Italian Varietals in Hemet, CA
Bill Shinkle is an award-winning horticulturist whose real claim to fame is that he supplied flowers for all the larger casinos in Las Vegas. Then one day he went to Italy on vacation and fell in love with Italian grapes. He returned from Europe and changed his focus and founded
Tranquil Heart Vineyards and Winery in Hemet, California. “Our climate is a hot Mediterrian climate, which makes it ideal for Italian varieties,” Shinkle said.
He was told that you can’t grow grapes in Hemet, that it was too hot, that the soil wasn’t right. If he could grow grapes they wouldn’t be good for wines. But Shinkle, who saw his property in 1975 as a kid when it was just raw land, knew that this was going to be his one day. That took until 2009 to come to be.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill on a Zoom winetasting with the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers. He sent me two wines to try. Rosé of Barbera and Viognier.
He was shocked when he heard that his Aglianico won Platinum and his 2015 Williams Wild Red Reserve Blend won Silver at the 2018 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge.
Shinkle is the vintner, not the winemaker. He handles the vineyard management. Although he’s not certified Organic or Biodynamic, he said “We’re beyond organic. We don’t use chemicals, we use seaweed and sea crops for the natural sulfites. We don’t use nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium.” He has 15 acres and 1,100 vines. “We make 12 wines and a port-style wine. The port-style was created by accident when life got in the way of farming and he wasn’t able to harvest his Muscato until it was officially considered a late harvest.”
I have a hard time explaining Viognier, as it’s so unique. It’s sweet on the front of the tongue and fruity on the back of the tongue. The tasting notes for the 2016 Viognier say “slightly dry crisp and clean with complex flavors of apricot, orange blossoms, violet and roses.”
I’m not a big rosé fan so I always tell people not to be offended if I don’t like their rosé. That being said, Bill’s Barbera Rosé is spectacular! He says that he gets 3 times the amount of Barbera than other fruits. The grapes love to grow on this property. This is a perfect summer wine, extremely refreshing. Don’t confuse refreshing with sweet or cloying, this wine has depth and is full of flavor and the acid is perfectly balanced. I got hints of cranberry and Bill said that many people get watermelon. I call it bright and delicious!
Tranquil Heart Winery is a membership only winery. Joining will offer you private dinners for members and guests, exclusive use of the vineyard and its amenities. Bill told us that he would take us on a tour of his property on his golf cart sometime, so I’m going to hold him to that.
“I truly love all my wines. I know that sounds boastful, but it’s true,” Bill said. I’d have to agree. Next I want to try his Barbera, Teroldego and Aglianico. I’ll have to wait for the golf cart ride for that.