July 12, 2006
Coasting Inland

While in the Temecula Valley I've been staying at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, which isn't on the coast at all but in the middle of vineyards and orchards. The terrace of each individual villa, in fact, opens onto vineyard or citrus grove. While the place is posh, it also is a true working winery. If you continue straight ahead as you approach the front door you end up in the tasting room; turn left to register for a room.

The winery isn't a tourist gimmick, but a serious operation with a serious winemaker, Jon McPherson. That was shown last night when the Temecula Valley Wine Society announced the winners of the region's second annual wine competition. I haven't totaled up all the medals South Coast Winery won, but I do know that three of the four gold medals we gave syrah wines went to South Coast Winery for various interpretations of the varietal. (The fourth, however, went to the syrah judged the best red wine in the competition, the lush Wilson Creek Winery 2004 Estate Temecula Valley Syrah ($35).)

The competition's sweepstakes winner was a surprise for a region that is swinging to more warm-climate grape varieties. It was the gentle but characteristically floral and spicy Van Roekel Vineyards/La Cereza 2005 Temecula Valley Gewurztraminer ($15), the only example of the varietal we tasted all day, and a varietal that generally shows this well only in cooler microclimates.

Unfortunately, few Temecula Valley wines get to Northern California. In other words, you've got to plan a long weekend down here, but be forewarned: If you come soon don't expect the weather to be any cooler than Sacramento. South coast, indeed.

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