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Archive for October, 2014

Dream Big ~ John Thornton, Thornton Winery

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Check in every month where we feature a new interview with a Temecula Valley winery owner. You’ll learn where they came from before settling in Temecula, CA – and what keeps them passionate about the sometimes not-so-glamorous life of a winery owner.

The Thornton Family l-r:  Steve, Sally and John

The Thornton Family
l-r: Steve, Sally and John

Our ongoing series this month features John Thornton, of Thornton Winery, one of the valley’s “first”, which opened for business way back in 1988.  Learn why, after almost 30 years, “Mr. T”, as he’s lovingly known to us, still lives and breathes wine.

Why – or how on earth! – did you get into the wine business? And why was Temecula your chosen region?
Well, Sally and I used to travel extensively on business and everywhere we’d visit, we’d try to eat and drink local.  We loved the social aspect of food and wine together.  We thought, “Hey, we can start our own place and offer food and wine and it’ll be easy.” Boy, were we WRONG!  At the time, Ely Callaway was marketing Temecula as the perfect place to make wine and although the area had a small wine industry, we did some research and it did appear to be a “natural” fit for a wine country and poised for growth.

Running a small family winery – even one that’s been around for awhile like Thornton has – must present a unique set of challenges. What keeps you up at night? And what gets you up in the morning?
I think some of the same things that keep most business owners up at night; but for us it’s how to sell our wine, what wines to make, how to keep our customers happy, cash flow….but Steve works this part of the business, so I sleep pretty darn good!  What gets me up in the morning?  I get excited about the challenges in the business actually.  Challenges can be opportunities and we can take a challenge and turn it into something positive.

What do you MOST love about the wine industry?
What I love most about the wine industry is the people.  There are some of the nicest and most genuine people in this industry.  Another thing about this industry that is so great is sharing food and wine with friends;  it’s a wonderful thing.  You add music to that, and you’ve got the perfect combination.

Speaking of music, Champagne Jazz has been a staple in the music industry – and at Thornton – for almost 30 (!) years. Are you proud with its effect on our little wine country?
When we started Champagne Jazz, we never expected it to be what it is today.  It’s had a long life and it’s taken years and a lot of hard work to formulate.  It’s a continuous challenge to combine a food, wine and musical experience that will appeal to a broad audience.  We’re really proud that we’re bringing in some of the best jazz performers in the world.

Cafe Champagne was THE first restaurant in wine country. That must present its own unique opportunities and challenges?
Our biggest challenge was learning the food business.  It’s a tough business.  You’ve got to do a lot of research and make sure that you’ve got what people want.  You’ve got to come up with menus that appeal to customers and you’ve got to make the prices competitive in order to bring the people in.  The restaurant was originally “high-end”, but it’s now more casual.  Steve’s been teaching me that it isn’t always about what I want!  The customer is always right.  We’ve got to listen to them, try to pair the food and wine well, and make them happy.  We’ve got a lot more competition with our neighbors now, and while this is inevitable, it just keeps us planning and adapting.  We’re watching the valley get better and better and it’s exciting to watch!

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November Winery Events

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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There’s a chill in the air and suddenly we’re planning holiday meals!  Whether your holiday plans keep you close to home or off visiting relatives, plan to sneak in a trip to Temecula Valley Wine Country to stock up on your favorite wine, pick up holiday gifts at one of the wineries’ shopping nights or attend one of the great events going on in wine country!

Baily Vineyard & Winery

Sangiovese Saturdays at Carol’s
Saturdays in November; / 11:30a-3:00p / Live music, mulled wine, cheese fondue, 1/2 price Sangiovese

Dog Day Sundays
Every Sunday / 11:30a-2:30p / Bring your well-mannered pooch to lunch!  Live acoustic entertainment.

Estate Club Private Wine Tasting
Thursday-Sunday / 11:00a-2:30p / Tours and vertical tasting of library Meritage.  Sit down with bread and cheese plate; $30 (Reservations required 24 hours in advance) / Bar Tasting; $20.  Call for reservations: 951-972-9768.

Briar Rose Winery

Sip Into Sunset
Friday, November 7 / 5:30p-9:00 / Experience amazing sunsets and live music by Buzz Campbell while enjoying fabulous food and wine.  Food items available for purchase.  Call 951-308-1098 to make reservations.  Seating is limited.

