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It’s Official: Harvest is Here!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What Goes on in the Vineyard and Winery Before, During, and After Harvest in Temecula Valley

Evening Harvest

Equipment has been washed and sanitized. Bins have been readied. Summer vacations have been enjoyed, bodies rested and refueled for the work to come.

And then it begins. That perfect brix reading on the refractometer, telling winemakers and vineyard managers that the sugars in the grapes are where they want them to be. A quick sampling of a few berries straight off the vine indicate perfect phenolic ripeness – the grape skins have lost unpleasant, bitter flavors and have softened into something that will produce delicious, balanced wine. It’s go-time – the official kick-off of harvest. And it’s all underway in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country right now.

This is a busy time in the vineyard and the winery, and no day is the same. We caught up with a few Temecula Valley winemakers and winery staff to check in on how it’s all going, and what a typical day might look like at the winery during harvest. We also asked them if they have any superstitious, pre-harvest rituals and found out that winemaking isn’t all science and agriculture… it’s also a little bit of magic as well.

THE PREP

For the team at Peltzer Farm & Winery, the days leading up to harvest contain an energy shared by all. “Harvest season is usually an exciting state of limbo,” says Tasting Room Manager Danae Wager. “The grapes tell US when they’re ripe, so we wait on the sidelines in anticipation as the season begins. Typically, farmers wait until dark to pick the fruit, which preserves the sugar and acid levels needed to curate the desired end result that ends up in the bottle.” 

Oak Mountain Winery owner Valerie Andrews paints a picture of the days and weeks leading up to the big moment when harvest officially begins:

“Oak Mountain’s harvest routine is to hurry and bottle everything in the tanks so we will have room for harvest. Next, we wash and test all equipment, as it has been sitting all year. Steve, by this time, has ordered yeasts and supplies so we are ready when Mother Nature says ‘go.’ We check last year’s timing of when we picked grapes and start testing sugar levels, then cross our fingers that we can get pickers to pick when we are ready. Fortunately, it always works out! Now it’s time for a glass of wine.”

Nick Palumbo, owner and winemaker at Palumbo Family Vineyards and Winery, compares prepping for harvest to getting ready for a busy night of service at a restaurant.

“[It’s like] Mise en Place,” he explains. “This is a French term often used in professional cooking that roughly translates into ‘Get your act together!’ But what it really means is, before you get started, gather all you will need, do your prep work and make sure everything is in place. The best run restaurants as well as wineries know this well and plan ahead. Harvest is and can be unpredictable, chaotic and fast-paced but if you are ready it can also be smooth and predictable.”

Some pre-harvest rituals are more superstitious. “We bury 11 pennies in the ground on the first day of harvest,” says Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations for Akash Winery. “It’s an Indian good luck tradition that [Co-owner] Mrs. Patel started for the winery.”

Or they’re just plain sensible:

Says Joe Wiens, winemaker at Wiens Family Cellars: “We don’t really have any pre-harvest rituals besides stocking up the fridge with beer!”

THE REAL WORK

So once all of the pieces are in place, what does an actual day of working harvest look like?


Joe Wiens shares a snapshot of what the day-to-day can look like during this exciting time in Wine Country:

“We typically get in at 6 or 7 AM.  One of us will start with turning caps on our fermenting reds, while the other weighs the newly delivered fruit.  We taste the fermenting reds (not the most fun thing in the world at 6am!) and decide if anything is ready for pressing.  The remainder of our workday entails racking settling wines, pressing and processing, and running lab analysis.”

While it’s exhausting work, Joe credits the sense of community and shared responsibility for getting them through it. “Our team has been together for years, and everyone is trained on many of our responsibilities from processing, to preparing yeast additions, to lab analysis and data entry,” he says. “We get the music going early and all work really well together to make the long days feel shorter.”

“Our days here at Palumbo start as early as 2 am and can last well into the night,” shares Nick Palumbo. “Then off to sleep for a few hours before starting again. We are a small, family winery so everyone gets involved. We are in the field sorting leaves out of the bins, then off to the crush pad for processing, fermenting, pressing, and barreling. There is a lot to do but somehow, we get it done each year. As we have always said we don’t have a choice; it will get done somehow.”

“A typical day consists of early morning vineyard visits to collect grape samples for analysis, brix and temperature readings on all fermenting wines, smelling the top of each fermenting tank to make sure there are no ‘off’ odors or nutrient deficiencies, and most importantly, tasting each lot daily,” explains Olivia Bue, Winemaker at Robert Renzoni Vineyards.

“And, once the reds come in, the real harvest bootcamp begins, with pumpovers three times a day, with at least three hours off in between. This involves sanitizing all hoses and pumps before and after each lot. As the reds approach the end of alcoholic fermentation its time press the wine off the skins… Each day consists of a lot of cleaning and scrubbing.”

Olivia says the hardest part of her day is when the alarm goes off at 3 AM. It’s also incredibly rewarding with moments of beauty as well. “[I love] processing the grapes as the sun rises,” she says. “I also love when the last lot is pressed out – not because harvest is over, but because I can look back and feel proud of all the blood, sweat, and tears put into the vintage.”

She also loves the team building that happens over their traditional 9AM happy hours.

