California Dreamin´ at Vindemia Vineyard and Winery, Temecula CA

Vindemia: “Venture down a road less taken…where new world meets old, where wines are aged to perfection and patience is not sweet.”

When we were invited to a friend’s wedding in Temecula, CA this fall, I began researching the organic and eco-conscious efforts of the local wineries in the area with the hopes of discovering a great vineyard and winery worth writing about.

I was thrilled to discover a small boutique vineyard and winery named Vindemia.  Their website had everything I was looking for, including an entire page on Sustainability (This will later become a joke between myself and Vindemia owner/winemaker/grower David Bradley).  I reached out to Katie Zuber, the head of the wine club at Vindemia and….one of the nicest people I have ever met and asked to set up an interview.

Owner, David Bradley with Wine Club Manager, Katie Zuber. Best tour guides in Temecula!

Considering that we were coming to Temecula at the height of harvest season, I had slim hopes that I would get an interview with Dave.  Katie was happy to set up a tour of the vineyard, their winemaking operation and provide a tasting.  She told me that if Dave couldn’t meet me that she would, but that “Dave gives the best tours”…and he does.  What I got was so much more than a tour, it was an experience.

Outdoor tasting area that overlooks the Temecula Vineyards

It was a beautiful fall day in Temecula, absolutely perfect for hanging out in a winery.  We pulled up to an open-air tasting room, with old wine barrels serving as tables, a view overlooking the vineyards and simple blue umbrellas with the distant view of an Italian style villa hidden in the back.  I loved the open air element as if I was having a picnic with my best friends in a vineyard. 

Katie greeted us and offered us a glass of wine while we waited for Dave.  After a few minutes, Dave came walking up and I immediately knew that I liked him.  He was wearing a floppy straw hat, a graphic baseball tee that said “Vindemia Ghost Light 2015”, baggy shorts and boots.  He said “I think you’re the person I’m supposed to meet”,  poured himself a glass of wine and said, “Let’s walk and talk”.  I couldn’t believe that he actually stopped what he was doing in the middle of a Saturday harvest to talk to me.  It was awesome. 

Dave asked me about Verte Luxe and why I was interested in interviewing him.  I explained our goal of creating an eco-conscious, ethical and sustainable collective.  I told him that I would like to feature Vindemia as part of  Verte Luxe.  He laughed and said, “Ok, let’s talk about those two words- Eco-Conscious and Sustainable.  What we are is eco-conscious.  What we aren’t is sustainable.  Why?  Because it’s impossible to grow grapes in Temecula and be sustainable.” 

View of the Vindemia estate from below

I was floored.  I asked him to elaborate and he explained that the water to grow grapes in the Temecula Valley comes from the Colorado River and Northern California.  There is very little water in Temecula so most of it has to be shipped in.  Temecula is a desert, so in order to grow grapes, they ship in water to irrigate the plants.  This water then has to be desalinated so that the salt and minerals do not seep into the soil.  We talked for a while on this topic and the political connotations of the word “sustainability”.  At some point, he laughed, threw his hat down and said, “Repeat after me…what are we, eco-conscious…what are we not, sustainable.”  We had a good laugh about this and went on to discuss the eco-conscious efforts Vindemia is doing to produce some of the best-handcrafted wines I have had in a long time.

After laying down an organic humic compost, the mulch from citrus trees is spread to help to naturally fertilize the soil as well as provide water and soil conservation

“Healthy Soil equals Healthy Grapes and Healthy Grapes equals Quality Wine.”  As we stood at the top of the hill overlooking the vineyard, you will notice that the grass isn’t perfect, there are a few weeds scattered underneath the vines and there are grape drops throughout. Dave explained that healthy, living soil is very important to the quality of the grapes.  The vineyard has weeds because Vindemia does not use any weed killer like Roundup.  It may not look as perfect, but nothing is seeping into the soil to pollute the grapes. 

Vindemia picks their grapes by hand, which is why we see drops in the vineyard. This technique is much better for the grapes and is healthier for the vines.  Grape picking machines damage the vines and pick all of the grapes, not just the best ones.  By picking only the best grapes and allowing the rest to fall, Vindemia is allowing for natural fertilization of the soil without using polluting chemicals, plus only the best grapes go into making the wine.

By using an organic humic compost from Agri service and a bark mulch composed strictly of citrus trees from Arborquest , the soil is fertilized naturally.   These techniques also help to promote water conservation and prevent soil erosion.  Mulch from a singular source keeps the soil pure and helps to solve the LA green waste problem. Green Waste is still a huge issue for Los Angeles and we do not have any solution yet other than to fund more green waste plants throughout California. It also helps the grapes stay true to their varietal.  

Vindemia is eco-conscious not just in their growing, but also in their winemaking and bottling methods.  They clean their barrels with organic and natural cleaning agents, recycle the used water and bottle their wines in recycled glass bottles.  The bottles come from The Encore Glass company, who have plants in Mexico that save the need for overseas shipping and have been re-using glass for years.  

