Vol 4 No 4 Where in the hell is Temecula?

We are visiting the West Coast and staying in Orange County. One day we went with friends to Santa Barbara which has some great tasting rooms: Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara Winery, Zaca Mesa and several more. It was disheartening on the way up to see the fire damage but Santa Barbara was as quaint and beautiful as ever.

I love Au Bon Climat and tasted their premium wines which were all great. I have visited the winery several times and never cease to be impressed by both Jim Clendendon and his partner, Bob Lindquist. The old saying that opposites attract is true here on many levels., and those differences may well be the key to their relationship. Their winery sits at the edge of the famed Bien Nacido vineyard.

Jim is a Rhone Ranger and for the most part doesn’t stray much west of Burgundy. He loves pinot noir and it shows in all he produces and also makes great chardonnay. In addition to ABC, ranked as the number four of 101 best wineries in America. he also produces Clendenon Family Vineyards. Under that label he makes two of the few, and best, Nebbiolo’s outside of Piemonte, Italy but also other artisan wines such as Aligote, Tocai Friulano, a Mondeuse Rose from Bien Nacido, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Petit Verdot, and a wonderful Grenache, a Syrah/Viognier blend,and of course two Pinot Noir’s. I have never had an ABC pinot that disappointed and I can’t say that about many labels.

Bob’s focus is on southern Rhone wines, especially syrah, but also wonderful Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, and blends of them. The Clendendon Family label ¬†and the Verdad consists of Albarino, Granacha, Graciano, Rose, a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon, and Tempranillo.

Bob is famous for his Qupe label of Rhone style wines as well as Lindquist Family Vineyards which he produces with his wife, Sawyer; He has also added Verdad which produces great Spanish wines.

Yesterday, we went with some other friends to Temecula, as I wanted to see, and taste for myself, these wines. It was a great counterpoint to the Santa Barbara County wines just discussed.

Temecula is a small town and one you had to pass through on the old U.S. 395 which ran from San Diego to Spokane. Later the town and all others were bypassed by the freeway which is now I-15. Like all of southern California the growth has been incredible and it has been exhibited in the nearly forty(!) wineries with all but two of them clustered tdo the east of the interstate. The first one was Callaway, developed by the golf club company of the same name but was later sold to the Lin family. Originally, the focus was on chardonnay but since the change they have branched into both reds and whites.

We visited two others, Wilson Creek, and Thornton which are considered two of the top one in the area, along with Keyways. We had good wines at both but with all of these wineries in about a six square mile area, it is hard to differentiate. For the most part, the wines lacked the richness of the key California wine locales and the prices reflected the cost of creating a winery today and most of these serve as wedding venues, etc.

So here is the problem: the low end wines started in the high $20’s, and the reds ran from $45 to $75 and even $100 a bottle, so for TB the value simply wasn’t there. Note also that when a winery becomes a destination resort with few exceptions it is the wine that suffers. We had lunch at PUBlic House in old Temecula and I noted that the wine list did not include even one Temecula wine…the price may well have been a factor considering the price for wines from other regions of California on the wine list.

TB has written before on Karen MacNeil’s, The Wine Bible, now in its second edition (and now available as an e-book, which TB strongly recommends for travel. One of the reviews of the first edition complained of the omission of Temecula wines in the tomb. Well, she omitted it in the second edition also, and it was published just two years ago.

So TB’s verdict is IF you are in Southern California and have a craving to visit a winery it is worth the 1-1/2 hour drive from anywhere south of Los Angeles but if you are north of there, go to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and if you have time, Paso Robles.

I mean no offense at the owners of the Temecula wineries, but these are my conclusions after visiting some of the best the area has to offer.

Have a great day!

TB

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