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Falkner Winery owner Ray Falkner, left, and winemaker Duncan Williams. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Falkner Winery owner Ray Falkner, left, and winemaker Duncan Williams. Photo by Rico Cassoni
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Temecula Wine Tour: Falkner Winery and Pinnacle Restaurant

This week’s column featuring Falkner Winery and the Pinnacle Restaurant concludes our summer tour of Temecula wine country.

After retiring from his position as a senior sales executive at Microsoft, Ray Falkner fulfilled his dream of owning a vineyard and winery when he and his wife Loretta opened Falkner Winery in Temecula in 2000.

In September 2006, after four years of planning and construction, Ray and Loretta added to their winery dream when they unveiled the Pinnacle Restaurant. Perched atop a 1,500-foot hill, the restaurant boasts panoramic views, Mediterranean cuisine, and top-notch service. Pinnacle is open seven days a week for lunch and features Falkner wines, craft cocktails, and beer.

Guests can dine indoors or on the open-air balcony, while the venue doubles as a charming spot for evening weddings and banquets. A highlight is the unique “Wine Cave” VIP Room that accommodates up to 20 people with a barrel-shaped enclave that offers a distinct setting for executive outings and intimate gatherings.

The restaurant’s acclaim includes a 2012 “Best Restaurant” award from Inland Empire Magazine. Recently, diners on OpenTable named The Pinnacle the “#1 Top Lunch Restaurant” in the greater San Diego region, a tribute to its delectable fare, service excellence, and breathtaking Wine Country vistas.

Winemaker’s Linguini Pasta with Sauteed Shrimp, enriched with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Winemaker’s Linguini Pasta with sauteed shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The restaurant’s consistent accolades extend to multiple “Best Restaurant” titles and “Best Chef” honors, reinforcing its dedication to providing an exceptional dining experience.

Pinnacle is open daily from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm for lunch, and evenings are reserved for special occasions like weddings and banquets.

On the evening of June 5, 2020, as Falkner Winery prepared to reopen during the pandemic, owners Ray and Loretta faced a dreaded call: Cal Fire reported their winery was ablaze. Despite extensive damage to the building, Ray and winemaker Duncan Williams admirably salvaged most of the wine.

Duncan Williams, a respected figure with nearly four decades in the industry, is known for his meticulous winemaking, cherishing the exceptional produce from Temecula Valley. While charred labels signaled spoilage, intact ones and bulk barrel wine underwent tests for smoke taint.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and a destructive fire, Ray, Loretta, and Duncan’s unwavering determination led to the remarkable restoration of a winery. The winery now boasts stunning panoramic views and exceptional indoor and wine club tasting rooms that rival Temecula’s finest.

The Pinnacle Restaurant's California Burger with fries. Photo by Rico Cassoni
California Burger with fries at the Pinnacle Restaurant. Photo by Rico Cassoni

We savored nine delightful wines during our visit, including the refreshing 2020 Sauvignon Blanc boasting white peach, lime, and floral notes. The 2021 Viognier showcased a tropical symphony of white peach, pear, pineapple, and guava, while the 2021 Chardonnay offered a smooth, crisp finish, accentuating green apple, cinnamon, and Meyer lemon flavors that beautifully complement seafood and poultry dishes.

We started with the 2021 Dry Rose, offering surprising hints of Meyer lemon, strawberry, and plum, complemented by floral undertones. Transitioning to reds, we enjoyed the 2020 Merlot and 2021 Red Blend (50% sangiovese, 25% merlot, 13% cab sauv, 12% cab franc).

The robust 2020 Amante Super Tuscan, anise, thyme, and licorice notes deepened our exploration. The Meritage Bordeaux blend was equally impressive, a 2020 vintage rich in blackberry, cherry, and tobacco accents.

The finale was the 2020 Syrah, a symphony of blueberry, boysenberry, chocolate, and vanilla. Winemaker Duncan also shared barrel samples of the promising 2020 Sangiovese and 2022 Estate Cab Sauv, destined to flourish further with aging.

Following our tasting and tour of the new barrel room post-fire, we enjoyed a lunch at Pinnacle led by Executive Chef Jesus Betancourth, recently promoted from sous chef in April 2023. Our appetizers included avocado toast and a seafood stack featuring scallops, octopus, and shrimp in a delicate white soy sauce, beautifully complemented by the 2021 Viognier.

Duncan Williams, left, winemaker at Falkner Winery, and Ray Falkner, owner of Falkner winery. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Duncan Williams, left, winemaker at Falkner Winery, and Ray Falkner, owner of Falkner winery. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Frank opted for the Winemaker’s Linguini Pasta with Sauteed Shrimp enriched with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. As a burger enthusiast, I indulged in the half-pound Black Angus monster California burger topped with fried egg, bacon, avocado, roasted poblano chiles, remoulade sauce, and pepper jack cheese, accompanied by lettuce, tomato, and French fries.

My burger found its ideal companion in the recommended 2020 Falkner Meritage, resulting in a delightful flavor synergy.

A visit to Temecula wine country is incomplete without stopping at Falkner, a must-visit destination offering a memorable experience. Indulge in the exquisite flavors at Pinnacle restaurant for a journey your taste buds will cherish.

Special thanks to Ray, Duncan, executive chef Jesus, and managers Jonathan and Raymond for making our day remarkable. For more information, visit

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/Advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at Reach them at [email protected].

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