by Devin Parr, Marketing Director of Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association
The wine world these days is full of choices. Thousands of different grape varieties are grown, and there are so many different styles of wine to explore. It’s a wine explorer’s paradise out there! But with so many options often come agonizing indecision. What to try?
Few wine regions represent an abundance of choice more than Temecula Valley, home to dozens of different grape varieties produced in a dizzying array of styles. Want light and crisp? Temecula Valley produces many award-winning sauvignon blancs. In the mood for something juicy and rich? Temecula Valley zinfandel may very well fit the bill. What about bubbly? Temecula Valley has some pretty impressive classic method sparkling wines as well.
Temecula Valley is about 22 miles from the Pacific Ocean, bordered by inland valleys and coastal mountains ranging from 2,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation. This unique geography creates a low-pressure area characterized by warm, breezy days and cool nights thanks to two gaps in the mountain ranges – The Rainbow Gap and Temecula Gorge – which allow the cool marine air to be drawn inland.
Thanks to this Mediterranean climate, as well as a pioneering culture of winemakers whose focus on direct-to-consumer winemaking allows them to get creative with their craft, a wide range of grapes thrive in the region, resulting in no one “signature” variety. Temecula has quickly become a leading wine-producing region and was recently named one of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. However, to help narrow down what to try while exploring Temecula Valley, we’ve identified four shining stars that are worth discovering in Southern California Wine Country.
This white grape variety hails from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. In the region’s local dialect, the name Arneis translates to “little rascal,” presumably a moniker earned from the grape’s relative fussiness when it comes to cultivation. In Italy, the grape is naturally low in acidity, producing dry, full-bodied wines when handled well.
In Temecula Valley, Arneis seems to offer more acidity than one might expect and is capable of producing bright, fresh wines with notes of juicy pear, citrus, white flower blossoms, and hazelnut.
Try Temecula Valley Arneis if you like: Pinot Grigio
Pair it with: Creamy pasta
Vermentino is an aromatic white grape variety most associated with North-Western Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, and Southern France. Although Vermentino is considered a light, fresh wine, it often boasts depth and unique characteristics such as a hint of bitter almond and a slight briny note that brings to mind picnic lunches by the seaside.
In Temecula Valley, Vermentino finds a richness that makes it equally at home by itself or paired with food. It’s fleshy and fruity, with aromas of ripe, juicy apple, white peach, pink grapefruit, and lime zest.
Try Temecula Valley Vermentino if you like: Sauvignon Blanc
Pair it with: Seafood
Sangiovese is Italy’s most planted wine grapevine, and particularly common in central Italy where it is the principal grape in Chianti. It has many different clones and is capable of producing easy-drinking, fruity table wines, or more complex premium wines intended for aging, like Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, depending on where it is grown and how it is produced.
In Temecula Valley, Sangiovese rarely takes on a simple, table-wine-like quality. Instead, the wines are rich and full-bodied, displaying ripe fruit and plenty of textures and aromas from oak treatment. The Sangiovese grape is truly at home in Temecula Valley, with many visitors even comparing the terrain to the rolling hills of Tuscany.
Try Temecula Valley Sangiovese if you like: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo
Pair it with: Pasta and pizza
This robust, rather prolific grape is probably most associated with the Rhone Valley and Australia (where it is known as Shiraz), but it grows all over the world. Wine icon Jancis Robinson describes Syrah as, “One of the noblest and most fashionable red wine grapes if nobility is bestowed by an ability to produce serious red wines capable of aging majestically for decades and if its fashion is measured by the extent to which new cuttings have been going into the ground all over the world.”
Syrah finds truly exceptional expression in the warm, Mediterranean climate of Temecula Valley and the best are certainly capable of aging right alongside their prestigious cousins in France. Southern California Syrahs are robust and expressive with gorgeous texture and structure, firm tannins, spice, and the signature black pepper note we all know and love in Syrah.
Try Temecula Valley Syrah if you like: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo
Pair it with: A juicy steak or rack of lamb, or a mushroom-based risotto