Visiting Our Vineyards
Visiting Our Vineyards
Peltzer Farm & Winery: Pumpkins, Wine and Good Times When Peltzer Winery opened a year ago, we were excited, visited right away, and have been back many times in the past year. We knew of Peltzer’s wonderful reputation with its Pumpkin Farm so we had high expectations for the winery too. And we certainly have not been disappointed. Peltzer Winery is different than any other winery in Temecula Valley. Its barn-like tasting room (known as the Crush House) exudes a farm ambiance that is rustic but stylish. The massive glass front door, fabricated by owner Charlie Peltzer and a friend, is a structural masterpiece. And then there’s the unique and welcoming modern farmhouse décor highlighted by a vintage tractor in the center of the tasting room (more on that later). We recently enjoyed talking with Carrie Peltzer, who with her husband, Charlie, owns Peltzer Farm and Winery. Emphasizing the family origins of both ventures, she shared with us the Peltzer family’s extensive farming history, which goes back more than 100 years in California. Charlie’s family began farming in Orange County in 1913 after moving there from Kansas. At that time, the family’s main focus was Christmas tree farms, which are still managed today by Charlie’s father. More than 20 years ago, Charlie and Carrie launched a huge pumpkin farm and developed a loyal following in Orange County. When Carrie and Charlie initially found land in Temecula Valley for another pumpkin farm, they moved here with their two sons (now aged 12 and 17) who love the hilly terrain where they ride mountain bikes and motorcycles. The boys also work around the farm and plan to carry on this five-generation family enterprise. Charlie and Carrie opened their Pumpkin Farm in 2006 and it has successfully evolved into a popular destination for families and school groups throughout the valley. Most elementary schools in the area bring busses of kids each fall for an authentic farm experience. Kids get to learn about growing pumpkins, visit the pigs, pet farm
animals, and pick pumpkins. Carrie says, “These agricultural tours are part of our mission at Peltzer Farm. We hope to always do this so children can have fun while learning about farming.” The Pumpkin Farm opened this year on September 24 and will be open daily through October 31 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Many families come every year to share a farm experience with their kids and buy pumpkins, gourds and squash, plus they can ride the train, experience gem panning, and ride the ponies. (And this year sweet corn will also be for sale.) Carrie emphasizes, “We want to help families establish meaningful family traditions with a strong focus on farming.” Peltzer Farm is known for its specialty pumpkins (such as white ones and green ones) that are popular for home fall décor. The farm also has an area where Chef Dean from Europa Village Winery has his own vegetable garden. Each year the Peltzers hold an annual farm dinner to support the Our Nicholas Foundation, which strives to increase autism awareness and provide support to children with autism and their families. With the Pumpkin Farm going well, Charlie and Carrie didn’t initially plan to grow grapes, but since they had the acreage in the middle of the wine country, it only seemed logical to consider planting vineyards too. So in 2007 they planted Sangiovese and Barbera grapes and eventually sold them to other area wineries. Then they decided to establish their own winery and local winemakers have been extremely supportive in helping them produce excellent wine.
Carrie designed the Crush House, which is currently the heart of the winery where visitors can taste a wide variety of wonderful wines. The McCormick-Deering tractor in the center of the tasting room was purchased by Charlie’s great-grandfather in 1926 and was part of the family’s big tractor collection until it became a centerpiece of the tasting room as a reminder of the family’s agricultural heritage. This same tractor used to be working on land that today is known as Disneyland. Another popular feature of the tasting room’s décor is the quirky license plate collection adorning one wall. And if you are sitting on the outdoor patio admiring the spectacular view of rolling hills, you will undoubtedly relish the antics of the winery’s two border collies, Stella and Duke, who entertain guests as they chase balls around the property. Peltzer Winery’s staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful. (When being served in the tasting room, I am reminded of the famous Cheers bar “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”) Carrie emphasizes, “Our tasting room staff members are the face of the winery. They are personable, dedicated, and well trained. We sell wine but we also sell service.” Right now the winery produces about 6000 cases annually with grapes coming from its own vineyards and also from other excellent vineyards up and down the coast. I could write an entire article on the wines we have savored at Peltzer, but I’ll just
mention several of our favorites: The 2015 Barbera is juicy and nicely bold with luscious tastes of raspberries, cherries and strawberries. For a chilled white wine on a warm day, I love the Sauvignon Blanc, which is refreshing and full of nice tropical Third Rotary mango and melon tastes. And theAnnual 2015 Syrah Rosé really tastes like rose petals and cherries.Taste We have taken theseWorld wines home since they pair with food. (I recof the Benefit to so benicely Held ommend serving the Barbera with barbecued ribs, the Sauv Blanc with chicken and pasta dishes, and the Rose with seafood.) The winery has been open a year and has become a popular destination in the wine country. All kinds of activities take place at the winery, including popular “block parties” where rollicking bands entertain while guests enjoy sipping wine and snacking on enticing food truck treats. They created this event in an effort to highlight other small businesses (local bands and food vendors). They only book local vendors in an effort to raise awareness for the talent that exists in our valley. The winery’s plans are ambitious, according to Carrie. Eventually the current Crush House will live up to its name by becoming a wine production facility. Then two more buildings are planned, one for a new tasting room and perhaps one for a wine club retreat. Carrie also has visions for a charming inn that would allow guests to stay all night right on the property. What is for sure is that the Peltzer family’s long, successful history of farming will continue to evolve and to provide wonderful experiences for the winery’s and farm’s many visitors. Photos by Todd Montgomery.