Friday, July 17, 2015

TRIP REPORT: Southern California - Inland Empire Wines

Continuing with our Inland Empire (IE) theme, did you know that it's the home to one of the state's oldest wine producing regions? Granted AVA status in 1995, the Cucamonga Valley is home to acres of zinfandel, mission, grenache, and Carignane...all red wine grapes that do well in the areas very hot summers and sandy soil.  They've been at it here since 1838.
Massive ongoing construction has uprooted many farms and ranches here.

It's also one of the state's most endangered wine countries.  The IE has long played the role of relief valve to the exploding population of the region.  What was mostly empty stretches of vineyards, citrus groves, farms, and ranches 40 years ago is now full of homes, freeways, factories, and warehouses.  Most of the area's grape plantings have been ripped up, paved over, and built upon.

Two major wine producers plus a couple of smaller wineries still make a go of it in the area, however. J. Filippi and Galleano are the majors.  Rancho de Philo and Hofer are the smaller producers.

You can visit Filippi and Galleano wineries almost daily.  Fillipi is in Rancho Cucamonga, Galleano is in Mira Loma near the junction of Interstate 15 and the 60 freeways.

The Galleano farm is a step back in time.  Exiting off of the Etiwanda exit of the 60 freeway, you might think you've taken a wrong turn.  You're immediately in the heart of factories and warehouses...not a grape in sight.  Follow the signs and you'll soon find this slice of old California tucked in between.

The old farm buildings house the tasting room, the winery itself, and the residences of the Galleano family and their workers.  A nice lawn is on your left.  Beyond that, many farm animals in a small zoo.  It's peaceful, pretty, and looks just like the whole area did when I used to visit my grandmother here back in the 1970's.

Past the old motor bays and the antique gas pumps, a banging, wooden screen door guards the entrance to the small tasting room.  The staff will be happy to pour you several complimentary tastes.  If Don Galleano is there, odds are that he'll try to sell you a membership in their wine club.  He's a great talker...odds are that you'll join and receive two of their wines every few months.

Get a little cheese, buy a bottle (hint, the same good wines come in large jug sizes with different names at a huge discount), and have a little picnic on the lawn.  Especially good are the local zinfandels...a highly endangered and rare grape...and their fortified ports and sherries.

I don't know how to describe it, but the terroir here imparts a strong, unique taste to the wines.  If you taste 
a Cucamonga Valley wine and taste it again years later, you'll recognize it.

Another hint for Galleano.  A great, local Basque restaurant...Centro Basco in nearby Chino...proudly pours Galleano as their house wine.  Pick up a coupon here at the winery and have a free glass with dinner at this historic and great restaurant.  If you want more, the Galleano Claret is only $8 a bottle at the restaurant.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

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