,

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Wilson Creek Winery restaurant. Once you arrive and try to look for parking, you immediately know the place has a definite appeal. A young crowd is happy to sip the almond-flavored champagne, but connoisseurs and gourmets may prefer to taste the wines with the superb food served al fresco on the terrace facing the park. Fish of the day cooked to perfection embracing a beautiful Viognier and quails with pomegranate seeds that felt very cozy with the estate Syrah! The congeniality of the Wilson family, parents and sons, is nowhere to be matched. 35960 Rancho California Rd, Tel.: + 1 951 699-9463,

Meritage Restaurant. Eating on a shade terrace with a view of the rolling hills is only the beginning of the pleasurable extended stop that you can do at Callaway Winery’s restaurant. The staff is lovely and the food well inspired and wine friendly. Grilled shrimp salad with the 2009 Special Estate Chardonnay or calf’s liver with the 2009 Dolcetto are made to go together it seems! 32720 Rancho California Rd, Tel.: + 1 951 587-8889,

To know more about the area, visit Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association