A hidden "gem" in Temecula Wine Country: Briar Rose Winery

As a San Diego county resident and unofficially self-proclaimed cork-dork I've been to Temecula's wine country many times and until recently I was unaware of one of Temecula's hidden gems [I guess I really didn't do my homework]. So with my GPS firmly ensconced on my dash board, I set off to find Briar Rose, yes I took the typical exits from the I-15 and started inland, only to found myself no where near anything that resembled the typical geography associated with a trip to wine country, instead I was in suburbia, heading down what nearly appeared to be a dead end street lined with some very well appointed homes. As I traveled on, I started up this hill and started to see signs that I was indeed heading to wine country. In fact I would call it an oasis in a sea of sameness [their wine style is definitely old-world] and as I crested the hill, there it was Briar Rose atop this hill overlooking Temecula.

But how did I hear about this wonderful little winery in Temecula, well I was contacted by a friend of Briar Rose Winery to come out sip their selection, see the winery and meet the wonderful folks who make the aptly named Briar Rose a flower among the thorns. They had asked other bloggers [whom I won't mention] but these so-called "other" wine bloggers dismissed this opportunity. I guess I was a 2nd or 3rd choice, but when the red carpet was rolled out as I arrived, I thought hmmm maybe they were expecting someone else, but no the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog's humble correspondent [well technically the only one] was asked to write a review of Briar Rose Winery. I was so glad, I had the opportunity and everyone was extremely gracious, friendly and welcoming [yep all three] to me, it's has been about two months since I've been there [I'm sure they were wondering when I would write it] and my notes, photographs and videos are vivid reminders of the of the sights, sounds and taste of the wonderful wine[s] being made there.

Where is it: Now if you happen to be new to the area or maybe you're from San Diego or LA and are an avid or just the occasional cork-dork like me and  perhaps you are wondering where the "Temecula Wine country" is located, well you can find it in southwestern Riverside County, you may be surprised to find that Temecula is California's most prominent American Viticultural Area [AVA] south of Los Angeles and north from San Diego and about hour and half trip from those cities. Now for the adventurous wine lover or even the casual observer, it's an ideal destination for a short day trip from Los Angeles, Orange County, Palm Springs or San Diego. (Click here for directions/map to Briar Rose winery, as well as, all of the Temecula wineries).

About Briar Rose Winery:  According to their owner, BRW was founded the grounds of a former Disney set designer's home and has a disneyesque feel as their mantra on the labels say "Taste the Enchantment". Their winery is modeled after Snow White's cottage, which you can see from looking at the faux thatched roofs and architecture. Briar Rose produces mostly estate-grown wines, with a boutique production level of about 2,400 cases per year give or take. According to their website, their winery came to fruition as a result of the owner's Les and Dorian Linkogle's lifelong dream to build a dynamic winery dedicated to producing excellent wines and to lay claim as one Temecula's first wineries. If you would like or need more factoids or other interesting trivia about Briar Rose please click here.

Reservations Only:  There are many wineries that require a reservation and this is one of them, so please don't just show up and expect to taste wine, without making the appointment first. Just a word of advice, if you want guarantee you have a great experience you'll need to make a reservation and preferably visit the winery in a small group because the winery's tasting room is small, or you may end up in the barrel room [which fine too, but a little dark for evaluating wine properly], show up at the time of your reservation, and prepare for a different Temecula wine experience than you maybe familiar with. Appointment Hours: Monday - Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Here are the wines I tasted the day of my own appointment:

2009 Estate Viognier: A nice bottle of a complex floral wine, dry, crisp, honey suckle and rose aromas with peach and melon flavors. SRP: $19.00 Standard Tasting, 90 points.

2009 Fume Rosé: A wine that hastens and welcomes the advent of summer and is nicely different then a majority of rosés you may already be familiar with, comes off bright, clean, and zesty. A Sauvignon Blanc aged and seasoned in barrels recently containing Cabernet Sauvignon. I really like this wine and think its unique style and tastes really deliver good value. SRP: $24.00 Standard Tasting, 90 points.

03, 04 and 07 Cabernet Sauvignon: If you're someone who likes 100% old world style wines than these wines will make you very happy. Each wine displayed rich varietal character that these grapes can achieve and were characterised by aromas of dried violets on the palate each wine displayed flavors of chocolate, ripe jammy berries, oak, pepper and earth. For my money, the 2004 was showing the best right now and the 2007 [Private Collection] was very good as well but would benefit from further aging. SRP: $38 [on special for $18], $58, $105. The 03 and 04 Standard Tasting and the 07 is on the Premium Tasting.

