Thursday, July 8, 2010

A (quick) taste of wine country

When one thinks of California wine country, most minds go to Napa and Sonoma. Maybe Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

But although it is easily left off the list, Temecula Valley has some vineyards worth checking out, too.

For years now-- basically since discovering my affection for vino at the ripe age of 22-- I have desperately wanted to go wine tasting. (I have spent many many hours looking at the Cloud Climbers website.) And yet, my plans never worked out. So after being told that Temecula is home to several wineries, many of them sprawling and award-winning, I had it set in my mind that I was going to finally step inside a tasting room this Fourth of July weekend.

And, to my delight, I found success! After spending Independence Day morning slathered in SPF 70 sunblock while watching a charming parade on Old Town Front Street in Temecula, the group of us took a drive down the town's rambling wine country row, more formally known as Rancho California Road.

It's hard to know where to stop when you are just driving aimlessly. And it's hard not to judge a book, or in this case, a winery, by it's cover. But we took in our choices and spontaneously decided to pull into Wilson Creek Winery. Even from the road, we were drawn in by the gorgeous Tuscan-inspired grounds, and the number of cars in the parking lot spoke volumes, too.

Now, I may be a wine novice, but in my limited opinion, the wines at Wilson Creek did not disappoint. I bought the boy and I tickets for five tastings each (the tickets cost 12 bucks a pop; not sure if that is average or a rip, but whatev). The boy gave some of his tastes away to his sister, but I kept all mine for myself :) Bring on the wine!

My first taste ended up being my favorite: 2009 White Cabernet Sauvignon. The sweet smelling wine is bursting with the flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, kiwi and ripe pear, and cutely described as "a tropical drink in a bottle, without the little umbrellas." Who could resist, right? Not me apparently. I ended up buying a bottle-- because I wanted to but also because I felt like I had to. It was my first wine tasting experience after all! Plus, it came in a beautiful blue bottle that I plan on saving long past the wine is gone.

My second taste was a red, the only one I tried: 2006 Estate Mourvedre. I asked the woman behind the wine bar to suggest a red that a white-loving gal would like and this is what she picked. After reading the tasting menu that said it "exudes aromas of dark cherry, ripe plum, raspberry with vanilla and sweet wood," I wasn't so sure how light it would be. But after my first sip I decided I actually quite liked it. One day I'll be a red-loving gal. One day.

Up next was the winery's wow-factor specialty, Almond Champagne. Yes, almond. It really did taste like the nut! The sparkling white wine is naturally fermented with a hint of pure almond oil. It was strange... but intriguing. And according to the winery, it would be great paired with a light dessert. Thinking about the possibility, I'd have to agree. 

My fourth taste was Golden Jubilee, a white wine named after the owner's Golden Retrievers, two of which ran into the tasting room, tails wagging, to say hello while we were there. So adorable! It definitely gave me that family feeling the winery is known for. And the wine was just as enjoyable as the dogs. The menu described it as "unique and refreshing," and those were the very words that came out of the boy's mouth after he tasted it! Like Wilson Creek's other whites, this also has a fruity bent, with flavors of kiwi, ripe peach and pineapple. If had a more money to spend, I would have left with a bottle of Golden Jubilee, too. It is one of those wines that you'd reach for on a hot summer day, while sitting on the porch watching the sun set.

My last taste was the 2008 Estate Muscat Canelli. (sorry, no link for this one!) This one was tropical too, with a citrus twist from tangerine. I liked it but it didn't make the same impact that Golden Jubilee and the White Cab did.

After all those tastings, I left the dark, barrel-filled tasting room with a little buzz. (I know, I know. Light weight!)

Overall, it was a fun, relaxing way to spend an hour or so of a summer afternoon on a holiday weekend. Unfortunately, it was our only pit stop along Temecula's winery row-- the boy's 8-year-old niece wasn't in the mood for another tasting session-- but I was glad to at least get a quick (first) taste of wine country.

I can't wait for more!

So, have you ever been wine tasting? Where did you go? (I'm taking recommendations for my future vineyard travels!)

P.S. Speaking of wineries, I saw this gorgeous vineyard wedding on Etsy today-- the bride bought many of her Big Day items from Etsians-- and I'm smitten. A lovely backdrop of green vines + a big white tent on a sprawling lawn + handmade goodies + lotsa wine (duh) = what's not to love?


Erin said...

I have never been wine tasting, but for years I have been wanting to try it. And California wine country looks like just the place to do it!

Dionne said...

This looks lile a lovely outing! How pretty it must have been in person.

In college I took a Wine Appreciation class and we toured a few Australian vineyards. We got to take our shoes off and stomp in barrels of grapes which was messy fun, hahaha. My most recent winery tour was a Texan winery for a Wedding Planner's event.

But you know what? I am not even a big fan of wine. I really dislikemost, buri go on these tastings because the few good ones are definitely worth tasting through all the gross ones.

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

That looks so fun! I REALLY want to go on a wine-tasting trip with Eric. Maybe next summer, there are lots of vineyard in southern B.C. too!

Shoshanah said...

When I was little my parents used to stop at wineries on every vacation. While I know I'd love stopping at a winery now for a tasting, whenever I think about it I always remember how bored I used to be as a kid. There really isn't a whole lot for a kid to do at a winery, although even back then I would have been more than willing to try the wine!

Andhari said...

Lovely! I would love to go to winery like you did :D

Mo Pie, Please said...

Wine tasting is SO MUCH FUN! I can't wait for everyone I know and love to come out to Napa all at the same time, and go tasting with them! Ok so maybe not all of them and maybe I won't have that much time but I'm still excited nonetheless. I'm glad you got to enjoy!

Carissa said...

@Shoshanah- I remember going wine tasting with my parents as a kid too and you're right, it's no fun when you can't drink! plus, I don't really like cheese so there really was nothing in it for me, haha. I actually got dehydrated on that trip and felt really sick... so this time around wine country was definitely more fun! :)

too bad I can't get all you gals together for a bloggers wine tasting trip! how fun would that be?!

Phoenix said...

My friend had a wine tasting bachelorette party that ended up being quite lovely. I don't drink alcohol so I soon found myself staying outdoors and taking gorgeous photos while everyone else inside sipped wine. About halfway through our five-winery tour, however, I had many people joining me outside since it was so lovely! So even I found something to do and appreciate :)

PS That etsy wedding sounds so adorable.

Heather Taylor said...

Yum! That red you tried with the raspberry and vanilla sounds divine! I need to go wine-tasting soon!

bethany said...

I'll take an enormous glass of the Almond wine...

I've never done any official wine tasting, but I can imagine that 5 tastes would bring out my light-weightedness as well :)

linda said...

I went to a winery in Napa Valley called Artesa, and the place was beautiful. From the top you can see all the vineyards from nearby wineries, and you can even see the city of SF from their deck!

A must visit if you're ever in that area. Also, Yakima, WA has some cute wineries, too.

I'm slowly starting to appreciate this whole wine thing as I get used to the taste. One thing I know for sure is that I love the more sweet ones.