I admit, I am a native Southern California wine geek who happens to have very little experience with Temecula and their wines. My first and only visit up until this past weekend was about two years ago. Due to a bad experience at one winery in particular, I decided to cut my day short there and write off the entire region. Ok I admit, that is a little harsh but after tasting mediocre wines and bad service, I was less than impressed. Fast forward two years later and I’ve decided, it’s time to re-visit Temecula.
About a week ago, I got an email from one of the owners of Monte De Oro Winery who had stumbled across my blog and had very nice things to say about it. He had extended a most generous invitation for a private tour and tasting at the winery. The winery is working hard to change negative perceptions about Temecula. Knowing this, I was very intrigued to visit and taste their wines. Having this invitation was a wonderful opportunity to plan an overnight trip to Temecula. My friend Claire and I quickly made plans to drive to Temecula for the night.
Monte De Oro was founded in 2002 and is composed of 68 partner owners who pride themselves in crafting award-winning wines while maintaing sustainable practices in their winemaking. Their goal for the winery is to create an elegant, sophisticated environment that is welcoming.
The grounds at the winery are lovely and they have a huge modern-looking tasting room. When we arrived, we saw the tasting room filled with happy people tasting wines. Always a good sign! Shortly, we were enthusiastically greeted by David Allbright who is in charge of Cellar Operations for the winery and the Signature Tasting Manager. Before we got things going, we started with a pour of their 2011 Viognier. Viognier is one of the wine grapes that does well in Temecula’s climate. This wine was very fragrant and had a lot of tropical fruit and citrus flavors on the palate. It was a lovely introduction to Monte De Oro’s wines. David took us on a tour of the grounds and vineyards and told us about all the varieties that are in production. Most of the wines are 100% Estate Grown. Currently in production, they have Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, as well as various white and red blends and Rosé. They also have Petite Sirah and Tempranillo in barrel as well as Petit Verdot. Next it was time to tour the barrel room and do some barrel tasting.
Down in the barrel room, David talked to us more about the winemaking process and we had a chance to sample some Petite Sirah from the barrel. One of the most impressive things about the entire visit was that David took the time to read my blog and get to know about some of the wines I’ve written about in the past and pulled a wine that is not yet released to the public for me to taste based on a glowing review I did for a wine from Oregon recently. The wine that he opened was their 2009 Cuvée De Oro. It is the winery’s proprietary Rhone varietal blend. It consists of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault. I am a huge fan of Rhone wines, especially blends like GSMs and David knew this from that particular blog post I had written, so he was excited for me to taste it. The wine was brimming with red fruit, spices, smoked meat notes, and nice acidity to balance it out; not to mention a gorgeous ruby color. It was delicious wine. I was very impressed with the wine and so delighted that he opened it especially for us.
After doing some barrel tasting down in the barrel room, we went upstairs to the tasting room and tasting through their line-up paired with various cheeses. The 2011 Viognier and 2011 Nostimo (white blend) were our favorites for the whites. The Syrah, Zinfandel, and red blends were our favorites for the reds. The only thing I wish was different with most of the reds (and this goes with most of the reds I have tasted across the various Temecula wineries I have visited) is their high alcohol content. Most of them range between 15% and 16%. There are a few in the 14% range. I know the climate has a lot to do with it. When you’re growing grapes in a warmer climate like Temecula, you tend to get wines that are higher in alcohol and lower in acidity. For these bigger, bolder, more robust reds, you will definitely want to pair them with heartier fare like steaks and meat stews.
Monte De Oro really seems to know what they are doing and the direction that they are going in. Out of all the wineries in Temecula that I have visited, this is definitely my favorite and I will recommend it to friends. The pricing is definitely on par with the quality of wines that they produce. Like all other wineries, they have their own wine club where you can get regular shipments of their wines sent to you throughout the year. They also offer wedding and event planning services for events at the winery for those interested in getting married in Temecula wine country or having a party. Their barrel room makes for an awesome backdrop for a private event and the beautiful grounds would make a perfect location for a wedding.
Monte De Oro is leading the way in changing the public’s perception of Temecula wine country through their award-winning wines and wonderful hospitality. I encourage those of who have never visited Temecula or those of you who may not have visited in a while to pay a visit to the wonderful people at Monte De Oro; you will be glad you did.
A special thank you to Brian Allman for the invitation to visit the winery and to David Allbright for his wonderful hospitality during our visit. Until the next time friends.