Slideshow: Taking the road less traveled in Temecula Valley’s Wine Country

Marketing director, Joe DiLullo, shows how wines are bottled at Cougar.

Browse through the selections of almost any grocery store in San Diego County and you’ll find wine from South Coast Winery or Wilson Creek’s famous Almond Champagne, both of which are made in Temecula Valley.

However, there are many more smaller wineries located in the area that must somehow keep up with these larger vineyards. Cougar Vineyard and Winery is one of the smaller wineries, but according to marketing and public relations director, Joe DiLullo, there is no competition between them and the larger more touristy wineries.

Cougar Vineyard is located off the main wine tour road, nestled about 10 miles down the De Portola Wine Trail. Cougar’s doors opened to the public for wine tasting only five years ago in 2006, making it one of the youngest wineries in Temecula Valley. According to DiLullo, they are known for their rare Italian wines and varietals, or grapes.

The vineyard produces roughly 4,500 cases of wine per year, said DiLullo. While that may seem like a lot, the larger wineries, like South Coast, produce more than 65,000 cases per year, according to the Temecula Valley Winegrower’s Association.

When asked about how the smaller “boutique” wineries compete with these bigger wineries, DiLullo said they don’t see it so much as a competition.

“I don’t know that anybody does think of it that way around here,” said DiLullo. “We all belong to the winegrower’s association, we share a lot of information. We’re more into joining efforts and helping each other than we with competing.”

He said the goal, whether it be the larger or smaller wineries, is to get people to come to the Temecula Valley Wine Country and educate the consumer. The Wine Country is within a 90-minute drive for more than 20 million residents and is in the heart of Southern California, said DiLullo.

Although there is no stated competition among the wineries of Temecula Valley, Cougar Vineyards does try to attract consumers by hosting events, such as small musical performances, bachelorette parties, and even football parties to watch the San Diego Chargers play on their big screen TV.

A soon-to-be-bottled white wine.

DiLullo said Cougar is more of a “mom-and-pop” winery and they want to stay that way. Where many of the big wineries are selling their products in grocery stores, Cougar only sells to a few local restaurants commercially. He said they don’t want to see their product displayed at a discounted price in the stores.

Cougar Vineyard also relies a lot on viral marketing to get their name out there. Word-of-mouth is their way of getting more customers into their tasting room and becoming a member of their wine club. Cougar is also on Facebook and Twitter as well, marketing to their followers and fans and trying to spread the word.

For more information on Cougar Vineyard and Winery, visit their website at http://www.cougarvineyards.com.

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