Callaway Vineyard & Winery

Prime Rib Fridays at Meritage at Callaway
Every Friday / 5pm-8:00pm / Three-course Prime Rib dinner for $35 per person!  Choose from soup and salad, a scrumptious Prime rib entree and finish with a house made Crème Brulee for two! Enjoy live music.  No reservations required.

Happiest Hours
Friday and Sunday from 3:00p-6:00p in the lounge at Meritage at Callaway.  20% all tapas, $2 off wine by the glass, 20% off bottles of Callaway wines and available domestic, import and craft beers.

Sangria Sundays at Meritage at Callaway
Every Sunday / 4pm-8pm / Enjoy sipping on our very own Watermelon Sangria while soaking in the sunset vineyard views.  Live music from local musicians begins at 6pm.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery

Sip & Shop Black Friday Event
“Black Friday”, November 28th / 6:00p-8:00p / Vendors selling crafts and live music.  Discounts on wine.

Danza del Sol Winery

Live Music On the Patio
Saturdays in November – November 1 – Fandango / November 8 – JD Priest / November 15 -Nathan Rivera/ November 22 – Two Fish

Get Sauced – Wobble Till You Gobble
Sunday, November 8 / 3:00p-5:30p / Cooking demo, class & small plates.  Wine pairings and recipes to take home. / $55 per person / $49.50 wine club.  All tickets are subject to 8% tax.  Reserve today by calling (951) 302-6363 ext. 26

Sip & Swirl – On Canvas Paint Class
Art + Vino with Jill Roberts / Sunday, November 16 / 1:00p-4:30p / $60 per class for non-members / $54 per class for members.  All tickets are subject to 8% tax.

Black Friday Shopping
Friday, November 28 / 11:00a-8:00p

Europa Village

Live Music
Fridays from 5:30p-8:30p and Sundays from 1:00p-4:00p / November 2 – Jimmy Patton / November 7 – Niteriders / November 9 – Apryle Dalmacio / November 14 – Big Truth & Little Lies / November 16 – Jimmy Patton / November 21 – Missy Andersen / November 23 – Dustin Jake / November 30 – Bryan McManus

Comedy Night
Friday, November 14 / 7:30-8:30p / $15 per person / $13.50 Societe Members / Call for tickets 951-216-3880

Antidote to Black Friday – Vivi Bene
Friday, November 28 / 5:00p-8:00p / Free Admission / Escape the crowds and come to Europa Village for a relaxed shopping experience.  Sip wine while you make your holiday purchases.  Discounts on wine and specials on our retail items.

Falkner Winery

Veterans Day at Falkner Winery
Tuesday, November 11 / 11:00a-5:00p / All active duty and veterans get a FREE, Classic Tasting!  (I.D. is required)

Wine Appreciation Class
Saturday, November 15 / 10:00a-12:30p / $45 per person

Lorimar Winery

Wine Blending Party
Wednesday, November 5 / 4:00p-6:00p / $25 (+tax) per person; $20 (+tax) per person, wine club. You get to be winemaker for a day with a full educational seminar and in depth analysis of key varietals to make the perfect blended wines.  Tickets on sale here or by calling 951-694-6699.

Live Music
Fridays & Saturdays 6p-9p / Sundays 2p-5p / November 1  – Big Truth / November 2 – Master Splinter and the Shredders / November 7 – Missy Anderson / November 8 – Craig Broombaugh / November 9 – Brad Spencer Duo/ November 14 – Michael SG / November 15 – Cougarzz Rock / November 16 – Master Splinter and the Shredders / November 21 – Oceans of Sand / November 22 – Lifetime Rockers / November 23- Missy Anderson / November 28 – Kanan Road / November 29 – Mrs. Jones Revenge / November 30 – Michael LeClerc

Movie in the Vines
Monday, November 24 / 6:00p / Featuring: Amelie  $1 Admission – Includes small bag of popcorn!  Wine Bar and Concession stand will open at 6 pm. Bring your own beach chair or blanket!

Black Friday Sale
November 28-30

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Sunday, November 30 /  Begin your holidays with Lorimar Winery at 6:00p.

Miramonte Winery

Live Music
7:00p-10:00p / Complimentary live music; no reservations needed / November 1 – JD Priest / November 7 – Mercedes Moore / November 8 – Billy Watson / November 14 – Blue Fish / November 15 / Missy Andersen / November 21 – Incendio / November 22 – Nathan James / November 28 – TBD / November 29 – Shoot 4 Tuezday

Oak Mountain Winery

Live Music in the Pavilion
Every Saturday and Sunday in November / 1:00p-5:00p

After Dark Open
Saturday, November 15 / 5:00p-9:00p / Live music, food truck, beer & wine. / $1.00 reservation per person.

