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Anyone that names their cats Bordeaux and Riesling is all right with me. And this is exactly what Phil Baily, owner and winemaker at Baily Vineyard & Winery did. But apparently Bordeaux is the stinker of the duo and terrorized Riesling, so Phil ended up moving Riesling to the house while Bordeaux stays and roams around the winery. I’m still trying to decide who got the better end of that deal.

Bordeaux, The Wine Cat

Wine-named cats aside, for a true taste of what Temecula can offer, Baily is a must visit. Opening their doors back in 1986, Baily is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of Temecula Valley as they are the second oldest winery in the Valley. The winery offers two different tasting experiences depending on which of their locations you decide to visit. Their main tasting room on Rancho California Road is open daily and offers a tasting (no reservation needed) of current red and white releases. It also has an on-site restaurant, Carol’s.

Baily Vineyard & Winery

The estate tasting room1 provides for a more intimate experience where visitors can taste a vertical flight of older library wines which may consist of their Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Meritage wines.2 You can also escape the crowds on Rancho California Road and take in the beautiful winery views. I opted for the estate tasting which consisted of a vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon library wines.

I was met at the winery by Phil and liked him instantly. He’s so laid back and knows so much about the industry – and is all about the wine. I found myself recording him and taking notes at the same as I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Phil Baily

Phil told me that he found his way to wine after spending many years as a retirement actuary.3 He’d worked as a management consultant in the employee benefits/compensation area. As someone that works in this area, we had much to talk about. At the time, his wife was a stay at home mom and they decided they wanted to do something together and move to the country. So they moved to Temecula. When they first got there, it was a really small town with one stop sign, no stop lights, and was a town of about 5,000 people. How times change! They started growing grapes and getting to know others in the industry and it just grew from there. Note to self: Perhaps you too can find your way out of the corporate life…But I digress.

Baily specializes in wines made from traditional Bordeaux varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon4 its most widely planted variety. With a style more reminiscent of old-world wines, Baily’s production emphasizes balance, elegance, as well as lower alcohol levels and higher acidity. Additionally, red wines are aged at least thirty months in barrel and six months in bottle before release. These are wines you’d happily put on your table to pair with a meal. And I have to say that I loved Phil’s enthusiasm for Cabernet Sauvignon. When you spend so much time searching out and drinking hundreds of different varieties, it’s nice to be reminded how nice the classics can be.

We did an ahh-mazing 11 year vertical (I think the norm is 5-6 wines) of Cabernet Sauvignon from 2005-2015! I’m still so grateful to Phil for this amazing opportunity to literally taste some of Baily’s history as he indicated that it was the first time that he had opened all eleven. Actually, he told me (with a grin) that if he didn’t pour them all that I would think he was holding back and not letting me taste the “bad” ones. LOL! So I got to taste them all. And I can attest that there were no bad ones. This was certainly one of those times when you wished it wasn’t so darn early and you didn’t need to spit all of your wines.

2005-2015 Baily Vineyard Vertical Tasting

Tastings such as these can be so educational as you are really able to taste the differences in the vintages. You can taste when a year was warmer versus cooler, or wetter versus drier. And that helps you better identify your style of wine. The thing that really struck me when tasting though the wines is how much life they still had. There was plenty of acidity left in these wines. My favorite of the bunch? The 2005, which was the oldest we tasted. Other highlights for me included the 2009 (a favorite amongst visitors) and the 2015 vintages. So I bought them all. I’ll drink the 2005 and 2009 wines soon. And while the 2015 was quite a beautiful and elegant wine that I’d be tempted to drink, given what the others have done in the bottle, I’m going to (try) to exercise some restraint and lay it down for a few years.

So if you’re on the fence about which Baily Vineyard experience to choose, I’d highly recommend the library tasting. Vertical tastings aren’t all that common so why not take the opportunity when it presents itself? Click here for more on my wine trip through Temecula

  1. The estate tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday.
  2. To ensure they are able to offer these vertical tastings, they hold back 100 cases of each vintage from their prominent lines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Meritage) which allows enough inventory for the tasting experience as well as allows folks to purchase the wines they’ve tasted.
  3. Y’all, I’ve always said that actuaries are some of the smartest folks around! They do all kinds of numbers stuff that I just don’t get.
  4. The bulk of Baily’s Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a vineyard that was planted back in 1968. In fact, it was this vineyard that started the modern day Temecula wine industry. Baily purchased the vineyard in the early 1990s.

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