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A Celebration of Temecula Valley Harvest… and of All Those Who Make our Wines Possible

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

When we pop the cork on one of our favorite bottles and pour ourselves a glass of a delicious wine, we are often thinking mostly about how it is going to make us feel, what we are going to pair it with, who else wants a glass, and if we will stop at just one. This harvest, we invite you to think of all the work that went into producing that bottle. From grape to glass, there are countless passionate people who work tirelessly to craft something that will not only delight your palate, but that will help you make lasting memories of both simple and important moments in life.

As a tribute to these folks, we are highlighting a few of the best and brightest from Temecula Valley’s vineyards and cellars. These men and women are rarely in the spotlight, but their talents shine in every bottle of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine that graces your table.

Ryan Hart

Ryan Hart, Assistant Enologist, Thornton Winery

Originally from Carlsbad, Ryan has been in Temecula Valley for four years now. And, if the name sounds familiar, it should. Yes, he is that Hart – Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country pioneer Joe Hart’s grandson – so you can say winemaking is definitely in his blood.  

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

RH: There really isn’t much of a typical day! That’s what makes this job so exciting, but in general I spend mornings tracking current ferments or making sure all the chemistry checks out with wines being held in a tank or barrel. I usually spend the later half of the day assisting Nick, our cellar lead, outside.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

RH: My favorite thing about harvest is the spontaneity. Every day is different. Situations arise and your skills at problem solving and risk management are often put to the test. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

RH: Temecula Valley has such a deep place in my heart. My earliest memories are of my climbing in fermentation tanks at my Grandfather’s winery, late night drives with my dad and brother to find grape boxes to pick grapes in (behind what seemed like every grocery store within 50 miles) and talking to my uncle Bill from behind the tasting room bar, the winery behind it a mystery.

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

RH: Last year I was in the midst of harvest at South Coast Winery. I couldn’t remember a weekend, let alone what day of the week it was and I was discussing this and the rigors of harvest with their enologist Emily and she told me she always liked harvest because it always felt so much like Summer camp. The more I thought of it, the more it really struck home. We see our coworkers often more than our families. We spend so much time together and the days can oftentimes seem endless but the memories we hold with us will last a lifetime. 

Nick Marsolino

Nicholas Marsolino, Production Lead, Thornton Winery

Nick is originally from neighboring Murrieta, and has been in Temecula Valley for 13 years. He works closely alongside Ryan Hart at Thornton.

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like?

NM: A typical day for me is when I first come in Ryan and I do morning pump overs and punch downs. We are a sparkling house at Thornton Winery, if we have wine on our riddling racks Ryan and I riddle. After our morning work we meet with Tom [Thornton Winery winemaker] and we go over what need to be done which varies each day. After we finish our tasks Ryan and I finish the day with afternoon pump overs and punch downs.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

NM: One of my favorite things about Harvest is watching the evolution from grape to wine. Being a part of that process is special.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

NM: Temecula is special to me because my family is here. I also see a lot of potential in Temecula valley as an AVA.

TVWA: Any standout harvest memories?

NM: This my second harvest so last year’s harvest is very memorable. This one incident happened where I was mixing one of our wines with a machine called a Guth, where you put its propeller through the racking valve and it mixes the wine. Well, when it was finish mixing, when I took off the Guth, I forgot to close the valve and got baptized with wine. Tom told me that I’m officially in the wine making business.

Reed Brady

Reed Brady, Vineyard/Winemaker Assistant, Palumbo Family Vineyard and Winery

Reed is born and bred Temecula Valley, and has lived here for all 25 years of his young life.

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

RB: This can vary quite a bit, but on an average harvest day I will drive the tractor at night and pick leaves from the bins. Then I will rush home and try and get a few hours of sleep. The next morning, I will destem all of the fruit picked that evening and do my punch downs or help out in the tasting room… whatever is needed for the day 

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

RB: The work. I love how challenging and how much work is required. I believe there are two types of fun: There’s the roller coaster ride that is fun for the moment but is always a fleeting type of fun. Then there is the long, hard days that really make you work for it. That’s the type of fun that lasts a life time, and you can look back at and talk about with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

RB: Being raised here in the Temecula wine country I have seen this valley grow a lot since we moved here in ‘95. It may have grown a lot, but it still maintains such a small-town feel. 

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

RB: Sitting in a 55-gallon trash can filled with water while pressing merlot in 100 degree heat. Everyone else thought it was very funny; I thought it was cool.

Billy Bower

Billy Bower, Director of Agriculture, Stage Ranch Farm Management

Originally from Kirkland, Washington, Billy has spent the past 33 years in Temecula and is a celebrated fixture in Wine Country. Billy was, sadly, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. As with all things that he does, he is facing it with as much strength, perseverance, and humor as he can. Billy’s family has created a Go Fund Me account to help raise money to put toward treatment and non-covered care. Please donate here if you are able.

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

BB: Overseeing 450 acres of wine grapes and, at times, up to 35 employees makes for a busy day. I oversee all the new development, daily farming, along with any problems, diseases, and any other issues that might develop in the vineyards. August through October is harvest time, therefore we work 6, sometimes 7 days a week to get the harvest in. Harvest time is both rewarding and challenging. As of late, more challenging due to labor issues and changes in our weather pattern. Lately it’s been getting hotter and hotter which speeds up the harvest, which can affect the quality of our wine. 

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

BB: My favorite thing about harvest is seeing all the hard work during the growing season finally coming to an end – the end being a beautiful, bountiful harvest. I also have the opportunity and privilege of working with 8 different wineries in Temecula, and to see them produce great quality wines from our Temecula Valley, and knowing that it’s coming not only from myself, but also our hardworking team. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

BB: I moved to the Murrieta/ Temecula Valley area in 1987 as a teenager and fell in love with the slower paced family atmosphere, along with its great location being so close to the ocean and the mountains. I knew I wanted to make this my home. 

TVWA: Why did you decide to make Temecula Valley home?

BB: Agriculture was really secondary. I moved here to be in construction as a general contractor. But the recession in the late 80’s early 90’s caused me to get involved with agriculture. My family ended up moving back to Washington State for work, but I fell in love and didn’t want to leave. So I married my beautiful wife Kaijah and had two wonderful children, Jevon and Kelsey. After a couple of classes at UC Davis and lots of hands-on experience in the field I was happy to make agriculture my vocation in the Temecula Valley. 

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

BB: Harvest of ‘94 was very memorable because our first-born son was born September 8th, right in the middle of harvest. At those times husbands or men did not get to stay home and bond with their baby –haha! I had to sleep in the walk-in closet where it was cool and dark and I wouldn’t be disturbed by our newborn baby because I was working at night and sleeping during the day, opposite of my wife and baby’s routine. Needless to say, that was a difficult harvest.

