One of the newest wineries on the De Portola trail, Cougar Vineyard & Winery is currently operating out of a spacious and comfortably cool warehouse, but owners Rick and Jennifer Buffington have big plans to change that soon.
“We broke ground on the new tasting room in July,” said Buffington, noting that changes to the plans will delay completion until after the first of the year.
“We were hoping to have everything done by our anniversary in November,” he went on to say. “But we just have to be flexible.”
Why the need for increased space?
A major increase in traffic, for one thing.
Buffington explained, “We started running a wine tasting tour package through Travel Zoo and Groupon and the results took us a bit off guard. We’ve sold over ten thousand tours since we launched the campaign.”
Cougar Vineyard hosts an average of 25 people in each two and a half hour class, offered daily Friday through Sunday.
“We start the class out in the vineyard, move on to the production area and then complete the tour with a wine and cheese tasting,” said Buffington. “Many of the tour guests have never been to Temecula wine country before. It’s pretty cool to be able to introduce them to our area.”
Buffington is also the winemaker at Cougar, which produces 18 wines from 17 acres of family owned vineyards.
“We specialize in 100 percent Estate Italian varietals,” said Buffington. “We are thrilled that one of our special vines, Lambrusca di Alessandria, has been approved as a recognized varietal by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for use in the United States. We should be able to start making wine from the vines next season.”
After selling out of their most popular wine, the Pink Cougar, for the second June in a row, the Buffingtons have invested in a new tank to increase production.
“The Pink Cougar will be available to wine club members at our next Pink Party on December 1,” said Buffington. “We know that’s a long time to wait, so we will be making a good deal more this season than we did last.”
Cougar offers live music on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 – 5 p.m. and hosts an Annual Salsa & Guacamole Competition on September 16.
“We keep the vibe fairly relaxed around here,” said Buffington. “We plan to keep it that way with the new tasting room as well. We want our guests to feel at home.”
Cougar Vineyard & Winery is located at 39870 De Portola Road, Temecula.
Corie Maue is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.