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San Clemente Journal

The Valley of Temecula

Aug 01, 2003 09:23PM ● By Don Kindred
by Rosemary Sieve

The gardens at Ponte Winery are beautiful.
     Dust off your spirit of adventure and head south from San Clemente, CA on Interstate 5; turn east on highway 76, drive north on Interstate 15 and exit on Rancho California. We are off to Temecula wine country, a heartbeat away and a step back in time.

     Cradled in the foothills of granite studded hills lies the unique microclimate valley of Temecula ‘where the sun shines through the mist’, so aptly named by the Luiseno Indians. California’s own Rhone Valley, full of light, hot days and cool misty nights, encompasses over 2000 acres of lush grapevines that open up their branches beckoning the wine connoisseur to taste its fruits.

     Sprinkled amidst the verdant valley are over 18 family owned wineries, so, jump into the Grapeline Shuttle bus that awaits you and head out to Rancho California Road to begin your wine country

Engraved rock outside a Temecula museum.
adventure and encounter the art of enology. Learn from the vintners themselves about the cloning of vines to suit this particular area. Taste the wines that have been lovingly nurtured and fermented. Let the growers show you their love of the grape by telling you how their hobby got out of control and how their wines are as good as anywhere in the world. Let them explain how the struggle for the vine roots to find water will create a tastier grape. And as Jim Carter, owner of Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard speaks of his love of the soil says, “I want to grow the very best grapes, so I can make the very best wine.”

     Those of us who have savored the wine of this region feel the many accolades received by the Valley wine makers are well deserved. So sit back, leave the driving to the shuttle driver and relish your day in the country.

     It is fitting perhaps to start with one of the oldest wineries in the area, ‘Thornton’. Before having lunch and delighting in a glass of fruity Viognier in the award winning Champagne Café, savor ‘Thorton’s Brut Reserve Champagne. Let the bursting pearls explode in your mouth and trickle down your throat. “Our sparkling wine rivals Dom Perignon” boasts owner John Thornton … and it does.

     Ask your designated driver to continue on to ‘Keyways’ and try their Petite Syrah, a rich and spicy red wine that tastes of black cherries, or sip on a well-balanced Chardonnay. Don’t drive by the new facility at the Ponte Family Estate Winery, as this is a wonderful place to finish your day of imbibing. Saunter inside the Italian masterpiece and appreciate some Merlot and then wander outside

Barrels of Temecula Winery wines
into a romantic garden, a haven especially planned for brides. Then seduce your palette and experience an intimate dinner with 12 of your best friends in Ponte’s wine club suite. And, after the wine enhanced multi-course meal, sip the velvety zinfandel port while eating a rich dark chocolate dessert, an appropriate grand finale.

     Or maybe you would prefer to conclude your day of decadence by listening to a jazz concert under the stars at ‘Thornton Winery’ or luxuriate at one of the French chateaux such as ‘Churon’. With the scent of wine permeating every room at ‘Churon’ you can drink in the views while at the same time wallowing in an oversized bathtub. And then, at last, filled to the brim with gourmet gratification, blissfully fall asleep in a massive bed before a flickering fire. A perfect ending to an incredible day.

     Plan a trip to this tranquil and ethereal valley before the rich and famous arrive, as, in November of this year, the Temecula Springs Resort and South Coast Winery will open its doors to the discerning. Guests will enjoy inspired dining while listening to the soft breezes whispering through leaves, or, relax in the quaint guest cottages that sit among the vineyards. Who could possibly resist this temptation after being pampered in the spa facilities?

     So, come, stay awhile. Enjoy all the events this picturesque valley offers. Watch the balloons glide above the basin in June. Let the jazz concerts entice you in the summer months, and then, in the fall, dance and stomp to the music of grape crushing. However, before you do leave, visit Old

Keyways Vineyard & Winery
Town and step back in time. Stroll along Front Street and poke around in the many and varied antique shops. Stop by the museum and listen to Dick Fox as he rhapsodizes about the local Indians and the enormous cattle ranchers during the days of yore. Hear about the railroad that was washed away and then close your eyes and imagine the famous Butterfield Overland Mail coach stopping by and Kit Carson doffing his hat to you. Kit stopped by with many other notables – you can too – and you’ll be glad you did.

For more information visit the following web sites: