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Thornton Winery: A Premier Experience in Temecula Valley Wine Country

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by Patricia Perratore-Anis

The city of Temecula was once little known outside of Southern California. However, over the past several years, it has grown tremendously thanks to its thriving wineries, outstanding restaurants, beautiful lush landscapes, and Temecula’s renowned festivals and events.

Thornton Winery, known as the premiere food, wine, and music experience in the Temecula Valley Wine Country, stands out in the region.  Family-owned, Thornton Winery has been making award-winning wine for more than 21 years.  Current President, Steve Thornton, has successfully taken on the reigns of the business from his parents, John and Sally Thornton.  Steve is continuing the high quality tradition that his father put into motion along with Executive Winemaker, Don Reha and Executive Chef Steve Pickell.  

Luncheon in the Champagne Caves at Thornton Winery
My visit this day was a special luncheon invitation at Thornton Winery for friends and members of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.  Some of us were somewhat local to the area, but others came as far away as Phoenix, Arizona (our President and Media Trip Co-Chair Maralyn Hill and her husband Norm).

We were warmly greeted and magically escorted to the Champagne Caves and welcomed with a glass of Thornton’s signature champagne by President Steve Thornton and Executive Winemaker Don Reha.  Steve is very pleasant and personable; he gave us some of the family history of the winery, which “combines old world style with new world taste to create award-winning and premium varietal wine.” 

Don Reha gave an enthusiastic presentation of winemaking, from the grapes off the vine to fermentation to the final bottling process.  You can tell by his infectious enthusiasm that he enjoys what he does and is happy to talk about it.  He added, “The more we have to offer to people, the better the destination. Spend a couple of days here and get to know the wines.”

For lunch, we were treated to a Roasted Tomato, Artichoke, Prosciutto Tartine served on Grilled Sourdough with Herbed Ricotta Cheese and a Baby Arugula Salad. To complement the meal, we were served a glass of their 2006 Sangiovese, one of their signature red wines, and a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, white wine “lightly kissed.”   Lunch was followed by a dessert that appeared too pretty to eat, but being a dedicated culinary professional, I dove into it anyway.   (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, right?)  We were served a Ginger and Peach Tartlet, Moscato Sabayon, Blackberries and a glass of 2008 Moscato. The entire experience was delightful; the food was fresh, well prepared, and most delicious.  The wines were paired well, and each and every one of them was superb.  The service, company, and overall dining experience were excellent.

Ginger and Peach Tartlet,
Moscato Sabayon, Blackberries.

(l-r) Executive Chef Steve Pickell, President Steve Thornton and Executive Winemaker Don Reha.

After lunch, we were visited by Executive Chef Steve Pickell, who was happy to share some of the luscious details about his signature dishes and the special preparations he and his team do for the patrons.

Let’s face it, fine wine is meant to be experienced and enjoyed with good food and fine dining.  So do yourself a favor, while at the winery, plan to dine at the Café Champagne; their Gold Medal-winning Contemporary cuisine boasts a wide variety of delicious entrees that are exquisitely prepared using their own garden-fresh vegetables and herbs as well as those grown locally in the Temecula Valley.

Thornton Winery also offers extensive banquet and wedding facilities and winery tours; “private functions can be held in their elegant Vineyard View Room, the romantic Champagne Caves, or al fresco on the Fountain Terrace, overlooking the beautiful Temecula Valley vineyards.”

I and the rest of my group had a lovely and memorable experience at the Thornton Winery, as I’m sure you will.  The sprawling estate is surrounded with beautifully landscaped gardens, local flora and fauna and a backdrop of magnificent rolling hills peppered with boulders, outcroppings, fresh air and sunshine.  The restaurants are spacious and airy and there awaits great food and wine, ambiance, and decor.  The gift shop is smartly decorated and unique.  As you explore it, you will find an enticing assortment of reasonably priced wines, champagnes and accompaniments

.Thornton Winery Gift Shop
Thornton Winery Gift Shop

There is so much more to see and experience at Thornton Winery that mere words aren’t enough; you must see for yourself.  Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591 (about 60 miles north east of San Diego and 90 miles southeast from Los Angeles). 

Phone 951-699-0099.


Winery Tours and Tastings 

The 21st annual THORNTON WINERY Champagne Jazz Series continues to provide a stellar lineup of nationally renowned contemporary jazz artists.  Visit their website for upcoming artists and for Tickets or information, call 951-699-3021.

Additional resources:

Temecula Olive Oil Company

Temecula Creek Inn

Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau

Kissam Consulting

Media Relations / Management and Marketing

About the Authors:

Patricia Anis is photographer and writer covering a variety of subjects from travel to restaurants and family recreation.  You can reach Patty at

Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with 24 books in print. Nick’s beats include snow and water sports, and vacation destinations. Nick can be reached by email at:  

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Last Revised: Friday, May 15, 2015 06:38:58 AM
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