As Down to Earth Month continues and I explore wineries that utilize green practices, I ventured to Temecula, California for my first visit to the areas wineries. My visit brought me to Wine Institute member Ponte Family Estate, a destination winery that is certified under the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
Ponte Family Estate features a boutique inn, two restaurants, upscale bar and tasting room. All three actively incorporate sustainability as part of their business plan yet maintains a very relaxed laid-back atmosphere. The motto for the boutique hotel is “A Stay in the Country” while the winery adage is “A Day in the Country”. In fact the first words that came to my mind when I set foot on the property was country feeling. Perhaps it was the dirt road surrounding the hotel. Actually this road is decomposed granite that lets rainwater sink down into the ground to be pumped back to the winery, one of the properties sustainable features.
My tour of the property began with the 60-room Ponte Vineyard Inn with its own restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. Unfortunately I was not able to stay overnight on the premises but hope to experience the hotel on my next visit especially when I caught sight of the comfy thick mattresses in the guest suite. The décor is definitely country keeping with the property’s theme. Solar panels service the electricity for the hotel. The plumbing fixtures in the bathroom are low flow, the lighting is energy efficient and rooms are equipped with sustainable supplies or organic products. The landscaping is created with native plants that do not require extensive amounts of water.
For Ponte Family Estate giving back to the community is a large part of their sustainability program. This is done in several ways. At the hotel they are involved with a program called Clean the World, which recycles soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotions from hotels since hotel patrons often use soap and shampoo once or twice. These products are melted down, sanitized and made into new products that are distributed both nationally and internationally to those in need. In addition, the hotel asks guests to donate $1.00 to Rancho Damacitas, a home that assists children in need. Ponte’s charities of choice are those local non-profits whose mission is to help children. In addition to the hotel’s donations Ponte Winery is currently donating $3.00 from every bottle sold of the Juliet and Isabel label.
The Ponte Family Estate Winery is a family owned winery that was purchased by Claudio Ponte in 1984 and has been growing grapes along with practicing sustainable eco-friendly principles since that time. The property now encompasses 310 acres of which 165 are planted with vineyards. After opening the winery in 2003, Ponte was the first winery to be certified sustainable in the Temecula area.
I toured the vineyard in an electric vehicle. Like many vineyards Ponte uses composting. They recycle everything including the leftovers from the restaurant. What was different was the pile of cut up trees trunks. The dead branches, palm fronds and trunks are ground up for mulch. Knowing Pontes recycling efforts, the local community brings trees to be recycled.
You will find 12 bird boxes in the vineyards. These birds are used to control rodents and insects.
Ponte’s wines include sparkling wines, single varietals, blends and a selection of sweet wines. At the time of my visit there were several wines that stood out. Beginning with the whites, my favorite was a tank sample of the 2013 Pinot Grigio. This wine will be bottled within the next month and is a fragrantly crisp and refreshing wine. I also was exposed to the 2013 Arneis, an Italian grape that originated from the Piedmont area. The wine had some of the qualities of a Sauvignon Blanc such as grapefruit and grassy aromas but I found it little lighter in texture. The wine was crisp with flavors of grapefruit and stone fruit and a hint of spice. I also sample the 2013 Vermentino, another Italian varietal that has more pungent aromas but flavors of stone fruit.
By far my favorite wine was the 2011 Tempranillo. It was the smoothest and one of the most balanced Tempranillo’s I have tasted. There was a velvet quality that is atypical for this varietal. Ponte’s Super T, which stands for Super Tuscan, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Merlot. The raspberry flavors give way to hints of peppery spice on the finish. The 2010 Syrah was very smooth and velvety. This big, bold and balanced wine displayed berry flavors.
The most interesting wine was the Verneccia Nera. Verneccia is a collection of grape varieties that are considered to be local to the Verneccia wine region. These grapes are often used to create a red sparkling wine and that is what Ponte has done. This wine could be considered a dessert wine. It is lighter than a port with a bit of sweetness yet is not too sweet. There is some effervescence because the wine goes through a secondary fermentation using the Charmat method.
I ended my day at Ponte with a delicious lunch in the outdoor restaurant that is part of the winery. Like many of the Temecula wineries, the winery experience includes dining on the property. Offering an eclectic inviting cuisine, the food is either grown on the property or purchased locally. You will find that the seafood is wild caught or sustainably farmed while the meat and game is all natural and hormone free. I opted for the Harvest Salad with apricots, rainbow carrots, roasted beets, fava beans, radishes, baby mixed greens, spinach, hazelnuts with a Zinfandel vinaigrette. This was accompanied with seared scallops with a fava bean coulis. It was a marvelous salad that hit the spot.
What I noticed most about Ponte Family Estate was the relaxed comfortable atmosphere from the country style of the Ponte Vineyard Inn, to the lovely gardens that surrounded both the hotel and restaurant, to the covered patio restaurant with it heat lamps to keep you toasty warm if need be and lastly the inviting winery tasting room. The whole ambiance and environmental footprint of the winery is enhanced through its sustainable principles and practices.
For more information:
Ponte Family Estate
35053 Rancho California Road,
Temecula CA 92591
(877) 314-WINE (9463) - Toll Free
(951) 694-8855 - Direct
Ponte Vineyard Inn:
(888) 563-8885 - Toll Free
The Restaurant at Ponte:
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