Over at Wilson Creek, the day-to-day looks similar. And they get ready for the mammoth task ahead by going out for pizza and beer the Friday before harvest begins.

“We start picking at 10 PM and, depending upon the varietal, we finish with the harvest crew at 3 am,” says Wilson Creek Winery winemaker Gus Vizgirda. “The cellar crew kicks in on the crushpad at 4 AM. Whites are crushed and pressed and put in the tanks. Reds are crushed and put in the tank for two weeks for fermentation.”

With a total of 140 acres to harvest, this goes on for about 2.5 months, with two crews of twenty people working seven days a week. This hard work is recognized and rewarded in two ways. First, Gus arrives every morning at sunrise when the grapes are on the crushpad, and he plays the bugle for everyone – including the grapes.

Head on over to Lorenzi Estate Wines and you will see their crew at 3 AM, planning the day, taking readings, doing pumpovers, and picking crop starting around 4 AM, with the goal of being done by lunchtime so that they can avoid that Southern California midday heat in early Fall.

At Gershon Bachus, the dawn patrol continues, with the picking crew arriving around 3AM as well to pick the fruit and drop it at the winery’s production area.

“Our team arrives by 7AM,” explains Gershon Bachus owner Christina Falik and winemaker Dakota Denton. “For our hillside vineyards, we have a team picking out the leaves and bad clusters as the grapes take a ride on the elevator. The winemaking staff secures the connections to our concrete tanks where the fruit will go through fermentation.  Then the pumpovers begin in order to make sure the must stays wet. This is done twice per day, until fermentation is done. Harvest for us goes fast, and is intense, as the fruit tends to ripen at a similar pace.”

What many people don’t realize is just how physically demanding harvest and winemaking are, requiring long hours, heavy-lifting, and early starts. “On a complicated day you can crush/destem, pump over, press, and move wine into barrels,” continues Christina. “This is not a day for the weary.”

The excitement – and work! – of harvest isn’t limited to those working in the vineyards or cellar. Oftentimes, the experience is shared by everyone at the winery.

“We love to gather and watch or participate in picking the fruit and making memories together,” says Danae at Peltzer. “Seeing the process firsthand and learning exactly how each grape is processed reignites our passion for farming and high-quality winemaking. We typically order pizza and invite the families of our staff to join in the festivities and ask as many questions as possible!” 

THE AFTERMATH

And when it’s all over? At Wilson Creek, once harvest is complete, the team has a huge – and well-deserved – harvest party among the vines.

And they’re not the only ones celebrating a job well done. “Our end-of-harvest ritual is a PARTY,” says Christina. “Since our season is so short, it precedes the holiday season and is just as festive.”

Photo courtesy of Matthew Burlile- Instagram: @temeculaphotography

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Mid-Week Wine Tasting Guide

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

For many, summer vacation is quickly coming to an end.  But, how about squeezing in one more little get-a-way before the dog days of summer are over?

Summertime Sipping!

Whether you can get away overnight, or just want to take a day trip, a mid-week visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country should prove to be a relaxing and enjoyable break.

There are many advantages to visiting wine country during the week.  Much less busy weekdays are the perfect opportunity to allow yourself time to enjoy our 40+ member wineries’ offerings.  At a slower pace, you’ll be able to enjoy more one-on-one time with the knowledgeable wine servers (or even the winemakers and/or winery owners themselves if you’re lucky) at each of your stops.

In addition, the tasting prices tend to be lower during the week than on the weekends and some wineries even offer additional discounts if you’re tasting during the week.  And, if we haven’t convinced you yet….there’s no waiting in line to dine at our wonderful wine country restaurants that are very busy on the weekends. If you’d like to spend the night you’ll be pleased with the selection of hotels and their reduced mid-week rates.  Hotels in the area are generally booked months in advance on the weekends.

For a really special weekday deal, check out the SIP Passport. This passport allows you to visit any five wineries of your choice for $50.  Click here to purchase your passport.

While we’d love to see you at any time here in Temecula Valley Wine Country, give us a try on a Wednesday sometime….we think you’ll be glad you did!

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Harvest Season in Temecula Valley is Just Around the Corner: Here’s How to Celebrate

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Get in the harvest spirit with these fun Wine Country events and activities

Harvest Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – harvest! Right now, grapes are changing on the vine from hard little berries to ripe, juicy grapes ready for picking and pressing into wine. This is an intense time of year for vineyard and harvest crews as well as winemakers. Once harvest begins, they work for days on-end, picking grapes at night or in the early morning hours to keep them cool. It’s physical work, but the fruits of their labor – delicious bottles of Temecula Valley wine – make it all worth it.

It’s a beautiful time to be out in the vineyards though! The vines are lush with bright green foliage and big bunches of plump, colorful grapes. Local wineries are also gearing up for their annual harvest events, inviting visitors to take part in the festivities. From grape stomps to themed parties, here are a few Temecula Valley events worth checking out this harvest season.

South Coast Winery

Every Friday and Sunday, from September 10 through September 26, South Coast Winery will be holding their Grape Stomp events. Grape Stomps are composed of two-person teams, and the winner of each of these friendly competitions will receive a bottle of the special South Coast Winery 20th Anniversary Blend.

