EVERY VINO MAVEN... knows some of the basics of how a verdant plot of land grows vines, which in turn grows grapes, and how those grapes are picked and then turned into, ultimately, a really good Riesling. Even if you're well-schooled on the whole sip scene, and you've done your learning about libations over the years, some gaps might exist on the venerable process, a process that's taken some modern leaps in recent years but still feels time-honored in its traditions. So while we say words like "tannins" and "pressings" we wonder about the length of time a ripe grape can sit ripening further and what grape skins really bring to the flavor and tone of a particular wine. Enter the vineyard tour, the lookie-loo's way to dig deeper into the doings of a winery's business. Not every winery boasts such a tour, or, at least, tours are very informal. If the owner happens to be around, or the owner's getting-into-the-business kid, they might invite you for a short walk past the barrel room and among the vines. But Ponte Winery of Temecula Valley goes beyond, way beyond, that informal tour structure. There's a Vineyard Bus Tour, complete with an open-style carriage, which gives aficionados of wine and its ways a chance to look closer at the growing and making of their favorite drink.
ONE HOUR: Set aside sixty minutes for your look-about, which'll involve a ride on the ten-seater bus and a wine tasting as well (of course you'll want to try after you've seen and learned). You'll discover the winery's "grape growing philosophy" and the "art and science of winemaking." A trio of signature Ponte wines shall be there for the tasting, and you might be able to go straight to the cask to try another. Will you be a Shiraz smartie when the tour, which is thirty five dollars, concludes? We're just betting on it. At least you'll be able to fill in some of those gaps, gladly, on how what's on a vine is transformed to the golden elixir sitting at the center of your dinner table. Tours are once a day Wednesdays through Fridays and thrice daily on the weekends.