By Jeff Pack

Oak Mountain Winery offers relief from the heat and more


Last updated 8/13/2018 at 3:58pm

Jeff Pack

Oak Mountain Winery's tasting room inside The Cave is bustling on a recent Sunday afternoon.

For thousands of years, when high temperatures became unbearable, humans figured out that they could control the climate around them by going underground.

These days people enjoy air conditioning, but with electricity bills skyrocketing during recent heat spells like the one currently happening in the Temecula Valley, some people wish they had a cave to crawl into all summer.

Oak Mountain Winery has one – and they have food and wine there. Lots of it.

"Considering how hot this summer has been, the cave has kept a good ambient temperature, around 65 on average," Valerie Andrews, owner and operator of Oak Mountain Winery, said. "But (the cool air in the cave) is predominantly natural, but if the night air is too hot, then we have a chiller through the evaporative cooler and we just turn it on for a few hours during the night and it keeps the chill on in here."

Sure, it's comfortable, but the only mined wine cave in Southern California does more than that. Food is served in the Cave Cafe daily, and there are two tasting bars inside the doors.

But the greatest feature, Andrews said, is what it has done for the wine and economic well-being of the winery as a whole.

"It's been a great asset to us, I don't even know where we would store our barrels if we didn't have this space," she said. "The lack of evaporation from the barrels has been huge. It has saved us tons of money, and having 10,000 square feet underground that is utilized to store the wine that doesn't take up any of our vineyard space has been great."

Oak Mountain Winery has two more air-conditioned rooms for tasting, a small tasting room in front and the Pavilion, which provides panoramic views of the vineyard and the surrounding mountains overlooking the De Portola Wine Trail.

Andrews is appreciative of their location along De Portola Road and the winery neighbors they have.

"What's really fun, especially being on this street, is that all nine of us really get along really well, we share everything, we co-opt, we do events together, you know our Big Red Fest will be next April," she said. "When we get together for our meetings, if someone has a problem, we all get together and we all try and help each other out.

"We're all pretty much hands-on owners. We have no problem being out with staff or with the patrons talking. We have fun and have a passion for what we do," she said.

Andrews said that being off the main drag of Rancho California Road in Temecula Wine Country means Oak Mountain has less foot traffic coming through, but that doesn't bother her much.

"Pretty much any maps you see, you're directed to Rancho California Road and you think that's wine country, they don't really know about us on this road," she said. "But that's kind of a fun place to be because we have great potential, as we get our name out more and more and more people find out about us, it leads to more and more growth on this side."

People are finding Oak Mountain more and more, Andrews said, because of the events and activities that can be found in a visit to the winery.

She said in addition to daily wine tasting, vineyard and cave tours, they have live music every Sunday, blend-your-own winemaking classes and events like Doggie Date Night, Sept. 22, that will feature barbecued hot dogs and burgers, live music and a screening of "Disney's Lady and the Tramp."

"Just hang out, drink some wine, bring your dogs and have a little fun," Andrews said. "The Animal Town Animal Sanctuary and Cause of Paws, those are two of our nonprofits, and will have gift baskets there that we will be auctioning off."

In addition, Oak Mountain has a new red wine blend that is coming out soon with some of the proceeds being donated to Animal Town. The winery's For Pete's Sake Red raises funds for Paws for a Cause.

Speaking of new releases, they will release a new peach sparkling wine in about three weeks, and it is almost ready for bottling. Peach adds to their flavored sparkling wine library that already includes strawberry, raspberry, and mango already.

Those sparkling wines are a quenching relief to the heat waves that continue, although Andrews said she is hoping this next hot spell doesn't do much more damage to the grapes than has already been done this year.

"That last 116-degree heat wave did affect the grapes – some of the pinotage just turned to raisins in one day. Even though we shot the water to it the day before, it was that hot wind that came through that just cooked it," she said. "So we're hoping that (the grapes) are far enough along – 105 they can handle, 115 is unusual. But, it might speed up the process, and we might be picking in two weeks."

Oak Mountain Winery opened in 2005 and serves wine from Andrews' other brand, Temecula Hills Winery. The winery is located at 36522 Via Verde in Temecula. Call (951) 699-9102 or visit or for more information.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

Jeff Pack

Oak Mountain Winery offers daily wine tasting, vineyard and cave tours as well as special events all year long.


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