Tickets start at $168 and include a wine flight for each person and a case of wine per two participants as part of the ticket price. Cases can be mixed and matched.

For more information and to reserve your spot, click HERE.

Danza del Sol Winery

Have you ever tasted wine straight from the barrel? It’s an amazing way to see how wine develops with time, and get a sense of its life-cycle before it makes it to the bottle and, ultimately, your glass.

On September 1, Danza del Sol is opening their barrel room up to the public for wine tasting and barrel sampling at their Roll Out the Barrel event. No reservations are required, so pop in for this fun, harvest-themed celebration, and enjoy a true wine-lovers experience, along with live music and food trucks on site.

For more information, click HERE.

Doffo Winery

Aspiring winemakers will want to check out the Doffo Barrel Club, a series of hands-on events that starts with harvest and culminates with you bottling your own wine.

In September, participants will join winemaker Damian Doffo in the early hours of the morning to help harvest, de-stem, and pitch the fermentation of a half-ton of grapes. Once Spring rolls around, participants will be invited back to the winery for a special Barrel Tasting event, where they will get a chance to sample the wine and see how it’s coming along. Lastly, come harvest time in October 2022, Barrel Club members will come together again to bottle their wine. A special edition Doffo Barrel Club wine label will include each member’s name.

Each Barrel Club membership includes access to all three events, ongoing communications from Damian about how their wine is developing in barrel, the opportunity to learn firsthand about the winemaking process, and a case of the wine they had a hand in making.

For more information on the Doffo Barrel Club, click HERE.

Not ready to become a winemaker just yet? Get in the harvest spirit at Doffo’s Renaissance-themed Midsummer Night’s Dream event on August 14, and enjoy live music and performances, games, and a three-course dinner. Costumes enthusiastically welcomed! Purchase your tickets HERE.

Callaway Winery

On Saturday, September 11, grab friends and family for the annual Grape Stomp event at Callaway. This harvest celebration features fun for the whole family, including face-painting, live music, dinner, dancing, and a grape stomping competition. Participants are encouraged to show up in their best Lucille Ball costume for a chance to win prizes in the Lucy lookalike contest.

Tickets are open to the general public (kids welcome!) as well as Wine Club members, and can be purchased at Callaway’s Gaslamp and Temecula tasting rooms or online. Each ticket includes event admission, a glass of Callaway wine, dinner, wine specials, and grape stomping.

For more information and tickets, click HERE.

Want More?

If you’re itching to get really involved in harvest, many wineries offer harvest internships and welcome volunteers to help pick grapes and assist with production. Perhaps you’re a wine student or an enthusiast looking to get some hands-on experience. If this sounds like something you are interested in, don’t be afraid to peruse wine-related job boards for harvest openings, or reach out to your favorite Temecula Valley winery to see if they have any harvest opportunities. You never know – this could be your next big career move!

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Summertime! And the livin’ is easy…

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Barbecues are a great way to enjoy the outdoors! And all that grillin’ just screams for a good red wine. But if you’re thinking it’s too warm for red, think again! With these few tips, finding the perfect summer sip won’t have to put your love of red on hold.

Grillin’ & Sippin’
  • Chill out! Pop your bottle of red wine in the fridge for about 30 mins – or in an ice chest for about half that – and you’ll be amazed at how much more refreshing it will taste.
  • No or Low Oak wines are generally fresher and fruitier.
  • Low to Moderate Alcohol levels usually equate to lower tannin levels for a wine that won’t weigh you down.
  • Light to Medium bodied wines tend to be easy on the palate, bright and light.

So, whether you’re in the backyard or on the beach – serving burgers and brats, or steak and grilled veggies – there’s tons of options for pairing your favorite Temecula Valley wine with whatever you’re serving up.

If the mainstay is red meat, a spicy Zinfandel or Syrah would be perfect. If you’re looking for a more mellow choice, a fruit forward Merlot always works; it’s also great with chicken, pork chops or fish. If your fave is a Cabernet, go ahead and drink what you like. But try not to shortchange your options. Go for a nice red blend for the best of all worlds. And don’t forget about a blush wine; there’s nothing a nice dry rosé can’t do for spicy ribs and coleslaw – or a plate of spicy hot wings!

A few Temecula Valley wine suggestions for your next barbecue:

Baily Winery ~ 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese: fun, fruity and full of character
Miramonte Winery ~ 2019 Rosé: bright strawberry | watermelon flesh | cantaloupe | iris | hibiscus | off-dry
Robert Renzoni Vineyards ~ 2016 Big Fred’s Red: ripe blueberry and black cherry, hints of caramel
Maurice Car’rie Winery ~ Cody’s Crush: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite sirah blend
Oak Mountain Winery ~ 2016 Merlot: aromas of black fruits such as black cherry, blackberry and cassis

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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Geek Out on All Things Wine with These Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country Rockstars

Grapevines at Sunrise

Wine can be intimidating. We’ve all stood in the aisles of our favorite wine stores scanning the backs of labels for hints of anything that might give us a clue of what the juice in the bottle tastes like. We’ve all donned the deer-in-headlights look when a sommelier asks us what type of wines we prefer. Who hasn’t felt a sense of dread during the daunting wine service ritual, where the server waits expectantly while you swirl, sniff, sip and determine whether they may pour the wine for your guests, all eyes on you?

