We decided to spend a Sunday afternoon wine tasting with our friends Roger and Kathy. The fact that Palumbo Family Winery was having their wine club pick-up party was a good enough reason for me.
Although the focus of this post is on boutique wineries, we started our journey at one of Temecula’s largest wineries, Wilson Creek. Neither Laura nor I had visited the winery in several years. Roger and Kathy are members, so they hosted us. Immediately you’re struck by the popularity of the place by the sheer number of cars in the parking lot. The front tasting room was packed, so we headed to the back where we found a bar we could squeeze into.
Lori set us up with four glasses and we began to taste. I started with the ’07 Sauvignon Blanc and found it to have a nice, floral nose with a crispness on the palate and a smooth finish. Equally good was the ’07 Viognier, dry and perfect for a hot summer day. I moved to the reds, starting with the ’06 Estate Mourvedre. I thought this was the best wine I tasted at Wilson Creek, with a great plum nose and vanilla on the finish. It’s always a pleasant surprise to find a winery producing a 100% Mourvedre. Next up was the ’06 Estate Legacy, a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It tasted fine, but the nose eluded me. One of the things I enjoy most about a fine wine is its nose, and strangely enough, there wasn’t one to be found here. The final red was the ’06 Estate Zinfandel. This was a very smooth Zin, fruit forward with a satisfying finish. To top things off we enjoyed an “Almond Joy”, with the “Decadencia” Chocolate Port in a chocolate shot glass. You take a sip, they add Almond Champagne, you drink it and eat the cup. That’s very tasty!
Our next stop was at Doffo Winery. To be completely honest, I was apprehensive. Two previous visits had left us disappointed. We kept hearing raves, though, and decided to try our luck again. What a difference. We saw Marcelo Doffo at the tasting bar and he turned us over to his gracious son Damian. We started with the ’06 Viognier. It was delicious… lots of green apple and very refreshing with a great finish. Next was the ’05 Syrah – jammy and fruit forward with smooth peppers. We moved on to a vertical tasting of the ’04, ’05 and ’06 Cabernets. The ’04 spent a full two years on American Oak. It’s a dark Cab that drinks beautifully and will definitely age for some time to come. The ’05 Cab is more fruit forward and smoother and was the favorite of three of the four of us (Laura preferred the ’04). The ’06 hasn’t spent much time in the bottle and it shows. I have no doubt it will develop into an excellent wine and I look forward to tasting it again in a year or so. Damian wasn’t done with us yet. The ’07 Mistura, a 60/40 Cab/Syrah blend with minute amounts of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc is another young wine that will undoubtedly develop into an outstanding wine. The ’06 Malbec is a great example of the varietal – although only in the bottle for a couple of months it shows lots of fruit and plenty of character. The next wine floored us all. This ’06 blend of Cabernet/Syrah and Cab Franc hasn’t been released yet and is only being made available to wine club members. I was sworn to secrecy on the name of the wine. We tasted the ’07 Private Reserve Cabernet. It’s incredibly good now and I think it’s going to be a monster.
Damian said he “wasn’t done with the dog & pony show” yet. We tasted three late harvest wines: the ’08 Muscat, very sweet with apricot and peach notes and a big honey finish. The non vintage Zinfandel Port had a remarkable nose and a silky smooth finish. The final offering came with a story. During the ’05 harvest, somehow an entire row of Syrah grapes was left on the vines. Marcelo discovered the near raisins when he returned from a post harvest vacation. They crushed what there was and it sat in oak for three and a half years. The late harvest wine was going to be dedicated to Marcelo’s granddaughter, but his daughter miscarried. Another daughter got pregnant, the first daughter became pregnant again, and the resulting late harvest Syrah is called “Los Nietos” (the grandchildren). On the back of the bottle are the words “on earth as it is in heaven”. There were enough grapes to produce one barrel, and it is ambrosia. I will return to Doffo this weekend to spend more time with Marcelo and Damian and will do a story on them and the winery.
Roger and Kathy had never visited Briar Rose before, so we made that our next stop. I’ve already written extensively about Briar Rose, so I won’t rehash it. Suffice it to say their wines are excellent and the tasting room experience is relaxing and unhurried.
The final stop of the day was Palumbo Family Vineyards for their wine club pick up party. Nick was behind the grill cooking carne asada (delicious!) and Cindy was pouring at the tasting bar. We took home bottles of the ’06 Cab/Shiraz and ’06 Merlot. Nick continues to craft wonderful wines.
edit: by popular demand (okay, 1 request) here are Nick & Cindy’s dogs.
I’m glad we had the chance to visit Wilson Creek, and I want to return for more in depth visit. For my money though, you can’t beat the boutiques. Doffo, Briar Rose and Palumbo are among the best the Temecula Valley has to offer.