Old Town Temecula is fast becoming a wine destination all its own. The newest face on the landscape belongs to Temecula Hills at Villa di Calabro, a collaboration between friends a long time in the making. Steve and Valerie Andrews started Temecula Hills Winery in 1996. They are longtime friends of Mike and Mindy Calabro and for years have wanted to do a joint venture. Last year, the dream became a reality when they found the location for their tasting room, a beautiful 1927 era building in Old Town Temecula. Steve’s sister, Cathy McClain, was selling real estate in Arizona, heard about the opportunity and stepped in to “save the day”. You feel as if you’ve stepped back in time when you enter. The main room features the wine tasting bar and a lounge area. In back is the olive oil tasting bar. Out back is a lovely and spacious patio.
Steve not only makes excellent wines, but he’s a skilled carpenter as well. You’ll see his handiwork throughout the tasting room. He built the bar and the cabinets and he and Mike did the entire renovation themselves. Cathy and Mindy are on hand to greet you most days and in the evenings you’re likely to find Mike, Steve or Valerie or all of them there. Steve and Valerie’s entry into wine-making was in their blood. Valerie’s dad, Ed Snyder, switched from the grocery business to opening a chain of liquor stores in 1960. At that time, there were only thirty wineries in the entire state. When the demand for boutique wines began in the 70s, Ed did his homework and started stocking his stores with wines from wineries producing less than 10,000 cases annually. It’s was Ed’s enthusiasm for wine that prompted them to open their first winery and they honor his memory with their Ed’s Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
You’ll find all of Steve’s Temecula Hill wines in the new tasting room: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Sangiovese, Cinsault, Estate Syrah, Ed’s Red, Tempranillo, Sparkling Raspberry Viognier and Port. Steve’s enthusiasm for his wines is infectious. As I was writing this story, I called to double check on what they were pouring. He convinced me to come taste the newly released 2006 Tempranillo and Sangiovese. Both bare a bit “tight” as they are freshly bottled, but it’s evident they will become superior wines in short order. Steve told me he thinks his new Tempranillo is better than the â€˜04 which won two golds and a silver.
When I visited, Steve was still there, but had to take off for a wedding at Oak Mountain. I joined another couple for one of Mike’s olive oil and vinegar tastings. Mike was Wilson Creek’s winemaker for several years. A few years back, he “borrowed” Mindy’s credit card to buy an Italian olive oil press and while at Wilson Creek, he began making his own olive oil.Today, he offers several varieties, including flavored oils with real Meyer lemon, orange, lime, basil, rosemary, garlic and jalapeno. The tasting come with chunks of fresh bread and conclude with his vinegars: balsamic, fig, champagne, apple and pear. He also offers a Temecula Dipping Oil. All are delicious. Villa di Calabro is pouring three wines – Sparkling Muscat, Super Tuscan (my favorite) and Villa White. The skills he honed at Wilson Creek shine through.
When I visited with Cathy and Mindy, they emphasized how their focus is on their customers. They want people who walk in the door to feel as if they’re at a party at a friend’s house. As Cathy says “one team, one dream”. They all compliment each other. The tasting room is open seven days a week and in just under three months their traffic has quadrupled. Future plans include staying open later and offering live jazz. They’ll be opening a commercial kitchen and offering food soon. Check out Cathy’s nails…