Winery Visit: Mount Palomar Winery

Just because you CAN grow wine grapes doesn’t mean you SHOULD make wine, and nowhere is this more evident than Temecula, California. I know I sound like the worst wine snob imaginable, but let’s get real: the wine here is basically junk. Wineries seem to be making money by selling a wine that should sell for no more than $3 for $50. It’s borderline insanity.

We were just passing through Temecula for a night so I looked up wineries so we could do a casual tasting. I saw that Mount Palomar Winery was not only the oldest winery in town (1969) but they also had a sweet Groupon deal on a tasting for two. Thankfully we only invested $17 in the entire deal or else I would’ve been most unhappy.

The winery’s grounds are lovely. It’s obvious they do a huge wedding and private party business. There’s a gigantic parking lot that leads to a gigantic outdoor terrace with plenty of al fresco seating options. The small cellar serves as the indoor tasting room. This seems like more of a place to come hang out all day with your girlfriends to sit and drink or just another pit stop for the wine party bus. This is not a place for serious wine connoisseurs.

We headed into the cave and were promptly given a very friendly greeting by the two employees (Shar and another older fellow). Both took care of us and treated us really well, they didn’t have condescending attitudes like some of the big boys in the Napa Valley do. Each person is given a wine glass and a receipt and each time you select a wine off the very extensive menu, your receipt is punched. Each person gets 6 very generous tastes of wine.

The winery makes a lot of different varietals, and we tried most of them from the whites, rose and cab franc to the zinfandel, dessert riesling and the “special” cab. None of the wines were very good, and most were quite unpalatable. I could only see someone drinking a bottle of this stuff if they were already plastered drunk or had never, ever had any experience with wine. Not only was the wine not very good, the prices were CRAZY! I’m talking $35 to $50 for pure swill. I am not exaggerating, wine lovers. Interestingly, most of the reds we tasted looked more like brown colored water than dark, lush, ruby red wine. And nearly all of the reds being poured were older vintages (2010 and 2011), even the Zinfandel. I’m not sure why the wine here is aged longer than in other wine regions but I’m guessing it’s because it must be astringent as heck when it’s first put in the barrel / bottled.

I did enjoy the lovely hospitality we received, and we were treated like valued guests which I appreciated. All of our questions were confidently answered and we had a fun time in the tasting room (we just didn’t like the wine). There was no hard sell to join their wine club and we were only reminded once that they could indeed ship to our house. Guess we gave off pretty clear “don’t waste your time we ain’t buying” clues. There are not-so-subtle huge tip jars that line the tasting bar so don’t be a jerk and pony up $5, especially if you don’t make a purchase. These folks worked hard!

As we were ready to leave, a huge group of mommies and their (fussy) kids came rolling in, pushing us out of the way with their gigantic stroller. That’s the type of clientele these wineries cater to, not serious collectors. You’ve been warned.

Note: We fully paid for our wine tasting experience at this venue, it was not comped.


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