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Mushroom, Kale & Butternut Squash Pasta

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Mushroom, Kale & Butternut Squash Pasta

As the weather turns chilly and the crisp autumn air has us gathering around a warm fire at night, this comfort food dish will be a sure hit that it will have you making it again and again. This Autumn-inspired pasta showcases the best of the harvest season and pairs perfectly with a loaf of fresh crusty bread. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped oyster mushrooms or shitake
  • 1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 2 cups shredded kale
  • 1 cup small of diced butternut squash
  • 2 oz white wine
  • 2 cups 35% cream
  • 1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 6 cups cooked bowtie pasta
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds

Directions:

  1. In a large frying pan (big enough for all ingredients) heat butter.
  2. Cook onions, garlic, and diced squash on medium heat until onions are soft and starting to brown.
  3. Add mushrooms and cook on medium for about 5 min.
  4. Add white wine and stir. The wine should clean the bottom of the pan up and incorporate all that goodness.
  5. Add kale, cream, cheese salt, and pepper. Cook till cheese is melted and kale is wilted slightly. (Approx 3 min)
  6. Add pre-cooked noodles and toss together. Cook for another 3 min on medium to re-heat noodles.
  7. Serve and top with toasted almonds and chopped green onions.

Suggested Pairings:

Bel Vino Winery ~ 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – Bold & smooth. This elegant wine has aromas & flavors of blackberry, blueberry & Dried cherry.

Foot Path Winery ~ 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine’s delicious full-body gives it the qualities that makes it so beloved worldwide. This wine can be enjoyed in its youthful stage or when it is aged to perfection.

Lorimar Winery ~ 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – Truly the holy grail of wine, with complexity to spare; perfumes of black plums, medjool dates, root beer leaf and cedar mingled with black peppercorn and the weathered leather of a whip.

Ponte Winery ~ 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Red berry mix aromas and a touch of roasted red pepper, black pepper and a touch of cedar at the finish with graphite.

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Grilled Fish Tacos

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

You can use any kind of fish for these grilled tacos, or shrimp if you prefer. Pacific halibut is lean, with thick flakes, and easy to grill. Offer the salsa separately so lovers of spicy food can add as much as they like, and others can pass. Of course, pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc.

Grilled Fish Tacos

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Scant ½ teaspoon whole cumin seed or ground cumin 
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt 
  • Scant ½ teaspoon paprika 
  • 1 pound skinless Pacific halibut, preferably in 1 piece 
  • Olive oil 
  • 1 heart of romaine, dark green outer leaves removed 
  • 1/3 cup crema (Mexican-style sour cream) or sour cream 
  • Canned chipotle chile en adobo or chipotle hot sauce, optional 
  • 8 corn tortillas 
  • 16 cherry tomatoes 
  • 1 small avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced lengthwise 
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro 
  • Salsa verde, store-bought or homemade 

Directions:

If using whole cumin seed, toast it in a small dry skillet over medium heat until it darkens and becomes fragrant. Let cool, then pound fine in a mortar or grind in a spice grinder. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, salt, and paprika. Brush the fish all over with olive oil, then season with the spice mix. Refrigerate on a plate for 30 minutes. 

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. 

Cut the romaine in half lengthwise, then slice thinly crosswise. Set aside. Put the crema in a small bowl. Whisk in enough cold water to make it thin enough to drizzle. If desired, whisk in finely minced chipotle chile or hot sauce to taste. 

Wrap the corn tortillas in aluminum foil or a clean kitchen towel. Bring an inch of water to a boil over high heat in the bottom of a steamer. Put the tortilla package in the steamer basket, cover, and steam for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  

In a small bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with enough olive oil to coat them lightly. Season with salt. Put them on a small heatproof stainless grill tray or other heatproof baking dish and set on the grill directly over the flame. Cook until the tomatoes are sizzling and lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Set aside. 

Place the halibut on the grill rack and grill without turning until the flesh just flakes, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer to a platter and divide the fish into 8 pieces of roughly equal size. 

To assemble the tacos, put 2 hot tortillas on each of 4 plates. Top each tortilla with some of the shredded romaine, then with a piece of fish. Divide the tomatoes and avocado slices among the tacos. Drizzle crema over the fish, top with cilantro and put a lime wedges on each plate. Serve immediately, passing the salsa verde separately. 