Joe Vera

Joe Vera, Cellar Master (AKA “Cellar King Rat”), Wilson Creek Winery Years in Temecula

Despite hailing from Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico, Joe has been in the Temecula Valley for a whopping 54 years! And, more importantly, 2020 marks Joe’s 50th harvest in Temecula Valley!

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

JV: It’s a juggling act.  My regular day consists of compliance, cellar management and maintenance, training, weighing and harvesting… and a lot of head shaking.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

JV: I love watching the grapes come in and weighing and crushing them. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

JV: The valley is special to me because I came here as a teenager when Temecula had a population of 42. I’ve loved watching the growth (to whatever population it is now).  But the most special is the people I have met along the way.  My dad brought me here and put me to work.  As an adult, I had a great job at Callaway (I was there for 32 years) and never wanted to leave. [I ultimately] married and raised kids here in the valley.

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

 JV: This is serious stuff!  Probably the most memorable was two years ago when we broke a record here at Wilson Creek of harvesting 474 TONS!  It was crazy! There used to be a time where harvest was just a small group of us in the valley. We had lots of fun, we all worked close together and enjoyed the camaraderie.  Everyone knew everyone.  This valley is so big now and there are so many people I don’t know!  It’s become some serious business!  There is a small group of us that still get together every Friday and share our stories over a beer or two. This valley is very special.

Brian Marquez

Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

Even though he has been there since 2007, Brian is one of the few at Wiens Family Cellars who isn’t actually related to the Wiens family. But that hasn’t stopped him from being treated like a blood relative… for better or for worse!

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

BM: I start my morning flying hot air balloons Over Temecula. Then I get to the winery, and manage all of the fermenting lots. I also organize pressing and racking and bottling, because we bottle through harvest. I then question [winemaker] Joe [Wiens] on everything because that’s how we push each other. 

TVWA: What’s your favorite thing about harvest?

BM: That it’s acceptable to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon at 9 am! One of the things I look forward to is when all the white wines are done fermenting and we have new wines in the tanks to finally taste. Also, I get to bring my kids with me and they love helping with punch downs 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

BM: I grew up in Temecula and had the opportunity to help build up this region. I have been making wine here for 13 years, and have been getting attention from all the older guys that have been doing it for years before us, and being told I’ve got what it takes to help put Temecula on the map mean a lot. This is my home, where I was raised and where I raise my kids. 

TVWA: Got any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

BM: Joe and I constantly saying, “Theoretically it should work.” We are professionals…but we never went to school for this.

Kaitlin Murray

Kaitlin Murray, Wine and Viticulture Intern/Server, Peltzer Winery

A SoCal native from Mission Viejo, Kaitlin has only been in Temecula for two months, but already feels right at home.

TVWA What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

KM: When I started at Peltzer I was an intern. We were about six weeks away from harvest. I would get to the vineyard early to collect berry samples for brix testing. During this time, I really got to know the vineyard and it became one of my favorite parts of the day. A lot of time is dedicated throughout the day planning for things needed for harvest like bottles, storage and cleaning supplies. Once harvest started it was over in the blink of an eye. This was my first harvest so everything was very exciting and new. It definitely was a lot of work, but I’m really glad I was able to be a part of such an important time in the wine’s life.

TVWA: What is your favorite aspect of harvest?

KM: My favorite thing about harvest is just how fast-paced the whole process is. It’s definitely a thrill and you always have to be on your toes. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

KM: I’ve only been in Temecula for 2 months now, but I’m already in love. The location is absolutely beautiful, but it is really the amazing people that have made this place so special to me. I love the passion and commitment that the people have for creating delicious wines!

TVWA: Can you share any memorable moments in your winemaking journey so far?

KM: This is a tough question for me because this was my first harvest and the whole process will forever be cherished. But one thing that I will think about and look forward to for next year are the early mornings in the vineyard. Standing in the middle of the vineyard I am surrounded by the plants that give our wines life. I can only see the vines and the sky which is usually filled with hot air balloons amidst the rising sun. There is a crispness in the air that jumpstarts me for the day. Everything is so peaceful and calm.  It is pure tranquility.

Gregorio Retana

Gregorio Retana, Cellar Master, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Originally from Mexico, Gregorio has been in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country for 21 years.

TVWA: What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

GR: My day to day is always different depending on the season; harvest, bottling, cellar, or vineyard practices to name a few. From barrel work and racking a tank in the cellar, to discing the vineyard or bottling our wine, my typical day ranges.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

GR: My favorite thing about harvest is experiencing the whole process of grapes being turned into wine and enjoying it with my family and friends.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

GR: From working with Stage Ranch for years planting vineyards across Temecula Valley, and now becoming the cellar master at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, I have met a  lot of people through the Valley who I’ve become close friends with. I’m so happy to have made Temecula Valley my home and feel lucky to have played a part in almost every vineyard in this region.

TVWA: Can you share a memorable moment during your time in Wine Country?

GR: A memorable moment here at Robert Renzoni Vineyards is simply how we all treat each other like we are family. I’m glad to call this place my second home.

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Temecula Valley’s Unsung Heroes ~ A Tribute to Those Working Behind the Scenes

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Last month we did a feature on the rockstar tasting room staff of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. It was such a hit that we decided this month to focus on another group of movers and shakers of Temecula Valley – the “Unsung Heroes” who are behind the scenes ensuring that the region runs smoothly on all fronts. These Wine Country warriors are the ones our visitors don’t often get to meet; the ones who make the actual functioning of our wineries possible. While sometimes it’s the winemakers and winery owners who get all the glory, Wine Country wouldn’t exist without the folks who work tirelessly every day to keep the lights on and create memorable experiences for our visitors.

Let’s meet a few:

Brenda Ruocco

Brenda Ruocco, Director, Wholesale Operations for South Cost Winery

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Brenda has been in Temecula for the last 20 years with her husband and her “Animal family of dogs and horses.” Anyone who has purchased a bottle of South Coast wine from a local wine shop or grocery store has Brenda to thank for it being on the shelf.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job?

BR: A typical day in wholesale includes meeting with domestic and export wholesale buyers; conducting wine tastings; making sales calls to box and liquor stores and restaurants; checking inventory; writing orders; working closely with the winemaking team; managing our warehouse and supervising our wholesale team of eight.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

BR: Yes, I love wine! Of course I’m partial to ours. Currently, I’m enjoying our 2019 South Coast Pinot Grigio, 2015 Wild Horse Peak Merlot and Vineyard Rose Sparkling.

TVWA: You have been in the Valley for a long time. Can you share any memorable Wine Country moments? Can you share your best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country moments?

BR: The best Wine Country moment was receiving South Coast’s California State Winery of the Year award with our winemaking team – ALL four times! My most memorable moment was opening South Coast Winery and being part of the original team. It was so exciting to watch the construction team build our winery. Also memorable was helping to create the “Rock The Pink” brand to support Cancer Awareness.

TVWA: Wow. You could probably write a book about Temecula Valley Wine Country! Speaking of books, do you have any hobbies outside of the winery?