Holiday Open House (Black Friday Sale)
Friday, November 28 / 5:00p-8:00p / live music by Buzz Campbell, wine and specials.

Oak Mountain Winery University
Bubbles 101 – Oak Mountain Winery’s Sparkling Wine Class will have you taste three of our handcrafted sparkling wines made and bottled here in Temecula.

Blending Reds – Create, bottle and label your very own blend

Wine Tasting for Dummies 101 – Our beginners class for Wine Tasters.

Rhone Wine Class 201  – Our second, more advanced class after taking Wine Tasting 101 is our Rhone Wine Tasting Class 201.

Bordeaux Wine Class 201 – You will learn how these grapes are grown and how they are harvested and processed, while tasting Oak Mountain wines from different areas in the Bordeaux region of France.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Black Friday Shopping Day
11:00a-8:00p / 20% off wine & gift shop items, some exclusions apply.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa

Wine & Dine Chef’s Table at the Vineyard Rose Restaurant
The Vineyard Rose Chefs create a custom five-course menu just for you. Our expert Winemakers then pair each course with our award winning wines to heighten the dining experience to another level. Whether it’s a special celebration or an intimate affair, our Chef’s Table dinner for 2 to 8 guests will define the art of fine cuisine with a memorable evening of food and wine for only $135 per person. Call 951-491-8077 to reserve your table today.

Happy Hours at Vineyard Rose Restaurant
Monday-Friday 3:00p-5:30p / Join us in the Vineyard Rose Lounge for reduced priced selected appetizers, award winning select glasses of South Coast wines and local drafts.  PLUS corkage fees are waived for any South Coast Winery wine bottles brought in to the Vineyard Rose Restaurant and consumed while dining on Wednesdays too!   Click here to view menus and find out more.

Wine Wednesdays at Vineyard Rose Restaurant
6:00p-9:00p  / Reserve today for an unforgettable Wednesday evening with fine wines, delicious food and live music between the hours of 6:30p to 9:00p. Call 951.587.9463

Touchdown Sundays
Sundays in November /  Ladies receive half-priced tasting privileges in the Vintner Vault Sundays during football season and the Vineyard Rose Restaurant offers Sunday Funday from 12 noon to 3:30 pm during football season with specially priced appetizers and half-priced Sangria Mimosa’s and select South Coast Wines.   Call 951.587.9463 or visit us online here to find out more.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa’s Divas in D’Vines
We’re making football Sundays a day for the ladies. Join us every Sunday during football season from 12 noon to 3pm in the Vineyard Rose Restaurant. Enjoy half priced mimosas, sangria and our signature Spumante Diamante. Reservations Recommended. Call 951-587-9463 x 2

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa’s Vintage Vantage Menu
Monday-Thursday 11:30a -3:00p / Specially priced $9.99 lunches at the Vineyard Rose Restaurant for those aged 55 and over. Call 951-587-9463 x 2 for more information or reservations.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Vineyard Rose Restaurant
Thursday, November 27 / 11:00a-9:00p / The Master Chefs and Winemakers of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa’s Vineyard Rose Restaurant are ready to treat you and your entire family to a special four-course gourmet feast this Thanksgiving Day. By Reservation only and cost is based on entree selection.  Call now to reserve your place 951.491.8077 or visit us online here to find out more.

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Sunday, November 30 / 6:00p / Join Santa as he arrives this evening bringing with him one of his best little elves and a lot of good ol’ fashioned fun for FREE.  In addition to Santa, guests enjoy:  the tree lighting ceremony, holiday movie ELF on big screen, tractor rides through the vineyards, Christmas caroling, and so much more.  Call 951.587.9463 or visit us online at here to find out more.

Be sure to visit us Friday through Sunday evenings, beginning November 30th and enjoy strolling Christmas Carolers dressed up in Vintage attire. 5:30p-9:00p. Free to the public.

 

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Thank a Winemaker Day!

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Thank a Winemaker Day!

