Monte de Oro – “Vines, Wine, People”

Monte De Oro depcicted in oil

This Temecula Valley winery is impressive as you drive up toward the end of Rancho California Road. The building sits on a rise and is expansive and inviting. In the early mornings there are typically balloons taking off from here making for picture perfect morning shots with their vineyards out front.

Monte De Oro Tasting Room Window View

Tasting Room Window View

The Monte de Oro winery is owned by OGB (One Great Blend) Partners, which is a collection of 68 family owners from across America, South Africa and the UK.

The Vineyards are located around the valley. The first, Vista Del Monte was planted in 2002 with 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They added 18 acres at the DePortola vineyard and 23 acres at the Galway vineyard in 2003 planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli.

In 2007 they broke ground on the winery and in 2008 planted their 4th vineyard at the winery growing Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Committed to sustainability the winery created a basement wine cave under the winery rather than building a barrel room above ground that would need to have a system for climate control. One of the most impressive sites in the building is walking across the glass floor that allows you to see down into the barrel room. They are also planning to build a gravity flow winery which reduces the energy needed to pump the wine as well as being gentler on the grapes, and they are looking to add solar panels to supply energy in the future.

The tasting room here is huge with beautiful views of the patio and beyond that the valley. They offer a variety of tours and private tastings that you can schedule in advance in addition to the Standard and Black Label Tastings available daily in the tasting room. Also open on the weekends is the MDO Bistro offering a Bistro menu Friday thru Sunday from 11-4.

Monte de Oro patio

Monte de Oro patio

When we visited the winery was busy and it was towards the end of the day. We tasted through a wide variety of their wines, most of which they produce about 250 cases each. All of the wines are very affordable running from $18 to $33 per bottle. watched a group head out for a tour while we were there and I would like to return to do a tour and learn a little more about their wines.

PippinHill Farms, Tasting in Virginia

The countryside in the Charlottesville area is stunning with rolling hills, lots of trees and charming homes. From the Boar’s Head our driver headed south on 29 to Plank Road.

I had read about Pippin Hill Farm online while doing research on the area and discovered that they serve a small plate menu. This seemed to be a good start to the day as it was lunch time and we were all hungry.

The view as you arrive at the vineyard is stunning. This is Charlottesville’s newest vineyard and is part of the Monticello AVA. They have created a stunning atmosphere that reflects the history and culture of the area. You approach the large barn like building which is their events center. There is a wrap around porch with outside seating for tastings and lunch. We went in to the tasting bar and persuaded them to let us order from the small plates menu and sit outside and then come back in for each of our tastings.

Pippin Hills Field

I chose the Reserve tasting at $8. Which included a sparkling wine, a reserve chardonnay, a reserve Merlot and a reserve Meritage. They have also have a White wine tasting or a Red wine tasting each with 4 selections available at $5 each.

My tasting began at the beautiful hand-carved bar inside.

The windows behind the bar allow for stunning views of the vineyard and hillsides. I started with the 2010 Summer Hill Sparkler. This sparkling wine is 100% Cabernet Franc. It has a very yeasty nose but is light bright and immediately put me in a good mood. It spends 8 months in stainless steel sur lees to build the depth of flavor.

After pouring me the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve and taking our order for small plates, we headed outside to enjoy the air and the view from the covered stoned terrace, which quite honestly as a great open veradana. We found a corner close by with couches on 3 sides and a low table. There was an old water pump fountain trickling peacefully nearby and the view…did I mention the view? The 2010 Chardonnay Reserve was fruit forward with light to medium oak and was very pleasant.

On to the food. The Daily Cheese Board had 3 artisan cheeses, I remember a gouda, which was very good a goat cheese and forgive me I don’t remember the last (I was drinking and chatting) but it was good. It came with home made bread that they do in their wood burning oven as well as apricot marmalade, fig mostarda and spiced nuts. Really delicious. We also split a croque monsieur and the local beef sliders with house made parmesan fries. The fries were addictive.

By now we were onto the 2010 Merlot Reserve. This was my favorite here. Aged in new French oak for 13 months this is big and bold with lots of depth. While I enjoyed it now I can only see this wine growing better with age.

Pippin Hills Side Yard View

Our last wine was the Meritage Reserve. I enjoyed this but my friend Kathy really loved it. She loves the Meritage Blends, enjoying the lighter varietals more than the deep smoky ones. It was fascinating to see the difference in our tastes and palates. We could all appreciate all the wines, but our preferences run in different directions. We enjoyed the view and didn’t want to leave, but other wineries beckoned. So we headed onward, our plates not even empty with the generous portions.