Michael Hepworth



Venice (Spiritsman) 6/28/18/–Temecula is now fifty years old when it comes to wine, and a recent media dinner in Venice, California, brought together a few of the fifty or so wineries to show off their wares. Despite a chronic shortage of hotel rooms in the town and an image of being a destination spot for hordes of drunken revelers on the weekends, Temecula has come a long way.

Most of the wineries can be found on Rancho California road, but those in the know will tell you that the good stuff can be found on De Portola Road. The reason that Temecula has become so popular is that the climate is almost perfect for growing grapes with a nice variation of temperatures throughout the day, even though the grapes are picked at night. Labor is now a problem in California with a lot of pickers migrating to the more lucrative cannabis industry, so in the long run prices will almost certainly increase.

Leoness Cellars is probably the largest grower in the area, and we Started out with their Melange d’Ete, a nice light crisp white that went well with the Grilled Peach Toast.

Another popular producer in the area is Robert Renzoni Vineyards, a family operation that boasts a new Tuscan Villa Tasting Room. I tried their 2017 Vermentino with the local halibut and found that to be a nice mix. The Bone Marrow Pork was actually served on top of the bone as opposed to inside and was served with strawberry variations along with another Robert Renzoni wine, this time the 2015 “Lyric Rose” rose of Syrah.

The chef then decided to stick a cheese course in the middle of the dinner and actually served it with honey. The wine for this was the Viognier from Doffo Winery, a rather unique boutique winery off the beaten track in Summitville in Temecula. The place is also known for its vintage motorcycle collection and non stop music playing to the vines that is supposed to improve growth.

Next goodie the chef came up with was a dish called Beets & Berries embellished with walnuts that paired with the Meritage from Leoness Cellars. This is a winery that is promoting the total Wine Experience That incorporates fine dining, wine education and live performances including visits from Morgan Freeman and Jamie Foxx this summer.

Braised Beluga Lentils with a soft quail egg followed paired with the Doffo Winery 2015 Motodoffo “Gran Tinto.” Of course no elaborate wine tasting would be much without Grilled Octopus in a tomato emulsion and then closing out the meal with an outstanding Iced Coffee with toasted hazelnut and vanilla, and finally a Vanilla Bean Gelato with braised figs, port and Armagnac. Final wine of the night was the Leoness Cellars 2014 Signature Selection “Grande Melange,” a bold impressive wine to round out the memorable evening.

Yes they did bring out some of the Temecula big guns to wow the assorted select group of wine writers, but clearly the region is getting more world wide recognition and the battle will continue. Check it out yourself in September when they host California Wine Month & Sip Passport, and a big evening featuring thirty wineries called Crush which is held under the stars.

There is also plenty to do year round with ballooning, VIP tours and Of course plenty of vacation rentals as well as the recently expanded Pechanga Casino where the rooms are comparable to any other casino in the rest of the country.