OAK MOUNTAIN WINERY - EXPERIMENTS GONE RIGHT

OAK MOUNTAIN WINERY – EXPERIMENTS GONE RIGHT

The history of Oak Mountain Winery is one of ideas that have just seemed to work out. From its inception in the early 2000’s until now, it seems like nearly all of their “experiments” have hit the mark. Al be it not without some struggles, but no victory worth having comes easy right? From the planting of the original vineyards, to the one of a kind cave, to the brand new distillery on property, Oak Mountain has pushed the limits and created some awesome history along the way

THE TASTING ROOM @ OAK MOUNTAIN WINERY

It’s been 23 years since Steve and Valerie Andrews decided to start a winery. Originally just an idea, Valerie’s father, who was the wine buyer for Vons / Pavilions, took Steve and Val on a visit to Napa . Following the trip, excitement was high and her father suggested “You’ve got 10 acres, why don’t you plant it.” Now, this wasn’t some well thought out vineyard search, it was 10 acres of hilly ground at their house in Temecula Hills. But a friend terraced the property and after sending some soil samples in, they were able to determine what kind of grapes would grow there. With these results, they contacted Tablas Creek up in Paso and moved forward with the purchase of Rhone style grapevines. From that point it was up to Steve, Valerie and family to use a little sweat equity to get it all planted. A short while later they had grapes, then juice and then eventually, 3 barrels of wine aging in their bathroom. Space was tight and that’s all that was open. Around this time, they thought they should get licensed, a pretty key factor if you’re gonna start a winery. And that’s what they did

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A BIT OF THE BUBBLY

With their license secured for the Temecula Hills location (nowadays it’s their production facility) they began serving wine on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Though definitely a bare bones operation, they built loyalty. As a matter of fact they still have some wine club members from back in those days. All was fine until another winery in town enquired about their lack of things such as a plot plan etc, that other wineries were required to do. So it was back to the drawing board. The cost to convert the current property or to build on Rancho California was far too steep. However, the emerging De Portola Trail was a viable alternative. This was in 2005. They purchased an old metal shed from a friend who had never got around to using it, then erected it as the first building on the property. Slowly they built other structures, including the bathrooms, which were constructed at what they called a “potty party”. As things were coming together Steve came up with yet another idea. Building something no one in the area had ever attempted or probably even thought of

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THE CAVE READY FOR AN EVENT

The year was 2009 and the idea of The Cave was born. This would be the first and only mined cave in Southern California. Stretching 104 feet into the mountain, it was quite an impressive feat to complete. Originally, they were going to sell barrel storage space in parts of the cave to help cover the cost. But, when that didn’t work out, the decision was made to build a kitchen inside. And per usual, another happy accident proved profitable and today it is known as the Cave Cafe. Barrels are stilled stored in The Cave, but also double as a decorative feature

During the “Covid Years”, yet another idea appeared (are you seeing a pattern here?) Why not take the front of the old metal Quonset hut (the original wine tasting room) and turn it into a tasting room for spirits. But not only a tasting room, but a fully licensed distillery. Opened in January of 2022, The 36522 Distillery (the property address) are currently distilling brandy, bourbon and whiskey, with gin coming soon. Such as things go at Oak Mountain, it grew in popularity quite quickly and was profitable within a month. It even has its own food menu.

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INSIDE 36522 DISTILLERY

As wine selections go, they have one of the broadest menus in the Valley. There truly is something for everybody. When I asked Val about it, she simply stated “I get bored with styles easily so we come up with new ones all the time. The future of Oak Mountain is growth, but necessarily in volume. but in quality. Growth in solid, quality customers, a continued improvement in the quality of the wines and now spirits, as well as Wine Club retention and growth from Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles counties. Val is found of saying “We want to transform people…if only for the afternoon. We want people to say…I came to Temecula and I felt like I was on vacation” And with the creative ideas flowing from Steve and Valerie Andrews, is a full blown resort out of the question? You never know

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