Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Mount Palomar Winery has seen it all but expects to see even more with upcoming expansion


Last updated 12/7/2018 at 1:10am

Jeff Pack

Mount Palomar Winery is the second oldest winery in the Temecula Valley and is one of the largest properties in wine country.

Mount Palomar Winery has been around for a long time and has seen all the changes that Temecula Valley Wine Country has enjoyed. These days, the winery that is the second oldest in the area, has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts with improvements made to the property since Louidar LLC took ownership of the property more than a decade ago.

"All of the improvements that you see here are less than 10 years old," Kris May, winery director of operations, said.

The winery, which sits on 90 acres with 55 acres of planted vineyards, is one of the largest and best hidden in the Temecula Valley. Located off Rancho California Road, the winery itself isn't visible from the road, except for the signs indicating its entrance.

If plans continue to progress that lack of visibility may change in the near future.

Mount Palomar Winery was founded in 1969 by John H. Poole, a radio electronics engineer and station owner who helped pioneer early military radar use during World War II. He also established one of the nation's first ultra high frequency television stations and created Los Angeles' first commercially successful FM radio station.

Poole planted the winery's first vineyards and became the first winemaker in 1975 before handing over the reins to Joe Cherpin in 1976 for the next 16 years.

Poole's son, Peter, took over operation of the winery in 1985, and according to the winery, started the trend toward planting Mediterranean grape varieties.

When Poole was looking to sell the winery to Louidar LLC, it was assumed that Poole would stay on at the winery.

"He was going to stick around and manage the place for the owner," May said. "But then they found out that they come from two different worlds. Peter is a great guy, and he loved wine."

Since that split, the winery has gone through several different winemakers, which May said, caused the winery to struggle a bit.

Five years ago, though, the winery finally hit on a permanent winemaker in James Rutherford, a a Northern California transplant who received his degree from California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo.

May said since Rutherford's arrival, the wine production has stabilized at the winery.

Though the winemaking is in check that doesn't mean there haven't been surprises.

In 2014, the tasting room that had been the central focus of the winery since 1974, experienced a fire and they had to bring the building down.

Today, the tasting room is the old wine cave – Cava di Vino – that used to be a barrel room, and where the old tasting room once stood is an expansive patio area.

"(The tasting room) is still beautiful, but very quaint," May said.

The property, as previously stated, is expansive and quite different from other wineries in the area. There are trails and private seating areas all over the area, providing a quaint, peaceful experience for visitors.

Statues, fountains, full-grown trees and landscaping create the ambiance needed for a relaxed wine tasting experience. The feel is a little bit quirky, a little historic and totally unique.

Adjacent to the tasting room is the Annata Bistro and Bar, a permanent tent-like structure, with impressive views.

The restaurant and bar is open seven days a week and features an American fusion dining menu with a full-service bar offering a wide selection of craft cocktails made with housemade syrups and fresh squeezed juice, including some from citrus grown on the property.

The property is large enough to house a completely separate wedding venue with spectacular views of wine country and a barrel room large enough to host large wedding and corporate parties.

According to May, Mount Palomar Winery makes a range of fine wines with special emphasis on classic, Bordeaux-style blends and Italian varieties.

The winery is known for its Port and Solera Cream Sherry, the latter of which is produced in the oldest Sherry Solera in the United States and is aged for a minimum of five years in the California sun.

The winery uses two names, Mount Palomar and Castelletto for its Italian style wines.

"We make about 11,000 to 14,000 cases, and they are all estate wines," she said. "Except for our Champagne, which just like almost everybody else, we buy from Lodi."

So far, there are no plans to expand into distribution, and May said the winery is in the green.

"We try to make what we will use," May said. "The winemaker is doing a great job of what our sales volume is for each vintage. I think we are doing very good, but of course, we can always do better."

According to May, the ownership group owns another 90 acres adjacent to the property that is zoned for residential and 136 more next to that. On the website, there are plans for a Mount Palomar Winery and Resort.

Jeff Pack

Mount Palomar Winery's Solera Cream Sherry, Castelleta 2016 Sangiovese Rose and Mount Palomar Winery's Limited Edition Port are seen here on the outdoor patio area at the winery.

"We have this fantastic plan approved through Riverside County to build a resort," May said. "It took us 10 years to get it through the county. The best thing that can happen is that we can at least build the first phase."

Without going into too much detail, she said the first phase will give the winery more visibility from Rancho California Road.

"Right now we're kind of hidden, and I like it," May said. "But for commercial purposes you have to have something on the road. So, we are moving our entryway a little bit west of where it is right now.

"If we had our first phase built, we could do probably three times the business that we do right now," she said.

May said there is no set time estimate as to when construction will begin.

Wine tasting at Mount Palomar is available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit or call (951) 676-5047.

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


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