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Friday, February 12, 2016

A Day in Temecula, California: Wine tasting, burgers, and ice cream



As the sun shone brightly through windows signaling a new day in Carlsbad, CA, a not-too-early morning started with an hour-long commute from Carlsbad to Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country. It is a beautiful setting with rolling hills and high mountains as the perfect backdrop. The valley has an excellent climate and topography for varietal grapes to thrive and ultimately produce premium, award-winning wines. There are over 40 wineries in the Temecula Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area).

Doffo Winery has called Temecula home since 1997. Marcelo Doffo’s grandfather, Bernandino, migrated from Italy to Argentina in the early 1990s and settled in Pampas where he grew wheat, corn, and raised cattle. As a child, Marcelo grew up there and learned about the art of cultivation. Marcelo eventually migrated to the United States to start a new life journey. In 1985, he visited northern region of Turin, Italy and found that is great uncle still made estate wine. The cultivation lightbulb went on and he tried his hand at home-made wine. In 1997, Marcelo was awarded the silver medal from the Orange County Wine Society. This prompted him to purchase an old cattle farm in Temecula and use his cultivation skills to install trellises and irrigation lines by hand. His first crop consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. In 2001, Marcelo was proud to introduce his new wines.

Zulma Doffo, Marcelo’s wife, is a true Doffo Brand Ambassador, handles most of the “behind-the-scenes” operation, and is known locally as the Chimchurri Queen. She is also a great tour guide; showing off the winery grounds from the vineyard, event spaces, and you might be able to see some winemaking in action (depending on the time of year you visit). There are some amazing spaces here for company parties or retreats, weddings, family picnics and reunions. On the weekends, food trucks make a stop here where you can enjoy gourmet food while enjoying your favorite glass of wine on the terrace. One of Orange County’s food trucks, Piaggio Gaucho on Wheels, can be found here on occasion.

Here are tasting notes on some of the Doffo wines:

  • 2014 Viognier: dry; peach aroma; mild grapefruit notes.
  • 2012 Motodoffo Red Table Wine: dry; cherry aroma; berry and peppery notes; would pair well with pork.
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: cherry aroma; rich and robust with peppery and oak notes.
  • 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve: smooth, rich, and robust; easy drinking.
  • 2012 Malbec: high flavor notes which work well with Doffo’s Chimichurri on toast or even smothered on a marbled steak.
  • 2013 Petite Sirah: dry; fruity with blueberry and blackberry notes; color is beautiful with a fluorescence.
  • Syrah Reserve: bright, delicate flavors that tease the palate and dissipate quickly.
  • 2011 Zinfandel Vintner Selection: jam-like aroma; jam and plum notes; dry finish; would pair well with lamb.
  • Paulina Cuvee: Muscat adds sweetness; reminiscent of a spritzer.


An early wine tasting will make you hungry for lunch. Fatburger is a great place to go to satiate the rumbles of the tummy. This location is under new management, but is exactly the same since the grand opening over 3 years ago with same great food and service.

Medium Fatburger stacked with “the works” (mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, relish, mustard), pepper jack cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. The relish was the surprising flavor, not normally a topping for a burger. It has a not too sweet and celery seed/salt flavor that works really well. The bacon and egg additions make the burger more like brunch, combining breakfast and lunch into one meal. Rating: 5/5

Medium Fatburger stacked with grilled onions and thousand island instead of mustard. The thousand island adds a creamy element and making the burger seem even juicier. The grilled onions could be a little more flavor forward, maybe adding a little salt when grilling. The relish might have also overpowered the grilled onions. Rating: 4.5/5

Chili Cheese Fries are a great side to share. The chili is stick-to-your-ribs thick and coats the fries rather nicely. The chili has a robust chili powder flavor. It is topped with a good amount of cheese. The Fat Fries (steak fries) act like spoons to scoop up the chili and cheese without too much of a mess. The fries could be fried a little crispier to hold up to the chili. Rating: 4/5

After a hot day, you might be craving something cold and sweet. Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt has a location down the street from Fatburger. Here are some flavors you might like to try:

  • Going Bananas is nonfat, gluten-free and kosher; has live and active cultures; contains bananas and milk; no high fructose corn syrup. It tastes like a frozen banana cream pie. Marshmallow topping works great with this. Rating: 4/5
  • Shredded Coconut is nonfat, gluten-free, and kosher; has live and active cultures; contains milk, nuts, and coconut; no high fructose corn syrup. It has a creamy coconut flavor. Magic Shell works well with this and tastes like a frozen Mounds bar. Rating: 5/5
  • Dreamy Dulce de Leche is low fat, gluten-free, and kosher; has live and active cultures; contains milk and sweetened condensed milk; no high fructose corn syrup. It has a caramel flavor. Rating: 3/5
  • Creamy Peanut Butter is low fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, and kosher; has live and active cultures; contains milk, nuts, and peanuts; no high fructose corn syrup. The peanut butter flavor is a bit too subtle. Rating: 3.5/5
  • Dole Whip Soft Serve is nonfat, gluten-free and kosher; no high fructose corn syrup. It tastes almost like the Dole Whip you can get at the Tiki Room at Disneyland or at the Dole Plantation on Oahu. It’s just not as sweet. Rating: 4.5/5
  • German Chocolate Cake is low fat, gluten-free, and kosher; contains milk and soy; no high fructose corn syrup. This particular flavor tastes waxy. The chocolate flavor is just too underplayed. It needs a better balance of flavors to resemble a German Chocolate Cake. Rating: 2.5/5


Stayed tuned for dinner in Oceanside.

To see more photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

For more information:
36083 Summitville St.
Temecula, CA 92592
+1.951.676.6989
Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Closed on December 24, 25, 31, and January 1.

40573 Margarita Rd. Ste. 100
Temecula, CA 92591
+1.951.296.6340
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 
Fatburger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
32195 Temecula Pkwy. Ste. 102
Temecula, CA 92592
+1.951.303.1600
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This travel article series is dedicated to the author's step dad who passed away while the author was on this trip.

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