15 December 2016

Oak Mountain Winery, Temecula Valley, California

Oak Mountain Winery grows and makes Pinotage in California’s Temecula Valley.

I was last in Temecula in 2002 and there’s been a lot of development and new wineries since then, with around forty-eight now in the valley. Temecula is roughly midway between southern Los Angeles and San Diego, just off  interstate highway 15.

Oak Mountain opened in 2005. They grow an interesting selection of varieties, mostly Mediterranean and the one that most interested me – Pinotage.
The original Estate Pinotage vineyard
The original Pinotage vineyard of about .7 acres runs up the hill from the entrance, but such is demand that they have just grafted over an  acre of Counoise vines to Pinotage. Seems South African ex-pats buy it the entire output of Pinotage the moment it’s released to hoard and age it.
The new Pinotage vineyard that used to  be Counoise.
Temecula Valley is about 22 miles from the coast and sea breezes roll in through the ‘Rainbow Gap’ in coastal mountains between 16:30 and 17:00 to cool these desert vineyards at around 200ft above sea level. 

Oak Mountain vineyards are irrigated – these are desert conditions – but they stop irrigation after véraison to stress the vines.

Harvest takes place at night time to gather grapes when cool and all grapes go to a sorting table.
Oak Mountain winery building
Oak Mountain Pinotage spends 18 months in a mix of 60 gallon (225 litre) barrels, then is blended in tank before bottling. It’s usually released a month after bottling.

I tasted the Oak Mountain Estate Temecula Valley Pinotage 2013. There were fresh berry flavours leading into a dense restrained full bodied wine. I think it needs ore time and I'll be saving thehbottle I bought to bring home

Oak Mountain are the only winery in Temecula to have an underground cellar. They bored into the hillside behind the winery for almost 6 months, stopping only when they hit sand. The cave covers 10,000 feet and later surveys have shown they could double it. 
Part of Oak Mountain Cave

The original intention was as a barrel aging cellar but they get 5-600 visitors every weekend and also rent out the cellar for weddings and functions so the cellar is more profitable as an event space and thus most barrels are aged at Temecula Hills winery which is under the same ownership. 
Boardroom in the Cave used for wine tastings for those on the Cave tour
The Cave Tour at  $30 takes you into the cellar and  includes a tutored tasting around the large table in the impressive board room in the cellar, but it includes an extended sales pitch for their wine club.

New Pinotage growth in the recently grafted vineyard

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