I’ve paid several visits to Briar Rose Winery and have enjoyed their wine on many occasions, but it wasn’t until I spent some time with co-owner Dorian Linkogle that I discovered what a fascinating history this unique winery has.
In the 1980s, Dorian and her husband Les lived in Orange County. They were looking for property in a remote area where their son could ride his motorcycle. They got a phone call from their REALTOR telling them she had found the perfect place for them. The owner was ready to sell and they needed to meet her at 8:30 the next morning. The problem was, they were in Seattle with their son for a motorcycle event. They wound up driving all night and went to see the property on Calle Cabrillo that next morning. They found it charming, straight out of Disney’s Snow White. The problem was, they couldn’t get the key to work. They peered in the windows, walked around, loved what they saw and made a full price offer on the spot.
Dorian came back and met the caretaker. She told them they had made an offer on the property, but hadn’t been able to get in to see it. He offered to show them around. He told them the owner, Beldon Fields, worked for Walt Disney and had built Snow White’s cottage on the Temecula property as a labor of love for his wife. He said that whoever purchased the property had to make a commitment to Mr. Fields to leave the property as it was as long as he remained alive.
Dorian told the caretaker she could promise him they would do that. It turns out the caretaker was indeed Beldon Fields, who agreed to sell the property to Les and Dorian. Mr. Fields passed away recently, but true to their word, the Linkogles haven’t changed a thing.
Their fairy tale cottage became the first home showcased on the Temecula Valley Women’s Holiday Home Tour in 1984. Les had heard that grapes grew well there so he planted Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. When the grapes matured, he began selling them to local wineries. Carl Keys of Keyways Wineries told Les he was growing good fruit and should start making his own wine. Les heeded his advice and he and Dorian went to the County of Riverside in June, 2002 to begin the process of applying for a license to operate a winery.
Five years later on June 23, 2007 after four public hearings and an appeal, they were granted a full certificate of occupancy with major conditions of approval. They say behind every cloud there’s a silver lining, and the five year delay gave Les a chance to hone his wine making skills. When they finally did open the doors, critical acclaim soon followed.When Kate Linder from The Young & The Restless got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Briar Rose wine was served. Word spread and celebrities, like Jay Leno, Lucho Gatica and others soon found their way to Briar Rose.
Briar Rose is a reservation only winery. You are escorted into a beautiful tasting room, where your pourer, (Annabelle, in our case) gives you an education about the wine, the vintage and what to look for in each wine. It’s an unhurried experience. The wines are exceptional, and there are two tasting menus to choose from. The higher end menu offers library and cellar selections. Les’ wines are gaining national and international acclaim. Dick Cheney served it in the Vice Presidential mansion and their wines have won numerous awards, including a Best-of-Appellation award for their 2005 Sangiovese.
Dorian was doing research last year on the history of wine in California when she read about the Mission grapes brought to California from Spain via Mexico in the 1700s. Father Junipero Serra planted the grapes in 1769 at Mission San Diego de Alcala for their sacramental wines and brought cuttings with him to the other five missions he founded in California. The Linkogles were amazed to learn that there were Mission grapes just down the road at the Pechanga Indian Reservation. The varietal is known as Palomino Negro. Les got a hold of some of the grapes, produced some wine from it and is now waiting for the labels. He also planted some cuttings and will eventually be producing estate-grown Mission Wine. I had a taste of the Mission wine in the barrel room and it is strikingly similar to Pinot Noir in color and taste. Les says it has an extremely short shelf life and the wine has changed dramatically since the beginning of the year.
Down the road, Les and Dorian will be producing television shows from their barrel room. He has added a complete, state-of-the-art kitchen and will bring in marquee chefs for a series called Intoxicating Cuisine with Steve Spitz. This fall they’re planning a Founders Event to honor the founders of the Temecula Valley wine making region. Call for a reservation. When you visit, ask Les if you can taste his Talking Frog wine lager. If you wonder where they came up the name Briar Rose, that was the name of the princess in the original story of Sleeping Beauty.