While being a wine expert isn’t a requirement for kicking back and enjoying a glass or two of our favorite beverage, sometimes a better understanding of how a product is made allows us to appreciate it even more.

Which is why we have brought in some of Temecula Valley Southern California’s best and brightest wine stars to answer some of your most frequently-asked wine questions!

Q: The vineyards are starting to look so pretty this time of year! What is actually going on with the vines right now?

A. Greg Pennyroyal, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards

As April approaches the vineyard is leaving its dormant stage and entering its first vegetative stage of budbreak. Wine Grapes (Vitis vinifera) are deciduous meaning they lose their leaves in fall and go into a dormancy period usually starting in late October and ending in April. Grapes also need a minimum of 150 Chill hours, a summation of the hours below 45 degrees, to assure they do not bud out too early and get damaged by a late frost. In Temecula, our standard “Frost Free Date” is April 15, giving a positive spin to a date that is usually not so great.

The grapes’ dormancy period also coincides with the rainy season of our Mediterranean climate – wet in winter, dry in summer, with a coastal influence. Our historical rain average for this time of year would be about ten inches; however we are under four inches to-date. This will assist in delaying a budbreak that is too early, however will require that we irrigate and add fertility as the cover crops and soil biology have had less of an opportunity to increase soil fertility.

After budbreak, the vines will enter a vegetative state where initial growth is remarkably fast. If you visit a vineyard one weekend, the following weekend will look like a different vineyard. Following this growth spurt, the vines set flowers. Grape flowers are very small and inconspicuous. When the flowers emerge, they are wrapped under a small cap called, appropriately enough, the calyptra. When the flowers are ready for pollination a gentle brush will cause the calyptra to pop off and the flower will rapidly open before your eyes, great vineyard entertainment after a glass of wine. The flowers have both male and female parts, so they do not need bees to pollinate. White wines are the first to emerge from dormancy followed by red varietals.

Q: How do winemakers get those tiny bubbles in bottles of wine?

A. Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations, Akash Winery

Those fabulous bubbles that make Champagne or sparkling wine so wonderful are products of carbon dioxide (CO2), created during the fermentation process when sugar and yeast are added to a still base wine. There are three primary ways to make sparkling wine: 

Some winemakers choose a labor-intensive traditional method of trapping the gas in the bottle, which then “lay down,” sometimes for decades, producing high-quality sparkling wine (think Champagne). The most important part of this process is the secondary fermentation, which happens as mentioned, inside the bottle. During this process, the yeast consumes the sugar which is where the carbon dioxide is produced. The wine is then left to lay on their “lees,” (dead yeast cells) for a period of time. While this may sound gross, these yeast cells are what give traditional method sparkling wines their signature toasty, yeasty, brioche-like flavors. The bottles are gradually rotated and tilted until they end up upside down, so that all of this sediment makes its way to the neck of the bottle, which is dipped into a solution to freeze the solid contents, making them easy to remove. Bottles are then topped up with the “dosage,” a combination of sugar and/or wine, donned with a cork and wire cage, and then ready for you to drink.

The Charmat Method (or tank method) is where the winemaker will use a pressurized tank for the secondary fermentation process (think Prosecco). Here the liqueur de tirage (a mix of wine, sugar and yeast) is added to the pressurized tank of still wine, in which the secondary fermentation. The wine, once ready, is then filtered and bottled from the tank. These wines are generally youthful and easy drinking!

Lastly, there is just plain carbonation, where carbon dioxide is simply added into the wine (think of your Soda Stream injecting bubbles into your water). You’ll know this one if you’ve ever had it though, as the bubbles with dissipate very quickly! 

And remember, those bubbles you have in your fridge which you are waiting for a “special occasion” to open: The special occasion is today, friends!

Q. Speaking of stuff getting into my wine, sometimes I see things floating in my bottle? Does this mean the wine is bad?

A. Jim Hart, Winemaker, Hart Winery

There are a number of things that can cause “chunkies” in wine, some of them intentional and others maybe not so intentional. In so-called “natural wines” (so-called because there really isn’t a true definition for natural wines), a certain amount of sediment and haze should be expected, as these wines are usually un-fined and unfiltered. Additionally, these wines are often made without added sulfites, and can occasionally undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle causing haze and “floaties.” More conventional wines are sometimes intentionally bottled without filtration as some winemakers believe filtration somehow strips a wine’s character (not true), and are okay with some sediment in their wine.

The most common cause of stuff floating is with wines that haven’t been properly cold or heat stabilized. Wines that aren’t properly heat stabilized will throw small amounts of haze or, in extreme cases, what appear to be floating globs in the bottle. Wines that aren’t cold stable will, when chilled, lose tartaric acid which will look like crystals (sometimes called wine diamonds).

The good thing about all these things you might find floating in your wine is that none of them are really harmful; just be careful who gets the last glass! 

Q. I love rosé. But how is it made?

A. Nick Palumbo, Winemaker, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery

Rosé wine has gotten a bad rap from wine drinkers over the last few decades simply because so much of it has been made to appease the palate of a generation of consumers that grew up on overly sweet, processed beverages. That said there are basically three ways to make a rosé wine which can be broken down into a not-so-great way, a good way, and the best way!