BR: I love to travel, marathon running, cooking/wine pairing, reading and gardening.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

BR: I recall being mesmerized by the valley on my first visit in 1990. I was on a business trip from Washington, DC, and had an extra day after a meeting in Carlsbad. The hotel I was staying at recommended a trip to Temecula Wine Country. I drove through early in the morning and saw a handful of wineries and hot air balloons overhead and knew I wanted to live here. Five years later after meeting my husband, we rearranged our lives to move to Temecula. We are both Italian and see so many comparisons to Italy. I’m so proud to represent this region and the opportunity to educate people about our terroir and beautiful valley.    

Patricia O’Brien, Vice President of Sales & Operations for Danza del Sol Winery and Masia de la Vinya Winery

Patricia O’Brien

This Southern California native has been in Temecula Valley for 17 years. She is married to her best friend, Patrick, and together they have raised three kids: Mikayla age 25, Sean Patrick age 17 and Peyton age 9.  “I love my job,” she says. “But I have to say being a parent happens to be the best gig ever!”

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

PO: My workday usually starts at 7:30 am with a review of sales reports from the previous day, answering emails and tackling my infamous to-do list.  You see, I’m a firm believer in setting a daily tasks list.  I never put more than 6 things on my to-do list, so I don’t set myself up for failure.  My days usually consist of analyzing traffic, sales, and wine club attrition and sign up reports, evaluating wine projections, label approvals, reviewing and overseeing monthly social media and marketing plan, as well as meetings with the Controller, Winemaker, tasting room and wine club managers.  

TVWA: Whew! We are exhausted just thinking about your day! You must like to kick-back at the end of the day. Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

PO: Do I drink wine?! I’m passionate about wine. I love the process of growing grapes, harvesting grapes, and the art of turning those grapes into wine. I love wine so much, I enrolled in the WSET Level II class in Spring 2019 and passed the exam.  My favorite varietal is Old Vine Zinfandel but lately I’ve been enjoying Pinot Noir and dry rosé.

TVWA: Do you have a best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country Moment?

PO: I’ve been working in Temecula Valley Wine Country for 13 years. I have so many best, funny and memorable moments.  One of the best and funniest moments, is my initial interview with founder of Danza del Sol Winery, Bob Olson, almost 11 years ago.  I answered an ad for a job, and we met for breakfast at South Coast. It was the most casual interview I’ve ever had in my life. I basically ate breakfast with a complete stranger. When the interview ended, I called my husband and said, “That was the most chill interview I’ve ever had!” and by the time I made it home, Bob called to offer me the job. And the rest, as they say, is history! 

TVWA: If only all job interviews went like that! Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

PO: I’m an uber proud soccer Mom, (Go Legends FC Temecula Valley) who is obsessed with the art of charcuterie, a ferocious reader, and I love spending time with my family and friends.  

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

PO: What makes Temecula Valley so special to me is that although Temecula Valley is a vacation destination, with farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, hotels, golf courses, and over 40 wineries, which I am proud to be a part of, it has also been a great place to raise our children and given us the opportunity to make friendships that will last forever.

Jana Prais, Sales Director, Maurice Car’rie Winery

Originally from La Mirada, California, Jana has been in Temecula for 32 years! It’s amazing that she has any time for work in Wine Country, given she also has four grown children, another starting her senior year at Temecula Valley High School, two dogs, one cat, seven chickens and seven grandkids!

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

JP: No two days are the same for me and I love that part of the job. I usually start the day calling on stores and hand selling wine. I’ve been blessed to meet many wonderful people working in outside sales.

TVWA: We’re guessing you like to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, juggling a family of that size! Any favorites?

JP: Maurice Car’rie Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to wine. Although, our new Ultimate red wines are very impressive – the 2018 Tempranillo might be my favorite so far.

TVWA: You must have collected some memories during your 37 years in Temecula Valley. Do any stand out to you?

JP: Some of my fondest memories took place in the summertime at Cilurzo Winery.
Audrey would invite all 12 wineries to a pool party at her and Vince’s home. Everyone brought a dish and wine. She made the best cookies that paired perfectly with Cilurzo Petite Sirah. I think that kind of hospitality and those friendships are still happening today in Wine Country.

TVWA: Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

JP: I love meeting up with my wine country friends and enjoying a glass of wine!

TVWA: Hopefully you count us among those friends! What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JP: I’ve seen Temecula grow beyond what I could have imagined, but we still have that hometown feel and a great community. I’m proud to be part of Temecula and wine country. 

Dollie Pavlinch, Wine Society Volunteer Coordinator for Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association

Dollie Pavlinch

With the number events and fundraising efforts the TVWA is responsible for each year, it’s no wonder Dollie is a hero of Wine Country. Pouring wines & staffing events is hard work! Originally from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by way of Arcadia, California, Dollie has spent the last 20 years in Temecula with her husband, Don, and their “furry dog baby, Miss Molly.”

TVWA: What would you say is your earliest or fondest memory of Wine Country?

DP: You know, our first memory of Wine Country was stopping by Wilson Creek. At the time, it was a tiny bar with Rosie and Jerry and us, talking about moving here from the same area. Times have certainly changed.

TVWA: Those were the days! Got any hobbies outside of work?

DP: Since retirement from ATT, I enjoy every day… and, yes, I enjoy drinking Temecula wines! I love to sit on our patio with a glass of wine, overlooking the wineries. It is an enjoyment Don and I look forward to

TVWA: We love to do that too! Do you have any favorite wines?

DP: Oh dear… I love them all! Especially the bubbly…

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

DP: I love the people in Temecula. I especially love the Wine Country atmosphere. I also enjoy our wines. We have exceptional winemakers, each of whom take pride in their product!

Ted Dorr, UPS Driver

Tedd Dorr & Mattie

Everyone who is anyone out in Wine Country has likely had the good fortune of having Ted show up at their door with package deliveries or for pick-up. He has been on his current UPS route in Wine Country for over 25 years, making him a true fixture of the region. He has been married to his wife Debi for 31 years – the same amount of time he has been a UPS driver – and has two kids, Travis and Lauren, age 29 and 26, as well as a blonde lab named Bailey.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

TD: A typical day usually starts at 7 AM. I bring a trailer out with me to use for pick-ups in the afternoon, depending on who’s heavy on pick-ups. I try to accommodate to the wineries’ needs. If they need an early delivery or a later pick-up, I work around them.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

TD: I enjoy drinking wine. It’s funny. Years ago, when I first started the route, I wasn’t much of a wine drinker. But I learned to appreciate it through the years. Love the reds, but I’ll drink the whites also.

TVWA: You’ve probably seen it all out in Wine Country! Got any memories to share?

TD: I have seen the Valley grow from just a handful of wineries, to present time and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. The people in wine country are amazing. They have become like family. I really enjoy going to work and seeing everyone. 

TVWA: What do you like to do when you’re not traveling all over Wine Country for UPS?

