These Are The 3 Best Wineries in Temecula You Must Visit

Your guide to wine tasting in Temecula

From the northern coast of Napa to the canyon hillsides of Temecula, California wine holds an international repertoire and panache for the distinctive fruit flavors of its varietals. With more than 2,800 wineries registered in the state and owning 107 of the 188 American Viticulture Areas (AVA) in the U.S., California wine accounts for 90 percent of all U.S. wine exports –  an industry that is valued at more that $17.5 billion annually.

Here are the 3 of the best wineries in Temecula.

Thornton Wineries

32575 Rancho California Rd, Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 699-0099

Highlighting the flavor, freshness and individual characteristics of the fruit, Thornton Wineries has for more than 20 years produced premium wines with the intention of creating distinct varietal expressions for each wine with a unique signature note and aroma. Spanning 20 acres of vines, the winery employs the ‘Methode Champenoise’ process to creating several complex and interesting sparkling wine varietals – emulating the classic wine styles of the Mediterranean and Rhone regions.

According to Winemaker David Vergari, an industry veteran of 20 years, a good white is foremost derived from “good grapes. One of the most critical decisions, is when to pick; it’s a window of opportunity when grapes are at their optimum [ripeness], depending upon the [varietal] style. [Essentially], the devil is in the details.” Vergari recently joined Thornton, looking to make his mark on the 2010 blends of Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli coming available this year.

A French-styled chateau with herb gardens and an alfresco fountain terrace, Thornton Winery welcomes the sounds of its annual Champagne Jazz Series during summer months, bringing nationally renowned contemporary jazz artists to the Valley. Between the flavors of its vines and winery ambiance, Vergari notes its all about the “beauty of blending, [and] finding synergy.” Web:

Wines of Note

2009 Viognier

Nose: apricot and spice

Mouthfeel: even finish with peach and crisp fruit flavors

Blend: 100% Viognier, aged for 7 months

2008 Gewurztraminer

Nose: lemon citrus

Mouthfeel: peach and apple

Blend: 100% Gewurztraminer, aged for 7 months

Wilson Creek Winery

35960 Rancho California Rd, Temecula, CA 92591
(951) 699-9463

Famed for their Almond Champagne, Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyard is a family legacy in every sense; a united front, three generations of the Wilson family are home to the winery and its operations – even the family’s five golden retrievers often roam the property. As the 14th winery in Temecula, currently holding 92 acres (75 of which are fully farmed), Wilson Creek continues to garner a number of national accolades, including gold and silver medals for their most recent 2009 Muscat Canelli, 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel and 2008 Viognier.

“It’s about balance and texture, having a rich full mouthfeel,” notes 25 year industry veteran Winemaker Etienne Cowper, when describing a good white wine. “My theory is, treat the fruit gently. If any corrections are necessary, it’s to the juice – not the finished wine. You never want to strip it out, or [even] loose its character.”

According to Owner Bill Wilson, “we are the unofficial, official wine of the Navy.” In 2001, the USS Constellation requested a private label for the ship; Wilson has since provided labels for eight aircraft carries, including the USS Nimitz and USS Roosevelt. Web:

Wines of Note

2010 Estate Viognier, 607 cases

Blend: 90% Viognier, 10% Chardonnay

Color: light straw with a slight green tinge

Nose: aromas of honeysuckle, cherry lifesaver and musk

Mouthfeel: supple and round in the mouth, with flavors of peach, green melon, ripe apple and a hint of tangerine in the finish

Harvested: August 31, 2010

2010 White Cabernet, 2,072 cases

Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Color: pastel white

Nose: bright floral strawberry with a hint of perfume

AnchorMouthfeel: soft and inviting in the mouth with a refreshing, light sweetness and bright berry fruit (strawberry jam) in the finish. Harvested: September 16-18, 2010

Keyways Winery

37338 De Portola Rd, Temecula, CA 92592
(951) 302-7888

Sharing in the romance of wine country, Terri Delhamer – Keyways’ owner for the past five years – is most rewarded by “making sure people enjoy themselves.” A former real estate broker and lawyer, Delhamer took the initial listing for the winery’s founders, only to have purchased the property as an investment for herself. With 13 acres, the boutique winery extends concerts on the terrace during the summer and a white rose garden amid the vines for weddings. The tasting bar even boasts a Brazilian onyx counter, lit from underneath.

For the past two years, Winemaker David Raffaele has made his mark on Keyways’ flavor. A former photojournalist for the Navy, Raffaele spent a lot of time in Europe, soaking in information about the wine making process. And according to Delhamer, “Compared to other winemakers, he is definitely more adventurous, constantly learning new techniques and blends.”

“For me, I look for the expression of the varietal,” she notes on defining a good white wine. “You smell it, taste it and know. I like crispy whites, [offering] a nice balance between acidity and sugar. It’s not overbearing, not too dry and not overly sweet. [I’m really liking] our 2010 Chardonnay, it has a lot of personality with complex layers of flavors and fruit character.” Web:

Wines of Note

2009 Simply Rousanne

Blend: 100% Estate Rousanne, off-dry style

Nose: apricot and honey

Mouthfeel: light sweetness with creamier texture, retaining the rich and delicate flavors of the French grape

Pairings: Asian cuisine and seafood

2009 Estate Reserve Viognier

Blend: 100% Estate Viognier

Nose: peach, apricot and violet

Mouthfeel: full bodied with crisp citrus and soft velvety finish

Pairings: Mahi Mahi filets and mango chutney

2010 Muscat Canelli

Blend: 100% Muscat Canelli

Nose: floral and perfume

Mouthfeel: Red Delicious apple, kiwi, pears and apricots

Pairings: grilled citrus chicken, spicy Asian cuisine or exotic fruits