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Posts Tagged ‘temecula wineries with restaurants’

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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Winery Spotlight: Get to Know… Cougar Vineyard & Winery

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

The Story

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is one of Temecula Valley’s smaller boutique wineries, producing approximately 4500 cases per year. Owners and winemakers Rick & Jennifer Buffington are passionate wine-lovers; they have been making wine for 20 years and are known for their hands-on approach to every aspect of the winery operations.

Italian varietals are Cougar’s specialty.  In addition to unique wines and fun-loving staff, this popular wine tasting stop also hosts cool events and boasts a devoted wine club following.

Cougar Winery & Vineyard, Temecula Valley

The Wines

Cougar produces reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines so there’s a wine to suit every palate. Rick & Jennifer love to introduce rare and unique Mediterranean grapes to the Temecula wine scene. Cougar proudly offers lesser-known Italian varietals like Vermentino, Montepulciano and Brachetto. The latter was just recognized as a grape varietal in the United States and Cougar Vineyards is one of only two commercial wineries that are growing it. Visit Cougar’s wine store here!

Cougar Wines from Temecula Valley, CA

 

Wine Tasting

The Cougar Winery tasting room is open 7 days a week from 11-6pm.

Tasting Room Pricing:

  • $10 for 6 tastes
  • $15 for 6 tastes + logo glass
  • $22 for 6 reds-only tastes (available Friday-Sunday)

 

Vineyard tours and wine production tours are available Friday-Monday. Call to reserve your spot at 951-491-0825 or visit www.cougarvineyards.com.

Cougar Winery & Vineyards address: 39870 De Portola Road, Temecula, CA 92592

 

Exciting news for spring 2013!

Cougar Winery announces their new tasting room and eatery, Sangio’s Deli – opening in early spring 2013! The addition of another food stop on De Portola Road promises to provide hungry wine-lovers with even more options to fill up between sips.

Get the latest news by visiting the Cougar blog. Make sure to say hi to black labs Monte and Mocha on your next visit to Cougar Winery & Vineyards!

Monte & Mocha, Cougar Wine Dogs | HulsePhoto.com

Cougar Winery Olive Tree, Temecula Valley

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Winery Spotlight: Get to Know… Baily Vineyard & Winery

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

The Story

Baily Vineyard & Winery was established in 1986 by Phil and Carol Baily with the goal of producing excellent wine from their own grapes to be sold primarily out of the winery. Specializing in Bordeaux varietals, Phil and Carol handle all aspects of the winery, from vineyard maintenance to customized blending to creating the delicious menu at their popular restaurant.

The Wines

The Bailys have been making wine in Temecula Valley for 26 years. They are proud to be an estate-bottled winery, which means that all the grapes are grown in the same vineyard and made by the same winemaker – Phil himself! Baily wines offer a depth and consistency that appeal to the advanced wine enthusiast. A trip to the tasting room gives visitors a chance to try all their favorite varietals – from Chardonnay and Riesling to Cabernet and Merlot; plus some fantastic blends! Meritage is their flagship blend and features Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Fans of white blends should be sure to taste the Montage.

Check out their wine store here!

Wine Tasting

  • Open from 11 to 5 daily, 10 to 5 on Saturdays
  • $10 per person – weekdays, weekends and holidays
  • Taste any 6 different wines (no restrictions)

 

New! Private Library Wine Tasting

Baily Winery now offers private tastings for up to 12 people at the exclusive Estate Club located on Pauba Road. This VIP experience features a vertical tasting and private tour of the winemaking facility. Private tastings are personally hosted by Phil Baily. Baily is one of the few Temecula wineries that has built an inventory of vintages dating back to 2003. Vertical tastings highlight the changes in a particular grape over time.  Currently, Baily Winery vertical tastings feature 5 years of Merlot, 5 years of Cabernet, and 5 years of their Meritage blend.

Private tastings are by appointment only.  Please call 951.676.9463 for availability.
Introductory price is $25 (reg $40.) Please see website for more details.

Carol’s Restaurant

A popular stop for lunch, Carol’s Restaurant offers delicious California and Mediterranean fare.

Open Thur & Fri 11:30-2pm; Sat & Sun 11:30-3pm. Al fresco dining is available. For reservations, please call 951-676-9243.

Baily Winery address & phone number: 33440 La Serena Way (Corner of Rancho California Road) | 951-676-WINE (9463) | www.bailywinery.com

 

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