Suggested Pairings:

Briar Rose Winery ~ 2019 Rosé Fume

Frangipani Winery ~ 2019 Sauvignon Blanc

Mount Palomar Winery ~ 2017 Sangiovese Rosé

Vindemia Winery ~ 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Your Guide to the Perfect Temecula Valley Wine Country Picnic

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Picnicking with Wine

While Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country has many different restaurant dining options at wineries as well as in town, it’s also a great place for a casual picnic (over a glass or two of local wine, of course). With gorgeous weather virtually year-round, and plenty of places to grab delicious provisions, it’s time to pack your picnic basket and head out to Southern California’s most picturesque wine region for a perfect al-fresco wining and dining experience. Here’s how.

Step 1.  Pick Your Spot.

You truly can’t go wrong throwing down a blanket at any of the Temecula Wineries that offer grounds for picnicking while in Wine Country. Many wineries also conveniently offer a selection of small bites to purchase with your wine, like snack boxes with cheese, charcuterie, and other wine-friendly nibblies.

Wilson Creek Winery has sprawling grounds with plenty of spots to settle in for a day of sipping, noshing, and relaxing. There’s even a small children’s play structure for an experience that keeps the whole family happy. Longshadow Ranch Vineyard and Winery is also a great place to visit, offering panoramic views of Wine Country in a working farm setting, as well as a friendly cohort of animal pals to meet. Stop in at Maurice Car’rie Winery and grab one of their world-famous baked brie and sourdoughs along with a bottle of their estate grown and produced wine and you have yourself a perfect picnic lunch.

Step 2. Stock Up on Tasty Bites.

Most wineries have something for you to grab on-site to go with your wine, whether it’s a full restaurant meal, a few picnic staples, or local food trucks parked outside. Sangio’s Deli at Cougar Winery is one of our favorites for delicious subs and sandwiches, pizzas and salads, paired perfectly with the wines made primarily from native Italian grapes. Watch the world go by on the patio at Doffo Winery over a cheese and charcuterie plate or a hummus plate featuring their famous housemade chimicurri, prepared daily by Fuego y Sal Catering, while sipping on one of the winery’s many award-winning selections.

If you’d prefer a true Wine Country picnic, stop by Grazing Theory in Temecula and order one of their eye-catching, gourmet charcuterie or veggie lunch boxes that feature lots of local ingredients and artisanal products. Or, grab one of the delicious sandwich selections prepared on bread baked in-house daily from Great Harvest Bread Co. in town for the perfect picnic lunch.

Step 3. Pop a Bottle.

While we always believe that if you like the wine, and you like the food, you have yourself a perfect pairing, there are nevertheless some wines that just seem made for Wine Country picnicking.

Whether you’re celebrating a milestone Wine Country-style, or simply celebrating everyday life, a bottle of bubbly is always a delight. Carter Estate Winery and Thornton Winery offer the valley’s best traditional-method sparkling wines in a range of styles, from brut to sweet, Blanc de Blancs to Blanc de Noirs and everything in between. Sparkling wines are also the perfect pairing for a just about any dish, so sip this festive wine while taking in Vineyard views and enjoying the afternoon breezes Temecula Valley is so famous for. We also love a crisp white or light rose while noshing on picnic fare, especially in the warmer months. Hart Winery produces several crisp, clean, mouth-watering white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, and Arneis that are perfect for sipping at one of their picnic tables in the summer. If you’re feeling pink, grab a bottle of Akash Winery’s Parlez Vous Rosé for a tasty lunch accompaniment. If red wine is more your thing, try something lighter and fruitier, like a bottle of Fazeli Cellar’s Phel Phel, a bright and juicy 100% cinsault, or even something like South Coast Winery’s sparkling Shiraz for something totally different.

Step 4. Strike a Pose.

No picnic is complete without a few selfies or group photos! Showcase you, your family and friends living your best life in Temecula Valley with a photo or two to document the occasion. Don’t forget to tag us at @temeculawines and use the hashtag #DrinkTemecula so we can share in your adventures!

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Mother’s Day in Wine Country

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Akash Winery & Vineyards
VIP Experience with the team from Pretty Paints, Bottle of wine, charcuterie board, and experience by Pretty paints. Must be 21+ to attend.
Saturday, April 8th. Various sessions throughout the day. $125pp. www.akashwinery.com to purchase tickets.