Many don’t realize that all grapes, white or red, have clear juice inside when they first come off the vine. It is the skin of the grape that contains the color; so, in order to get a red wine, the winemaker needs to keep the juice in contact with the skins of a red grape in order for the wine to develop its color, along with everything else that gives the wine structure and flavor.

Some inexpensive rosé wines are simply a blend of finished Red and White wines that in different proportions can make a wine that looks the part but rarely if ever tastes anything like a classic, well-crafted rosé.

Then there is the saignée, or “to bleed” method, which is a really a good way to make two different wines from a single lot of grapes. It is also considered a way of making red wine better or more intense by “bleeding” off some of the juice early in the process, resulting in two separate lots that can be made into both a red and a rosé. If the winemaker is serious about the rosé, a very good wine can be made. However, this rosé is often considered a biproduct of the red winemaking. The locals drink that, while the winery ships the more expensive reds off to market.

The last method is an approach that wineries employ when their sole intent is to make a quality rosé, which results in a rosé that is often superior to the above methods. This method, often called “Limited Skin Maceration” (LSM) is a process in which the grapes are crushed and left in contact with the skins for a limited amount of time. The color can start to develop within minutes for grape varieties with very intense color, or can take up to 48 hours in some cases. When the desired color is achieved, the juice is separated from the skins, and fermentation is started much like a white wine would be made.

I have made wines from both saignée and LSM methods with great success, but am really proud of our current Spring release of our Rosato Secco. This wine is an LSM version of Sangiovese that is perfect for sipping by the pool, pairing with a charcuterie board, or – even better – a classic bowl of moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries) served by a beach in Southern California within miles of our beautiful Temecula Wine Country. Drink Local!

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Local Love: Our Favorite Temecula Restaurants Supporting Temecula Valley Wineries Right Now

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Our Favorite Restaurants with Temecula Wines

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is a wondrous destination for discovering world-class wines, stunning vineyard views, talented winemakers, and memorable tasting experiences. But, as much as we don’t like to admit it, Temecula Valley isn’t just wine country. There is a vibrant scene in town with plenty to do and see… and even more to eat and drink.

The beauty of living in a wine region is that even if you’re not out visiting the vineyards, you can still enjoy local wines while you dine. In celebration of keeping it local, we have rounded up some of our favorite Temecula restaurants that prominently feature Temecula Valley wines, so you can keep sipping that beautiful juice, no matter where you are grabbing a bite.

Goat & Vine, 41923 Second Street, #102, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 695-5600

For the most delicious from-scratch pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and more, head to Old Town’s Goat & Vine. Believing that “Food is more than just nourishment; it is the ultimate expression of love,” Goat & Vine’s team starts the day at 3:00 AM to handcraft pizza doughs, breads, sauces, dressings, and proteins to serve to patrons over lunch and dinner. We often say the same thing about wine and winemaking, so be sure to peruse the many Temecula Valley wine selections on the menu to find the perfect pairing for this thoughtfully prepared cuisine. 

Bluewater Grill, 26700 Ynez Court, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 308-2722

Who doesn’t love a big platter of oysters on the half shell or melt-in-your-mouth cedar-plank salmon washed down with a cold, crisp glass of Temecula Valley Pinot Grigio? Bluewater Grill features fresh, sustainable seafood prepared to taste, as well as other delicious items like steak, burgers, and chicken. And, they don’t just offer Temecula Wines and local craft beers; they also have a “Taste of Temecula” wine flight, as well as no corkage fee for all local wines, so you can spend the day shopping the wineries for your favorite bottles, and pop one open over dinner in town.

1909, 28656 Old Town Front Street, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 252-1902

Named for the year the old Machado building was rebuilt after burning down in 1908, 1909 was originally home to a trading post, livery, auto shop, church, and bar (the Long Branch Saloon was actually known as the roughest place in town – several bullet holes still dot the ceiling!). Today, the eye-catching (and totally safe!) restaurant and bar cooks up upscale pub classics alongside craft cocktails, brews, and wine – including wine list sections dedicated to local white, rosé, and red wines.

Cork Fire Kitchen, 44501 Rainbow Canyon Road, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 976-3404

Known for seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine using many locally-sourced ingredients, including from the chef’s very own garden, it should come as no surprise that Cork Fire has a prominent selection of great Temecula Valley wines to choose from on the wine list. Sip a bottle of Lorenzi Vineyards Chardonnay, or Wiens Fumé Blanc while you take in golf course views or cozy up by the roaring outdoor fireplace on the veranda for the perfect Temecula food and wine experience.

The Great Oak Steakhouse, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 92592, (888)-PECHANGA

Nothing works up an appetite quite like winning (or losing!) a few hands of blackjack – or a day of wine tasting – so head on over to this classic steakhouse at Pechanga Resort Casino for a totally indulgent meal of 100% Prime Black Angus beef and other decadent dishes (hello, lobster mac & cheese and au gratin potatoes!), paired with one of the many available Temecula Valley wine selections. You will find full sections of the restaurant’s massive wine list – which has been recognized as noteworthy by the editors of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines – dedicated to local wines, as well as individual Temecula Valley bottlings included among varietal selections.

