The evolution of Temecula Wine Country in unfolding right in front of our eyes. I visited two prime examples of this recently on a visit to Mount Palomar and Europa Village Wineries. Mount Palomar is one of the oldest wineries in Temecula, but they are hardly resting on their laurels. Many changes have taken place and more are on the way, not the least of which is the addition of Annata Bistro/Bar. I joined a group of fellow writers on a sunny fall afternoon as we sampled several items from the menu as well as a few signature cocktails.
You get a good feel for the history of Mount Palomar as you walk through the entrance, past the signs bearing the 1969 date. The courtyard is spacious with ample places to sit and inviting fire pits. Look to the right and you’ll see the path to an even larger area used frequently for weddings and concerts. Annata is bright and open, with sizable windows overlooking vineyards and fruit trees. We nibbled on house made hummus and pita chips and marinated olives and crostini while sipping on creative cocktails made with fresh fruit grown on the property, I enjoyed a classic Caesar salad and heard other diners comment on how much they were enjoying flatbreads and steak topped with mushrooms accompanied with house made fries with truffle aioli. Annata is a welcome addition to Temecula wine country open for both lunch and dinner and offering a full bar.
Winemaker James Rutherford joined us and escorted us to the wine production area, where we sampled a few wines from tank and barrel that had not yet been bottled. Rutherford has done a grand job of carrying on the tradition of superior wines at Mount Palomar. We walked out to the Solera area, perhaps the only one of its kind in California. Wine ages in barrels kissed by the sun, becoming sweet and silky smooth over a period of many years. Mount Palomar’s Solera Sherry needs to be on your list of things to taste.
Europa Village is a short drive from Mount Palomar. On arrival we were greeted by general manager John Goldsmith and Gregg English from the tasting room. Europa Village has begun an ambitious project to give each of its three wine labels their own winery. When all is said and done, Vienza will be an Italian winery, complete with an underground cave, C’est La Vie will feature wines made with French grapes and Bolero will offer Spanish wines.
While savoring several of the excellent wines from Europa, Dean Thomas, Executive Chef and Innkeeper at the Inn at Europa Village shared his passion for food with us. The 10 room in is exquisite and I challenge you to find a better breakfast anywhere than the one presented by Chef Dean. Ben Drake has been managing Temecula vineyards for many decades, and he shared stories of the evolution of Temecula wine and the challenges he has faced, not the least of which was Pierces Disease which nearly decimated the valley’s vines less than 20 years ago. Driving past Europa Village today, you’ll find an army of bulldozers hard at work. The first part of the project is slated to open in 2018.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.