Avensole Winery            
Mother’s Day weekend specials at the Restaurant Saturday & Sunday. Reservations recommended at www.avensolewinery.com/restaurant

Bel Vino Winery
VIP tables available at $150 per table. Seating is for 6 people per table.  Includes VIP seating, 1 bottle of Brut, orange juice to make Mimosas and a flower arrangement to take home.  There is an option to pre-order Grazing Theory Charcuterie Boards. Contact Macey at macey@belvinowinery.com  to reserve a table.  Available tables are limited.

Bella Vista Winery
Guests are welcome to bring food and purchase a glass of wine or a bottle to enjoy in our picnic area.  Free glass of champagne for moms who purchase a tasting.  No reservations required unless party is more than 15 people.  (951) 676-5250. Open from 10 am until 5 pm. 

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Treat Mom to the very best this Mother’s Day with a gourmet dining experience curated by Chef Anthony at Meritage from 10 am to 6 pm. Reservations are required. To make a reservation: www.callawaywinery.com/meritage-restaurant/make-a-reservation/  Wine tasting is available from 11 am to 6 pm. Live music on the Courtyard performed by Jerry Costanzo from 12 to 4.

Cougar Vineyard and Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch, 11-2p 45/40 WC, day of 50/45 WC. Includes Sangria Float, Frittata, Fruit Salad, Coffee and a long stem Pink rose for pre-paid attendees that are Moms.  Call 951.767.8398 or email events@cougarvineyards.com

Europa Village Wineries & Resort
Mother’s Day Gourmet lunch & bubbles. Sunday, May 9 from 12 pm – 3 pm
This Mother’s Day, treat Mom to an exquisite lunch at il Piazza from 12 pm to 3 pm, featuring crave-worthy dishes, unlimited sparkling wine, and live music from Jimmy Patton.
$80-85 per person | $72-76.50 for Société Members (Includes bottomless sparkling wine from 12-2 pm) Kids (10 & under): $30 | $27 Société. Reservations www.europavillage.com
              
Falkner Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch Sunday May 9th from 10 am – 3 pm. Join us for a plated Brunch to celebrate MOM, featuring Prime Rib, Raw Oysters, Crab Benedicts, & many more! Complimentary glass of champagne to guests 21+. www.falknerwinery.com

Longshadow Ranch Winery       
Mother’s Day Music & Brunch. Brunch at 11:00 am by Great Scot BBQ on the Longshadow patio. Reserve your brunch table at www.longshadowranchwinery.com  Music at 1:40 pm by Carlos Reynosa (Native American flutes and guitars)

Lorimar Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch. May 9.  $75/$67.50 WC, Bottomless mimosas, served buffet style to include seafood station, breakfast favorites, rib-eye, salmon and more. For ticket’s, please visit www.lorimarwinery.com

Masia de la Vinya Winery
Brushes & Brut  May 8 at 2:30 – 5PM.  Treat Mom to a relaxing afternoon as she sips on a glass of our NV Brut and creates a Starry Night Sunflower bottle masterpiece. $40 members/$46 Guests. Art supplies and ONE complimentary glass of NV Brut included. https://www.masiadelavinya.com/res-391238/Brushes-Brut-Starry-Night-Sunflower.html

Peltzer Family Cellars
Mother’s Day Brunch under the Mulberry trees on the Farmstead – two seating; 10-12 and 1-3pm. The Crush House will have 50 cent mimosas for the first 50 minutes and $12 mimosas the remainder of the day, photo ops, sweet treats, and live acoustic music. Please visit www.peltzerwinery.com

Vitagliano Vineyards and Winery
Live music from George and Grace from 2-5pm located at the Brook House

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Move Over, Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc is Here and it is a Must-Sip From Temecula Valley

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

National Sauvignon Blanc Day is officially May 7. While we find ourselves asking, “Who creates these ‘days’ anyway?” we love any opportunity to celebrate the grapes that thrive in Temecula Valley’s warm, Mediterranean climate. So, in honor of this deeply important holiday, we sipped through a whole lot of Sauvignon Blanc in order to come up with a round-up of some of our favorites from Southern California’s Wine Country. We also chatted with some Temecula Valley winemakers who shared their thoughts on what makes Sauvignon Blanc so special in the region.

