If you follow me on Vivino (if not, please do – I love to chat about wine), or if you’ve read any of my wine writing, you’ll know we’re huge fans of American wine. My obsession properly started after tasting the fabulous American wines available at some of my favourite restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially Citrico’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where the award winning wine list runs to several pages and the Sommelier can recommend some really fabulous wines. It was at Walt Disney World that I first got a taste for delicious, medium bodied floral Oregon Pinot Noir; and rich, peppery, fruity Californian Zinfandel. From there, we went on to buttery brioche Chardonnays too. I love tasting and learning about wine and you can imagine my delight when I found out that during our recent foodie trip to LA, we were going to be visiting Temecula wine country with Virgin Holiday Experiences.
In my last post, I told you about the brand new Virgin Holidays Experiences: a range of holiday extras that allow you to really immerse yourself in your destination. If you’re travelling in and around San Diego, Temecula is literally just an hour to the north (we drove south from LA on our way down) and if you love your wine – or even if you just like sitting in the sunshine sipping a glass of something cold and delicious – this is a wonderful experience. I feel like Temecula is the ‘secret’ wine region of Southern California, at least as far as we’re concerned in the UK. I don’t know about you, but if I was planning a trip to San Diego, I never would have known about Temecula (that’s the beauty of these experiences) and it really is worth a visit!
Driving into Temecula wine country, you get a proper sense of how it must have been during the ‘wild west’: we pass the white fences of sprawling ranches with horses kicking up the dust, but then suddenly the landscape is taken over by acres of gently rolling hills covered in vines. Our first stop was Oak Mountain Winery, a beautiful spot with gorgeous, panoramic views across the valley. We chatted with owner, Valerie while we had lunch in the stunning cave café (the cave is the only mined wine cave in Southern California, at its deepest, it reaches 104ft underground). Valerie and husband Steve are largely self taught (Valerie’s family owned wine shops back in the 60s), and the vineyards are only 12 years old even now, making the stunning quality of the wine even more amazing. Oak Mountain Winery grow a huge amount of grape varieties, including Mourvedre, Viognier, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel and Sangiovese Brunello, as well as varietals Tempranillo, Primativo (I’m presuming this is just a local way of spelling Primitivo) and Grenache Blanc. It was such a privilege to taste the wines as they’re not available in the UK (in fact, they’re really only distributed within California).
Waving a sad farewell to beautiful Oak Mountain, we set off for Monte de Oro winery, another beautiful estate again perched high about the valley. The winery itself really reminded me of my visit to Montalcino, with the same dusty coloured buildings and cypress trees. The main tasting room is a beautiful space with huge glass windows and high ceilings. It also has a glass floor looking down into the Barrel Cellar (and a polite note to the ladies to remind them that there may be people looking up if you’re standing on the glass), modelled here for you by the beautiful Louise.
Beautiful Monte de Oro Winery in Temecula
I knew I would love the Zinfandel and it really didn’t disappoint. Ken told us that the winery’s Galway vineyard stretches over about 6 1/2 acres and contains roughly 5300 Zinfandel vines. About a quarter of the wine is aged in new American oak barrels, with the rest in 2/3 year old neutral French/American oak. It’s actually a blend with about 10% Petite Syrah and it’s as smooth as silk, with Christmassy spices, orange zest and custardy vanilla. Utterly delicious (I bought a couple of these beauties home).
Monte de Oro’s Nostimo (the Greek word for delicious) was a cracker as well: it’s a peachy, tropical scented mix of Viognier, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli which brings exactly the same sweetness and aroma you get when biting into one of those huge muscat grapes. I could have stayed there all day chatting with Ken and sipping the delicious wines, but we were on the move and headed down to San Diego, the final stop on our whirlwind foodie tour. All aboard!
Fancy a similar trip?
Enjoy a seven night tour of West Coast USA with Virgin Holidays, including Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to Los Angeles. You’ll have four nights at the Andaz West Hollywood with room only accommodation and then a further three nights at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa in San Diego, all for £1295 per person. The price is based on two adults travelling and includes care hire and all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: 0344 557 3859 or visit one of our individual retail stores or one of the 110 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide or visit www.virginholidays.com
Wine tastings in Temecula start from £20 per person.