Anatomy of Winemaker

Gus Viszgirda, Wilson Creek winemaker

A recent photo shared by Wilson Creek Winery, “The Anatomy of a Winemaker”, created by winemaker, Gus Viszgirda, certainly gave us all a laugh. But it also made us think…

Clearly, making great wine is a hands-on profession. And the picture truly illustrates what our winemakers look like to us on any given work day. Gone is the clean clothed, shiny shoe’d, wine sipping winemakers most of our visitors are accustomed to seeing. Most of the time, they’re rubber boot wearing, wine stained cellar dwellars who are dragging hoses, cleaning tanks and topping barrels – all which are part of a days work. Truth be told, most days you couldn’t slap the smile off their faces.  Winemaking truly is a labor of love!

So, in their honor, we’ve decided to declare today, “Thank A Winemaker” day! Let your favorite winemaker know how much you appreciate all the effort that goes into each bottle. Without their dedication, what would we be drinking???

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Wine Country Recipe: Roasted Duck Leg with Black Currant Sauce and Roasted Turnips

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Roasted Duck Leg

A tart, slightly sweet currant sauce complements and adds bright flavors to these crispy duck legs and roasted turnips.  Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

4 (8-ounce) duck legs, skin on, excess fat removed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
2 medium turnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and each cut into ten wedges
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup black currant preserves
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the upper and lower third.  Sprinkle both sides of the duck legs generously with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon of the thyme leaves.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking.  Add the duck legs, skin side down, and sear for 4 minutes.  Turn the legs and sear 1 minute.

Transfer the duck to a medium roasting pan, skin side up.  (Reserve the duck fat in the skillet for later use.)  Cover the pan and roast the duck for 1 hour on the upper rack.  Uncover and roast for an additional 15 minutes.  While the duck is roasting, spread the turnips in a single layer, in another roasting pan. Drizzle the turnips with 2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the remaining teaspoon of thyme leaves.

About 35 minutes before the duck is done, put the turnips in the oven, on the lower rack, so that the duck and the turnips will be ready at the same time.  When the duck is ready, let it rest while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, remove all but 1 tablespoon of duck fat from the skillet used for searing. (If there is less than 1 tablespoon left, just use what is left.)  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and cook and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for 1 minute.  Add the black currant preserves and water and simmer for 30 seconds.  Turn off heat and whisk in the butter.  To serve, spoon the desired amount of sauce on 2 plates and top with 2 duck legs.  Arrange the turnips next to the duck.

Pairing Suggestions:

Chapin Family Vineyards ~ 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Rich, concentrated layers of vanilla, chocolate, roasted coffee and clover.

Doffo Winery ~ 2012 Zinfandel ~ A heartfelt wine which embodies all of the Doffo family’s passion and experience.

Lorimar Vineyards & Winery ~ 2011 Solo-Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Solo can save any occasion with its super powerful dark cherry and green bell pepper and captivating ruby color.

Maurice Car’rie Vineyard & Winery ~ 2011 Zinfandel ~ Rich fruit aromas of blackberry and plum coupled with a slight spiciness of black pepper.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Wine Institute of California.

 

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Being Water-Wise

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

With the drought situation that the state of California is facing, visitors often ask how the lack of rainfall affects our vineyards.

Well, other than the earliest harvest that anyone can remember, the effect on the wine grapevines in the Temecula Valley has been pretty minimal. Most of our wineries reported little to no change in crop size, primarily due to some perfectly-timed early season rain that helped with fruit set in the spring.

As a perennial crop, wine grapevines are a highly efficient, relatively low, water use crop.  And as long standing, good stewards of the land, Temecula Valley’s winegrape growers have focused on water conservation for decades.

We actively encourage the use of sustainable practices that notably conserve water; in particular is the use of drip irrigation systems in all of our vineyards. A valley-wide system of weather stations, complete with soil moisture probes which use sensor technology to determine the level of soil wetness, are located in various vineyards throughout wine country. Our winemakers and vineyard managers have daily access to this data, which allows them to make informed decisions for irrigation.  Temecula Valley vineyards are primarily watered at night and we practice deficit irrigation, which encourages deep rooting.  We also manage the cover crops that grow between the rows of grapevines to mitigate any competition with the grapevines for water.

It’s also important to note that drought cycles are typical in California and that agriculture somehow, continually adapts. Grapevines can withstand drought conditions for a number of years before they feel any ill effects.

Being water wise in our everyday lives – be it in our homes or in our communities – should be the ‘norm’ for each of us. Water is a truly precious commodity that we all need to protect.

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