On our whirlwind Temecula wine country tour last week, we first stopped at scenic Leoness Cellars. The winery features stunning vineyard and mountain views, plus an award-winning restaurant. And the tasting room offers friendly hospitality and some darn good wine. We adored Leoness Cabernet Franc Reserve, however other bottles also made us smile. Read on for information about the winery’s story, their memorable wine and picturesque location.
Leoness Cellars Story
Leoness Cellars co-founder Gary Winder has farmed for 50 years in the rolling hills and vineyards of Temecula’s wine country. In 1972, he established Stage Ranch Farm Management, growing citrus fruits and avocados. Subsequently, in 1989, Mike Rennie joined Gary, and they focused on vineyards. First, they sold grapes to well-known wineries in central and northern California. Next, they acquired 60 vineyard acres, with more than 450 acres contracted.
In 2002, Gary and Mike collaborated with the Steyn family, and Leoness Cellars was born. Further, they, along with winemaker Tim Kramer and farm manager Billy Bower, committed to a goal to make world-class wines.
Moreover, Leoness Cellars’ success prompted requests from prospective winery developers to consult on their product development and winery management.
As a result, Rebaux Steyn launched and became the CEO of Temecula Valley Winery Management, which has become a driver of new winery and product development in the Temecula Valley. Tim Kramer, its director of winemaking, is also Steyn’s co-owner of TVWM. Leoness founders Gary Winder and Mike Rennie round out the team.
Leoness Cellars Tasting Room
A hidden gem, tucked away from the main path of many Temecula wineries, Leoness Cellars provides a peaceful setting. Their tasting room and outdoor patio are perched on a lovely hilltop overlooking Rolling Hill Vineyard, with sweeping views of the valley and mountains in the distance. In addition to a relaxing environment, you can enjoy standout wine and delicious food at their highly regarded French-country restaurant. We purchased a few items in their gift shop too.
Leoness Cellars Wine
This magnum of 2002 Merlot celebrates Leoness Cellars’ initial vintage. Today, the winery also produces Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Merlot, Muscat Canelli, and Cinsault Port, as well as small lots of other specially selected varieties. They fall into a three-tier wine program: Cellar Series, Vineyard Series and Signature Series. Cellar Series comprises approachable reds and whites; Vineyard Series represents single vineyards with 100% varietals; and Signature Series features “distinguished winemaker blends or premium wines.” Our friendly host Erin poured us samples from all three categories. Read about our favorites below. But we took home Cabernet Franc from the Vineyard Series.
Leoness Cellars Cabernet Franc 2016 CSI Vineyard ($60)
This 100% Cabernet Franc is outstanding, structured, layered, luscious and velvety. Aromas of blackberries and plums are mirrored on the palate, with black licorice and vanilla notes. As you can see from the photo, two bottles of this beauty now grace our cellar. We also enjoyed the 2017 Cabernet Franc (51%)-Merlot (49%) blend in the Cellar Series ($43), with aromas and flavors of dark fruit, cassis and spices.
Eloquent Red Blend 2018 Signature Series ($99)
This blend of Syrah (67%), Petite Sirah (21%) and Zinfandel (12%) is simply elegant, and dare we say it, eloquent! Hints of chocolate, black pepper and vanilla enhance the textured layers of rich, dark fruit such as black plums, blackberries and black currants, along with savory flavors. Pour this wine now after decanting, or better yet, put it away for a few years and prepare to be wowed.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Cellar Series 2017, Vineyard Series 2018 and Signature Series 2016
When Erin, our wonderful host, discovered that we favor Cabernet Sauvignon, she opened one bottle from each of the three categories, so we could taste the range of the Leoness portfolio. The Cellar Series 2017 ($45) combines 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This is a good every-day Cab, with layers of dark fruit and hints of cassis, olives and barrel spices.
The Vineyard Series 2018 ($65) is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, with a blend of the best grapes in Rolling Hills vineyard. If you like complex, well-structured Cabs, this one is for you. And then there’s the Signature Series 2016 ($99). What a gorgeous wine! Again, rich black fruit is layered with hints of vanilla, cedar and black licorice in this velvety wine. We loved it.
In conclusion, we highly recommend Leoness Cellars as a must-stop on any visit to Temecula wine country. This winery offers the winning combination of a great story, impressive wines for different palates, and friendly hospitality, in addition to picturesque scenery, a beautiful, welcoming tasting room and an award-winning restaurant.
Margot and Dave