Akash Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $36

Akash Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc

This lush yet refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, produced from 100% estate-grown Akash Vineyards fruit, is sure to win you over with its juicy pineapple, peach nectar, and orange blossom aromas. Warm days and cool nights allow the grape to ripen slowly and evenly, offering crisp natural acidity to perfectly balance the ripe guava and grapefruit flavors. An incredibly versatile white that’s a treat for any occasion.

Europa Village Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, $27

Flintiness and bright acidity balance a lovely richness of body highlighted by yellow apple and white peach. Pairing with grilled fennel crusted oysters or a Wine Country Salad topped with a dollop of creamy Chevre serves to even further enhance the sensory experience this wine delivers.

“Sauvignon Blanc shows its beauty in its diversity,” explains Matt Rice, Director of Tasting Rooms at Europa Village. “A top example from the Loire Valley might show a bracing acidity and flint character where a compatriot from Bordeaux might show creamy pear and a silky soft texture. It is always an excellent choice for Temecula Valley, as the warm days allow the variety to deliver a unique ripeness and rich body. This intertwines perfectly with the bright acidity the grapes attain due to the cool nights made possible by the Rainbow Gap letting in cooling afternoon and evening winds.”

Oak Mountain Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $26

Only 85 cases were produced of this Sauvignon Blanc, which opens with complex aromas of lime leaf, pink grapefruit, green apple, lemon grass, honey-suckle, and wet stone. Refreshing, forward, zesty flavors of lime, lemon, grapefruit, white peach, and passion fruit follow with bright acidity.

South Coast Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $18

South Coast Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Produced from the Musque clone – a hybrid cross of sauvignon blanc and muscat that offers the best characteristics of both varieties – this wine has the floral, spicy nature of Muscat tempered by the grassy, citrus character of Sauvignon Blanc, resulting in a wine that is a cornucopia of flavors and aromas: sweet kiwi and lime, gooseberries, pears, passion fruit and wildflowers. A crisp acidity is delicately laced throughout the wine, giving a zesty, clean finish. Harvested from Carter Estate Vineyards, this wine emulates the Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre and the Menetou-Salon regions of France. 92% is fermented in stainless steel, resulting in a fruit character that is very upfront and clean. The balance was fermented in two-use French oak and that portion was blended back prior to bottling.

“Utilizing a split harvest, where parts of the vineyard block are harvested at different levels of ripeness yields flavors that range from grassy green to tropical ripe,” explains South Coast and Carter Estate Winemaker Jon McPherson. “Also, using different yeast selections and fermentation regimes, we build layers of complexity into the wine which all add up to a Sauvignon Blanc with rich character, depth and dimension.”

Falkner Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $35

This delicious straw-colored wine has wonderful favors of white peach, ripe lime, and floral notes of almond blossom with a nice, lingering finish.  This wine is great for just sipping or enjoying with food, especially as the weather warms.  The wine pairs well with seafood (shellfish in particular), chicken, and cheeses.

“Here at Falkner Winery, we pride ourselves in producing high quality wines from whites to reds. Our Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a premier wine that our wine club members have enjoyed for many years,” says Raymond Murgo, Falker Winery’s Tasting Room Manager. “We feel that Temecula Sauvignon Blanc presents a fresh, aromatic bouquet, with wonderful fruit-forward flavors and a strong, lingering finish.”

Hart Winery 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $28

This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is all estate grown using 65% Musque clone and 35% traditional California clone. Produced using all stainless and no oak, it shows crisp acidity, intense aromatics, citrus, tropical notes, and hints of grass.

Fazeli Cellars 2019 Boland Rooz, Temecula Valley, $30

Fazeli Cellars 2019 Boland Rooz

The Summer Solstice heralds the beginning of the season and the longest day of the year. To commemorate the occasion, Fazeli Cellars has chosen Sauvignon Blanc, harvested from owner BJ Fazeli’s estate vineyards, for its dry, crisp, and refreshing taste to celebrate the hot summer days. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is mouthwateringly fresh, with a nose that is sweetly grassy with a hint of citrus.

“The diurnal temperature swings of hot days and cool nights epitomize what is great about Temecula vineyards,” explains Fazeli Cellars Winemaker Allen Kim. “Often times in the morning when you visit the vineyard, located at an elevation of 1800 feet, the grapes are sitting in a cloud of fog or even above the fog layer. The cold air that comes from the Pacific Ocean just miles away from us allows the grapes to retain important natural acidity as well as cooling down the temperature of the vines. Acid is so important in our Sauvignon Blanc because it gives the vibrancy and life to the wines. We are lucky that following this period of cooling, our days are characterized by great sun exposure that allows the vines to completely dry out and achieve ripeness.”

