I was invited by the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association to take part in a "virtual tasting," which sounds stranger than it was. The wine was real. The virtual part came via an online broadcast where three winemakers presented their bottled goods and wine writers followed (and tweeted) along at home.
The theme for the tasting was Mediterranean reds with selections from Robert Renzoni Vineyards and Winery, Palumbo Winery and South Coast Winery. The broadcast schooled us on each winery, and educated us about characteristics of the region. The winemakers pointed out that Temecula's climate is similar to the Mediterranean region's, thus the varietals that grow well in the latter should do well here.
We started with a 2012 Brunello di Sangiovese from Robert Renzoni, which packed a lot of flavor right out of the gate. It had notes of tobacco, smoke and cherry cola and I instantly craved pasta and red sauce to go along with this bold red.
Next up was the 2012 Rolling Hills Syrah by Palumbo. It was the highest priced of the bunch and my personal favorite. Apparently my taste buds haven't gotten the memo about my budget. The winemakers pointed to Syrah as one varietal that does exceptionally well in Temecula, mimicking styles of southern France. Palumbo's lived up to expectations with concentrated berry flavors along with a smooth vanilla characteristic. My instant fandom for Palumbo later led me to their tasting room during the valley's World of Wine event, where I enjoyed a crisp white blend (Brezza di Mare) and their bold, spicy Sangiovese.
Last in the lineup was South Coast Winery's 2011 Touriga Nacional-Tempranillo, a blend of two varietals noted as signatures of Portugal and Spain, respectively. This one came in at the highest percentage of alcohol (nearly 15 percent), but didn't show it in its easily drinkable character. Woodiness was met with everything from bittersweet chocolate to black pepper and the winemaker noted its ideal pairing with grilled meats.
Not for the faint of palate, these hearty wines were a tasty reflection of Temecula. This unique tasting reminded me—virtually—that there are great wines created not far from San Diego.