The South Coast Winery is a 39 acre estate in Temecula, Ca. that began bottling in 2003. It is owned by Jim Carter who was inspired to start the winery after watching “A Walk in the Clouds”. The movie, starring Keanu Reeves, is about a family with a Napa winery in the 40s. The majority of their grapes are grown and produced on the estate in Temecula with a current goal for the coming year to produce 65,000 cases of still and sparkling wine.
Their website lists close to 1,800 awards earned in regional and international competitions during its first six years of production. They produce under several different labels including Elevation Wines, South Coast Winery, Wild Horse Peak Mountain and Carter Estate Reserve.
The tasting room is open daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. During the week five tastes will cost you $15, while the same will cost you $20 on the weekend. Why they raise the price for the weekend is a mystery unless they are trying to discourage you from coming.
Paying your fee gives you five tickets that can be used for any wine on their large tasting menu, however reserve wines will cost you two tickets. Their pours are not particularly generous especially with a more expensive fee.
A recent tasting included the following wines.
- 2007 dry Riesling
- 2009 estate Fumé
- 2009 Grenache
- 2008 WHP Tempranillo
- 2007 Rolling Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2008 Wild Horse Peak Sangiovese
- 2009 Wild Horse Peak Petite Sirah
- 2008 Wild Horse Peak Syrah
- 20110 Late Harvest Riesling
- Daybreak (Muscat)
The tasting was a disappointment. Their website boasts a “friendly and knowledgeable staff eager to assist you and offer expert advice”. That obviously does not include when they are busy.
Lines up to the counter were 8 people deep across the tasting room. The noise level was fit for a nightclub not a winery and the staff was rude and unable to handle such a large crowd.
From talking to other guests they were part of a wedding party of at least 50 people which probably should not have been allowed to mingle with the regular tasting crowd on a Thursday afternoon.
The staff bypassed any “expert advice” and only spoke long enough to ask “What do you want?” Further trips to the counter were met with silence while a selection was poured. They didn’t give one word on any of the ten wines selected and only tried to move everyone out of the way to get on to the next guest; a customer service fail.
To combat problems, other wineries require large parties to make a reservation, increase staff to deal with the overflow or separate them from the main tasting room; South Coast did nothing and it was a disaster for everyone in attendance.
The disappointing circumstances surrounding the tasting also made the wine seem mediocre. More than one sampling was just poured down the waste bucket after a sip. Best to say if you walk into South Coast Winery and it’s crowded, turn around and leave immediately. Don’t waste your money or your time.
Their Wine club also lacks some basic benefits. Although they offer discounts on bottles, the gift boutique and stays at the resort, they skimp out on tastings. Club members receive two complementary tastings for each shipment received instead of complementary tastings on each visit to the winery, which is customary to other wineries in California. Upon each visit to the winery you can instead expect to buy one get one free on your tasting for up to four people. If you have to pay for your tasting as a club member, it seems less likely you are going to buy extra bottles during a visit regardless of any discount.
They do have a social media presence with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They offer discounts with promo codes and invitations to special events open to the public; it’s worth a look if you will be visiting the Temecula area but most surrounding wineries offer similar perks.
I was ready to ban the South Coast Winery from my pallet forever. However an additional tasting from the winery at the Great Wine Fest proved to be much more satisfying.
The four samples offered were not any previously sampled at the winery.
- 2012 Tempranillo Rose
- 2012 Sauvignon Blanc
- 2008 Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon
- Ruby Cuvee
The server was the former manager of the tasting room. He delivered the expert advice promised on their website that was missing during the visit to the winery. With a pleasant environment and helpful server the wines got exponentially better and have the potential to stand up to the list of awards they brag about on their website. Perhaps as the three time recipient of the “Best California State Winery of the Year” award they deserve a second chance.
If you decide to risk it and visit be sure to do so during the week with fewer people and a lower tasting price. With their inability to handle crowds and dismissal by servers, feel free to walk away from the South Coast Winery if more than a handful of people are roaming around the tasting room.
Final note: One great thing about wine tasting in Temecula is the discounts available from the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association website. Always check there before heading to Temecula to see which wineries are offering a two for one deal, discounts on restaurants, stays in the valley and percent off purchases at various wineries.