TD: My hobbies are hanging out with my wife and family. I enjoy the beach. It’s my place to just get away and ride some waves. 

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

TD: I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of Wine Country all these years. The people are amazing. To be able share the growth in the valley and their friendships has been so rewarding. 

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez, Cellar Foreman, South Coast Winery

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez

Juan came to Temecula Valley all the way from Culiacá, in Sinaloa, Mexico a whopping 34 years ago! He is part of the dream team that has led South Coast Winery to receive the California State Winery of the Year title an unprecedented four times.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

JVG: It ranges from what the day brings. As of right now we have been busy with our bottling season and it is my job to ensure that everything runs smoothly from the tank to the bottle!

TVWA: Tell us about life outside the winery. Got family? Kids? Pets?

JVG: I have a 25 year-old son, and a 23-year old daughter. I have been married to my wife Blanca for 26 years this past April!

TVWA: Wow. You must drink a lot of wine then (we hear it is the key to a happy marriage!). Any favorites?

JVG: Yes I drink wine! I enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, or some type of dessert wine, which is my wife’s favorite.

TVWA: We’re guessing you’ve collected your share of memories over the past 34 years in Temecula Valley. Can you share any?

JVG: There was a time when I was unloading a Cherokee truck while working at Callaway. There was a truck driver who began to pull away from the location, but the pump was still connected to the truck! It’s funny now in hindsight, but at the time it was really scary. So now every time I see a Cherokee truck, I always remember that day!

TVWA: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working (or dodging trucks still connected to pumps)?

JVG: I love to go fishing with my family, which can be here locally at Lake Skinner, or at times going to fish off the Oceanside pier. I also love to play basketball with my son. Go Lakers!

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JVW: Temecula Valley was the first place I came to after having left my hometown in Mexico. So, to me Temecula was my first home in America and I am grateful to have learned new things here. And, I’m proud to be a part of the South Coast wine-making team!

Huge thanks to all of the extraordinary people who work tirelessly every day to keep our region alive and well, especially those who contributed to this piece. Temecula Valley has been able to grow into the ultimate quality wine and hospitality destination because of you.

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Getting to Know Temecula Valley’s Rockstar Tasting Room Staff

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

We as wine lovers always like to hear how winemakers and winery owners got their start. We often think of them as local celebrities; their appearance in the tasting room is always met with hushed whispers and a great sense of excited anticipation – maybe they’ll sign my bottle! Or pour me a barrel sample! And they certainly deserve this rockstar status. However, there is another group of winery rockstars that equally deserve the spotlight – the tasting room staff who keep our glasses filled and hearts full.

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is known for its warm and welcoming tasting rooms. This is in no small part thanks to the remarkable men and women who bring their passion and engaging personalities to work every day, and to the stories they share with visitors about our region. Let’s meet a few Temecula Valley tasting room legends.

Walter Carter

Walter Carter, Director of Hospitality, Danza del Sol Winery & Masia de la Vinya Winery

This Temecula Valley rockstar is no doubt one of the best-known personalities in Temecula Valley. Not only is he the consummate wine and hospitality pro, being a Certified Hospitality Industry Professional (CHIP), a 2-time Xenia Spotlight on Service award winner, and a Certified Sommelier, his infectious personality is legendary in both the tasting room and across the region as a whole. Originally hailing from Tampa, Florida, he has lived in Temecula for eight years.

TVWA: Tell us about your family. Kids? Dogs?

WC: Jamie Carter is my wife, and we have a blended family of six kids.

TVWA: Wow – six kids! No wonder you love wine. Speaking of which, tell us about your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

WC: After working a shift in a restaurant in Florida, the chef prepared gorgonzola-crusted lamb chops, which he then paired with a Chianti. It changed the way I saw wine FOREVER! I describe this as my coming to wine (not Jesus) moment. The way the wine elevated the food, and vice versa, was something I’ll never forget.

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

WC: Gorgonzola-crusted lamb chops paired with a Chianti (of course), and 2009 Danza del Sol Syrah paired with blue cheese cheesecake.

TVWA: We think we may already know the answer, but do you have a signature tasting room style or move?

WC: The “Walter Pour” – an exaggerated long pour with a smile.

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

WC: Meeting my future wife. She was hired a couple of months after I was. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would end up being my best friend in the whole wide world.

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

WC: Golfing, and I love to cook. I love a good grill session, crock pot recipe, air fryer (just got one and I love love love it), you name it. I find it therapeutic when I have time to put together a nice meal for my family to enjoy. That is something that is very important to me.

Diana Geenen


Diana Geenen, Hospitality Operations Manager, Leoness Cellars

This Upland, California, native has been in Temecula Valley for the past 6 years. She is the proud mama of three dogs and a bearded dragon, and enjoys painting, cooking, exploring the restaurant and craft brewing scene, and gardening. She has also been part of the same book club for 11 years! Now that’s commitment!

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

DG: When I first heard of blind tasting. I was amazed this was possible! Ever since then, I really concentrate on the characteristics of different varietals and regions and try to commit them to memory. I really enjoy practicing blind tasting with my co-workers. 

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

DG: When I’m feeling extra fancy, Sauternes and Foie Gras. Though, nothing beats a ribeye steak and a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon! 

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

DG: One of my favorite things that we do at Leoness is side-by-side comparisons. For example, the same varietal but from two different vineyards tasted side-by-side can show the guest how a vineyard really influences the end result. We are so lucky to have our Vineyard Series wines. Guests have so much fun talking about the wine this way and can pick their favorite. It’s great to witness their A-HA! moment!

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

DG: I think the most memorable moment for me was Valentine’s Day 2019. We had the biggest storm in Temecula, and all the roads were flooded. I barely made it to the winery, and we were actually forced to close for the day, along with many other wineries, because the weather conditions were so unsafe. Water was coming into the tasting room and into our barrel room. It was truly a sight I’ll never forget!

Raymond Murgo

Raymond Angel Murgo, Tasting Room Manager, Falkner Winery

Raymond is originally from Anaheim, California, but has spent the past 9 years in Temecula. He married his high school sweetheart, Ana, with whom he has two daughters, Angelina (age 11) and Avani (age 8), as well as an English Bulldog named Coco Lola, whom he affectionately refers to as his “fur baby.”

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

RM: My first A-HA was when I worked for Buzz and Kimberly Olson at Tesoro Winery. I had just turned 21 and, up to that point, I’d tasted wine maybe twice at family gatherings. It was an ‘06 Merlot, blue label, with the vineyard’s decal. It was the fabled unicorn; when we had a bottle out, it was like a golden treasure. So, I opened up the bottle and poured glasses for Buzz and me, and I and remember looking at how beautiful the deep blue hue was. I began swirling the glass and watching, almost in slow motion, the wine glide from side to side. We raised our glasses and took that luscious sip. Black cherry and plum, finishing with a softness… the vanilla just rolled on the back of your palate. We talked for a great while, finishing that bottle, but I wouldn’t believe, at 21 years of age, I had found what my love and passion would be. 