E.A.T. Marketplace, 28410 Old Town Front Street, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 694-3663

There are few restaurants more dedicated to sourcing clean, sustainable, locally-driven foods than E.A.T. Marketplace. Making it part of their mission to support Temecula Valley’s local economy, they naturally offer a selection of Temecula wines and craft beers to sip alongside their healthful and delicious menu items. The restaurant also regularly partners with local wineries for events and programs that help tell the wine and culinary story of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country.

Got a favorite Temecula restaurant that also pours your favorite Temecula wines? Tell us about them! #DrinkTemecula

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And Here’s How It All Began…

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Brookside Winery 1971

In the 1850s, Temecula became a stop on the stagecoach lines that were becoming the logistical route of choice in California. So popular was this route, a post office was set up in town which was a rare institution in California at the time. Settlement increased during the late 1860s as displaced Confederates moved West in the wake of the Civil War.

Because of the region’s isolation, Temecula retained many of its Native American, Spanish and Mexican customs and culture long after California was ceded to the United States. Throughout time, however, Native American lands were being purchased or seized and in 1875, the final blow was delivered when tribal nations signed a treaty relinquishing the remainder of their land in the Temecula Valley. A decade later, the Native Americans who remained were relocated to the Pechanga Reservation.

The railroad line boosted Temecula’s economy when the route was extended to the region in 1882. Unfortunately, the line was abandoned later that decade due to damage from incessant flooding. The major industries during these years were stone quarries, cattle and shipping. During the American Prohibition of the 20s and 30s, the Temecula Valley operated its share of bootlegging and speakeasies.

In 1904, Walter Vail arrived in Temecula and bought nearly 90,000 acres in the region. His family would do much to influence and shape the town during the first half of the 20th century. The Vail family’s biggest achievement was damming the Temecula River and creating Vail Lake in 1948.

In 1961 Mahlon Vail had been successfully operating the enormous Vail Cattle Ranch for nearly six decades. He was in his seventies and his health was failing. With no immediate heirs Vail began actively seeking a buyer for the ranch. One of those potential buyers contacted Richard Break, an experienced farm manager and broker from Fresno. The buyer wanted his professional opinion on the feasibility of growing citrus on the property. After reviewing temperature records for the Temecula area kept by the University of California at Riverside, Break became convinced that the climate and soil conditions in the valley were better suited for the growing of wine grapes.

In 1964 Vail successfully completed negotiations on the sale of the ranch to Kaiser Industries and Macco Realty, who together formed the Rancho California Development Corporation. Throughout 1965 the development company mapped out its plans for a “Master Planned Community.” The community would include commercial and industrial sites as well as residential and agricultural development. The campaign attracted the attention of a number of notables including then California Governor Ronald Reagan, who purchased a sizable portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau.

Another Hollywood couple who saw an opportunity to pursue a long-held dream of retiring to a sizable estate with a comfortable Mediterranean style adobe was Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo. In 1967 they purchased 40 acres of property down a long dirt road known as Long Valley Road (soon to become Rancho California Road). The Cilurzo’s established the first modern commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley in 1968.

In 1974, the founding of Callaway Winery (by Ely Callaway, of golf fame) marked the beginning of large production winemaking in the Temecula Valley. Callaway, sold the winery in 1981 to Hiram Walker and Sons. John Poole opened Mount Palomar Winery in 1975, and in 1978 the Cilurzos opened another Temecula winery at a new site. Their original vineyard, Temecula’s oldest, is now owned by Maurice Carrie Winery. Today, there are over 40 wineries in the Temecula Valley.

Though Temecula became an incorporated city in 1989, the region officially became an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. Modern Temecula Wine Country is located east of the Rainbow Gap in Riverside County and the Temecula wine community has grown considerably since its humble beginnings.

Copy courtesy of The City of Temecula and Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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How Our “New Normal” is Actually a Better Normal

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Cheers to 2021!

Well, the day we never thought would come finally did, and 2021 is officially in full swing. While the world is still a bit topsy turvy, and so much uncertainty remains, the start of a new year seems as good a time as any to look back on lessons learned, and contemplate what comes next.

Temecula Valley Wine Country went through a roller coaster of changes in 2020, as we implemented new policies to keep our customers and staff members safe, and experimented with creative ways to keep you engaged. While some changes we will be happy to say goodbye to when things get back to normal, some new practices we may hang on to just a little bit longer, if not forever, because, well… we kind of like them.

Change can often be uncomfortable, but it isn’t always a bad thing. So, in celebration of flexibility and fresh new starts, we would like to share the top five things that came out of 2020 that we will not be saying goodbye to in 2021.

  1. Reservations and Seated, Guided Tastings

When wineries were asked to implement social distancing protocols by limiting visitor numbers and requiring spacing among tables and tasting areas, reservation systems and more formal seated tastings made it easier to manage customer flow, while still ensuring a pleasant experience for guests.

