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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sip and Savor Sustainably in Temecula: A Green Wine Country On The Rise

Nestled just an hour inland from San Diego, and just a five-hour drive from the Valley, Temecula – named among the “Top 10 Wine Destinations in the World” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine – boasts nearly 50 unique wineries and vineyards, as well as several dozen award-winning eateries and epic overnight accommodations, almost all operated with sustainable practices at the forefront. 

 

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and Carter Estate 

The only state winery to claim the title of California Winery of the Year five times at the California State Fair Wine Competition, South Coast is situated on 63 lush acres and features a grand resort with 132 rooms and magnificent villas, the Grapeseed Spa, and the lauded Vineyard Rose Restaurant in addition to its full-scale vineyard, the wines from which are 100% estate grown, bottled, and Certified Sustainable. Among its biggest priorities is fostering an authentic ecosystem management program that allows for farming within the natural location.

South Coast’s sister property, Carter Estate, opened in 2015 and by 2018 became Certified Sustainable, balancing wine quality with water and energy conservation at the highest level possible. Like South Coast, Carter also offers wine country accommodations and a long list of award-winning varietals. Its vineyard bungalows are most impressive, especially if in the mood for romance. Carter also offers wine tasting packages that offer sipping, a luxurious stay, and a bevy of on-property and nearby attractions, including a two-hour private horse drawn carriage ride through its estate vineyards. 

 

Wilson Creek Winery 

Eagle-eyed oenophiles will recognize the breathtakingly gorgeous grounds at Wilson Creek from its many appearances in pop culture, notably on The Real Housewives of Orange County, Blind Date, The Golf Channel, and even on Oprah’s OWN Network. Beloved world-wide for its almond champagne, Wilson Creek, however, is more than just a pretty face. A veteran conservation steward in the region and advocate of regenerative farming, the winemaking team performs plant sap analysis and biological soil analysis for the application of biologically based fertilizers, leading to increased soil carbon and balanced bacteria-to-fungi ratios. They also extend their eco practices beyond the vines. Impressively, wine tank wash water is recycled within the tank, reducing the need for large volumes of water. They use a high-efficiency refrigeration system, and all wine bottles and paper products are recycled on a weekly basis.

All the work shows in every bottle produced on property, of which there are many, given that Wilson Creek grows and produces 15 types of wine ranging from classic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Merlot, to Rhône varieties such Syrah, Viognier, Roussanne, and more. When visiting the winery, guests can sample a little of everything thanks to a bevy of tasting options (some with food pairings) and even the option to taste at the lauded, dog-friendly eatery on property, Creekside Grille. 


Baily Vineyard & Winery 

Truly sustainable since 1986, today three generations of Bailys are growing grapes and making wine with the purpose of maintaining the winery and vineyards for the generations of Bailys to come. In the early 2000s, Baily Vineyard & Winery was one of the first wineries in California to participate in the Wine Institute’s sustainability program and is now a Certified California Sustainable Vineyard & Winery. Such a certification means that all the sustainability boxes have been checked, but the winery especially prides itself on its water conservation practices and the virtual elimination of caustic sanitation products, relying primarily on ozone and steam for disinfecting tanks, barrels, equipment, and floors. Since 2002, the winery has been operating under a Special Waste Management Permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board to ensure that all wastewater is measured, tested, and disposed of properly. The winery specializes in wines made from the traditional Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon. Baily’s winemaking style is best described as “Old World,” meaning that the wines have lower alcohol levels and higher acidity, making them clean and fresh on the finish and best enjoyed when paired with compatible foods.  


Ponte Winery and BOTTAIA Winery

Every year since 2011, Ponte Winery has continued to meet the ever-expanding requirements to maintain its Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing designation. By way of example, they use compost to return beneficial organic material to the soil, install owl nesting boxes to promote natural pest control, and practice responsible watering to make their Italian, French, and Spanish varieties.

Ponte is connected both to a restaurant and lodging as well as a basement speakeasy, so when visiting, save some room on the itinerary to enjoy a perfect martini or Old Fashioned. 

BOTTAIA Winery is part of the Ponte Family and also keeps sustainability a close part of all operational practices. This includes the reduced use of plastic and disposable items for its service departments in its tasting rooms and seasonal café, employing various methods and practices in both its winemaking facility and vineyard farming that result in reduction of herbicides by 80%, and even using one less tractor during harvest to cut down on emissions. At BOTTAIA, enjoy a unique collection of Italian varieties, including Montepulciano, Sagrantino, Verdicchio, and Pecorino to name a few. 

 

Robert Renzoni Vineyards 

A proud member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Robert Renzoni leads the way in all things sustainable, including water conservation techniques, careful canopy management practices, compost spreading, planting annual cover crops, eliminating all pesticide spray, and weeding manually throughout the property. It is also 100% solar powered. When visiting, do not miss the combination of predominantly Italian varieties, including Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Montepulciano with a pizza slice or two from its on-site trattoria, inspired by the owner’s own family recipes. 

 

Palumbo Winery

Certified by the California Sustainable Wine Growing Program in both the winery and the vineyard, Palumbo is a member of the Santa Margarita watershed monitoring program and utilizes ADCON weather station monitors to help identify vineyard issues so it can proactively react to weather situations that might otherwise require nonorganic pesticide or fungicide interventions. They also recycle and compost all grape and post-fermentation waste to better reduce their carbon footprint and help replenish their soils. When at the tasting room, make note of the bar and interior space, which were constructed almost entirely out of recycled and repurposed materials.


Final Thoughts

And that all just scratches the surface of incredible, eco-friendly places to visit in Temecula. There are nearly endless options for eco oenophiles in Temecula Valley. The best bet is to lock in a tour for at least one day of any visit. With both pre-planned itineraries that include vineyard picnics and custom tours, The Grapeline is a great option, especially since debuting the world’s first Mercedes hardtop Sprinter convertible shuttle. The 18-person luxury tour vehicle allows all guests to enjoy fresh air and 180-degree views of Temecula between vineyard visits. 

For a view that will take everyone’s breath away, make a reservation at Callaway Winery. An innovator in the area, it was founded by Ely Callaway – of Callaway Golf fame – and is now privately owned by a local family. The breathtaking estate and tasting room are built high above the city and boast award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc varieties. Callaway is also home to Meritage Restaurant, an indoor-outdoor eatery with a farm-to-fork mindset. The ingredients on the ever-changing menu come from the Callaway greenhouse and garden or are otherwise sourced from sustainable local farmers. 

Among the most immersive experiences in the area is Leoness Cellars. There, opt for the Vineyard Tour & Taste, a guided adventure through the award-winning winery’s winemaking process, capped by a luxurious private tasting of their wines with artisan cheeses and other surprises. 

Seeking something to do between bites and sips? Temecula also offers golf at several public courses and boasts its own Alpaca Hacienda, which is a sanctuary and farm for the gentle, inquisitive South American mammals. 

For more information, visit www.temeculawines.org

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