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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weekend Wine Getaway in Temecula Featuring Monte De Oro Winery

Just a few weeks ago my wife and I decided to enjoy a little wine country getaway. In looking at our options, we were intrigued by Temecula -- being just an hour north of San Diego it would allow us the opportunity to have a wine country experience but also enjoy time in San Diego. And so off we went, sans kiddos, for four days of fun. And while we enjoyed the entire trip, the highlight was our stop at Monte De Oro Winery, to which we were kindly invited by one of the winery's owners. (Skip all the way to the end for our impressions on Temecula in general.)

Weekend Wine Getaway - Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula, California
The lovely patio at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula. 
The first thing you notice about Monte De Oro is the really beautiful building. Monte De Oro is very much a family owned winery, it's just that there are a whole bunch of families! Originally started in 2002 with about 50 investors they now have about 70 different owners. They produce about 10,000 cases of 13 different wines with several of the vineyards just planted in 2007.

Budding vines at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula
Budding grapevines.

Baby grape flowers at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula
Baby grape flowers.
Since our trip was in April, bud break was already in the rear view mirror and the grapes vines were already beginning to flower. (Click the photo on the right to enlarge it.)

The soils in the Temecula Valley tend to be granite and sandy loam. Temperatures can easily hit 100 degrees in July/August, so the vineyards are irrigated pretty regularly; however, the area also benefits from the "Rainbow Gap". This is a gap in the mountains that allows the cool air from the Pacific Ocean, which is just 20 miles away, to flow through the valley and cool down the temperature. This also helps create the classic weather pattern for growing good grapes -- warm, sunny days and cool nights. Monte De Oro is ideally positioned in the valley to take advantage of these favorable conditions.

After exploring the vineyard a bit, we then traveled inside to the cellar and the racks and racks of wine ageing in mostly French oak barrels.

French Oak Barrels at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula

Next came the really fun part -- tasting wine from the barrel. And this wasn't just any wine we were tasting, but two brand new wines from Monte De Oro, a 2010 Petite Sirah and a 2010 Tempranillo. Both of these wines were the first vintages from vineyards planted in 2007. (It takes 3 years before you can begin harvesting grapes for wine production when planting new vines.) Both wines were getting ready to be bottled and then will be aged for another 6 months before release.

Barrel Tasting at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula
Cellar Manager David Allbright using a wine thief to extract samples from the barrel.

Both wines were surprisingly well formed at this point, which bodes well for these varietals in the future. It'll be interesting to see how the wines from these vineyards develop over the next few years.

And of course, this wouldn't be The Reverse Wine Snob if we didn't also have a wine pick for you! So today we have one of the more affordable wines we tasted on the entire trip, the 2009 Monte De Oro Cuvée De Oro Red Wine.

2009 Monte De Oro Cuvée De Oro Red Wine
A certifiable quaffer!

35% Grenache, 29% Mourvèdre, 23% Syrah and 13% Cinsault.

SRP of $28 and available for $22 for wine club members (Saturday Splurge). 387 cases produced. Sample submitted for review.

From the bottle:
"Monte De Oro Winery is pleased to present its second Cuvee De Oro offering. This wine is a proprietary Rhone varietal blend and 35% Grenache, 29% Mourvedre, 23% Syrah and 13% Cinsault. Temecula Valley's soils are created from decomposing granitic materials that provide ideal drainage for grapevines. These soils contribute to clean, pure varietal flavors you will see in this wine. Barrel aged for 27 months this wine was bottled on May 29, 2012. 387 cases were produced. Enjoy!

15.0% Alcohol"
The 2009 Monte De Oro Cuvée De Oro Red Wine begins with pleasant berry aromas as well as a bit of menthol. This wine needs some air to really open up but when it does you'll find a nice mix of light spice and berry fruit in the mouth. The primary flavors are strawberry, raspberry and wild cherry, all a bit on the tart side. It ends with a dry medium length finish. While it's not overly complex, this is one very easy to drink wine - a certifiable quaffer.

Buy this wine direct from the winery here.




Lastly a note about Temecula in general. This is a relatively new wine area, with the first winery opening its doors in 1969. Because many of the wineries are small operations, their costs are high, which means their wines can be expensive; however, I was not prepared for just how expensive they went! But to be honest it wasn't the price that bothered me, it was that the price was not nearly justified by the quality of the wine at many of the 8-10 wineries we visited -- a bad combination.

Unfortunately some of the wineries seemed to be more interested in creating a cool space for tasting than producing quality wine. Undoubtedly this is due to the fact that they generate the majority of their revenue off of tastings, which were not cheap either, averaging around $15. While we enjoyed our trip and especially our visit at Monte De Oro (easily one of the more fairly priced wineries in the area) I'd have a hard time recommending a visit to this area solely for the purpose of visiting the wineries. Frankly you'd be much better off some place like Sonoma, where you can find a lot more quality at similar prices. If you're in the San Diego area already, it's definitely worth a day trip to check it out.

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