What many of us realized in the process was that these guided tastings allowed us to get to know our customers better, and gave our guests more opportunities to ask questions, and learn more about our wineries and the wines in their glasses. While we look forward to welcoming guests back to our communal – and convivial! – tasting bars, we don’t anticipate our wineries giving up the more intimate, seated, guided tasting format any time soon. In fact, we look forward to new ways our wineries can use this type of experience to educate and entertain Temecula Valley visitors!

2. Taking Things Virtual

Why just get a bottle of wine when you can get a bottle of wine and meet the winemaker… virtually, from the comfort of your living room couch? 2020 was the year of the Zoom happy hours and virtual experiences and boy did we have fun with these! From virtual winery tours to wine club parties to educational tastings and more, Temecula Valley wineries took to the Internet to meet their fans and share their sips and stories.

Not only has this been a great way for us all to stay in touch with customers, but it has also been a way for us to make new friends across the country. We know wine lovers in other states and cities may not be able to visit us all the time, but Temecula Valley wineries can ship wine to just about any state, and the Internet knows no state lines! We can’t wait to see you on our computer screens over a glass or two of wine soon.

3. Trying New Wines

Nothing makes you crave new things quite like being stuck in your house, not being able to see your loved ones, and having all your favorite activities canceled for months on end. This boredom led many of us to take up new hobbies, learn different languages, and master new skills.

It led us to branch out of our sipping comfort zone to give some of those hard-to-pronounce grapes (hello, Falanghina!) a try. One of the most beautiful things about Temecula Valley is that we grow dozens of different varieties that all thrive here thanks to our Southern Californian Mediterranean climate. We know we won’t be losing that sense of adventure when it comes to wine discoveries in 2021; we hope you will keep up the curiosity as well!

4. Cool New Events

Temecula Valley is known for some pretty amazing events year-round thanks to gorgeous vineyards, stunning properties, and nearly 365 days of sunshine. When social distancing and outdoor tasting and dining requirements were put in place, Temecula Valley wineries had to get really creative when it came to event planning. The result? Fun new outings like drive-in movies, socially distanced yoga, and intimate (but at totally spaced-out tables) wine dinners among the vines.

Temecula Valley wineries have always thought outside the box when it comes to interesting grape blends, planting new varieties, and producing exciting wines. We are excited to see what’s next on the event horizon once things open back up. Hopefully some of these new, creative event concepts stick around, because there are few things better than sipping a bottle of your favorite Temecula Valley wine from the flatbed of your truck while watching “The Sandlot” on the big screen at sunset.

5. Gratitude

We’ve said it once, and we will say it again. We could not have gotten through 2020 without our loyal and supportive customers and visitors. We have also been reminded of the power of a simple thank you; of taking time to acknowledge those around us who keep us smiling – and afloat. Many Temecula Valley wineries have said thank you with special offers, discounts and promotions on wine, dining and shipping. No doubt we will continue to see these in the coming months. But we will never stop feeling grateful for YOU, and all that you as visitors and fans do to make our Wine Country so special.

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Harvest is Here! Discover the Unique Tools and Techniques Temecula Valley Winemakers Use to Produce Some of Your Favorite Wines

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Winemaking is equal parts agriculture, science, and art. This magical combination has allowed for infinite permutations and possibilities for different styles and flavors of wines, and captivated wine lovers all over the world.

While many may assume that wine is simply fermented grape juice, from soil to grape to cellar to glass, there are, in fact, many, many options available to the winemaker when it comes to crafting a unique product. Some are more common – like aging the wine in small or large oak barrels. Other techniques are less traditional, and may be linked to a winery’s signature style, a winemaker’s preference, or a desire to experiment with something new and different.

Since harvest in Temecula Valley has officially begun, we thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain on some of this magic that happens in the winery. So, we caught up with a few Temecula Valley winemakers who shared with us some of the offbeat techniques and traditions they use to create the region’s world class wines.

Nick & Cindy Palumbo
Owners, Palumbo Winery

Palumbo Vineyard & Winery

In addition to only farming their own grapes, which allows them to pick precisely and by slope and orientation based on ripeness, Palumbo does all fermentation in open bins as opposed to tanks. Owner and winemaker, Nick Palumbo, feels this offers a much more hands-on approach.

“Oxygen is our friend during fermentation and punching down, and stirring of the active fermentation helps in a lot of ways,” he says. “Healthy fermentations, the efficient dissipation of heat (without costly, energy-hogging cooling units), and the binding, or ‘locking in’ of various flavor and color components are just a few reasons we do this.”

Palumbo also works with whole cluster pressing of their Viognier (grapes are neither destemmed nor crushed), resulting in more delicate, less astringent white wine due to the limited contact with skins and stems; and, hand-sorted, whole berry fermentation on their reds. Here, grapes are destemmed but not crushed, allowing the berries to more or less crush themselves under their own weight and begin fermenting with the addition of yeast. Winemaking in this way slows the release of tannin and color in order to give more control over the vinification process.

Steve Andrews
Owner, Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

In addition to having the first 104-foot subterranean wine cave in Temecula Valley, boasting more than 400 barrels of wine, a kitchen, banquet and tasting room, Oak Mountain is also home to a new, cutting edge piece of machinery, called “The CUBE.”