Wiens Family Cellars 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Riverside County, $26

Wiens Family Cellars 2019 Sauvignon Blanc

This Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of Tropical Fruit, and Fresh Herbs, with Kiwi and Green Melon on the palate, and a refreshingly crisp finish. Additionally, this wine has been aged on the lees (sur lie), giving the finished wine a creamy custard note to help balance the crisp acidity. 

“Depending on when its harvested, Sauvignon Blanc can either be light, with grassy, boxwood, and gooseberry notes, meaning it’s less ripe, or have luscious honey and tropical fruit notes in a riper style,” says Wiens Winemaker, Joe Wiens. “We appreciate both styles of Sauvignon Blanc, so we harvest in two stages.  This allows us to meld the crisp, light character of less ripe fruit, with the tropical guava notes of more ripe fruit, giving us a perfectly balanced, complex Sauvignon Blanc.

Danza del Sol 2018 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Temecula Valley, $34

This fierce white wine is playful and full of zest, bursting with notes of kiwi, green pineapple, and a lingering finish of apple skin shavings and key-lime zest.

“Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite estate varietal we produce for both Danza Del Sol Winery and Masia De la Vinya Winery. At nearly 50 years old, our five acres of vines are still producing very high-quality fruit, and are extremely resilient, surviving the pierce disease outbreak of the 90s, and never succumbing to pests or diseases,” says Justin Knight, Winemaker for Danza Del Sol and Masia de la Vinya Winery. “With great natural acidity and early ripening time in the season, the options are endless. I’ve made several different styles including a grassy yet elegant New Zealand style; a tropical, more robust new-world style; and even late harvest dessert wines utilizing our Sauvignon Blanc. The versatility speaks to the Temecula Valley as a whole and the great environment we are lucky to have.”

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Five Fun Facts About Late Harvest Wine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Late harvest vines

Many wine-lovers have yet to discover how delicious a late harvest wine can taste – especially when paired with cheese and honey, chocolate or a fruit-based dessert.

The perfect sweet dessert wine for Valentine’s day, late harvest wine is simple to understand and easy to find here in Temecula Valley!

Here are five fun facts about late harvest wine!

Facts courtesy of Wikipedia
  1. “Late harvest” refers to wines made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual and picked later than normal. Late harvest grapes are often more similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated while still on the vine.
  2. Late harvest wines are made around the world with almost every grape imaginable. Grapes like zinfandel and riesling are ideally suited to produce late harvest wine and are among the most popular.
  3. Grapes used for late harvest wines go through their full growth cycle and then some – becoming super sweet and losing acidity as they ripen.
  4. “Noble rot” is the term for the edible mold that causes grapes to lose nearly all of their water content. This natural process begins to take place in late September and can last until late October.
  5. Late harvest grapes are often hand-picked. Sometimes, the usable grapes from one vine may only produce enough juice for a single glass.

Looking for a great bottle of Temecula Valley Late Harvest Wine?  Check these wines out!

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A Heartfelt Thank You

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Dearest Friends of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country,

As we enter 2021, we find ourselves reflecting on the challenges the past year has presented us with, and how we have gotten through them, together. And, as we enter another lockdown period, we continue to marvel at just how resilient our community is.  

We know the ups and downs of business closures and re-openings have been tough on everyone. This includes not only our local businesses, but also you, our customers, who have had to keep up with ever-changing news and requirements surrounding your ability to enjoy leisure activities like visiting wine country and getting together with loved ones over a glass or two of Temecula Valley wines. 

While our businesses may not be open for on-site wine consumption right now, there are still ways you can experience Wine Country. Not only will doing so hopefully allow you to stay engaged with your favorite wineries and winemakers, but it will also provide much-needed support to local businesses during these uncertain times. Here are a few ways you can continue to enjoy all that Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country has to offer: 

1) Shop for some of your favorite sips. Temecula Valley wineries are still open for curbside pick-up and bottle sales! Most wineries ship direct, and many are offering free local deliveries, as well as great specials on individual bottles, gift packs, and shipping rates at the moment, so take advantage. Wine makes an excellent holiday gift. 

