When one thinks about the wines of California, one thinks about Napa, Sonoma or Carmel Valley.  However, enthusiasts should look closer to San Diego to discover another popular wine region in this state famous for its wine industry.  The Temecula Valley which sits on the rolling hills of southern Riverside County has the advantage of being close to the cooling ocean breezes, and fog, in the evening and mornings and hot dry, sunny days.  Here is a near perfect combination for growing grapes, especially the ones of the Syrah, Merlot, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and the Cabernet Franc varietals.

Joe and Nancy Hart discovered this beautiful climate in the 70’s.  They set down  “roots” for their family and their vineyard on the 10 acres they purchased at that time (?). They were only the fourth winery in the Temecula Region. True pioneers in the industry.  This family-run winery is still in search of the perfect combination of climate and varietal. Along with his son Jim the Hart family keeps its production to 5000 cases annually with the goal of matching the grape varieties to the terroir. This has won them many awards and much recognition from their peers, the wine industry and their general public This has a lot to do with the fact that Joe has recently been identified as one of the top 10 influential wine makers in the U.S. (John Hanneman, July 29, 2013)

My husband Jim and I discovered Hart Winery about 20 years ago when we began visiting the Temecula Valley wineries of California. It was closer for us to drive to Temecula than to make a trip to Northern California.  There were very few wineries is the area at that time, but Hart was one of them.  We purchased logo glasses on our visit and I still have one of the originals in my closet.  We recently had the opportunity to return.

The day had been warm and sunny, in this place where “the sun shines through the mist”.  Although this region has grown tremendously over the past years, we had no problem finding the narrow road that led up the hill to Hart. The vines curl and cascade into view on both sides of the lane.  One is reminded of pulling up to the home of an old friend, anticipating a lazy lunch and a glass of wine on the patio overlooking the rolling hills planted with row on row of grapevines.

It had not changed much since our last visit.  Whereas other wineries have expanded and built huge, glamorous structures, Hart’s tasting room is still located in the small unpainted building where the grapes our processed and the vats are kept.  A narrow staircase leads upstairs to a small office, but the tasting bar is the same one I remember.  There are now a few more outside picnic tables to seat the many new clients who have found their way to this remote location.  However, the intimate setting still speaks to the fact that this is a unique winery,  focused on the production of high quality wine.

If you are one of those who feel that every bottle of wine has its own organic story to tell, you will feel right at home with this winery.  In your first glass of wine you can sense the first buds of spring growth, the warmth of the sun pushing the tendrils beyond the stem, the robust grapes as they ripen beneath the vigorous leaves, the fermentation of the mash.  And finally the delight of the creation that has come from so many months of development in the elements of nature.  We especially enjoyed the Driveway Red which we understand is a blend of all the grapes that grow along the sides of the driveway entrance.

Care to learn more about this enchanting venue, find them at www.vinhart.com.