If anyone has her finger on the pulse of Temecula Wine Country, it’s Devin Parr.
Parr is the brand marketing partner for Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country and has over 15 years of experience in public relations and marketing, specializing in wine, including food and wine, wine travel and tourism, lifestyle, wine and wellness and wine business.
She holds her WSET Level 3 certification in wine and spirits and has been named one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers and will someday soon become a Master of Wine.
That’s why Valley News asked Parr to sit and talk about the health of the wine region as well as the future.
“Temecula over the past few years has come into its own and so we’re getting more comfortable in our skin,” Parr said. “I think I would say we’re getting more comfortable being a little bit different and not trying to pursue this idea of a signature grape anymore or not trying to necessarily be all that Cab or be all about Syrah.
“I think we’re comfortable now knowing that we do a lot of things really well and working with that,” she said. “So we are seeing winemakers and growers experimenting with even crazier grapes like fiano, like albarino, we’re seeing some of the Portuguese varietals come into their own and of course still paying attention to the grape varieties that do really well like the Mediterranean varieties, i.e. sangiovese, syrah, grenache, mourvedre, montepulciano and verentino. We’re continuing to hone and perfect those grapes that do very well and then getting out of our comfort zones a little bit and experimenting with new varieties, which is exciting.”
As far as farming goes, she admits to being no expert, but Parr said growers and vineyards are continually adjusting to changing climate conditions in the valley and succeeding.
“The general sense I get from wineries is that 2019 was an epic vintage,” Parr said. “I think that trend is continuing for 2020, those are the predictions that I’ve heard. We’re not seeing the crazy level of heat. We just didn’t see that this summer.
“I know February it’s been a little bit drier than we expected but we are seeing cooler temperatures, which has been great and it makes for a longer growing season, which then allows the grapes to develop best phenolic ripeness. We’re getting filled those cool nights, really cool mornings, nice afternoon cooling breezes and lots of sunshine and warm sunny days in the growing season,” she said.
Parr said she thinks wine production continues to improve as well.
“As the region gains more recognition, we are becoming a pretty hot destination, we have been for the last few years,” she said. “(There has been) tons of accolades pointing to value. We’ve had a lot of really positive practice means, higher visitation, higher midweek visitation, people coming and spending more money and the region is doing really, really well. Which of course then means greater investments in technology and education. We’ve got some great training programs for our front-line staff. But then investments in the equipment and the technology and the tools to make better, cleaner, smarter wines.”
The region was named one of the Top 10 Wine Destinations by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and it appears to have had an effect on the number of people coming for a visit. Making sure those first-time visitors return is a priority and ensuring the ability to cater to all types of wine drinkers is important.
“What’s great about Temecula Valley is that there really truly is something for everyone,” Parr said. “If you are looking for sort of a more energetic, wine tasting experience if you like music or crowds or sort of a younger experience. There are wineries that cater to that. Then there are wineries that are appointment only. There are wineries that don’t allow tour buses or limos or large groups. If you’re looking for a higher-end experience or something that’s a little more curated and that caters possibly to a higher-end clientele. There are blending workshops, there are seated guided tasting, there are vineyard tours.
“There’s really quite a range of experiences that allowed Temecula Valley to cater to both the influx of consumers and the different types of consumers that are coming to visit us and allows them to sort of self-select and funnel into different categories depending on what they’re looking for in a wine experience,” she said.
While it is important to the wine region to bring in people from surrounding counties such as San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties, Parr said the wineries are very welcoming to locals.
She has some suggestions for locals looking for a unique experience.
“The No. 1 thing I would encourage them to do is come midweek because the crowds are down,” Parr said. “The chances of you meeting a winemaker in Temecula Valley are really high. We are still that kind of destination where our winemakers are out and about and they love engaging with their clientele and visitors. If you come on a random Tuesday or Wednesday, the odds of you meeting a winemaker and having them strike up a conversation with you and then bring you back and give you a barrel sample or a private vineyard tour, they are higher in Temecula than most other regions, at least in my experience.
“It’s a great time to come through, you’re just going to get that more personalized attention and you’re likely going to get sort of a VIP experience that you might not get without spending quite a bit of money elsewhere,” she said.
She also suggests locals venture beyond their favorites.
“Check out some of the wineries that you haven’t experienced yet,” Parr said. “Get out of your comfort zone, check out a winery you haven’t been to yet.”
For more wine industry and winery insights, follow Parr on her Instagram page, @thesocalwinegal.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.