2) Get creative with wine tasting! Temecula Valley wineries are regularly hosting live virtual wine tastings and “meet the winemaker” sessions. Stock up on a few bottles and join in the conversation. This will help you feel connected AND teach you the art of wine tasting. Host your own with your friends online if you’re up for it! You can even reach out to your favorite wineries to get advice on how to do this; who knows, they may even want to collaborate with you on it!

3) SHARE…virtually. Again, small businesses need your help right now more than ever. With all of the at-home wine tasting you are doing, don’t forget to post your thoughts online! Share your tasting notes, wine photos, and impressions on social media, being sure to tag wineries and regions. These businesses will appreciate it.

4) Review. Now is the time to write all those Yelp, Facebook, and Google reviews you swore you were going to do after all of those positive customer service experiences you had not too long ago.

5) Reach out. Send a message of support to your favorite winery, tasting room staff, or winemaker letting them know you appreciate them, and asking how you can help. This is a small gesture that goes a long way right now. Your support – whether it was maintaining your wine club membership, joining us for virtual tastings, ordering wines online or over the phone, engaging with us on social media, or simply reaching out to say hi – has been vital to our wine community.

We cannot thank you enough for your ongoing loyalty to our wineries and the Temecula Valley region in general, and we cannot wait to see your smiling faces back in our tasting rooms and restaurants hopefully very soon. 

Fondly,
Your friends at the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association 

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WINE MEETS CHEESE

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Wine Meets Cheese

This holiday season, up your cheese board game with these expert suggestions for pairings with some of our region’s most popular wines. Not sure what cheeses play well with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon? Now you know.

CHARDONNAY

  • Triple-cream cheese: These cream-enriched, high-fat cow’s milk cheeses have a texture like whipped frosting and a luxurious richness that work well with Chardonnay’s plush, rounded mouthfeel.
  • Brie: This semisoft cow’s milk cheese has a buttery, spreadable texture and mushroom scent. A velvety Chardonnay complements that supple, spreadable interior and the Brie doesn’t overwhelm the wine.
  • Monterey Jack: California’s iconic table cheese is mild, mellow, and a great melter. Try it on a grilled cheese sandwich with a glass of Chardonnay. The wine’s acidity and minerality help balance the buttery sandwich.


Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery – 2018 Winemaker Reserve Chardonnay ~ The 2018 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay is silky on the pallet with flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and hints of honeysuckle. Floral scents and an oaky finish will leave you longing for more. 

Oak Mountain Winery – 2019 Chardonnay ~ You can pick up apple, pineapple, honey, vanilla, and roasted flavors that really fill the mouth. This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, crème brulee and caramel. Pairs with roast chicken.

Ponte Winery – 2018 Chardonnay ~ A lively, fresh white wine with delicious Fuji apple and allspice notes. Let the lush mouthfeel & minerality on the finish whisk you away sip after sip.

ZINFANDEL

  • Hot pepper jack: An everyday cheese with some sass and spice makes a fun pairing for a peppery Zinfandel. Make quesadillas or mac-and-cheese with hot pepper jack, and Zinfandel will be just the right lively match.
  • Aged Gouda: Matured for six months or more, cow’s milk Gouda develops butterscotch aromas and a salted-caramel flavor (although the cheese doesn’t have a speck of sugar). A powerful Zinfandel with its ripe blackberry jam scent has the strength for that seeming sweetness.
  • Smoked Cheddar: Put a lightly smoked Cheddar on a charcuterie or antipasto platter and open a fruity, medium-weight Zinfandel. Give the wine a quick chill—maybe 15 minutes in the fridge—to brighten its fruity notes and make it a refreshing counterpoint to the smoky Cheddar.

    Suggested Pairings:

    Doffo Winery – 2017 Zinfandel ~ This Zinfandel is sure to delight the senses with aromas of plum, raspberry, figs, and cherries. The balanced acidity and voluminous mouthfeel leave a long lasting finish.

    Hart Winery – 2017 Zinfandel ~ This deliciously complex wine is illustrative of the quality attainable from a well-farmed young vineyard. Less spicy, jammy and lower in alcohol than a Northern California Zin, this wine is remini-cent of its first cousin Primitivo and is a fine complement a variety of dishes. 

