Like a bottle of fine wine, Temecula Valley has gotten better and more sophisticated year after year. What was once bare land is now a thriving development for the tourism industry. Though Temecula is well-known for it’s hot air balloon rides with a 360 degree view of it’s scenic landscape, there are plenty more reasons why everyone keep coming back.
For us, we come back for their annual Barrel Tasting event but I’ve always wondered why prompt others to return? Is it because of the wine or is it something else completely different? As I map out my inquisition, I’ll inquire people with different backgrounds. From long time visitor to a local winemaker. Personally, we come back here for their Barrel Tasting every January because of the mild weather, the chance of getting away locally, and of course for the wines.
The barrel tasting event showcases 18 wineries per day for two consecutive days usually during the last weekend of January. You are given a passport with descriptions of food and wines from each winery for that given day. In addition, a stamp card is included to mark off your entry. Typically, Every winery will have a white, a red, and usually a barrel aged wine to try. A small bite is also offered for pairing at each winery. It can be as simple as bruschetta or as complex as grilled seafood.
When we first started as newbies on the wine trail for the barrel tasting event six years ago, I couldn’t tell left from right. Simply put, the good stuff from the bad. Yes, I’d be honest, not all wines are great here but wine tasting can be one of those very subjective topics. On our first event, we simply based it on the food offerings. “Korean Wing Lollipops” or “Salmon Pastrami”? Whatever sounded the best, that’s where we went first in the first couple years. But as we have been returning these past six years, progressively we have gained more knowledge and understanding for the varietals offered here thanks to the winemakers and the knowledgeable owners. But more importantly, I learned more about myself and what I prefer to drink.
Needless to say, there are many outstanding wines here. I learned that I like the dark, rich intensive wines. Wines with characteristics of cherry and pepper with a hint of something that smells like old luggage. As quirky and strange as my taste buds, there is something for everyone here and why I keep coming back.
Perhaps people return here because Wine Enthusiast just named Temecula Valley as one of the best 10 wine travel destinations for 2019 in their February issue. The recognition comes along with other wine favorite cities such as Beaujolais, Lake Garda, Lisboa and more. According to Wine Enthusiast, you can find “every familiar variety in California here from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah, Zinfadel, Grenache, and Merlot. There’s also some grapes that aren’t so common like Vermentino, Falanghina, and Counoise.”
Or perhaps they come for the warmer activies including California Dreamin’ Balloon adventures, CrossCreek Golf Club, Journey at Pechanga, or the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve for “sweeping grasslands, vernal pools, and historic adobes.” said Wine Enthusiast.
Probably one of the best reasons for returning to Temecula can be summed up by Ray and Beth Waskowski of Illinois. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Waskowskis four years ago and started talking to them. Thus, I have seen them every year since for the barrel tasting event.
As I recently found out, the Waskowski’s have been coming to Temecula’s Barrel Tasting every year for the past 15 years. According to Ray, temperature is”currently six below in Chicago during the same day we met. During January, it is a GREAT time to get away and spend with beautiful people. “
Intrigued, I inquired Ray how he started coming here in the first place. Apparently, the Woskowskis were previous residents in San Clemente back in the days. Ray had a project that required him to drive back and forth from San Clemente for days. Apparently, one day he stopped by Temecula and loved it and he then brought his wife Beth on the following trip. Since then, they have always made time to come to Temecula on an yearly basis and is also a member of a local wine club. The warm weather, wine, and the people are the main reasons why the Woskowskis keep returning.
For locals, Rob Douglass of Northridge, CA also returns to Temecula frequent. Rob has been coming to the Barrel Tasting for the past four years. He likes the “Temecula Festivals and Temecula in general as opposed to Napa Valley because the wineries are all centrally located. It’s easy to travel back and forth. And secondly, when you check into one place, you tend to see the same along the route. Thus, you get to bond with some people with a friendlier atmosphere as well. With the food and wine pairings during the barrel tasting, you get a feel of what what you can match to. “
From a winemakers point of view, it’s all about quality control. According to David Albright the winemaker from Monte D’Oro, the barrel tasting gives him the opportunity to converse with customers. While overseeing the wine tastings, David asks for customer’s inputs. It’s quality assurance at the event, especially for their 2016 Barrel Syrah that’s offered this year.
Personally for me and my significant other, we too fell in love not only with the wines of Temecula, but the people here as well. The small town feel of Temecula reminds us of simpler times. A time when cell phones or emails didn’t exist. It’s a place that we can take the load off for the weekend yet it’s close enough to home in case of emergencies. We look forward to this Barrel Event every year for the last six years and love coming here also because of the small town feel and the level of service offered by the people who work here.
We hope Temecula Valley will continue for what it is today. The two-lane road along Rancho California Rd., the hospitality of Old Town Temecula, and the wineries with the boutique feel but without the high prices. But overall, what makes this town great is the people. We feel respected as consumers and thus are customers for life.
This year, we also managed to squeeze in some time to visit Old Town Temecula. Highly recommend is Penfolds Cafe for breakfast for their large portions and exceptional bakery delights. The blueberry muffin is airy and tastes like it came right out of the oven when it arrives at your table. We’ve also visited the Temecula Olive Oil company for tastings and bought a few goodies for that added flavor! Needless to say, we love the friendliness of this city and all of it’s offerings.
Definitely check out Temecula Valley’s event calendar for what you’re into. From live music to estate wine pairings, there’s so much to do and a short skip away due it’s short proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County. If you like wine, definitely make the time to consume some because you never know if you’ll become a wine member like us.