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

RM: My favorite wine pairing has to be Falkner Winery’s Amante Super Tuscan paired with the Spanish Octopus we serve at our on-site restaurant, The Pinnacle. Chef Jason just knows his way with it to keep the tenderness, and the Amante accentuates the red plum, roasted pepper, and roundness. You would think I’d go with white wine, but no way! I learned with many of the dishes at The Pinnacle Restaurant that our Amante is a killer treat! 

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasting room style or move?

RM: So my family, friends, and wine club member have sent me some insightful characteristics when I asked them about this (and some direct messages that are strictly meant to stay in the tasting room… those had-to-be-there moments!). But what I have gotten mostly as feedback is that I make wine approachable to all visitors. I am able to tell a story about the world of Temecula Valley Wine Country with knowledge, ease, and laughter! It’s almost as though I bring them into the backyard, and we can just relax for those 45 mins… it’s home. 

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

RM: My most memorable moment had to be when Kyla Pratt, an actress who played in one of my childhood favorite movies called “Love & Basketball,” stopped by to visit. She was so fun; she even got behind the bar with me and started pouring for her party. It was just another one of those times that it felt like we were all friends and family hanging out. 

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

RM: Outside of the wine world, I’m a huge family man. With my Mexican-American lifestyle we have a party to go to every weekend, prior to COVID. I love taking my girls to family adventures. I can’t breathe without my Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe fanatic), and Anaheim Angels. I played almost every sport from the age of 7 years old and up. So, when I can rally the troops, we get together and play basketball. But, one of my hidden passions is that I love history and literature, especially historical fiction. I am currently writing a biography about my family and linking the social norms and experiences from the 1990s to present. It’s a whole lot of fun learning where you came from to practicing the foundation for your future grandkids. 

Laura Kessens

Laura Kessens, Wine Consultant, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

This Scottsdale, Arizona native has been in Temecula for a whopping 20 years! When not charming guests with her warm personality and wine knowledge at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, she spends her time cooking, going wine tasting, and hanging out with friends and family, especially her two daughters.

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

LK: Hart Winery

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

LK: A glass of wine and a sunset!

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

LK: I’m not going to tell you what it is! You’ll just have to come experience it for yourself!

TVWA: Ha! Fair enough. Can you at least share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

LK: Some guests asked me where I liked to go wine tasting. I told them. The next day, they came back to me with the wine they had bought and wanted me to sign a bottle for them… wow.

Danaé Wegner

Danaé Wegner, Tasting Room Manager, Peltzer Family Cellars

Even though Danaé was born in Lake Arrowhead, California, she definitely considers Temecula her hometown. This makes sense given she has been here for 25 years! Her love of wine infuses even her life outside of the winery. She loves to create lavish charcuterie spreads and host friends and family for what her friend and Certified Sommelier, Art DeCaro, has lovingly dubbed “Wine Family Dinner.” She also loves to snuggle her “big baby bear” (AKA a very large Newfoundland dog) named Amber Jean.

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

DW: For my 21st birthday, my wine-loving Aunt Georgi took my sister, Dara, and I out to the Mission Inn in Riverside to celebrate. We stayed up all night talking and drinking her favorite go-to everyday bottle, St. Francis Zinfandel. I realized that evening that wine creates moments, which create memories, and I was in love. 

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

DW: As a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 certification holder, I enjoy only the finest food and wine pairings, like Peltzer’s DOCG Prosecco and the Pizza con Rucola from our friends at Spuntino’s!

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

DW: Reaching up on my tip-toes in order to pour a glass of wine across the bar for thirsty customers. Being 5 feet tall creates strong calves in this industry!

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

DW: While taking a group through a tasting, it seemed apparent that one of the younger gentlemen wanted to be sure that I knew he was wildly experienced in the world of wine. I asked if he had ever had our premium sparkling wine. No, he had not. Well, it is very exclusive and I would have to go ask my manager if I could pour it for him. 

Permission granted! I went into the back and pulled out our Non-Vintage Pellegrino. It was his favorite wine of the day, and his friends appreciated his slightly shorter wine snob stance. We keep in touch, and I attended his wedding in 2016.

Rebecca Barone

Rebecca Barone, Wine Server, Monte de Oro Winery

Although Rebecca was born in in Northern California, she has called Temecula home for the past 19 years. Her 21-year-old son and his wife are serving in the Air Force, and her 18-year-old daughter just graduated high school. She has been married for 29 years, and has an adorable little Chihuahua named Cheerio.

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

RB: My favorite pairing is a big red with some salty Manchego or Parmigiano cheese.

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

RB: I would say my style is honest and authentic but also fun and knowledgeable.

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

RB: My hobbies – other than wine – are being with my family, reading, hiking, and being outdoors.

Huge thanks to all the amazing winery staff who contributed to this piece. Got a favorite Wine Country tasting room rockstar? Tell us on social media and we will give them a shout out!

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Meet the Husband-and-Wife Teams of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Friday, January 31st, 2020

All’s Fair in Love and… Wine?

With gorgeous vistas, world class wines, happening tasting rooms, friendly and knowledgeable people, amazing culinary options, and year-round perfect weather, there are few better places to spend Valentine’s Day – or any day, really – than Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. But, what if you work in Wine Country? And, what if you work in Wine Country with your significant other?

Thinking about taking the next step with your honey and opening a winery? After catching up with some of Temecula Valley’s iconic winery couples, we learned that it is indeed possible to keep the romance alive, even when it means spending all day together on the job. It just involves lots of wine, functional plumbing, and occasionally leaving work at work, which, according to these dynamic duos, is harder that it sounds.

Les & Dorian Linkogle

LES AND DORIAN LINKOGLE, BRIAR ROSE WINERY

Les is the winemaker and the visionary force behind the winery. Dorian focuses on the administrative and hospitality-driven side of the business. They have been together for over 45 years, 20 of which have been spent operating the winery together.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Les: Dorian and I were high school sweethearts.

TVWA: Awwwww. What is the best part about working together?

Dorian: Sharing our passion for this wonderful wine culture with one another.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Les: You never stop working. You don’t take the necessary time off away from the winery, and the business dominates almost all of your conversations.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Dorian:  One harvest, under the light of the full harvest moon, Les set up a table in the middle of the vineyards. The table was complete with tablecloth, candle, wine and two glasses. Much to my surprise he wanted me to experience the magic of the energy of the vineyards just prior to harvest. As I sat there with him, I did experience the energy and sense of awe as I viewed the beautiful fruit hanging from the vines in the shadow of the moonlight, and I truly did feel the energy of the vines just as he had described.  It was an enchanted evening; one I will never forget.

Deane & Christine Foote

DEANE AND CHRISTINE FOOTE, FOOT PATH WINERY

Deane is the winemaker and works in the tasting room. According to Deane, Christine is “pretty much everything else. CFO, CEO… she’s the boss.”