    Lorenzi Estate Vineyards & Winery – 2015 Zinfandel ~  There is a seamless transition from the front to mid to finish on this wine. The finish is so clean, holding on to the dried fruit elements to the end and nothing is out of balance. It’s pure joy to drink this wine.


CABERNET SAUVIGNON

  • Camembert: Similar to Brie but smaller, Camembert is the perfect size for four people to share with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. A ripe Camembert has a big beefy aroma, with notes of mushroom and garlic. It can stand up to the deep flavor and tannic strength of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Cheddar: An aged Cheddar has a creamy-yet-crumbly texture, layers of flavor that unfold slowly, and a vivid tang. Seek out a clothbound (also known as bandage-wrapped) Cheddar for maximum complexity and compatibility with a fine California Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Dry jack: The extra-aged version of a Monterey jack is firm, complex, and deeply nutty. It needs a concentrated red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon to match it in strength.


Suggested Pairings:

Baily Winery – 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ~  This Cabernet offers warm, rich tones with subtle, herbaceous qualities and a hint of mint. 

Leoness Cellars – 2017 Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Inviting aromas of black currant and boysenberry fruit layered with subtle notes of vanilla, black licorice, olive and sweet oak leading into a lingering finish.

Masia de la Vinya – 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Rose petals, baked cherry pie, slight bite of white pepper.

Content and photo courtesy of The Wine Institute of California.

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Your 2020 (and beyond) Temecula Valley Holiday Wine Guide

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Holiday Wines to Pair or Share

If there has ever been a year that has called for wine, 2020 is that year. And, since the holidays may look a little bit different to many of us this season, we’re all probably going to need a tad more adult grape juice over the next month or so.

In Temecula Valley, we enjoy a warm, Mediterranean climate that offers long, sunny days followed by afternoon breezes and cool, crisp nights; these conditions are ideal for ripening grapes while retaining balance and acidity. As a result, we are able to produce a wide range of wines from dozens of different grape varieties – plenty of which are absolutely perfect for holiday sipping and gift-giving (if you can part with your bottles). Here are a few of our favorites this season.

When the situation calls for bubbles:

As far as we’re concerned, bubbles are always in order. This year, toast the little things in life that we all seem to have come to appreciate so much more in 2020, like finally getting around to cleaning out that hall closet; or your third-grader nailing their virtual book report; or whipping up your very first homemade loaf of bread. Who needs a wedding or a birth announcement when we’ve got these everyday triumphs all around us?

Temecula Valley produces some truly wonderful sparkling wines in a range of styles from sweet to bone dry. Many Temecula Valley sparklers are even made in the “méthode traditionnelle” or Champagne method, where the wine undergoes secondary fermentation (the one that gives the wine its bubbles) in the bottle, and spends a long time on its “lees” – the little yeasty cells that give traditional method sparkling wines those unmistakable and delicious toasty, brioche-like aromas.

A few to try:

Carter Estate Winery Blanc de Noir, $35

South Coast Winery Vineyard Rose Sparkling Rosé NV, $20

Oak Mountain Winery Sparkling Pinotage NV, $34

Thornton Winery Cuvée de Frontignan NV, $39

Rosé ALWAYS

Rosé isn’t just a summer sipper! It’s a wonderfully versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of different foods, like colorful charcuterie platters, savory salads, fish and light meats. Temecula Valley is home to a growing number of delicious rosé wines in a whole spectrum of hues from pale salmon to bright magenta, and flavors from dry and crisp to sweet and cheerful. Rosé is also a great in-between wine when you can’t agree on whether to drink white or red (Let’s face it. Who hasn’t had that argument with their spouse or significant other?).

A few to try:

Akash Winery 2019 Parlez-Vous Rosé, $35

Hart Winery 2019 Grenache Rosé, $22

Robert Renzoni Vineyards 2019 Lyric Rose, $29

Avensole 2018 Brooke Rosé of Merlot, $26

Food Friendly Favorites

One thing is for certain over the holidays, regardless of whether or not you are traveling or getting together with friends and family: there will be lots of eating. Consider December your last hurrah before those New Year’s resolutions rear their ugly heads and you feel compelled to cut carbs, hit the gym or – gasp! – embrace the whole “Dry January” movement. In the spirit of indulgence, make sure you have a selection of wines on hand that pair with a wide variety of holiday dishes. Choose a quaffable white and a juicy, versatile red that will complement rather than overpower the inevitable smorgasbord that lies ahead this month. Save the heady stuff for sipping solo after the last dish has been washed and put away, and you finally have a few minutes to yourself to lounge by the fire.

