TEMECULA is an affluent city with rolling hills and sprawling valleys famous for its wineries and wines in Southern California. Temecula—from an American Indian tribe, which means “sun that shines through the mist”—is ideal for high quality wine grapes as the mists often linger until mid-morning in the plateau with soils that drain well due to its granitic materials.
It actually enjoys a Mediterranean climate. This wine region boasts of thirty wineries where grape varietals like chardonnay, merlot, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon as well as Mediterranean varietals like syrah, pinot gris and a few more thrive well.
The sweltering weather forecast of 116 degrees Fahrenheit did not discourage us from taking the 45-minute drive to Temecula from Enchay’s home in San Diego. My brother Primo with his wife Melinda and I were flying back to the East Coast the following day so we did not want to miss the wine-rich Temecula. Primo’s daughter Kathy who flies back to the Amsterdam and a family friend, Marie, completed our entourage.
My sister Enchay and her best friend Cindy drove their SUVs to bring us to this wine country with a rich history. From the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicles, we admired the rolling hills with rows of vineyards that seemed to welcome visitors and tourists as we approached the valley.
Our first stop was Thornton Winery, a breathtaking entrance to the Temecula Valley Wine Country. The heat was unbearable as we rushed and took refuge in the elegant French-style chateau overlooking the vineyards. Thornton Winery opened in 1988 combining the old and new world style to create award-winning varietal wines.
Here, the Methode Champenoise process is used to produce fine quality sparkling wines that many refer to as Champagne. But Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown only in Champagne, a Region of France. And the strict rule of appellation prohibits the use of the label Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne Region.
With Enchay’s recommendation, we moved on to a bigger winery, the Mount Palomar that nestles on 315 acres in the heart of Temecula Valley Wine Country, with 1400 feet elevation. The winery has been proudly growing and producing award winning wines since 1969.
Its Annata Bistro/Bar is one of the few full service bars. It offers American fusion menu with house made hummus, specialty flat breads and signature sandwiches. The sandwiches and entrees are paired with wines as suggested in the menu. The inviting restaurant has floor length glass windows that give diners a sweeping view of the valley.
Primo, the wine connoisseur, checked out the wine list and settled for the award-winning Shorty’s Bistro Red, a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon with a nose of raspberries, pencil shavings, spearmint and moderate tannins for a smooth finish.
Our friendly food attendant explained that the wine was named in honor of the owner’s faithful dog Shorty, complete with a photo on the label. I shared Lamb Gyro with tzatziki sauce on warm Pita with spinach salad on the side with Enchay.
Tzatziki is a Greek style sauce of strained yogurt from goat milk mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice and dill. Cindy enjoyed the French Club, layers of ham, bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato, onions and mayo on French bread. Primo and the rest had the Classic Palomar Burger with blue cheese, provolone cheese, arugula, bacon, caramelized red onions and house made Thousand Island dressing. We shared the Blueberry Pound cake with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert.