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
|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|