A few to try:

Danza del Sol Winery 2019 Albariño, $32

Wiens Family Cellars 2019 Chardonnay, $34

Miramonte 2017 Tempranillo, $50

Wilson Creek 2019 Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel Blend, $21

When it’s time to open something special

If there is one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that nothing is for certain. If you have been sitting on those special bottles of wine you have collected over the years, and are waiting for the right occasion to open them, now is the time. Few things scream “self-care” like curling up on the couch by the fire with your partner or a great new TV series and a bottle of something totally over the top. You deserve it after everything 2020 has thrown at you.  

A few to try:

Ponte 2018 Chardonnay Reserve, $50

Doffo Winery 2017 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $89

Lorenzi Estate 2014 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $225

Leoness Cellars 2017 Signature Series Meritage, $100

When you’ve got a sweet tooth

Why just have dessert when you can have dessert paired with a small glass of dessert wine? There are many wineries in Temecula Valley that are producing some interesting and truly impressive sweet tipples. Sip these alongside something decadent like a chocolate tarte or a winter cheese course with all the fixings, like nuts, candied fruits, preserves, and sweet breads. Or just pour a taste of the luscious nectar, retire to the living room, and see above regarding self-care.

A few to try

Callaway Winery 2017 Late Harvest Chardonnay, $35

Europa Village Bolero Cellars 2004 Tesoro del Sol, $40

Fazeli Cellars 2013 “Rumi” 100% Cinsault Dessert Wine, $95

Monte de Oro 2008 Forty85 Dessert Wine, $65

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Winter in Wine Country

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Winter in the Vines

So, what exactly goes on in the vineyards when it’s winter time?  The annual growth cycle of Temecula Valley’s grapevines consummates in autumn with leaf fall followed by vine dormancy. After harvest, typically August-October in Temecula, the vine’s roots and trunk are busy storing carbohydrate reserves produced by photosynthesis in their leaves. Once the level of carbohydrates needed by the vine is reached, the leaves change from green to yellow and start to fall off the vines. Usually after the first frost, the vine enters its winter dormancy period. During this time, winemakers get a break from the bulk of their farm work as the vines sleep and start to prepare for the next wine season.

During this dormant period, according to Wiens Family Cellars winemaker Joe Wiens, the vines don’t need a lot of attention. Wiens puts on a little water to keep the roots moist and let them sleep. “We get to breathe a sigh of relief after the long hours of crush but have plenty of other things to keep us busy” says Wiens. Blending, barrel work, and bottling, in addition to brushing up on wine knowledge, new techniques, and attending winemaking seminars to continually improve are some of the things that keep him busy.

Nick Palumbo, winemaker and owner of Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery shares: “Winter time is busy! The good news is it gets cold here in Temecula, so the vines go into dormancy and that gives us a chance to get caught up in the cellar after a long harvest season. That means topping barrels, assessing previous vintages and getting ready for bottling as well as general maintenance. Mulching is done if needed and pruning all needs to be done just after the holidays. Weed and pest control (gophers etc) as well as going through the irrigation system and getting that dialed in for the spring are all on the to do list. We also don’t forget to prep for much needed rain events. We need to make sure if and when we do get rain, it doesn’t erode our soils and farm roads. Winter is a good time for winemakers to take off the cellar boots, put on the farm boots, and get out in the quiet cold mornings alone and start making next years wine which will be hanging on the vines sooner than we think.”

Additionally, our winemakers stay stay busy during winter processing wines from the recent harvest. This includes filtration, cold stabilizing, racking, and placing wine into barrels. In essence, there is no downtime in winemaking. The winemakers are always processing wine from the previous harvest and preparing for the upcoming bottling season. As far as vineyard maintenance goes, many of our winemakers agree that patience is key; waiting for the vines to go dormant and then pruning them back. Temecula’s winter keeps the vines asleep only as long as necessary and ensures a longer period of time to mature the clusters during the growing season.

With all the activity in the valley during the winter, a visit to Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is an entertaining winter option. Some wineries offer behind the scenes tours where guests can see some of the winter viticulture and winemaking processes happen in person. While visiting, guests can stay at one of the many local inns, hotels, or resorts.

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