May 17th, 2013
Bel Vino Winery – production 10,000 cases
Lorimar Vineyard and Winery – production 3,000 cases
Masia De Yabar– production: ? cases
The Temecula Valley is roughly 40 minutes south of Riverside in the inland empire of the greater LA area. It can be reached from either the Rancho California or the Temecula Parkway exits off of Interstate 15.
Bel Vino Winery is new to the Temcula wine scene, having taken over the facilities from Stuart Cellars in the last year. It sits on a ridge above many of the vineyards which afford anyone on their picnic grounds, a beautiful view of several other Wineries and the arid mountains that surround the Temecula Valley.
We only tried one white wine, a 2012 Viognier. It was nicely dry with just a hint of the floral quality that can sometimes overwhelm Viognier. It was refreshing and would be good with a light seafood meal or just by itself. I was more than slightly suspicious of the White Merlot (perhaps terrified, alarmed, or mortified would be better – pick your favorite adjective and insert it), experiencing horrible flashbacks to the White Zinfandel craze that started in the ’80′s and somehow just won’t go away (much the same way as Kim Kardashian, cockroaches or a particularly bad rash). Thankfully the trend for smaller Wineries is to make dryer blush wine has taken hold, but I haven’t had a dry Merlot Rose. While it wouldn’t be accurate to describe this as “dry”, it certainly isn’t one of those sugar bombs that other White Merlots can be. Karen said she’d like a glass of it while floating peacefully on the lake near our cabin. I found it a little sweet but by no means objectionable. If it was hot, I could enjoy a glass of it although a few might be a little much for my tastes. Bel Vino had several interesting reds. The 2009 Sangiovese was nicely balanced and lighter than many versions that come from hotter climates. This would end up being a recurring theme from both our Temecula and Ramona Tastings. It seems like every region eventually finds that signature Varietal that is particularly well suited to its climate and soil conditions. Sangiovese might very well become that Varietal for both of them. Most unusual was the 2007 Lagrein. That’s right, I said “Lagrein”. It’s an interesting grape from the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and it’s quite rare in the US. If you’re curious about it, click on the link from its name to check out its write up. It was my favorite of the Bel Vino wines. Karen on the other hand, really liked the Tatria Meritage blend. 24 months in French Oak gave it a nice subtlety that can sometimes be lacking in Bordeaux style wines from warmer environments. While trying to figure out our next destination, we met Seth of Sun Rider Wine Tours who was a wealth of information and steered us to several other Wineries that fit the mold of what we wanted. If you are looking for a guide for a wine tasting trip to Temecula, I suggest you look him up.
Lorimar Vineyards and Winery was our next stop. Marshall Stuart (of the aforementioned Stuart Cellars) is both the vineyard manager and winemaker at this rapidly growing facility. The tasting room at the Winery has only been open about a year although they also have a tasting room in Old Town Temecula.
Check their event schedule because they often have music and wine events at the Winery that are open to the public. They have a very nice variety of wines so if you are coming with a large group of people with pretty diverse tastes, a stop at Lorimar is a must. For those that like sparkling wines, try the Sparkling Grenache. It’s light, off dry with a hint of fruit to keep those who like sweeter wines happy. The Trio, a GSM blend (Grenache – Syrah – Mourvedre) was a lighter version than many, but would be a great every day wine for a large group of people. The real stars of the show were the Vivace and the Petite Sirah. The Vivace is a Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cab Franc. Karen and I have both developed a fondness for Super Tuscans and this was a good one. The Petite Sirah was agreeably “chewy” – just how we like them. Ashlee, our hostess was able to confirm several of the Wineries that Seth has suggested and threw out a few others as well so we finally had a fully flushed out tasting trip. Also, grats on your graduation Ashlee!
So…the good news – coupled with the earlier recommendations from Seth, we finally had a plan for the rest of the day. The bad news – that meant a total of six Wineries – great if your goal is to seriously party and catch a buzz. Not so great if you are trying to keep your taste buds fresh and actually taste differences in the later wines. Also, there is the minor issue of drinking too much and getting behind the wheel. If there are any police reading this blog, we drive a 1977 Ford Pinto. If you’re not a cop, then we drive a …. never mind. Seriously, we do try to be responsible when we taste so Karen and I share a single glass at every Winery instead of each having one. We also tend to dump a fair amount of the samples once we have a measure of the wine (well, most of the time anyway).
Masia de Yabar, stop three and our last before lunch is Spanish. Loosely translated, it means Manor House of the Yabar Family. Not surprisingly, it is owned by the Yabar family from Peru and they clearly have a soft spot for Varietals of Spanish Origins: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mataro. While Tempranillo is solely a Spanish grape, Garnacha and Mataro are more often known in the US by their French names, Grenache and Mourvedre. Most evidence now put these grapes origins in northwestern Spain however so Masia de Yabar is perfectly correct in laying claim to these as Spanish Varietals. Viva Espana! Most of these wines were made for sharing, not overly pretentious or heavy, just light and enjoyable. If you like big extracted wines, this isn’t your place. If you like easy drinking wines to share with friends and family where every one can partake, you need to stop here. Masia de Yabar is located in a large house that has been totally given over to the Winery. There is even a bridal suite for a bridal party to get ready for a wedding. Most of their wines are from the Temecula area but their Malbec comes from a family owned vineyard in what is arguably the best known Malbec Region in the world – Mendoza in Argentina. Given their obvious fondness for Spanish wines, surprisingly both Karen and I thought one of the two truly French wines on the menu, the 2009 Cabernet Franc was the best. Great balance, nice hints of spice (particularly black pepper) and a nice finish. If we didn’t have other places to go, we could have happily enjoyed a couple of glasses on their spacious patio and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and view across the canyon. The staff is very friendly and encourage a leisurely taste on the patio.
We settled in here for a little while we ate lunch and enjoyed a brief break before hitting the next three Wineries, so this also seems like a good place to break for part two of our blog…hardly a cliffhanger but I’m typing this up as Karen drives back from So Cal and my battery is quickly fading so we’ll take that as a sign from above that I’ve rambled on long enough.
1) To view more information for the Wineries of Temecula Valley (the local regional association), click here and type “Temecula” in the “quick search” field to see their listing on Winery-Sage.com.
2) To find more Wineries in Riverside County, click here and enter “Riverside” in the “quick search” field for Winery-Sage.com’s Winery database.
3) More information can be found for each Varietal that we’ve listed by clicking on the link that we’ve created the first time the Varietal is listed in each post.
Karen – Ken
Check out their tastes and bios here
If you are interested in reading the introduction to this series of wine travel blogs, click here.
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