Aaron Saltzman is a WSET Level II (currently working on Level III) certified wine and spirits professional. He created Temecula Wine Ratings (TWR) because the region has made massive strides in recent years — producing wines which stand toe-to-toe with much larger appellations, like Napa — and deserves much broader recognition than it’s currently getting.
Why not me? Yes, there are individuals with far more impressive pedigrees than mine (WSET Level II is fairly entry-level), who have been immersed in winemaking for many more years, and who understand the nuances of wine in far greater detail than I do. My hope is this site becomes one of many resources wine fans can use to evaluate and discover Temecula wines. These reviews are not gospel, for sure. In fact, they’re highly subjective. But if they help someone develop a deeper love or appreciation of Temecula wines, I’ll consider it all worthwhile.
Why only Temecula wines?
There are three primary reasons I am focusing this site on Temecula wines:
1) Temecula doesn’t get enough attention from established wine publications. When this site was created, the only wine reviewer who paid any significant attention to Temecula was Matt Kettmann of Wine Enthusiast. And while he writes outstanding reviews, I believe one opinion is not enough.
2) It’s local. I work in Temecula Wine Country, and support my local economy. The largest winery in Temecula produces only around 50,000 cases per year. Compare that to Constellation Brands, which produces over 50 million cases of wine per year (and they’re not even the biggest). Every winery in Temecula is small batch. Nearly every winery in Temecula is family-owned. And in many cases, the winemakers, if not the owners themselves, in Temecula have been practicing and perfecting their craft for decades. There’s something respectable in that.
3) Temecula has hundreds of wines to review! As of 2019 there are almost 50 wineries in the Temecula Valley AVA. And unlike most AVA’s, Temecula winemakers produce dozens of varietals and blends. For instance, if you visit most Central Coast AVA’s (e.g., Sta Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, etc.) you’ll find a relatively limited number of varietals; in fact, some regions force their vignerons to only grow select varietals. However, the portfolio of wines in Temecula is eclectic and vast. Each winery offers its own assortment, largely based on each owner’s preference. And with each winery releasing new vintages every year, that’s a lot of wine to cover.
How do you choose which wines to review?
At the moment, wine selection is determined by personal preference and curiosity. I purchase — at full price — each of the bottles being reviewed. If that changes (i.e., wineries begin sending bottles to be reviewed), I will disclose it in the review.
The goal of this site is to amplify the best of what Temecula Valley Wine Country has to offer. Keeping in line with industry standards, while I might be critical of specific elements in a wine, you won’t see outright negative wine ratings and reviews on this site.
The key takeaway is while Temecula Wine Ratings is not a resource to find out which wineries to avoid, it is a great way to determine which Temecula wineries to visit, and which wines to build your collection.