Wine drinkers seeking Bordeaux-style big red wines need look no further than Temecula to find them. Located just seven miles off the 15 Freeway, Wiens Family Cellars has been making wines of the Bordeaux variety here for the past six years. “Known for Big Reds,” Wiens differentiates itself by concentrating on producing Bordeaux blends with big intense flavors, rich colors and long aging life to equal those of Napa and Sonoma.
How can big Bordeaux be made in Temecula? While Temecula is quite a bit warmer than southwestern France, the Temecula Valley and its surrounding areas do have some similarities in their proximity to the ocean, and at higher elevations in Temecula, temperatures are much lower than the warmer valley below, allowing cooler-weather Bordeaux grapes to thrive. It also has to do with the struggle of the vines. The rocky soil of the vineyards causes the vines to work harder to survive, producing smaller grapes with more concentrated flavor and color. These growing conditions are what convinced the Wiens family to leave the Sacramento area where they began making wine and move to Temecula in 2003. Winemaker Doug Wiens and his four brothers saw the potential to grow Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and more here, so Wiens Family Cellars came to Temecula to produce their wines guided by their commitment to Integrity, Family and Quality and opened their tasting room later in 2006.
Some of the wines at Wiens have been described as “gateway wines” alleged to have converted diehard white wine drinkers to start drinking red wine after trying their red blends. A favorite gateway wine goes by the name, Crowded. This big red uber-blend of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Tempranillo, Malbec and Petite Sirah lives up to its name by crowding so many different grape varieties in to one wine. Surprisingly, this wine is not a heavy-duty fruit bomb that one would expect from some of these grapes. The acidity from the Pinot Noir grape balances out the fruit-forward Zinfandel, Malbec and Petite Sirah, the Tempranillo adds a little spice and the Merlot gives the wine a nice long and lush finish. Yes, it’s bold, but it’s very well-balanced and it sells quickly (2009 is currently sold out at their website), so visitors to the winery may be the only ones who have the chance to get their hands on this wine.
Insider Tip: Inspired by the success of the popular Crowded red blend, winemaker Doug Wiens will soon be producing a Crowded white version blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Malvasia. (This may prove to be another gateway wine from-reds-to-whites.)
But for those drinkers who aren’t quite ready to convert, Wiens offers several white wines including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and sparkling wine. Their blend called Solace is definitely worth a taste or even a glass. A blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Rousanne, this wine makes for intriguing caramel, apple and pear flavors on the palate and vanilla, herbal and floral aromas on the nose. It is an impressively complex and enjoyable white wine loaded with many happy flavors and aromas.
As big and intense as their wines may be, Wiens Family Cellars is not an over-the-top pretentious estate but a stylish contemporary craftsman-style winery that is warm, sophisticated and comfortable. Inside the tasting room, a huge mahogany bar offers plenty of room for visitors to enjoy tastings guided by friendly and knowledgeable staff members. Wine tastings are $15 for six tastes. All of the wines on the tasting list are quite enjoyable and some of the standouts not already mentioned include the Syrah, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. For more variety, ask to taste wines from their reserve list to try delicious blends from some of the best harvest years.
In addition to tastings at the wine bar, there are plenty of other enjoyable ways to experience Wiens Family Cellars during a visit. On weekends, visitors can get a free tour of the winery and barrel room to learn more about winemaking. The 20-minute tour gives guests a peek behind the scenes of the winery and a chance to ask their guide plenty of wine questions.
For serious wine connoisseurs, private seated tastings in the Cellar Room offer special reserve and limited red wines that aren’t on the regular tasting list. Great for groups and more intimate tastings, guests are seated at an elegant table for a flight of wines served with specialty cheeses, crackers and gourmet olives. Part of the charm of the seated tasting is its setting in the winery’s functioning cellar. Surrounded by wines resting in oak barrels and stunning steel tanks, guests may get to see winemaker Doug Wiens or one of his sons working at the winery as they check in on the latest harvest and talk with their guests about how the wines are developing. Private tastings are $30 per person and reservations are required.
Visitors looking for the VIP treatment may want to become a member of the Winemaker’s Select Club. Club members (and friends who tag along with one) get to taste Wiens’ exclusive library wines reserved for club members in the winery’s private barrel room. Wine club members are also treated to complementary tastings, special discounts and members-only events at the winery.
With good weather practically all year round in Temecula, Wiens invites visitors to picnic at the winery. The impeccably manicured grass and peaceful seating areas make Wiens a nice place to get away. Even during a mid-week visit at the end of summer, there was a steady flow of people at Wiens quite happy to spend their time leisurely sipping a glass of wine at the café tables outdoors on the patio. Pick up a sandwich at nearby Barron’s Market or the local Great Harvest Bread Co. and head over to Wiens to enjoy with a glass of wine. Guests can buy wines by the glass or the bottle to go along with their picnics.
The winery also hosts events throughout the year including several live concerts in their open-air Mountain View amphitheater as well as weddings and special celebrations. Upcoming events include the Fall Harvest Celebration and their New Year’s Eve party.
Wiens Family Cellars is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $15 tastings include a complimentary Wiens wine glass to take home. Wines can be purchased at the winery and through their website. Wines range in price from $22 to $40 per bottle with reserve and special vintages starting around $50. Private seated tastings are offered Friday through Sunday and require reservations. For more information about the winery and to get a 2 for 1 tasting coupon, visit their website www.wienscellars.com
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For loads of fun things to see and do in Temecula’s wine country, pick up a copy of Wineopolis Citizen’s Guide to Temecula Valley.
Heidi is senior editor at Wineopolis Press and author of the Wineopolis Wine-travel Guidebook series. She is the Certified Wine Expert Program Director for Bartenders Association Internationale and editor of the latest edition of How to Test and Improve Your Wine Judging Ability. Heidi is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, the Society of Wine Educators and Ladies Who Launch. If you’d like to have your next event or wine country business event featured at Wineopolis, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.