Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Top 3: A lighter look at our favorites in Temecula Valley Wine Country


Last updated 2/8/2019 at 10:27am

Jeff Pack photo

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is the five-time winner of California Winery of the Year.

Temecula Valley Wine Country is a big, spread out area with a variety of winery properties with different tastes, themes and approaches. So, Valley News could present to anyone visiting the area with a list of the finest this and the best that – but that's just not going to be our style this week.

Nope. This week will present the Top 3 picks in categories Valley News thinks are important to our readers who actually live in the valley.

Some of these selections may be silly and inconsequential when someone is deciding where to sip wine, and that's OK.

Some of these picks, readers may disagree with. If that happens, argue with the choice.

Valley News wants to hear what readers think and what they know. Educate us, berate us, shame us – participate in this conversation – because that's what communication is all about.

Best wineries to be seen – ages 21-35

Say it's been a rough go lately. No boyfriend, no girlfriend, lots of friends to hang out with, but bars aren't the thing. Listen, we're not judging. Rally your besties, here's where you should go:

1. Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyard: The sheer volume of people that flood into that place each weekend by limo, by bus or by rented sports car is frankly pretty astounding.

2. Akash Winery & Vineyard: This new spot has a super hipster feeling to it. It feels new, young and fresh. Being there makes you feel like you're in the "in" crowd.

3. Miramonte Winery: Any given weekend, you will find cars all over the hillside and once you arrive, you're likely to hear reggae music playing or live music on the stage.

Best wineries to be seen – ages 36 and up

OK, get the friends together, have a good time and maybe meet someone nice. You're just not all that enthused about hanging with the bachelorette and bachelor parties of all the 20 somethings. To avoid the woo-girls and the bros, go here:

1. Doffo Vineyards & Winery: Having a higher price point on their wines and a motorcycle museum on the property certainly helps. Being one of the last wineries on the Rancho California strip also helps keep the partiers out.

2. Bottaia Winery: If a party bus pulls up in front of this place, Claudio Ponte himself may be the first one out the door to turn it away. This classy, upscale place is by reservation only. Serious folks only need attend.

3. Callaway Vineyard & Winery: When you're there, this place feels like you're totally adulting. It's quiet, beautiful, and you're not likely to find a group of youngsters playing in the fountains or running through the vines.

Best wineries for not being seen

Right, so it's not been the best week. All you want to do is find a quiet place to disappear for a while, taste some wine or drink a whole bottle without being disturbed. Here's where you should go and we won't tell anyone you're there:

1. Mount Palomar Winery: This place is massive. There are so many benches, tables and chairs and little nooks and crannies, you may never see another soul once you leave the tasting room.

2. Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery: It's a little off the beaten path, mellow and, we promise, Nick and Cindy Palumbo will totally let you hang out on the patio and soak in the silence in peace.

3. Bella Vista Winery: With plenty of private spots to sip and contemplate your next move, Bella Vista is one of those places that sometimes gets overlooked. But not by you, you're one of the smart ones.

Best wineries to impress people with

Again, this category has nothing to do with wine. But when you really think about it, don't things just taste better when everyone is telling you how awesome you are? We agree. If you want to impress a boss or former classmates or that friend of yours that thinks he knows everything, go here:

1. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa: You know, this is the winery that wins all the awards – they've won the California Winery of the Year like five times. And, there's a delicious restaurant.

2. Peltzer Family Cellars: It's vintage farmhouse with a friendly vibe where anyone can feel comfortable. Nobody dislikes the vintage farmhouse vibe. Nobody.

3. Oak Mountain Winery: They have a cave, enough said. It was built into a hillside, and it's kind of scary but also really cool. Plus, it's on the De Portola Wine Trail, so it will look like you're taking these newbies to an insider's spot. Yeah, you.

Best wineries to get real with Temecula Valley wine

All jokes aside, you want to experience the local Temecula winery experience. Here's where you can go to taste wine made by people who you can most likely talk to about tannins and PH levels and how much a wine barrel costs.

1. Hart Winery: Joe and Nancy Hart, with the help of his children, planted the vineyard in 1974 and have been making wine ever since. Even though Joe is retired from winemaking, you can still find him checking in on his son and current winemaker Jim just about every day.

2. Cougar Vineyard & Winery: Chances are good that if you visit Cougar that you will run into owners Rick and Jennifer Buffington, and they might even be pouring your wine for you. Ask Rick how many Italian varietals he has on the property. Go ahead, ask him.

3. Briar Rose Winery: You can ask owner and winemaker Les Linkogle about two things – making wine and freestyle motocross – two of the most Temecula Temecula topics ever. If Les is in the lab, ask Dorian about the unique history of the property.

Best food dishes in Temecula Wine Country

Jeff Pack photo

Hart Winery is in Temecula Wine Country.

Hey, we like a little savory with our sipping. We know it's about the wine, but if you can put a plate of something delicious in front of us while we imbibe, we are definitely coming back.

1. The saffron shrimp flatbread at Fazeli Cellars: This dish is legit and should probably cost more than $20 with that much saffron on it.

2. Quattro formaggi at Mama's Trattoria at Robert Renzoni Vineyards: Extra-virgin olive oil and garlic, mozzarella, provolone, fontina and gorgonzola cheeses. That's Italia!

3. Sourdough bread bowl at Maurice Car'rie Winery: What is it filled with? Brie. That's right, melty, delicious cheese with a garlic and buttery taste. Enough to share with friends, and it's probably not good for you at all. But it's definitely good for the soul.

Jeff Pack can be reached at [email protected]


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