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Deane: We met 20+ years ago while working at Teledyne in the City of Industry.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Deane: Seeing each other all the time and enjoying it.

TVWA: Do you ever not enjoy it?

Deane: When we have occasional differences in opinion on what should be done next. But she keeps me in line.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Deane: Our first date. We have been together ever since.

Nick & Cindy Palumbo

NICK AND CINDY PALUMBO, PALUMBO FAMILY VINEYARDS & WINERY

Nick is the winemaker and Cindy, like Christine, is “everything else.” This seems to be a theme among winery couples!

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Nick: We met at Texas Lil’s in 2000, back when Old Town was a one-horse town. Cindy had chicken pox and I asked her if she wanted to go to “Wally World.” Truth. We got married in 2003.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Nick: The best part is we live and raise our kids onsite, in a healthy and beautiful environment. We live a healthy lifestyle, doing what we believe in and showing our kids that working hard and staying true to what you believe in is rewarding in many ways.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Nick: The worst part is we never seem to “get away.” That said, we live and work where other people dream of “getting away” to!

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Nick: It’s tough to pinpoint just one anecdote. Raising family, multiple farm animals and crazy customers over the years has afforded us years’ worth of stories. However, one that stands out is when a long-time customer requested a taste of our Sangiovese on his death bed. Seriously. It brought tears to our eyes.     

Ray & Loretta Falkner

RAY AND LORETTA FALKNER, FALKNER WINERY

Ray is the Chairman and CFO, in charge of all winery operations, including production and sales. He is also in charge of the on-site restaurant, Pinnacle. Loretta is the President and CEO, in charge of all weddings, special events and the gift shop. They have been together for 22 years, 19 of which have been at the winery.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Ray & Loretta: We met through friends in Dallas, TX, where we were living prior to moving to California

in 2000. While we each came from different work backgrounds (technology and fashion retail), we merged talents to build our winery operation. We had previously worked together at a start-up internet company in Dallas named Shabang.  

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

R&L: The best part is sharing in the successes when they occur. It also makes it easier to “bring work home” when there are work issues that are best discussed in great length in order to arrive at the best possible solution.

TVWA: What is the hardest part?

R&L: The most difficult part is when there are wide differences of opinion and neither of us wants to give in. We can usually get over the stubborn positions to reach a compromise though. Sometimes it is also difficult to get away from work when you see each other most hours of the day.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

R&L: One of them was the creation of our “Luscious Lips” wine and label.  Loretta felt that the winery should produce a visually catchy label that customers would be attracted to and purchase.  She decided two lips on the label would be the selling point.  Numerous employees and friends were asked to provide “lip imprints” so we could decide what to use.  All employees and friends were involved in the selection process. Ray wanted the lips embossed on the label so you could feel the lips as well as see them.  The next step was the wine itself – a Syrah with about 3% residual sugar. It was a true collaborative effort, and Luscious Lips has been an extremely successful wine ever since. 

Akash & Elena Patel

AKASH & ELENA PATEL, AKASH WINERY

Akash is the owner and director of the winery, and Elena is the wine club manager. They have been together for 9 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Akash & Elena: We met at school in 2004.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

A&E: Working together to create a place that people love coming to visit. A place, that if it wasn’t ours, we would visit. Plus, watching our joint visions come to life right in front of our eyes.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

A&E: There is no worse part! (Cough cough)… Not being able to shut off work after hours, and talk about things other than the winery.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

A&E: We’ve only been at it for 12 months, so we are still in our honeymoon phase of love and peace. Right now it is all memorable.

Carrie & Charlie Peltzer
Photo Courtesy of @paigecreative / @temeculavalleyvibe

CARRIE & CHARLIE PELTZER, OWNERS, PELTZER FARM & WINERY

Charlie is a professional investor in “rusty gold” and antiquities. Carrie is a designer. Together, she dreams it and he builds it! Much of what you see around Peltzer Farm & Winery are products from this duo. They have been together for 24 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Carrie: My aunt and uncle lived on the same street in Orange as Charlie and introduced us. At the time, we both had significant others… BUT, I later found out Charlie had two farm pups named Bonnie and Blue and I quickly fell in love with all of them. He’d take them to work with him every day. It was adorable. The rest is history and it’s been bliss ever since!

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Carrie: My favorite part about working with Charlie is coming up with an idea, spinning it around my head, and putting it on paper. Charlie takes once glance and he’s off building it. He loves projects (most of the time) and I love ideas – it just works.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Carrie: The fact that you can’t just shut it off… without three glasses of wine, that is.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Carrie: One of my favorite stories is from while we were building the Crush House. Starbucks was getting

rid of some of their furniture for a remodel. Charlie, being Charlie, picked up a couple of leather chairs they threw out and brought them home. We ended up putting the two chairs in the middle of the Crush House. Every day at 4 or 5 pm when we were done with the day, we would sit in those chairs, relax, talk about what was next in the build, dream about the future of the place, and crack a cold one. They’re still in Charlie’s workshop to this day!

Steve & Valerie Andrews

Valerie & Steve Andrews, Oak Mountain Winery

Steve is the President and Valerie is the Vice President of this dog-loving winery. They have been together for 22 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Valerie:  We met online on a singles site

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Valerie: We have the same work ethics. We create our next project together, from planting our vineyards over 20 years ago, to building our 10,000 square-foot wine cave. Steve has the technical ideas and expertise while I am the creative, artistic side.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Valerie: There is no worst part.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Valerie: In the very beginning we bottled our small amount of wine with a gravity feed, 4-spout bottler. Steve had the tote of wine raised on a forklift so, by gravity, the wine would flow to the bottler that we had set on the ground. I was in charge of putting the bottles under the spouts and then pulling them off when full for Steve to cork. Well, sometimes the bottler would lose its prime, so I had a syringe to suck the wine back to prime. It didn’t work very well, so I just would suck on the end of the spout to get the wine going again. Eight hours later there was a very happy, very drunk Val. Steve still laughs about that one.

Gerry & Rosie Wilson

GERRY AND ROSIE WILSON, WILSON CREEK WINERY

It is impossible to talk about Temecula Valley Wine Country Couples without thinking about Gerry and Rosie Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery. These two lovebirds have been together for a whopping 65 years! Read the story of how they met here.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Rosie: Being together and sharing this journey. Knowing what each other is doing each day.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Rosie: There isn’t one.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Rosie: When we were building the winery, someone told us that the Balloon and Wine Festival was to be at Lake Skinner the next day. We felt that we should have something to show people driving by our property that we were building a winery, so we constructed a sign that said “Wilson Creek Winery” and added a white oval at the top that said “Open Soon.” We slogged through the mud and rain and installed it. Well, with all the problems that occurred along the way, we opened nearly TWO years later. I guess we gave the word “soon” a new meaning!   

Bill & Jenifer Wilson

BILL & JENIFER WILSON, WILSON CREEK WINERY

It looks like Gerry and Rosie started something much bigger than their relationship when they got together, because this other iconic Wilson Creek Couple has been together for 32 years!

