A Walk in the Clouds of South Coast

A Walk in the Clouds of South Coast

A lush, romantic movie drama about a beautiful Napa Valley Vineyard, its trials and successes in making great wine, came on screen in 1995 starring Anthony Quinn and a very young Keanu Reeves.  At the same time I and many others were enjoying the film, Jim Carter, since 2003 the owner of South Coast Winery in Temecula, was promising himself he would live out the inspiring message of a Walk in the Clouds and take 400 acres of family purchased land near the Peak of Mount Palomar and make it into a classic vineyard.
It was there that the origins of South Coast Winery really began with its legendary Wild Horse Peak and some of the finest grapes in California. At a recent tour of the property, a private jeep vehicle
spirited us up the winding, bumpy 20 minute drive through canyons and rock formations.  The vineyard at once shocks and delights as it suddenly appears; a cloud of green for almost as far as the eye can see.

It’s a tribute to the care of the environment that Carter and his team have implemented at South Coast , that most of  Wild Horse Peak lies within the Cleveland National Forest, a beautiful, pristine public preserve.  The 800 vines per acre are mostly in a vast meadow, in harmony with the natural brush and tree formations of the canyons.
At 2,200 feet and higher, the red wines (they also have a small block of Chardonnay grapes) are intense and flavorful.  Each block is tested for flavor and juice quality by Master Winemaker Jon McPherson and Winemaker Javier Flores.  McPherson, who hails from Texas and a pioneer wine  family, and Flores, who learned his craft at Mexico’s leading LaCetto Winery, demand that kind of constant attention to what the grapes are telling them.  “It’s about letting the grapes speak,” they said.  “We listen and then carefully nurture the process.”

Varietals that I would recommend when you look for the Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard label include:  the 2006 100% Sangiovese, a recent Best of Class Gold ( $34.); 2006 Cabernet  4-Block Blend Best of Class Gold($28.); 2008 Tempranillo which is new and is tasting beautifully ($18.) Wine club prices are approximately 25% less.

South Coast has run up an excellent record of awards for their wines, including the “Golden Bear” California Winery of the Year, 2 years in a row in 2008 and 2009.  It’s not just about the winery.  Its Vineyard Rose Restaurant claimed its first “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator Magazine and the Grape Seed Spa has 11 treatment rooms and complete spa services.  Private villas in the vineyard feature terraces, fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs.

A walk around the winery and resort with founder and dream builder Carter reveals that he …”wanted to share the complete wine country experience. Guests enjoy the finest wines paired with the finest food and stay in a private villa in the middle of a vineyard. “Learn more by visiting www.WineResort.com.  Or phone 951-587-9463.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the top commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at www.tasteofwinetv.com.  Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.