Wilson Creek Winery and Lorimar Winery in an Antique Pink Cadillac
With all this talk of Life Lists I decided to also write a Bucket List. And since I'm focusing on living a more full life (especially offline) I thought it made sense to complete a Bucket List item too. I reached out to VisitTemculaValley.com to help me make my first wine tasting trip happen. I gave them my budget and they were able to put together a crazy memorable day for me, including an overnight stay, to some of the best of the Temecula wineries. So while some of the days activities may have been comped or discounted, of course, all opinions are my own. And you know I have a lot of opinions. I had to split this post in to two parts since there is so much I want to share with you. You know when I share my trips, I share a lot of detail. But for me, sometimes that is where the magic is. I only live about an hour away from Temecula Valley, home to a bunch of amazing wineries, but have never been before! I am a wine lover but have never been to a vineyard. By the end of my trip, (which was really about 24 hours) I was kicking myself for not having checked it out sooner. Have you been? I'm already dying to go back. I decided to do the wine tasting trip on a Monday so that the wineries wouldn't be quite so crowded. I know they have a tendency to get crazy crowded on the weekends. And while of course I once had my own bachelorette party, bunches of loud women are no longer my jam (Temecula seems to be a premier location for bachelorette getaways. But don't get me wrong, I will return on a weekend. I just didn't want that for my first trip). I left my house and headed straight to Embassy Suites Temecula Valley Wine Country where I would be staying for the night. I met up with my girlfriend, Michelle, and the car that would be touring us around for the day. THIS car! How fun, right?! We got to be driven around on our wine tour in this Antique Pink Cadillac by Sergio Weingarten. This rad car is available for hire for anything from weddings to nights out on the town and, of course, wine tours. Sergio is a character. And he KNOWS Temecula. He had a hand in which wineries we would be seeing he was absolutely professional and amazing. He just may know everyone in town. We jumped in the car and headed off to our first winery. This was my first look at the Temecula Valley and it is absolutely stunning! Aside from wineries, Temecula also has Brewery tours! If your husband is anything like mine, he would much prefer to tour breweries…I can totally see another visit to this area to check them out. There is also an Old Town area with restaurants and many of the wineries also have tasting rooms, complete with entertainment there too. Although it wasn't on the agenda for this trip, I could tell that Old Town would make for a really fun night out. My buddy, Michelle, came along with me. Michelle has been tasting in Temecula before and knows a lot about wine. I knew she would be the perfect person to bring along. She was able to give me even more insight as to what other wineries in the area, that we weren't going to visit this trip, were like. And really I just love her company so I knew we would have a blast together. Our first stop was Wilson Creek. The only thing I knew about them prior to the visit was that they make a delightful Almond Champagne. But I quickly found out they are so much more than that! The grounds are so pretty and there is even a family friendly area under big shady trees near a little creek. We looked around their tasting rooms and I got to see what wine tasting is all about. On the weekend, these rooms would have been packed. But on a Monday, they mean you get much more space and attention if you really want to learn about their wines and wine making process. Trust me, it wasn't empty! There was still a crowd of people at each place we visited. We skipped the sparkling wines and headed straight for a White Cabernet! It was this glorious blush color, very light, not even a rose. It was sweeter than expected and not tannic from the absence of the prolonged contact with the skins (at least I think that is the right word – you know I learned A LOT about wines this day…but there was also some tasting…so…). And then it was about to get fun. We met up with Greg Pennyroyal, the enologist and viticulture expert (his card says coordinator but he is clearly an expert) for Wilson Creek Winery. He's the grape guy. He's responsible for deciding when the grapes are ready to be picked. And he's quite possibly the most interesting man on the planet. We came at exactly the right time to witness this process that is the very start to making new wines. While this process, I believe they call crush, usually happens at night, Wilson Creek has one area in their vineyards that, due to the grade of the hill, has to be harvested during the day. Greg rushed us over to their processing area so we could see this! It was here that our lessons started. Greg had us taste the skins and the seeds and explained how they reach the different parts of your mouth and how you must find the perfect balance to create a great wine. Pretty dang cool. AND THEN we got to meet Wilson Creek winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, who let us taste a chardonnay straight from the barrel. So cool. And delicious, even though it wasn't quite ready for bottling. We tasted our way through their facility and learned SO MUCH about wine, the wine making process, and so much more on our tour. I didn't really care what happened the rest of the day. Getting to learn about wine making this close up was something I never dreamed of. It really enhanced my appreciation for wines and all that goes in to making them. We talked about the bio physical chemistry and more importantly