I expect to be inspired when I travel. But to have my horizons shifted in a small town by a knockout Teroldego wine… now that’s special. It supports the truth that big wine regions by themselves don’t produce creative works; individuals do. And being reminded of that is fun. My recommendation? The Terra Bella wine country located in Central California’s Sequoia region should be on your list of places to explore.
Terra Bella is a scenic agricultural community easily accessed on your way to or from Porterville on Highway 65. It’s an easy breezy 3.5 hour drive from the larger tourist areas of LA and San Francisco. I think you’ll be intrigued and inspired by an emerging wine region that welcomes wine lovers of all levels of sophistication.
Jump in your car or you can hire a limo (Golden Touch Limousine http://www.goldentouchlimo.com/ out of Porterville is an excellent choice) to visit the Terra Bella wine country conveniently located off Highway 65 in Terra Bella which is about 15 minutes from Porterville. Think about purchasing a picnic lunch before heading out. I enjoyed the generous sandwiches and yummy “sides” from Hoagie’s Heroes http://www.hoagiesheroes.com/ in Porterville.
Three family owned and operated boutique wineries are within 5 minutes of each other. Expect fruit forward reds and whites from Bella La Vina Farms, Las Flores Winery and La Belle Winery.
Tasting charges range by winery but the price is well worth it. The grounds of each winery are distinctive and invite you to stay awhile, relax and breathe in some pure country air. Expect outstanding customer service, in most cases provided by the owners, and to taste most of your favorites from Chardonnay to Cab to Nebbiolo. You’ll be delighted by the unique blends and varietals, some of which were totally new to me. Those of you who love discovering emerging wine regions and tasting at small-lot wineries, this is THE PLACE for you. Here’s the 411 on this delicious destination.
Bella La Vina Farms Vineyards & Winery: http://www.bellalavina.com/ Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. $7.00 tasting fee. This is a definite “local matters” operation featuring wines made from owner’s Victor and Cari’s estate vineyards, and grapes purchased from smaller local growers. The Bella La Vina Vineyard complex encompasses 12 acres and is planted with 9 varietals. Ask for a tour, as the real beauty of this property is out the back door. The décor is fun and imaginative, including two Betty Boop wine carousels. There are plenty of wines to choose from to taste and taste. Don’t miss the Bella LA Rosa ($20), a semi dry Tempranillo rosé with a cherry vanilla nose; the spicy plum noted Syrah ($20); and for those who love their sweet wines, The Sweet Blondies ($20) is a yummy blend of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Muscat.
Las Flores Winery: www.lasfloreswinery.com Terra Bella, means “land of beauty” in Italian and aptly describes this property. Definitely bring a picnic lunch and leisurely enjoy the winery grounds. Note the limited hours: Open Saturdays 11am to 5pm or any day by appointment. Thoughtful consideration has been given to beauty and relaxation. In 2006, the owners Nicholas and Cody Flores, founded Las Flores Winery. Three generations of winemaking tradition has taken Las Flores from a home winemaking hobby into a premium boutique winery. Using locally grown grapes this 1000 case winery focuses on keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum, while supporting the local community. For the sweeter palate try the refreshing flavored sparkling wines. For the more serious wine lover do not miss the Tempranillo and Cab Reserve.
La Belle Winery: http://www.labellewinery.com This stop is pure country at its best. A delight to the eyes and senses this winery is nestled in a large orange grove. Open Saturday’s 11am – 6pm (or by appointment, (559)719-7821). Owners John and Marti Woodmansee, designed the winery to give the appearance of being part of the landscape. Although they continue to nurture their navel orange grove, they have removed 13 acres for the vineyard. Until their own vineyard is mature, they purchase their grapes from premium vineyards from Valle de Guadalupe and other select California growing regions. That being said, I was able to taste some of their own estate wines, and I am thinking we have a winner in the making. Be sure and taste the 2009 Teroldego ($18 – also sold under the name “Rawhide Red”). This northern Italian grape reminds me of a Sangiovese or a light Zin. Expect spicy red fruits, and hints of pine, and almond.
If you need accommodations try the nearby 1.2 million dollar renovated Best Western Inn. Conveniently located off of highway 65 you’ll enjoy the smell of pine trees and fresh country air. The Best Western Plus Porterville Inn offers both business and leisure travelers a comfortable and pleasant experience by ensuring their guests the utmost level of comfort. Guests can enjoy a full but express breakfast each morning in the casual ambiance of the sunny breakfast room. If you want something more head over to the 24-Hour Denny’s Restaurant on site. You can also relax and unwind in the outdoor pool, whirlpool, and sun deck. I appreciated the tastefully decorated guest rooms with complimentary wireless high speed Internet access, private voicemail, hair dryer, coffee and tea service, and iron and ironing boards. http://www.bestwesternporterville.com/
Porterville Chamber of Commerce: http://portervillechamber.org/