This vibrating grape destemmer ensures the gentlest possible process of removing grape berries from their stalks, and allows for raisined and overly mature grapes to remain on their stems so that they can easily be removed as waste. Only fruit free from defects is then recovered for fermentation, ensuring the resulting wine is clean and high quality.

Somerset Winery

Kurt Tiedt
President, Somerset Winery

Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Rome, Georgia…Temecula? What’s old is new again! Temecula newcomer Somerset Winery is making wine in Amphorae – giant vase-shaped clay vessels – a winemaking technique that originated thousands of years ago.

Winery president Kurt Tiedt, and winemaker David Raffaele, were intrigued by these vessels while attending the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in early 2020, and felt that they could be the key to taking their winery to the next level.

Since then, they have acquired three uniquely different amphorae – a classic Terracotta “Rotunda,” a “Terracotta Cigar,” and the “Opus 17” – a behemoth that stands over nine feet tall, has a six-inch thick interior, and weighs more than 8,000 pounds. All are imported from Italy.

These ancient vessels have seen a resurgence in recent years in many well-known wine regions because of their unique ability for winemakers to produce a wine that is somewhere between oak and stainless steel aged. While stainless steel tanks – being totally free from oxygen during fermentation – preserve the primary fruit characteristics of a wine, oak does the opposite. The porous nature of wood allows for plenty of oxygen and imparts other aromas, flavors, and additional tannin to the wine. Clay takes the best of both worlds – it, too, is porous and allows for the oxygen that is essential for giving a wine texture; but, it is neutral, so it also preserves the purity of aromas and flavors of the grapes, perfectly amplifying them in the case of quality fruit.

Somerset’s first Amphorae Syrah was just released, and is full-bodied, with mineral and earth tones and a creamy, smooth finish.

Jim Hart
Winemaker, Hart Winery

Hart Winery

Using Mission grapes from the Cazas and Hunter vineyards planted sometime between 1882 and 1905 on the Pechanga Reservation – by far the oldest wine grape plantings in Temecula Valley – Hart Winery produces a fortified Angelica wine made using the original winemaking techniques of the Franciscan missionaries. Angelica wine dates to the Mission period in California, and its name is thought to have been taken from the city of Los Angeles.

According to family history, the Hunter vineyards were planted from cuttings of original Mission Grapes taken from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside. Once extensive commercial vineyards, these two small remnant vineyards are still farmed by the descendants of the families who planted them well over 100 years ago.

DNA testing of the vines done by U.C. Davis confirms that these vines are original Mission rootstock – genetically identical to grape vines originally brought to California from Spain by Spanish Missionaries.

“[We at] Hart Winery are proud to work with the families who have preserved these heritage vineyards,” says Owner and Winemaker, Jim Hart. “We are honored to work with this exceedingly rare, ancient old vine fruit.”

Thought to be one of the first wines made in California, Angelica wines are fortified with brandy and aged for many years. Hart chooses to age their Angelica for over two years in old wine barrels, set outside in the warm Temecula sun, where the wine reacts with the heat and oxygen to develop deep caramel, hazelnut, root beer, and toffee notes. The barrels are never topped, and the heat plus the extended exposure to oxygen in un-topped barrels, ultimately changes the wine from its original light red to a brownish color as is typical for Angelica wines. It’s a rich, layered wine that makes for a decadent after-dinner drink with (or as!) dessert.

Akash Patel
Owner, Akash Winery

Akash Winery & Vineyards

Sometimes unique winemaking methods take the form of superstitions and traditions!

Akash Patel, Owner & Director of Akash Winery & Vineyards tells us they bury 11 pennies in the ground on the first day of harvest. According to the family, it’s an Indian good luck tradition that Mrs. Patel started for the winery. We’ll drink to that!

Happy Harvest!

Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press Enterprise/SGNC

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Welcoming Guests Back ~ Safely & Responsibly

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Temecula Valley Wine Country

The safety of visitors, loyal customers and staff of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is our greatest priority. With the sudden global spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are trying our best to keep our guests and employees safe and appreciate your understanding of new policies and processes. We appreciate your patience while we navigate this “new normal.”

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors announced that the Governor’s office approved a variance that would allow “Dine-In-Restaurants” to re-open in our County. The Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) has defined that “dine-in restaurants” includes restaurants and brewpubs, as well as supplier licensees that permit tasting and/or private events (such as wineries, breweries, and craft distillers). While our wineries are still not allowed to offer any sort of wine tasting on property, they will be allowed to sell glasses of wine and bottles of wine, as long as their guests purchase a meal provided by the winery restaurant, a licensed caterer or a food truck. 

While this is much welcome news, many of our wineries will need some time to transition into this new way of doing business and to ensure that they are following the health and safety guidelines set forth by the State of California and Riverside County.  Many of the wineries have reduced their capacity and are requiring reservations. We will be keeping our website current with information that we receive from the wineries as to their operating hours at this time. Official site Joycasino Provides more than 3700 slot machines from well-known software developers. The site also has sports betting, life dealers and e-sports  However, please contact the winery you wish to visit prior to visiting to ensure you’re aware of their policies and procedures. Please click HERE for a list and information on current winery operating hours and requirements prior to your visit.

Thank you, wine-loving friends, for your continued support of our Temecula Valley wineries and we look forward to welcoming you back!

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