Is Temecula the new ‘Old World’ wine destination?

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There has always been a connection between Temecula wine country and the Old World.  In the 1800s, French and Italian immigrants settled in the area planting vineyards in the surrounding valleys.  The Spanish also made their mark producing wines for religious ceremonies at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Inspiration from the Old World can be seen and tasted at wineries today along Rancho California Road and the De Portola Wine Trail.  Now the latest ode to the Old World is the recent opening of the tasting room at Europa Village – a milestone for what promises to become a premiere wine destination for Temecula wine country.

Europa Village offers guests the unique experience of enjoying three individual French, Italian and Spanish-inspired villages and wines at a single location.  With grand plans underway, Europa now welcomes visitors with a tasting room, French bistro and a wine cave for special events, and there are many amenities planned for the future.

Over the next one-to-two years, Europa Village will feature 60 guest suites with great hilltop views reminiscent of a Tuscan village, a European-style couples-only spa and even property available for those who wish to live among the vineyards.  Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait to taste their wines.

The wines made at Europa Village reflect old world winemaking traditions, featuring French, Spanish and Italian-style wines from the property’s three boutique wineries:  C’est la vie, Bolero Cellars and Vienza.  I was happy to find that the Pinot Grigio, Syrah and Muscat did not overwhelm but were subtle, the way wine was made in the old world…to go with food.

At the helm of Europa’s menus is the accomplished Chef Dean Thomas who prepares dishes to highlight Europa’s wines and features local organic produce, olive oils and cheeses in many of the dishes.  Representing the Spanish influence of Bolero Cellars, a tapas-style menu will be available as well as micro brewed wine-infused craft beers and IPAs. Vienza, the Italian-themed 20-acre parcel, will also include a large tasting room, wine production facility and an old world-style deli.

“Europa Village is designed to take you back to a time when life was a little bit simpler,” says Denis Ferguson, managing partner.  This vision for Europa Village is shared by Ferguson who directed operations for Fairmont properties and Pechanga Resort and his partner, Dan Stephenson, founder of Rancon Group the area’s leading real estate developer, “Visitors will enter the property from Europa Boulevard and turn right to go to France, make a left and they’re in Spain or head up the hill to be in a Tuscan hilltop village.”

Plenty of TLC has gone into the property once owned by neighbor Callaway Vineyards, since its purchase in the 90s.  Since the property was acquired by Rancon, Ben Drake has lead efforts to create ideal grape-growing conditions to yield uniform and consistent quality grapes from Europa’s vineyards.   Drake, a veteran of Temecula’s agricultural industry has worked in the Valley since the 70s and already knew which enhancements were best suited for the land.  According to Drake, the steps taken to plant rootstocks that can tolerate the salt levels of Southern California’s water sources and delaying growth from coming out during a critical one-to-two week period of frost in the valley, have already made a big difference in quality.

Plans are also in place to update the ten rooms located at the former Inn at Loma Vista (the first B&B in Temecula Valley) which is now part of the Europa Village property.  The property will complement the Europa style but Ferguson says, “The Inn is already in good shape and has a good feel to it.”  Standard room rates at the Inn at Europa range from $130 to $160 per night during the week and $160-$190 on weekends and includes breakfast prepared by chef Dean.  The Inn at Europa will open January 2012.

There is much more planned to keep us excited about coming back here and Europa Village is sure to bring out guests to enjoy the other local Temecula wineries and actives in the area.  Until we can be teleported across the Atlantic, a trip to Temecula wine country could be the way for us to get a little taste of Europe when we need it.

For loads of fun things to see and do in Temecula’s wine country, pick up a copy of the Wineopolis Citizen’s Guide to Temecula Valley.

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About Heidi

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 & Travel Writers Association, the Society of Wine Educators and Ladies Who Launch.

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