how to slurp – or the process of drawing in air as you are tasting the wine to bring out the flavors and help draw out the different flavors you are tasting as you drink the wine. And it made me want to spend WAY more time with Greg. He's so super knowledgable and was able to share it with us in an easy to understand way. He has a true passion for the craft of wine making and for his part in putting out great wines at Wilson Creek. I will definitely be back to learn more from him! We sat down to a quick lunch at Creekside Grille on property at Wilson Creek. Delicious! While at the winery we were lucky enough to meet Bill Wilson. It was cool to meet a member of the Wilson family and get a feel for how proud they are of all they have accomplished through wine. Over lunch we got to talk with Annette, of VisitTemeculaValley.com, about the great family and food & wine events Temecula puts on throughout the year. Be sure to check the calendar before you plan your visit to see if you can make it to any of them! And how pretty is the outside at Wilson Creek! It would be a lovely place to hold a wedding or just bring a group of friends to hang out and relax. We were sad to end our time at Wilson Creek but loved getting to hop back in the pink Cadillac to move on to our next stop. We pulled up to Lorimar Winery and instantly felt like we were in another country. The building is gorgeous and the landscaping on the property was really pretty. It felt warm and inviting from the moment you walked up those steps. We got a quick peek at the tasting room before we were whisked off for our first tour with Penny Delgado. Oh and we started off with a sparkling wine that was just delicious. Penny was full of fun stories and great information about the grapes and wine making in general. You can tell that she loves what she does and I think we could have hung out with her for days. The grounds of Lorimar Winery are beautiful and there are several great spots for weddings and receptions on the property. One of the things I loved most about this place was their love of music which I probably should have guessed from their music note logo. This is the place to go to enjoy live music, in a gorgeous setting, with delicious wines. I'm sure that on the weekends this place is very lively with people really enjoying themselves. Next Patrick McIlvain, General Manager, put us in to the Polaris and took us around the vineyard. Maybe it was just the perfect time of year, but vineyards are absolutely wonderful to look at. These tours are available to the public, they just require advanced reservation. And I highly recommend it! Patrick took us to look at Lorimar Winery's new rental space, for overnight guests, called the Coach House. I'm dying to get a group together to stay here. We didn't get to go inside but I found these images of the interior and it looks NICE. The Coach House sits right next to one of the event spaces on the property. This room would be perfect for a small wedding or special event. The room is set up like a barrel room and is a little bit rustic, but pretty at the same time. This patio would be perfect for more tables or dance floor. And this is the view out in front of the event space and Coach House. It was so pretty and unexpected to find this little lake right there! I want to have a glass of wine in that there hammock. We went back inside and saw the larger tasting room which is also an art gallery. That was one of the things I thought was so cool about Lorimar. They really work to fuse music, wine and art together. That speaks to my soul. We headed up front to purchase a delicious bottle of red wine (I fell in love with their 2011 Trio wine. I'm WAY more of a white wine drinker but loved this blend. I knew that if I just tasted a few reds, I would find ones that really appealed to me the way this one did). And then we got to meet one of the owners, Mark Manfield. He was super nice and it was a great way to end our time there. What struck me about this winery was how down to earth they all were. While they love making wine, and they make GREAT wine, they aren't snobs and don't want anyone to feel like they don't know what they are doing when it comes to tasting or wine knowledge in general. The atmosphere was fun, casual and I wanted to stay all afternoon. AND we talked about how they do specialty cocktails, with wines, at some of their events! You KNOW I loved that on account of my wine cocktails series. I loved that while wine is their focus, they aren't afraid to mix it up and do something a little bit differently than the other wineries. Can you believe this was just the first half of my day in Temecula?! Even after the first winery visit I was asking the question, “why haven't I been here before?” While Napa and Sonoma may be THE place to do the wine tasting thing, Temecula is no slouch. It was accessible and warm and totally my speed. If you haven't been, you need to go! I can't wait to share part 2 of my Temecula Valley wine tasting adventure tomorrow! And I can't wait to go back and check out more Temecula wineries.
*A big thank you to VisitTemeculaValley.com for making this trip possible. When I reached out to them I had no idea where to start or which places to consider visiting. They planned my trip for me and did a magnificent job! I highly recommend their site for planning your own visit.
*And a huge thank you to Michelle for helping me to take some of the photos. On account of me being so type A I didn't give up my camera very much but the pictures she took were fantastic! It is hard to tell exactly which ones she took but if I had to make it simple, I would say the photos that I am in or the ones that are really well composed were her doing. Now, when are we going back for more wine tasting, Michelle?