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Bill: I was going to a bar early because a person I had never met and haven’t seen since forgot his ID!

Jenifer was there following a Heart Association fundraiser, hoping to find a handsome doctor, but met me instead.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Bill: We see each other every day!

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Bill: We see each other every day!

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Bill: It was when we were building the winery, living in a double wide with no electricity & no running water, with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. One day, my wife hands me a training potty dispenser for me to empty, and proclaims, “It’s not your daughter’s.” That was extremely motivating to hurry up and get the construction done! 

Phil & Carol Baily

PHIL & CAROL BAILY, BAILY WINERY

Another famous Temecula Valley couple, Phil and Carol Baily were among the first to settle in Temecula Valley and build the region to what it is today.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Phil: We were introduced to each other by our sisters in 1967 in Whittier, California where we both were raised. Our sisters felt that we were a perfect match; they were right, because five months later we were married, and this past November, we celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Phil: Every part of our business is the result of both of us working hard and working together.  Every major decision was made by the two of us hashing things out, not being afraid to take the steps to begin, and adjusting as things evolved and the environment changed. And we’re not done yet.

Special thanks to all the winery folks who contributed to this piece. For more about Temecula Valley Wine Country and all the passionate people who make it so special, click HERE.

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Get to Know Merlot!

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Considered one of the most food-friendly and approachable wines on the planet, Merlot surged to popularity in the United States in the 1990s. Now wine-lovers can find great Merlot and delicious Merlot blends from all over the world – from South America to France to Italy to right here in Temecula Valley, California.

Here are five fun facts about Merlot!

Sourced from Snooth/Wikipedia

1) Did you know the word “merlot” translates to “young blackbird” in French? The name was thought to have been given either because of the grape’s beautiful blue-black color, or blackbird’s fondness for grapes.

2) Merlot’s flavor profile fluctuates within the sweetness spectrum. Cooler climates bring out hints of berries, plum, and even tobacco. Merlot grown in hotter climates might mimic flavors found in fruitcake or chocolate.

3) A bit about Merlot blends: When Merlot first arrived in California, it mostly sold as single varietal bottlings (100% Merlot) until winemakers began blending it with other red grapes in the French Bordeaux tradition. Now, California’s Meritage wines are a signature of the state and always include Merlot as one of the essential blending grapes.

4) Merlot is so popular because of the grape’s ability to please all palates. Wines can range from very fruity simple wines to more serious, barrel-aged bottles.

5) Merlot has a high sugar content and low acidity, which makes it a very food-friendly wine, able to be paired with a variety of dishes. For example, Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with grilled meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots go well with salmon, mushroom-based dishes and greens. Light-bodied Merlots pair well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in bacon or prosciutto.

Looking for a great bottle of Temecula Valley Merlot?  Check these out:

Baily Winery 2012 Merlot

Bel Vino Winery 2013 Merlot

Falkner Winery 2013 Merlot

Leoness Cellars 2014 Vineyard Selection Merlot

Oak Mountain Winery 2013 Merlot

 

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May’s Official Wine Days

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

As if we needed a day to drink wine, May 25th is the unofficial, official National Wine Day (not to be confused with National Drink Wine Day held in February each year).  And, if that’s not enough, we also celebrate International Sauvignon Blanc Day, World Moscato Day and National Chardonnay Day in May!

Wondering how did these days come to be? Actually, official wine days are pretty unofficial. They are usually a movement started by a variety of individuals or organizations with a passion for juice. Based on our research, National Wine Day started in 2009 and, since then, a variety of wine appreciation days have popped up in the calendar. So, now you know how easy it is to make an official wine day!

First up on the calendar, #SauvBlancDay is on May 5th. Originating in the Bordeaux region of France, the grape is also widely planted throughout New Zealand – and grows with ease here in the Temecula Valley. An acidic wine that displays a citrus-y, grapefruit-like quality, it’s a pleasing choice for a warm summer day. A very versatile vino, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with shell fish, grilled vegetables (even asparagus!) and cheeses. It’s the perfect picnic wine!

Some Temecula Valley stand-outs are from Hart Winery, Danza del Sol Winery and Peltzer Winery.

May 9th is #MoscatoDay.  The day was introduced here in the US by Gallo Family Vineyards back in 2012 to celebrate the rising popularity and sky-rocketing sales of the varietal. If you know nothing about Moscato (or Muscat/Muscat Canelli), it originated in the Piedmont region of Italy where it’s a favorite due to its sweetness, lightness and affordability – and is popular as a sparkling wine. You’ll find Moscato table wines in white, red or rosé styles, and they make an especially delicious dessert wine. With it’s bouquet of peach, honey and citrus, a delicate sweetness and fresh acidity, it’s perfect served with a plate of fresh cheeses.

Try the Muscat Canelli from Callaway WineryCarter Estate or Oak Mountain Winery.

And then there’s the day to pay homage to the old standby, Chardonnay. #ChardonnayDay is sharing it’s special day with National Wine Day this year on May 25th.  The world’s most planted white wine grape varietal is enjoyed by fans all over the world. Generally dry to medium-dry with pear, apple, tropical or citrus fruit flavors, Chardonnay is grown in virtually every wine-producing region. Watch hot Girl Alone shows on live sex chat Girls from all over the World. . Online blonde webcam chat rooms sorted by categories. Hot amateur porn videos and best free sites. Crisp and fresh with little to no oak aging, or creamy and buttery with extensive oak aging, there’s a Chardonnay out there that will make just about anyone smile!

Enjoy the Chardonnay from Masia de la Vinya Winery, Thornton Winery or Wiens Family Cellars

But, who needs a National Day to enjoy a glass of wine or two?  That’s certainly not how we roll here in Temecula Valley, Southern California’s beautiful wine country.

#drinktemecula

Reference: Wine Folly

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Roots Run Deep in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Friday, August 19th, 2016

IMG_7797_Family-1024x683In Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, the family that wines together, stays together. At least that’s what it seems like given the number of family owned and operated wineries that populate the region.

What started out as Marcelo Doffo’s retirement project slowly evolved into a full-fledged, family-owned and operated winery, Doffo Winery, known for producing small-lot, hand-crafted reds. Upon his official retirement on January 1, 2016, Marcello turned the business over to his three children to run it. Son Damian serves as acting CEO and winemaker, and daughters Samantha and Brigitte serve as event coordinator and tasting room manager respectively.

“Our family bond has never been stronger, and we all share the same vision and goal, and the direction in which we are heading with our winery,” said Damian. “In all honesty, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I think we all share that same sentiment.”

The Doffo family shares many things, but most importantly, they are unified in their belief that quality winemaking starts in the vineyard. To this end, they hand-plant vines, meticulously prune and even play classical music for their vineyards to “soothe the grapes.” They also share a love of motorcycles. The Winery is home to MotoDoffo, the family’s private collection of over 100 racing and vintage bikes.

