Early California Epicenter of Wine Making – Inland Empire

California Bottle of Wine Galleano truckLegacy California Bottle of Wine
From Inland Empire Winery

Most California winemaking migrated north years ago (with the exception of Temecula) but there was a time when the Rancho Cucamonga-Ontario area east of downtown Los Angeles produced copious bottles of wine. Driving around these areas today you’ll sometimes see open fields with rows of thick black stumps, remnants of the area’s winery heritage.

There are several legacy wineries still fermenting grape for consumers, San Antonio Winery, Filippi Winery and Galleano Winery. San Antonio morphed into a large wine making distributor similar to the Gallo family, only not quite as big.

Galleano Winery is located near the intersection of the 15 and the 60 Freeways in Mira Loma. Thank goodness for our phone GPS systems. Now if you think Rancho Cucamonga is a hard place to find, try this city. Mira Loma is pinched between Rancho Cucamonga and Jurapa Valley in the middle of farm fields framed by high-traffic freeways. The founder, Dominico Galleano, purchased this 160 acre parcel in 1927. It’s a region, according to Galleano Winery, that in 1940 was producing 6 million gallons of wine from 60 local wineries.

Quick Facts
*AVA: Cucamonga Valley
*Venue: Old Ranch-Farm
*Price point $
*Purchased? Joya del Cucamonga Zinfandel

Visiting with two other couples after a weekend of sampling wine at the Big Bear Wine Walk (a story for next month) we pulled into a dusty campus of farm buildings with vintage automobiles, cars and farm implements covering the outside walls. The farm hosts a park with picnic benches and caged peacocks.Bottle of Wine

Wandering into the tasting room we were immersed in an ocean of joyful noise, lifted glasses and little space at the tasting bar. This place is quite a throwback. Their tasting fee of $5 is waived with a bottle purchase and retail bottles can start as low as $7, the most expensive bottle was $26 (a late harvest Muscat.)

After catching a bartenders attention, asking him where he wanted us, the sea of tasters parted and we found ourselves squeezing six people into the space of three, sampling wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay, from Rasberry Champagne to Zinfandel, to Malbec to Chianti.

What did the two of us taste?

Zinfandel aged in redwood  ✰ $7.75
Pioneer Legendary Zinfandel Cucamonga Valley ✰+ $17.95
Joya del Cucamonga (very dry) ✰+ $12.95
Cano’s Reserve Red (blend of 2010 and 2011 wines) ✰+ $19.95
Mellow Burgundy (made with Zinfandel, leaving 3% of residual sugar, quite sweet) ✰ $7

Our friends were buying Riesling while the other couple enjoyed the heck out of the $7.75 house Zinfandel, buying several bottles. As the friend told me, all wines are good wine and he liked that price point.Bottle of Wine

While we tasted interesting wines, they clearly need bottle aging and aeration, whether that be opening the bottle several hours in advance or pouring them through a Haley’s Corker. You can tell these wines are grown in a hot environment. We were generous with our rankings.

But our friend is right, there are very interesting California wines on the market, some that don’t fit our palates, and it really depends on your taste. Do you like bolder, spicier wine like that produced in Temecula or Rancho Cucamonga, or do you like the softer wines of Paso Robles, Foxen Canyon and Northern California?

There is plenty of good wine for everybody, a plethora of interesting places to explore red rubies of wine exploding on your tongue.

You’ll find Galleano Winery located at 4231 Wineville Ave., Mira Loma.

Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Temecula.

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

– -✰ means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰ means -Not liking it too much
✰ means -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰++ means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+ with a slash, it signifies our opinion differs.

$ Value Laden
$$ Well priced wine
$$$ Better be great!
$$$$ Expensive, better be wonderful!