When people around the country think about California wine, their focus automatically directs to Napa Valley and Sonoma. Northern California’s wine country is truly exceptional, but the Inland Empire has almost all of the same characteristics that make Northern California an ideal spot for a vineyard.
Once upon a time, there were several dozen small wineries operating in and around Rancho Cucamonga. Fifty years after many of these wineries stopped operations, wine production in the Inland Empire is soaring like never before.
Here are some of our favorite members of Southern California’s burgeoning wine-growing network.
Bella Vista Winery
Built in 1978, Temecula’s Bella Vista Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the Inland Empire. It claims to be the first commercial winery in the area, and remains one of the best places for a tasting. The spacious tasting room features more than 20 vintages at any given time, and you can always count on a good mix of red and white wines to be present.
Six tastings is only 0, which you can follow up with a picnic and a bottle of your favorite Bella Vista vintage. The picnic tables offer sweeping views of the vineyards, which are occasionally broken up with plots of flowers that bloom pink, red, and purple in spring.
Joseph Filippi Winery and Vineyards
Joseph Filippi Winery is an ideal tasting destination for individuals who don’t want to bother with a party bus, expensive taxi ride, or depriving someone of his or her fill of wine. It also happens to have a fine wine selection, and engaging tours. Held at 1 PM Wednesdays through Sundays and available by appointment for groups, the tours provide a great survey of the wine-making process and interesting information about the history of production.
Joseph Filippi’s tasting bar is open every day of the week except for Monday, and offers five tastings for . Tuesday is taco night and every Friday a food truck sets up shop in the parking lot from 6 to 9 PM. The wine scene in Rancho Cucamonga can’t be fully explored without a visit to the Joseph Filippi Winery.
The Thomas Winery
In the mid-20th century, the Inland Empire had a lot more wineries than it does today. Most of these wineries were small and private, and most of them were sold in the interest of real estate development. Some of these have been reclaimed, and a handful remain as they were at the height of the first Southern California wine boom.
The Thomas Winery is one of the wineries that has stood the test of time. Now operated by Rancho Cucamonga winemaker The Wine Tailor, The Thomas Winery’s original operating space and much of its equipment has been used to produce fine wine to this day. The roots of the historic winery can be traced back to 1839, making it the oldest of any kind in California.
Where aesthetics are concerned, Thornton Winery in Temecula is easily one of the most appealing in the Inland Empire. Built in the fashion of an opulent French chateau, the architecture and landscaping can make any visitor feel like they are half a world away. Thornton Winery has carved a niche for itself in the California sparkling wine market, offering several vintages of bubbly. Customers with a penchant for bubbly swoon at the raspberry, peach, pineapple, and almond wine Thornton Winery produces.
In addition to daily wine tastings and regular tours, Thornton Winery is known for its champagne jazz concert series and other live music events.
Wilson Creek Winery
Another impressive wine tasting destination, Temecula’s Wilson Creek Winery pours tastes in a delightful setting. The Bubble Brunch Buffet, served from 10 AM to 3 PM on Sundays, is something everyone who enjoys wine and brunch should experience at some point. Wilson Creek’s almond sparkling wine and cabernet sauvignon gets two thumbs up from most amateur sommeliers who taste them.
Proximity to first-rate wineries is only one of several advantages afforded to residents of apartments in Inland Empire. To read more about things to do and places to check out in Rancho Cucamonga and elsewhere in Southern California, peruse the AMLI blog.
Do you have a favorite Inland Empire winery? Write about it in the comments.
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