When people think of California winemaking, they often default to Napa, Sonoma, and the Central Coast. But there’s a budding region in Southern California, and people should really pay attention. An hour north of San Diego, Temecula is producing world-class wines.
As it turns out, this slice of Southern California real estate is pretty favorable for winemakers. The granite-based soil, cool mornings, warm afternoons and oceans breezes all combine to give growers excellent conditions to grow quality grapes.
Every time I visit, Temecula, I come away impressed. The wines, hospitality and rugged beauty always make it a great trip. As a writer and Wine Spirit and Education Trust (WSET) Level 4 Diploma graduate, learning about wine is my passion. Here are some wineries in Temecula I really enjoy visiting.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards: Italian Roots in Temecula
Robert Renzoni was the first winery in Temecula that wowed me! Robert’s family immigrated to the US from Italy in the early 1910s. Robert’s great grandfather, Federico and his brother-in-law started a wine company that quickly folded when Prohibition started.
Upon Prohibition’s repeal, the business resumed. In 2004 Robert and his parents moved to Temecula to continue the wine family tradition and bought a property which became Robert Renzoni Vineyards. With their wines, they specialize in mostly Italian varietals and blends.
A visit to Renzoni is convivial and lively. There is a restaurant onsite and a full schedule of live music. Tastings start at $25pp.
Spanish Wines at Altisimia Winery: The New Kid on the Block
Perhaps the most stunning winery setting and grounds in all of Temecula, welcome to Altisima Winery. Founded by eight local families who wanted to leave a legacy project for generations to come, Altisima honors the Spanish roots of the region with their focus on Spanish wines.
I have fond memories of my first visit to Altisima, as I was touring the space (before they were open to the public) someone bolted into the tasting room with a piece of paper in their hands. This was the final permit needed and they opened to the public the following weekend. The mood was spirited and excited. The impressive main entry opens up to a modern tasting room.
If you continue, you land in the restaurant with a gorgeous and extensive outdoor patio. Upstairs is the members only lounge and terrace that’s not to be missed. Pro tip: try the White Merlot! Tastings start at $35pp.
BOTTAIA Winery: An Oasis in Southern California
Started by the Ponte family who have operated their namesake winery in Temecula for 15 years, BOTTAIA Winery is a place to visit if you seek a luxurious, chic wine tasting experience. Every nook and cranny is an Instagram photo waiting to happen.
And perhaps the most unique element onsite is The Pool at BOTTAIA, where you can wine taste, lounge by the pool on your chaise, and even rent a private cabine.
There are various tasting experiences onsite from a simple wine tasting flight, seated charcuterie pairing, barrel tasting, and even an interactive wine blending experience where you don a lab coat and blend away.
I found the wines at BOTTAIA to be some of the most sophisticated in Temecula. With a focus on Italian varietals, they deliver high acid, food-friendly wines reminiscent of what you would taste in Italy. Tastings start at $34pp.
Doffo Winery: A Family Affair
Like most Argentine families (mine included), the Doffo family roots originate in Italy. Marcelo Doffo’s grandparents emigrated to the “pampas” of Argentina in the early 1900s and as a young man, Marcelo came to the United States. He bought an old cattle ranch in 1997 that would eventually become Doffo Winery.
Today Marcelo’s three children have integral roles at Doffo, making it a full-fledged family affair that is evident upon visiting. Inevitably you may meet one of the Doffo’s during your visit, and if you don’t, the old-world Argentine/Italian hospitality is evident.
Perhaps they’re hosting a traditional Argentine “asado” (BBQ) onsite or pouring one of their award-winning Malbec wines. Also evident is the family’s obsession with motorcycles (over 200 of them are displayed onsite), part of their MotoDoffo brand. Marcelo fell in love with imported European motorcycles as a child and eventually opened up an auto body shop and started restoring.
The MotoDoffo vintage motorcycle collection has grown to nearly 200 motorcycles and scooters from around the world and has become a destination on its own. They now have a separate line of MotoDoffo wines featuring Malbec dominant red blends. Tastings start at $24pp.
There is one thread that ties Temecula together, and that’s the easygoing vibe, no matter which tasting room you find yourself in. You will never feel intimidated. You will always feel welcomed. That’s what I strived for in the beginning of my wine journey.
I wanted to learn more and enjoy the things I didn’t understand, but I wanted to feel comfortable. Luckily, I found a lot of places (and people) who delivered that.