2004 Petit Verdot: This wine also was from the Private Collection and is part of the Premium Tasting lineup. As a single varietal wine it is very uncommon as Petit Verdot wine grapes requires a long growing season to reach maturity, and to even become a wine of substance and quality. Petit Verdot wine grapes are typically just a blending grape and one of the least grown in Bordeaux. The French translation for PV is 'little green one", it was an interesting wine and this Petit Verdot from estate fruit is a powerful yet suave wine with dusty tannins. A wonderful old world style of wine.  SRP: 105.00 Premium Tasting 87 points.

2005 Temecula One: Another wine from the Premium Tasting list and is a blend of 40% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot a wine with "Super Tuscan" styling and are typically red wines of very high quality. This wine is medium-bodied, juicy, loaded with wild berry and dark cherry fruit, and balanced with dusty tannins. Premium Tasting SRP: $115 87 points.

2007 "Katrina" Estate Zinfandel: This wine boasts of a "Old world" origin and is 100% Zin, which was aged 16 months in French/American oak, now when I think of old world in this context they have me thinking of Primitivo. Although, recent research reported by Wine Pros that in Croatia and at the University of California at Davis, using "DNA profiling, has proved Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak" [so easy to say as well], so glad they cleared that up. That said, this wine has deep violet reflections in the core and is complemented by a unique, intense bouquet, spicy aromas, is full bodied and conveys a velvety warmth on the palate. SRP $92 Premium Tasting 87 points.

2009 Talking Frog - Hefe-N-Vine Lager: This is a really fun little number, and was the last thing I tried before taking a tour of the grounds. It's 100% wine with Hefeweizen beer characteristics thrown into the mixture. It's just delightful and frothy, and has a nice head on it shoulders depending on how you pour it. A delicate touch of sweetness and the right amount of crispness to balance it out. They call it a dessert wine, umm not sure I would give it that designation, but it's great to pair with anything that's somewhat spicy, it would make the perfect compliment. Funny thing about it, is after drinking it you realize why they call it Talking Frog [burpage action] is what follows afterward. Wink-wink! SRP $18:00 Standard Tasting

Full Disclosure: As an invited guest of Briar Rose, my tasting fees were waived and I left with a sample of their 2004 Petite Verdot.

Pricing and where to Purchase: I've seen comments about their pricing online and thought I would add my two cents; their prices on the Premium wine tasting list do seem to be a bit excessive when compared to similar wines from regions that have more [how should I say this] gravitas, while the wines from the Standard List are well within what I would call normal tasting room prices and offer the consumer a fair price for the value given. As far as places you are able to purchase these wines, there are one of two ways that can happen, either through the tasting room or you can purchase from their wine shop and have them direct ship it to you.

My Recommendations: This is one of the "hidden gems" of the Temecula Valley wine scene and one not to be missed. So make an appointment and check it out for yourself, you won't be disappointed by the caliber of their wine or the friendliness of their staff and it's a great place to just sit back relax and sip on some winetastic vino. I really liked the 2004 Cabernet and thought it was best of what I tasted that day overall and would recommend getting a few bottles of the "Talking Frog" because at it's price point it encourages a case purchase. By the way I did purchase some Talking Frog to take home for myself.

Other Voices:  Michael N. of Temecula had this to say, "This is a winery for aspiring and experienced connoisseurs or people that can tell good wine from great wine." and several International and National Wine Competitions Judges have awarded Briar Rose Winery 51 wine awards between 2007 and 2009 in local, national, and international wine competitions.

Okay I learned something new about finding aromas in the glass, check out the video and please tell me what you think, I know it's a bit noisy in the background, so you have to listen carefully. [I've never heard this any where else, but there seemed to be something to it]


philanderson said…
Interesting! Never thought about the change of going clockwise and then counterclockwise. Thank you for this. I look forward to discussing this with you in person starting in Seattle tomorrow!

Until then,

Phil Anderson
General Wine Thoughts
It sounds like a great little winery but I have to claim ignorance on the counter/clockwise thing! Fascinating though!
Hipster Enology said…
We Hipsters were just talking about the difference between aroma and bouquet last night. I've been thumbing through Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World - Complete Wine Course" book and noticed it in there. Aroma is the scents unique to the grape or grapes (typically easier to pick out in single varietal wines.) A wine's bouquet is developed during fermentation and aging.

The distinction between the two is often overlooked while casually tasting wines. That being said, I plan on focusing a little more energy toward picking out those subtle differences between grapes.

Hipster Enology

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