Established in 2003 by Mike Rennie and Gary Winder, Leoness Cellars, meaning “village of dreams,” delivers on that romantic ideal with dramatic vineyard views, thoughtfully crafted wines and al fresco dining.
Leoness is serious about making and sharing exceptional wine, but aims to keep the experience fun and interactive for their guests. Their popular host department has grown from just a few vineyard tours on the weekends to several each day throughout the week.
“We love to share the wine lifestyle,” said marketing director Joel Reese. “Our hosting and tour department engages guests to learn, have fun, and create some memories.”
The tours include a walk through the vineyard where guests learn more about the sustainable farming practices and hand-harvesting of the grapes that have become central to the Leoness operation.
“As the years go by, we’ve been able to learn and implement better farming techniques and utilize new equipment,” said Reese. “We are always evolving and growing. Our passion for wine starts in the vineyard and ends in the bottle, involving hundreds of carefully thought out decisions and resulting in some of the best wine that we have ever produced.”
Enhancing the stunning views and exceptional wine may seem unnecessary, but Leoness takes the dream one step further by featuring the only restaurant on the De Portola trail.
With over 27 years of culinary experience, Chef Daragh Matheson focuses on making artisan food with balanced flavors to please any palate.
“We make everything from scratch — stocks, sauces, dressings – everything,” said Matheson. “This gives me a lot of control over the flavors, so we can make simple fare taste really special.”
Leading the team since the Restaurant at Leoness opened in August 2011, Matheson spent the first year developing a reputation for solid, food service and building a bond of trust with the diners.
“Now that our guests understand our food, I get to play a little more,” smiled Matheson. “I teach at the Art Institute (of California, Culinary School) three days a week, so I can’t help but be inspired to try new things.”
Take, for instance, the “Real Fries, No Lies,” hand cut French fries which take three days to prepare and are finished one portion at a time.
“We start with the simple things and then add depth of flavor that would not normally be there,” Matheson went on to say. “We keep it approachable, though, so our guest keep coming back for more.”
Approachability is a strong theme throughout the Leoness property.
“Although we constantly seek to elevate the level of food, service and wine we offer, we do it all so that our guests feel special, like part of the family,” said host Grace Richardson. “That is one of the reasons I love working here; these people are my family.”
Reese believes that word has gotten out about the great things that Temecula wine country has to offer.
“It is exciting for the community of Temecula that so many wineries that are striving to be the best that we can be,” he said. “I believe we have a unique opportunity to educate people about the wine lifestyle through our hospitality. We hope they then share that lifestyle with their friends and loved ones back home — it is a beautiful thing.”
Leoness Cellars is located at 38311 De Portola Rd., Temecula.
To learn more, visit www.leonesscellars.com.
Corie Maue is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.