Long were the days since R2 last posted. A relatively recent change of scenery, proximity to Temecula (as in IN TEMECULA) and curiosity have brought R2 out of posting retirement to chime in on my Temecula wine experiences over the past year.
No one, I mean no one, is comparing the Temecula Valley to the great wine growing areas around the world, nor even some of the lesser established areas within California. Ok, well, maybe some misguided marketing folk are doing that. But no one serious about wine. It's hot during the day, dry as f***, with cool ocean air rolling in late in the afternoon and it's pretty apparent most wineries are still experimenting with growing grapes that produce wines worth what they charge. Out of financial necessity, most wineries are appealing to the wedding/party/event crowds with beautiful spaces, ritzy tasting rooms, live music, spas, resorts, special events, hot air balloons, etc. At some wineries, wine seems to be a secondary compliment to their business. The quality of those places are exactly what you think. Not terrible, just not anything to tickle a connoisseurs fancy. All wineries charge a fee from $15-25 to taste 5+ wines from their tasting menu. And... almost every bottle of Temecula wine is vastly overpriced with "club" members receiving 20% discounts versus non-club members. Most wineries are a tourist trap and tourism is a BIG part of the Temecula economy.
That being said, there are some good to very good wines being produced by the more serious winemakers. A lot of the wines I would rate 90-93 points are not on the public tasting lists. Schmoozing has its benefits, especially mid-week when the employees are appreciative of not serving the over-served, annoying bachelorette party crowd. I can't speak for wines being served in 2006 (as in the original post) but the better wines I have had were almost exclusively Rhone and Italian varietals or blends. Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Montepulciano and to a lesser degree Viognier, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Tempranillo. And to be honest, some of these are sourced from vineyards outside of the Temecula Valley. For me the better red wines in Temecula are medium to full bodied, have plentiful red berry or cherry fruit, herbs, minerals, slight toasted oak with balanced tannins, and a medium-dry to dry acidic, lingering finish. Syrah/PS/Zin lean dark, jammy fruit, peppery, leathery with a lingering finish. I have yet to try a wine that I feel could improve beyond 3-5 years. The better Viognier and Sauvignon Blancs tend to have lush floral aromas, medium to dry acids and little oak. Overall, quality of the better red wines is better than the better white wines. Port and sherry dessert wines are supposedly of respectable quality. However, I have had very few of those and can't really speak to their supposed qualities. Temecula sparkling wine doesn't move the needle for me, nor does traditional Bordeaux varietals or many whites. They are not horrid, just utterly nondescript.
I'm willing to post on individual wines or wineries if anyone reads this and has just got to know. The main complaint - at least my main complaint - is that the quality does not match the price for serious wine drinking. Many of these wines need to be $20-30 wines instead of $50-80+ wines. While farming and grape selection seem to be improving, it may take another 3-5-10 years before a winemaker can produce a wine to be rated excellent by WS or WA. And maybe never... who knows.