Located just 22 miles from the Pacific and just an hour’s drive from San Diego, the Temecula Valley is also America’ southernmost AVA. Rising hot air from the Palm Desert generates the Pacific winds that cool the 1100 foot high valley floor and provides the growing conditions that in 1776 attracted Franciscan padres to plant the first Mission grape vines in Temecula. Today, Temecula boasts more than 30 wineries and 1300 acres of vines. A recent visit to Temecula provided the opportunity to taste the wines of several wineries. The wines of Thornton Winery impressed me the most.
Given its location, Temecula is a prime site for wine tourism, which the Temecula Wine Growers Association helps promote. Visiting several wineries on a Saturday afternoon, I found large crowds of young wine enthusiasts at every winery. And the wineries themselves are well equipped for tourism with attractive tasting rooms, restaurants, and outdoor facilities.
Established in 1988, the Thornton Winery [pictured here] produces good quality wines and has an has outstanding restaurant where it offers wine and food pairing selections. Newly recruited winemaker David Vergari has worked for several wineries in Spain, Australia, and California. My tasting notes of Thornton’s impressive lineup follow:
Thornton 2004 Brut Reserve Natural ($38) 90
This is a lovely vintage Brut with yeast on the nose and a crisp palate offering fresh orchard fruit flavors, a creamy mouth feel and a pleasantly dry finish.
Thornton 2009 “Sans Oak”Chardonnay ($24) 88
“Sans Oak” is an un-oaked Chardonnay showing green apple and tropical fruit aromas and flavors with a creamy mouth feel and a crisp finish.
Thornton 2010 Chardonnay ($19) 89+
The 2010 Chardonnay offers light fresh tropical fruit aromas with toast notes. It reveals nicely focused flavors on the palate with a creamy mouth feel and good green apple acidity on the finish.
Thornton 2010 Cabernet-Merlot ($22) 87
This Bordeaux blend combines Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a small amount of Cabernet Franc. Medium-ruby in color, it reveals aromas of cherry, plum, and light oak. It is medium-weight with a slightly dry mid-palate and a rather short finish.
Thornton 2007 Nebbiolo ($17) 89
The 2007 Nebbiolo exhibits a medium-dark ruby color and has aromas of chocolate, dark plum, herbs, vanilla and spice. It is soft and velvet smooth on the palate with round tannins and a long finish with light grip. The recently produced 2010 Nebbiolo doesn’t measure up to the 2007 as this stage of its development.
Thornton 2010 Zinfandel Huis Vineyard ($22) 88+
This single vineyard Zinfandel is light-bodied with red cherry and plum flavors. It is flavorful on the palate with good flavor concentration, excellent balance and a delicate finish. It’s an enjoyable and easy-drinking wine.
Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA Tel (951) 699-0099