You know, nothing really surprises me anymore, however, I was amazed to hear so many people to whom I had mentioned that I was taking a trip to So Cal’s Wine Country @SCWinery @temecula_wine came back with, “What? So Cal has a wine country?“Â Being from the east coast, I didn’t realize it either, but I kind of expected Californians to be hip to this knowledge.Â But in fact, the tucked away world nestled 90 miles southeast of L.A. and 60 miles north of San Diego, calls itself “Southern California’s best kept secret” or properly, Temecula Valley.
This is where I spent my first weekend while in the La La Land of the Pacific Punch (Days #5 & #6).Â Yes, California, there is a Santa Claus.Â Sonoma and Napa reign supreme in the commercial wine world, but should you decide after this post that you have a wild hair just itching to take a jaunt down yonder, you really should.Â You don’t have to be an adventure enthusiast or history buff to explore the sprawling historic town of Old Town Temecula or the vast vineyards of Temecula Valley and hey, even wine snobs are invited.Â By the way, the name Temecula has come to be interpreted as “Where the sun breaks through the mist”, and has Indian roots, to Spanish translation.
I was part of a small media group checking out Temecula’s SummerFest 2011 which was inclusive of tours within the city and outlying areas.Â Growing up in a family whose parents made it a point each summer to visit every U.S. historic home, grave site, statue, battlefield, gas station and ball of yarn while patronizing each location’s museum and gift shop, you’d think I’d cringe whenever I hear “Old Town” or “Historic” in association with a trip.Â Such is not the case.Â I’ve grown into a curious kitten, sincerely appreciating (if only I’d paid more attention on these vacations and in school, if only!) the sites, the tales of how places came to be, the struggles the people endured back then, and the real impact each made on today’s modern world.Â Without understanding our history, how are we to move forward?
The journey begins:
The Friday mid-day drive from L.A. gives me an opportunity to see other parts of this fine state and take in the views of expansive mountain ranges.Â Lindsay and I definitely are attuned to the rising temps and the heat index.Â We have been warned, but you too please heed this advisement: It is the desert and it is HOT. Wear hat, sunscreen and drink a lot of water, especially if you are planning on wine tasting.
Our group has decided to take in a wine tasting before heading into Old Town Temecula for our round about tour throughout the bustling seat.Â The first stop is at the 320 acre very recently opened Europa Village @EuropaVillage (33475 Le Serena Way).Â We pull up the winding drive to find ourselves smack dab in front of a brightly colored hot air balloon. “What’s this?” I think. Why on earth (or in the sky, as the case may be) would they have this balloon here?Â Later I learn that hot air balloon rides are one of the famous and very popular draws Temecula offers.Â Greeting us is Kerilyn “KK” LaFournaise, a petite fireball holding a tray of waters.Â We follow her through the entrance and she tells us that the village is made up of three countries: Italy (Vienza), France (C’est La Vie) and Spain (Bolero Cellars).Â Each section and tasting room has been modeled to reflect the respective nation and along those lines, grapes carefully selected in the making of the wines the very ones known for being well used in each country.
Our surroundings are completely charming and old world-style and we walk into a dark cavernous private wine tasting room.Â Here we are introduced to a tall handsome gent, Stefano, who pours us multiple tastes of wines, explaining (with a heavy Italian accent) the inspiration, properties, makeup, nose and flavor of each, like a tutor educates an eager student.Â We sip out of a funny shaped glass, the “new” look which is supposed to be more functional than sexy.Â There’s no long elegant stem. It’s flat on the bottom, with the exception of where one inserts her finger to hold, and the rim is smaller in circumference.Â Then you use your thumb to for balance.Â Here’s where the function comes in.Â Tasting is about the nose and with this new fangled glass, the nose opens faster and forces the drinker to tilt her head back further, thus opening up the sinuses. Â We joke about the glasses, that it’s like holding a bowling ball, and we even are offered the “normal” stemware which some of us oblige to use as we continue the tastings and indulge Stefano.Â At the conclusion, we walk outside by way of the massive wooden doors which open with grand drama.Â The space is perfect for any special occasion (weddings, receptions, business functions, celebrations) with views to take your breath away.
KK shows us more of the enchanting village, which by now, has drawn a full house of hot, dusty, but thirsty visitors.Â In the C’est La Vie tasting room and shoppe, I buy a few bottles of my favorites: Tempranillo (23% Cab and the rest Tempranillo) and Libido (Grenache blend) from Bolera Cellars.Â The bottles Stefano helps me choose have a wax top. He tells me that the first 1000 cases of wines had been hand waxed to commemorate the grand opening of Europa Village, a symbol of the company’s values.Â The wax also offers a better seal.Â But on top of that, every bottle was waxed by community volunteers who serve either a non-profit or charity and in return, Europa donated more than $5,000 to those worthwhile causes.
KK explains to us about the coming attractions: the B&B on the hill will be open soon, there are forthcoming autumn events, wine and food festivals…there will not be a dull moment at this young but glorious old world European-inspired village which pays homage to France, Italy and Spain.
We also learn that our collective favorite red choice the 2007 Cabernet by C’est La Vie is not not not, I repeat not for sale to we regular people.Â Retailing at $55, there have only been 250 cases made with a September 2011 release and the line for this sensuous big red is out the door.Â ONLY members of Societe Europa’s exclusive Winemakers Reserve Cabernet Club may purchase the Cab and wait, it gets more difficult.Â You can’t just buy in, baby, there’s a waiting list for the highest level in the wine club.Â Ouch. But fear not, other levels are open and waiting.Â We leave after taking a few more photos and hugs from KK and Stefano.
We are off to Old Town Temecula, the first adventure in our tour of this city’s history.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.