The United States Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau established the "Temecula AVA" in the Federal Register on October 23, 1984. The TTB renamed the same viticultural area "Temecula Valley AVA" effective June 18, 2004, approving an application made by the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. This is the only American Viticultural Area to change its name following initial approval. The Federal Register lists the official area for the Temecula Valley AVA at 33,000 acres (134 km2). Within the appellation there are 5,000 acres (20 km2) located in a "protected" area referred to as the Citrus/Vineyard Zone. This area is generally located in and around the Rancho California Road area within the County of Riverside. County guidelines strictly enforce number of acres needed to build a winery, lodging and other limited housing and commercial ventures.
So my goal was to unearth some quality wines from the region. Armed with a small handful of recommendations and some results from research, I drove forewarned and forearmed into the region.
I drove from Newport Beach, and the drive could not be any more magical. Whether you are starting from anywhere in Los Angeles or San Diego, you soon leave the beaches behind you and climb into the hills of the Temecula Valley. Its as stunning a drive as the spectacular drive up into Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez and Santa Rita mountains. Long winding roads. And downtown Temecula is actually very quaint. A really enjoyable drive.
There is no question that this region produces lots of good syrah, cabernet franc, and a solid compliment of Italian grapes as well. The zinfandels from this region are also very good, but they are not the opaque varietal wines produced in Napa and Sonoma. They are more medium bodied, with bright cherry and slightly more acidity, and I found them surprisingly intriguing.
A quick stop at Mount Palomar yielded one of the most unexpected finds - Mount Palomar Cinsaut Blanc 2013. This is a blanc de noir, meaning it is a white wine made from a red grape The wine has a slightly dark white hue. More golden/salmon hint. But not as much as you might expect. It is definitely a white. Very nice fruit. Great complexity. This was a stellar find!
The Chapin Petite Syrah 2011 was also a spectacular wine. Again, not as big and opaque as some of the Napa or Sonoma versions of this varietal wine, a dark garnet color, was a big, jammy wine, with huge dark fruit up front and a big mouth feel. But more bright/ripe cherry than you would normally get. And, there's a touch more acidity here, so the red fruit lingers and luxuriates inside your mouth.