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Temecula winery: Thornton Winery

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Thornton Winery

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One of the first wineries along Rancho California Rd. in the Temecula Valley is Thornton Winery. It opened in 1988 and has since developed a following for its champagne.

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They set the scene with a romantic setting on the terrace with a gorgeous fountain and an amazing view of the valley. The terrace is home to their Champagne Jazz series which seats guests outside and runs from April through October. They also host other live music throughout the rest of the year.

The tasting room is open 10 am – 8 pm Sunday – Thursday and till 9 pm Friday and Saturday. Fees vary but flights range from $11 - $17. It is a smaller tasting room but there is seating outside along with the restaurant and can accommodate a good number of people.

A recent tasting included the following flights.

The chocolate wine lovers, $14

  • Milk Chocolate Kiss
  • Kiss of Chocolate
  • Caramel Cherry Kiss
  • Kiss of Strawberry
  • Kiss of Mint

California champagne flight, $15

  • NV Brut
  • NV Blanc de Noirs
  • 2005 Brut Rose
  • NV Cuvee Rouge

Additional taste not on the champagne flight

  • Brut reserve

Pours are generous at two ounces per taste.

The server was helpful and friendly; knowledgeable of the winery as well as the flights selected. Thornton offers table service instead of counter service which is not as common with other wineries in the area but does give a sophisticated atmosphere to the tasting room.

Showing an interest in the champagne flight, the server brought an additional taste of champagne not on the menu. That kind of thoughtful attention always scores big points with guests and assures return visits.

The chocolate flight is rich with various flavors but having a sweet tooth is a must. Those which struck a nerve and were to die for include the Kiss of Mint and the Milk Chocolate Kiss. If you are not a fan of sweet wines best to opt for a traditional flight.

The champagne flight was delicious and it is easy to see why they are praised for their bubbly. It is hard to imagine anyone sampling them and not contemplating joining the club.

The wine club, known as Club de Vin, offers many choices for those unable to resist the temptation and can’t walk away empty handed. Members can receive two, three or four bottles to be shipped every other month at a 20% discount of either red, white, champagne, mixed sweet or the chocolate wine packages.

Members also receive a 10% discount on Jazz tickets, at the café and in the gift shop. Joining the club allows for two free tastings upon each visit to the Champagne Lounge (once a day) and they also offer “member only deals” each month. These include specials like 50% off champagne in the gift shop or a free dessert with purchase of an entre at the café.

The restaurant, Café Champagne serves “Contemporary Fusion Cuisine” and has received several accolades from Southern California Restaurant Writers Association over the last 11 years.

I am not a fan of gift shops within wineries especially those selling various knick knacks and clothing. Thornton does capitalize on their wine and champagne in the gift shop buy they also have various extra-curricular items I deem unnecessary when wine tasting. However I did not feel overwhelmed or stuck in a tourist trap. The shop has a well thought out layout and lands within the boundaries of what I call acceptable distraction shopping.

Thornton has a social media presence on both Twitter and Facebook. They post happy hour specials and other discounts like Black Friday deals; it is worth visiting one or the other site prior to your visit.

If you have a sweet tooth definitely stop by and get a chocolate flight. It is a chocolate lover’s dream with flavors rivaling Kahlua and their champagne is nothing short of delicious.

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.

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