Falkner Winery wins from crush club to wedding bells

The Glamourous Guzzling Grannies from Blue Diamond, Nevada, paused their wine tour to pose with Ray Falkner at the tasting room bar of Falkner Winery in Temecula Valley. Ashley Ludwig photo
The Glamourous Guzzling Grannies from Blue Diamond, Nevada, paused their wine tour to pose with Ray Falkner at the tasting room bar of Falkner Winery in Temecula Valley. Ashley Ludwig photo

On a hilltop off Calle Contento in Temecula Valley Wine Country, Falkner Winery sits back amid the vines, with the crown jewel restaurant and wedding venue, called the Pinnacle, overseeing the prime real estate. Owners Ray and Loretta Falkner dreamed the famed facility into existence, a place where every seat in the house has a premier view and guests can enjoy the fun and flavors of wine country.

“We have a beautiful hilltop location, and it gives you a panoramic view of Temecula Valley Wine Country,” Ray said walking the property in a recent interview. “The view enhances the experience for people who want to enjoy a slice of wine country life.”

The rustic wood tasting room facility was the only part of the property that was built out when they purchased from the Temecula Crest Winery in 2000. The Falkner family has taken the original 1984 vineyard and transformed the experience in both the wine and the event venue. With property that is bordered by newly planted wineries, Calle Contento is poised to be an offshoot of Temecula Valley Wine Country that continues to grow and thrive.

According to Ray Falkner, wine country was always a draw for his family.

“Wine has always been a passion of mine since I was 21-years-old,” he laughed. “My wife has always loved wine, and we traveled the world visiting wine regions. We made a decision that we wanted to get into the business, and found Temecula Valley Wine Country.”

Temecula was their focus, after looking at the wine regions throughout California, but southern California was the draw. “The views captured the imagination right away,” he said. “My wife envisioned Pinnacle, dreaming it into existence when there was nothing there at all.”

Now a booked-out weekend wedding facility and regular brunch and lunch restaurant Pinnacle serves Mediterranean style food that compliments the wine made at Falkner Winery. In addition to the tasting room and restaurant, Falkner does a great volume of their business in their corporate events, and outdoor and indoor wedding venue.

“Below Pinnacle, on the first floor of the building, we have our barrel room, available for rehearsal dinners and private parties. We also have a soundproof conference room with large table for business owners who wish to have corporate meetings,” Ray said. “They can work all day, have lunch delivered from Pinnacle and then go to the restaurant for a private dinner.” Still, it is the wedding venue that has drawn area brides to the Falkner Winery location for years.

Ray and Loretta’s daughter was married on the property, in an outdoor venue in 2004. Now, brides enjoy the arched walk to a private ceremony space in the middle of the vines. The walk, under arbors, along a rose-lined path, is one that few will forget.

Last minute brides planning on a Saturday summer wedding? Falkner is already booked. “Right now, brides are currently booking into 2017/18,” he said.

Weekend visitors to the winery can enjoy the rare experience of either learning about wine or enjoying the wine-tasting party. When you arrive, guests are guided to the best area of the winery. If you are a wine club member, a private tasting area awaits you. Part of the Millennial generation? Younger, more boisterous crowds will be gathered together, while tasters who wish to tour the property or learn about the wine will be educated away from the madding crowd.

“Tours are available of the property with advanced notice, and limousines and busses are invited to our property,” Ray said.

Behind the scenes in the middle of May, the tanks await the next crush while barrels rest with 2014 through 2016 wines. The stacks of casks are waiting, filled with everything from Sangiovese to Cabernet. The American Oak used to house the wine comes from Pennsylvania and Missouri, as well as European barrels from Hungary. Several “heads” of the barrels include a usage of French oak, which lends to the flavor, according to Ray.

“American oak imparts the tannin, adding complexity to the wine. The barrel allows a small amount of oxygen to assist in the maturation of the wine,” he said. “The French oak and European oak adds more vanilla flavors to the wine.”

Straight French oak for chardonnay or combination barrels for other wines in process allow Falkner to take advantage of the different flavors on the wine, leaving it to the winemaker, Duncan Williams, to make those decisions.

“Things are going well for us. Our wines continue to win all sorts of awards. 80-percent of the wines we pour have received gold medals in competitions,” he said. “This allows us to give our visitors the best wines we have.”

The production area, on scene, is quiet in May, with everything in storage. Right now everything is in growing mode. Williams rides the property on his four-wheeler, investigating the grapes growth, inspecting for any undue pest activity, ensuring the grapes are doing their thing. The rows of Sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, Cabernet and merlot are laden with baby grapes. Colder weather has slowed growth this year, and the winemaker and winery owner watch their progress daily. Due to the limited acreage of the property, compared to the amount of wine Falkner distributes, Falkner does purchase grapes from other growers in the valley and other places.

“We purchase merlot from other growers in the valley and tend to use for blended wines,” he said. “However, our estate cabernet and merlot come straight from the property.”

Each bottle is labeled accordingly, as well as some new Millennial focused labels for Falkner’s newly created “Crush Club.”

The Crush Club include red, blush and white wines that are sweeter in flavor.

“These wines are labeled to get people talking,” Ray said. “People love it and we’ve won a Bronze award for one of the labels already.”

Visit Falkner Winery at 40620 Calle Contento, call ahead at (951)676-8231, or online at www.FalknerWinery.com.

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