As someone who grew up on a family run orchard, I am always intrigued by the family and the growers who make it all happen.  I asked Dave what got him into wine-making.  He laughed and said, “Well, I own a hot air balloon company and we take off and land in a lot of these wineries.  We’ve pissed off a lot of wineries, so we figured, why not join in?”  Dave and his wife Gail own California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures, that offer beautiful sunrise hot air balloon flights throughout the Temecula Valley.  (I personally got up early the next day just to see these balloons flying over the valley.  It was magical). 

Vindemia is a family business in more ways than one.  The main grower, “Joel Rosa Vineyard Wizard”, has been working with Dave since 2005.  As Dave says, he is “the real farmer and boots on the ground.”  Joel has been so loyal to Dave and Gail that the Bradleys helped to sponsor him and his family to become U.S. residents.  Another grower, Fili, has been with the family since 1985.  The Bradleys pay fair wages to all of their employees and have helped to put their workers’ children through school.  Dave and Gayle’s son, Dylan has become one of the head winemakers and their other son is finishing school at Colorado State to join the family business.  I loved seeing all of these people working together and trying to do so much good for the community. 

The story of how the Bradley’s ended up purchasing Vindemia is an interesting one:  A woman had a dream of owning a Chardonnay vineyard.  She purchased ten acres of land with an Italian style villa and planted the grapes to fulfill her dream.  Sadly, in the late 1990’s, an insect called the glassy winged sharp shooter decimated the Temecula Valley.  After losing all of her crops, she decided to sell and told the realtor to offer the property to Dave and Gail for their Hot Air Balloon Business if they asked about it.  The Bradleys purchased the vineyard and villa and began to re-grow different varietals.  For this reason Vindemia is not 100% organic.  They have to use a pest control to keep the glassy winged sharp shooter at bay.  It is the only non-organic product used by Vindemia today. 

Where the magic happens! Today’s press was a Syrah

Dave and his team proudly produce handcrafted wines that represent some of the best varietals grown in the Temecula Valley. Some favorites include Vindemia’s popular “More Cowbell” Zinfandel, Cabernet, Viognier, and Syrah.  Before our tour ended, we walked over to a newly planted plot in the Italian checkerboard style of growing. This plot is designed to work even more efficiently with soil and water conservation as well as help to protect the grapes from the harsh sun and wind. 

New vines planted in the Italian “checkerboard” style to help with water and soil conservation

The word Vindemia means VINTAGE.  Everything at Vindemia is grown, produced and bottled on the property.  This is a unique quality to a vineyard, as so many wineries buy grapes from outside growers, produce their wines off site, etc.  Vindemia is 100% doing everything in house.  It is apparent from the quality of the wines. 

Tasting Time!

And now, my favorite part:  The wine tasting!  We walk back to the tasting room and join Katie. The first wine that was poured was the Regatta De Blanc.  Named for the Sting Album, Vindemia’s White Reggae Viognier tastes just like an Indian Summer.  “The Viognier with a hint of Roussanne that drinks like a red.”  It is honestly some of the best Viognier I have ever had.

This delicious Regatta De Blanc Viognier will be a feature of our Thanksgiving this year.

We moved into the reds, tasting the popular Commonwealth: a balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Syrah as well as the crowd favorite, “More Cowbell” Zinfandel.  Next up was the Republic: a mellow, yet the full-bodied blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Merlot.  We tasted a uniquely delicious Cabernet Franc. Lastly, Dave opened up the wine that would my favorite tasting on the tour, The 2015 Merlot.   It was incredible and as the bottle reads true: “Merlot is like an Old Love.  It’s Hard to say No.”

My three favorites of today’s tasting. I can’t wait to go back for more 2015 Merlot.

As it was the end of the day, Dave had to leave us and take care of closing up and sending his crew home. Before he did, he sent Katie to the back to get us a bottle of the Baby Doll Head Red and explained the name:  “The Baby Doll Head pokes at local Vineyards and Management companies that over a 5 year period dumped thousands of tons of unfiltered L.A. Green Waste laced with trash and every nonnative species on Open Spaces and Vineyards in Temecula”…including plastic babydoll heads!

Baby Doll Head Red…interesting environmental story to go with an interesting wine

The excellent wine as well as the eco-conscious, social and humanitarian initiatives that Dave and his family are doing for the Temecula Valley is why I fell in love with Vindemia wines. 

Next time you travel to Temecula, take a sunrise Balloon Ride with California Dreamin’ then go find David and Katie and tell them that the  Eco-blogger from L.A. sent you.  I promise you will have a good time, learn so much and taste some truly delicious wines. 

To Join the Wine Club and become a part of the Vindemia Community, reach out to Katie Zuber: 

Membership Benefits include:

Access to Limited Production and Exclusive Release Wines

5 Shipments every year

Exclusive Wine Club Member Events

20% off all winery purchases

4 Complementary tastings per visit

15% off California Dreamin’ Hot Air Balloon Rides

Vindemia tasting room is open from 11-5 Daily

    • @vindemia_winery
    • (951) 760-9334
    • 33133 Vista Del Monte Rd
      Temecula, CA 92591
  • Until next time! Thank you for an unforgettable experience, Vindemia