Going to Temecula for a Saturday of wine tasting has to be one of my favorite things to do. We usually plan our trip with our wine club membership pick-ups in mind.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my husband and I have memberships to three Temecula wineries. Although three sounds like an exorbitant amount, the benefits of always having good wine around and many wine pick-up dates to look forward to outweigh the cost and the looks I get from people when I tell them.
We first signed up for Ponte, one of the most popular wineries in Temecula. At the beginning we were a little turned off by the crowds but after sampling their wines (my favorites being the Isabel and Juliet) and eating at their restaurant, the Smokehouse Grill, we learned why Ponte is so favored. The key is to put your name in at the restaurant before you begin your wine tastings and then by the time you are done, your table is ready – if not, roam around their alluring grounds or amble through their specialty store called the Marketplace.
Ponte’s basic membership requires you to purchase two pre-selected bottles of wine 8 times a year which rounds out to approximately one pick-up every other month. Members get 20% off of these bottles as well as any other bottles you purchase as a member. Other than the two-bottle commitment, there’s no cost to being a member; savings include free unlimited wine tastings and a 10% discount on the Smokehouse restaurant, which has quickly become our favorite restaurant in Temecula.
Ponte’s membership program is typical of the dozens of winery memberships in Temecula. The hardest part is deciding which one or ones you’d like to commit to. For us, the other two, Mount Palomar and Wilson Creek, were ones we signed up for on various trips to Temecula usually justified by celebrating something. (Mount Palomar we signed up for while celebrating my husband’s birthday, and Wilson Creek we joined during our wedding anniversary weekend.)
Currently I would say Wilson Creek is my favorite due to their port that they serve in an edible chocolate cup, but my husband’s all-time favorite is Mount Palomar for their signature Cloudbreak red wine. Cloudbreak is so sought out that they hardly ever have discounts on it. Even for their wine club members. Once or twice a year they'll have a deal where you buy two and get another two for a few pennies. Four bottles at this price still ends up costing about $100.
I've also tasted at Callaway, Falkner and Maurice Carrie and there are plenty more wineries in Temecula that I have not yet sampled, each with their own specialty. This leaves me with more to explore and look forward to.
Now when I go, I pick up 6 bottles of wine and enjoy all the tastings of the familiar wines I want for free – or I can choose to venture to one of the many other wineries I have yet to discover and save my palate for new tastings that will cost about 10 dollars for 5 or 6 samples.
If you go only for the day, it’s a good idea to eat a meal last, as it gives your body some time to absorb and digest the wine. It's also been beneficial for us to grab a coffee at Starbucks right off Rancho California Road in the Jefferson Plaza Strip Mall before hitting the 15.
Whatever wineries you decide to stop at, you'll find that spending a day in Temecula is one to be remembered.