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Temecula Grapevine had the rare opportunity to meet the Coco’s (Larry and Tressa) at Doffo Winery at the tail end of a heated summer day, to take a look at his beautiful Mercedes limousine luxury tour van, share in some of Doffo’s latest harvest creations (still cooking), and learn what it is about this family that makes them a natural for teaching wine making in Temecula.
The Winemaker’s Tour is one of those rare tour bus or limousine companies where you don’t just go to taste wine, but to gain the full body of a winemaker’s experience, from how wine is made from vine to bottle, and how to properly understand your palate when tasting wine.
Larry Coco, one of Temecula, California‘s favorite sons, is just the man to take you through the varied wineries in Southern California and give you a glance into the joy of making wine. Visit wine country and chances are you’ll be standing at a bar made by Larry Coco, or listening to tunes from speakers he’s wired in. Ask a winemaker, and they’ll smile hearing the name of Larry and Tressa Coco. This affable, good natured Californian couple runs one of the hidden gems of Temecula Wine Country. A tour that actually teaches you how to make and properly enjoy wine.
Q. What brought you and your family to Temecula?
A. Our friends told us about the property here, and we bought 5 acres in 1987 when there were only a few wineries. We were hooked! We planted a small vineyard a few years later and came every weekend to “water.” I built a small guest cabin so we could spend the weekends, and we finally moved here full time in 2009.
Q. When did you know you wanted to become a winemaker?
A. We have always planned vacations around wine-tasting. Our quest was to always find the small wineries so we could pick the brain of the owner-winemaker. We even visited grape-growing grounds to get any information we could from the growers about planting vineyards. They tried to discourage us, saying it was a lot of hard work and not the romantic dream we though it was. Well, it is a lot of hard work, but it is also my passion, and I strive to make the perfect wine! And, my Italian grandfather was a home winemaker…..I gotta carry it on-it’s in the blood!
Q. How was your Winemaker’s Tour limousine service born out of your growing winery?
A. We thought the wine-tasting tours would be a good fit because I had been making wine for 8 years-I had a lot of knowledge to share!
Q. Tell us about your vehicles!
A. I like the size of our Mercedes Benz Shuttle because it holds 11 passengers – just the right size for private-type tours. However, we do have available for our use, a large fleet of limos for any size party, wedding, or group.
Q. As a winemaker, how do your limousine tours differ from other tours through Temecula wine country and what can your guests expect out of the experience?
A. Because we have been in the Valley so long, and watched it grow, I can share a lot about the local viticulture and the history of the wineries.
It is an educational tour that I host, taking guests into the vineyard where they learn about wine making 101; from picking to fermentation to bottling and everything in between. They are taken behind the scenes and sometimes meet the winemakers – many of whom are personal friends! Most of our guests have looked for this specific type of wine-tasting experience-others are pleasantly surprised!
Q. You’ve been busy at harvest! what makes this time of year special for people who may stay away due to heat!
A. I think people come, whether or not it is hot, just to be involved in the whole exciting process of picking and crush. Most wineries have a lot to see…and you are more likely to see the winemakers and what the winemakers do best. I can explain to my guests what the process entails. And, once you smell the fermenting grapes you will be in love and return again and again! Besides, my shuttle is REAL COOL!
Q. I understand you’re not just a winemaker, and limousine service–but also a carpenter! (saw your handiwork at Cougar)…what are some other hobbies you and Tressa have we might not know about?: I have too many hobbies!
A. (Tressa says) I will always love the “sound” business. Setting up equipment and running the mixing board. I manage one of my close entertainment friends, Byron Bordeaux. He has been on many “Jimi” tours with some of the original band members. And, I still enjoy audio/video, a business I have had for many years.
Also, Tressa Coco is an artist, having painted in oils most of her life. She thought she could concentrate on her painting once we moved to Temecula-but I keep her too busy. She’ll get back to it though. And, she loves plants, and gardening, and working for me! (Larry says with a laugh).
Q. Finally, what is your favorite part of Temecula Valley?
A. (Larry) I love the skies, the view of the sunset from our hills, friendly people and passionate wine-makers, oh, and the chaparral landscape (he says, after being elbowed by Tressa). Seriously, the wineries and vineyards. Did I mention the wineries? (he laughs). I guess if is just about EVERYTHING! I have been truly blessed to find my niche!