We’re exploring California wine country region-by-region, every day, all summer long. This week we are looking at Temecula and the South Coast. Stay tuned for a new view of these still-undiscovered areas each day this week.
Just 90 minutes from the millions who live in San Diego and Los Angeles, the Temecula Valley is one of Southern California’s most popular playgrounds, especially for wine lovers. Pacific Ocean breezes that flow through the Rainbow Gap cool this warm region, which allow numerous varieties to ripen with power and panache. Big reds like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon can thrive, and Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio show promise.
Clustered tightly together, more than three-dozen estate wineries, which include a growing number that offer food, make exploration easy. The tasting rooms can get overstuffed on weekends, often with bachelorette parties seeking sparkling almond wine, so it might be wise to come during the week.
The warm climate makes Temecula wonderful for all sorts of outdoor activities, from golf and tennis to hiking and cycling. It also features an active motocross scene and serves as headquarters for the famed Metal Mulisha Moto Team. Although resorts offer visitors everything they need, Old Town Temecula also holds overnight options. A historic railroad town that dates to 1882, the restaurants here serve an eclectic array of food, and the nightlife buzzes late into the evening. There’s plenty of beer and cocktail choices for those seeking an escape from wine.
Visitors willing to drive a bit will uncover splendid views and under-the-radar recreation opportunities like the Santa Rosa Plateau Reserve, which is known for hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Emerging wine regions within a half-hour drive include Bonsall and Fallbrook to the southwest and Warner Springs to the southeast.
But Temecula isn’t the only wine-growing region in the large South Coast appellation, which encompasses vineyards from Los Angeles to San Diego counties. Subregions include the Ramona Valley, San Pasqual Valley and the Malibu Coast, where determined vintners aim to produce excellent wine just above the curving Pacific Coast Highway.
Lush, nutty, tropical and often full of oak-related vanilla and butter flavors, these Chardonnays tend toward the ripe style.
Grassy freshness shines through the summer heat spikes, which adds racy edges to flavors of tropical passion fruit and peach in the Sauvignon Blanc.
Both alone and as a base for Bordeaux blends, these Cabernet Sauvignons offer black cherry and dark-chocolate flavors that are bolstered by age-worthy tannic structure.
Brooding, tarry and fruit-forward, these can be juicy and powerful. Syrah impresses when blended with other Rhônes or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Italian varieties show promise here, Sangiovese has rich and distinctive baked red cherry, hot brick and leather flavors.