There’s always something happening at the award-winning Doffo Winery in Temecula, a short 90 minute drive from Irvine. Whether it’s a sidecar tour through the wine valley with tasting stops on the way, an Argentinian BBQ on a hilltop overlooking the rolling hills, motorcycle races or just kicking back at the pool of the Malbec Estate – you don’t have to leave the vineyard for a full weekend recharge.
When Marcelo Doffo came to Southern California from Argentina in 1975, he got into the collision repair service and owned a body shop. His two hobbies were collecting and restoring vintage 1960s motorcycles and making wine in his backyard in Orange County.
On a trip to buy fruit in Temecula one weekend, he came across an old school house next to a pepper tree similar to his native Argentina and bought the property as a place to retire. Together with his son Damian, Doffo spent two years planting vines, laying irrigation systems for cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cab franc, zinfandel and malbec varietals. His intention was to retire and make a little wine. He never expected it to become a full-fledged award-winning estate winery and event space, excelling at the Malbec varietal.
His obsession with wine is matched only by his love of collecting motorcycles, which is evident by the Doffo Winery’s tasting room’s décor. The warehouse space displays just a fraction of the more than 300 bikes he’s collected over the years alongside rows of signature wine bottles. Plasma screens of live motorcycle racing line the walls, reflecting the family’s passion for bikes.
Wine flights in the tasting room are generous and affordable, all made from hand-picked grapes. Nothing is machine harvested. An unusual California find, grab a bottle of the Doffo grappa. Also worth a taste is the late harvest Tiago, the MotoDoffo Super Tinto and their elegant deep purple red Syrah. White wine lovers should sip the delicious concrete fermented Viognier, with aromas of tangerine, peach, pineapple, mango, apricot and Marcelo’s beloved Mr. Lincoln roses that dot the vineyard.
With the help of wife Maria, daughters Brigitte and Samantha as well as Damian and his wife Vanessa, Doffo Winery has expanded into a family run experience that is wine, song and food for the soul.
The Malbec Estate
Maria Doffo runs the Malbec Estate Airbnb tucked behind the Doffo Winery, surrounded by palm and pepper trees. The 2,903 square foot house on 2.5 acres of gated property includes four bedrooms and 2.5 full bathrooms with a private backyard including a furnished pool-side area, fire pit, BBQ area, bar, pool, jacuzzi and is a reasonable deal at about $533 a night for up to eight guests. It’s located five to 10 minutes from the other 60 wineries in the area, hot air balloon rides, vineyard horseback riding and 15 minutes from Old Town. Breakfast platters, poolside charcuterie and other items can be ordered through Vanessa Doffo’s FYS catering.
Wine Tours And Tasting
Starting with a glass of sparkling Paulina, your tour will be guided by a Doffo family member whenever possible. The tour takes you through the vineyard and details farming practices and family history. It also includes some of the production area and the MotoDoffo collection of antique motorcycles and concludes with a traditional counter tasting for two.
There are indoor tastings in two distinctly different atmospheres as well as outdoor spaces drenched in roses overlooking the rolling hills dotted with vineyards. Choose between the sophisticated tasting area and retail shop designed by Brigitte Doffo or watch MotoGP races on the big screen of the main tasting room while sipping on a red flight. On weekends, Damian’s wife Vanessa’s Fuego Y Sal catering sets up with breakfast burritos and traditional Argentine fare like beef empanadas with olives from the vineyard cured by Maria as well as churrasco steak and fries topped with the Doffo family chimichurri.
Cruise The Valley In A Sidecar
Kickstands up by the barrel room. SoCal Sidecars have deals with Doffo and other wineries in the valley and will pick you up for a 45-minute ride through the Temecula Southern California wine country. An exhilarating way to start the day, helmets and blankets are provided. They also offer door-to-door wine and brewery tours as well as cocktail, food and custom tours. If you’re lucky, you may get an escort from two generations of the Doffo family, all of which ride and race on a regular basis and will use any excuse to get on a bike – that includes 69-year-old Marcelo on his BMW R 1200 RT.
Sunset Dinner On The Colina
Perhaps one of the most delightful and rejuvenating reasons to come to the Temecula valley is the five-course plated sunset dinner paired with Doffo’s best wine selections on a hilltop of the vineyard. The Argentinian-inspired BBQ feast is presented by Damian’s wife Vanessa and the tablescapes are handpicked from the vineyard and designed by Brigitte. Damian greets guests with glasses of sparkling Paulina wine while the rest of the family – Marcelo, Maria, Brigitte and Samantha – mingle and sit down with the crowd for wine pairings complimenting a dinner that includes a charcuterie grazing table, Morcilla crostini (Argentine blood sausage) and Molleja, delicate grilled sweetbreads that even the offal fearful will love.
The main plates are tender grilled lamb chops with herb sauce and garlic mashed potatoes alongside roasted vegetables and grilled flank steak with roasted turnip and parsnip puree and an emulsion made from the family’s chimichurri recipe (jars are available for sale at the winery). Dessert is inspired by Maria’s Dulce de Leche obsession – a traditional sweet alfajor sandwich with flan and vanilla meringue. Golf cart rides are provided back to the Malbec estate from the hilltop.
While this event is seasonal, it’s included at a discounted price if you’re part of the Doffo wine club, but also available to the public. The winery is open seven days a week, check the calendar for upcoming events. Harvest season is just around the corner.