The Wilson Family opened Wilson Creek Winery because they all wanted to be together after parents Gerry and Rosie Wilson retired. Originally from Minnesota, the Wilsons had no experience as vintners other than making dandelion and rhubarb wine in their basement in the 1960s. Today, Wilson Creek is one of largest and most widely recognized wineries in Temecula Valley, and still run by family. Bill Wilson is CEO; Mick Wilson is COO; Deanna Wilson works in sales and distribution and Jennifer Wilson works in merchandising. The family can regularly be found on the grounds, meeting customers and working closely with winery staff. All would say Gerry and Rosie are the glue that holds everything together.

Some wineries are a union of not one but two families. Gary Winder started Stage Ranch Farm Management Inc. (parent company of Temecula Valley Winery Management) in the early 1970s. He was joined by Mike Rennie in the 1990s and together they focused on growing their vineyard operations, ultimately founding Leoness Cellars in 2002. Leoness is largely run by their families, including Rebaux and Jesse Steyn, Gary’s daughter and son-in-law. The staff describe the team as “more of a family group” than a traditional collection of employees, which they attribute to their unique family dynamic.

Lorimar Winery is owned by brothers-in-law Lawrie Lipton and Mark Manfield– the name is actually a hybrid of Mark and Lawrie. Lawrie’s daughter and son-in-law couldn’t escape the family business, both working there as well. And, one can’t visit Wiens Family Cellars without running into one of the Wiens– a whopping 19 family members are involved with the winery and brewery. “We are a tight-knit family and have always done things as a group,” said Jeff Wiens, owner and general manager. “So having a family business seemed a natural fit.”

Be sure to visit these and other Temecula Valley Southern California wineries this September, during California Wine Month. For more information, visit www.winemonth.org.

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Mid-Week Wine Tasting Guide

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

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?

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 30+ 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 two-for-one wine tasting coupons and 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.

You may want to visit in September, as we’re celebrating California Wine Month with a special weekday SIP Passport.  This passport allows you to visit any four wineries of your choice for $40.  Visit our website at www.temeculawines.org to purchase your passport. Good wine goes well with an excellent mobile slots casino games , played on your smartphone or tablet.

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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Dream Big, Temecula Valley Winemakers!

Friday, January 30th, 2015

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This week we’re at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento for a yearly industry event that helps keeps us all “in the know”.  Apart from pouring a sampling of fabulous Temecula Valley wines to some of the 14,000+ attending wine lovers, we caught up with a few of our own to find out what they were dreaming about while walking through the chock full convention center.

Arturo Villareal, winemaker at Danza del Sol was looking for some new barrels.  But what he’s really dreaming about is a new, much larger wine cellar.  Sorry, Art!  I don’t think they actually sell those.

We caught up with Damian and Marcello Doffo who were in the midst of purchasing a water treatment system for Doffo Winery. While it’s a much needed purchase, there’s certainly much more fun things to buy…

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Nick and Cindy Palumbo were looking for some portable stainless steel tanks.  And dreaming of a cold beer! As Nick always says, “it takes a lot of beer to make wine.”

BJ Fazeli, who’s winery is being built as we speak, needs everything for his new winery.  He brought along his wallet and is definitely dreaming BIG.

The Wiens brothers are in the market for a new de-stemmer but are dreaming about a new optical sorter that will separate and remove the less than perfect grapes from the sorting table.  It’s a winemaker thang!

JD Harkey and Chase Drake, of Drake Enterprises are dreaming REALLY big and hoping Ben pops for a machine harvester this year. Extreme fetish video Shitting girls on the toilet and outdoors. Domination Scat mistress shit face slaves. All videos can be watched site ScatNude.com There are many categories on the site: Amateur Scat, BDSM Scat, Ebony Scat, Group Scat, Japan Scat, Lesbian Scat, Mature Scat, Scat Movies, Scat Sex, Scat Slave, Solo Scat, Toilet Scat. Have fun watching.

Jon McPherson and Javier Flores, the dynamic duo of winemakers at South Coast, were searching out some “state of the art” lab equipment for the new Carter Estate Winery which is scheduled to open in just a few weeks.

All in all, I’d say the Temecula Valley winemakers, while truly dreaming big dreams, were pretty down to earth.  Except for Art and that new cellar…

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Dream Big ~ Jim Carter, South Coast Winery

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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

 

Jim and Dawn Carter, owners

Jim and Dawn Carter, owners

Today, we’re sitting down with Jim Carter, owner of South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, at the winery’s restaurant, Vineyard Rose. Never one to sit still for long, the energetic father of 13, grandfather to 27 and great-grandfather to 4 is a man on a mission!

South Coast Winery opened in 2001 and has grown exponentially since then, was that always part of the vision?
I knew what I wanted to build way before I started construction.  I’d visited wine regions throughout the state and knew that ultimately I wanted to have a place where people would want to come and stay amongst the vineyards. We built in phases, starting with the production side and the tasting room.  Phase 2 was the villas, phase 3 the Vineyard Rose restaurant, phase 4 the conference center and finished off with phase 5, the Grapeseed Spa. I think there was about 10 or 11 wineries when I started.  Who knew it was going to develop as quickly as it did?

But that really wasn’t what I had in mind when I bought my first Temecula vineyard property back in 1981.  I wanted to grow grapes. And I planted a lot of them beginning back in 1995 on a 400 acre piece of property that I’d purchased years before up along the east side of Mount Palomar. It’s a spectacular vineyard we named Wild Horse Peak and it produces some fabulous grapes.  My kids and I would spend weekends and summers up there digging and planting.  I just fell in love with the farming side.  The winery is the vehicle that allows me to be a grape grower.

The winery has quite an extensive menu of wines, was that also part of the plan?
We just kept planting to see which clonal varietals grew well here and we ended up liking pretty much everything we grew.  So we’re in a unique position in that we can now make a wine that suits just about anyone’s palate.  There’s a wine for everyone – and I want to make sure that visitors can discover what they love right here in our tasting room.  

So what’s next?
Carter Estate Winery and Resort.  The first phase of our family’s next adventure is set to open in January.  It’s a completely different concept from this winery.  Our production will be quite limited.  We sourced the fruit for these bottlings from some of our best vineyard blocks and have used the best barrels on the market to hand craft 4-5 different wines that we’ll be releasing under the Carter Estate label.  And we’re also really excited to announce that we’ll be showcasing some new “methode champenoise”, traditional style sparkling wines over there too.  We’re really anxious to share these small lot wines that we’ve been bottling and cellaring for awhile now.  

And we’re also breaking ground on a winery/brew pub in the Texas hill country, just outside of Austin in a town called Johnson City.  

Sounds like crazy talk to me! Do you ever sleep?  What keeps you awake at night?
I have a good life.  About the only think that keeps me awake is praying for rain! We sure need us a good rainy winter.

 

 

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