It’s the Most Wonderful Time – and Wine – of the Year
How Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country celebrates the holiday season
(Some of it might surprise you!)
Regardless of how you celebrate them, the holidays are a time of tradition. Whether you’re sipping something special while trimming your Christmas Tree, popping a bottle of bubbly to pair with your latkes during Chanukah (a seriously delicious pairing, by the way), or simply sitting on the couch with your favorite rustic red while watching everyone else prepare for the holiday season, chances are you and your family and friends do something year after year that makes the holiday season memorable for you.
Nowhere is the sense of tradition more prominent than in Wine Country. We had a blast catching up with some of our favorite winery personalities to find out how they celebrate the holidays, what special meals and libations are on their tables this time of year, and what unique rituals and traditions they practice with their friends and families.
For Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations at Akash Winery, it’s all about the perfect seasonal pairing, which, in this case, is Seafood and Champagne by the pool while playing backyard Cricket with her Australian family. Sound chilly? Thankfully, Australia is in the middle of Summer during our Winter months.
A love of wine clearly runs in the family for Danza del Sol and Masia de la Vinya winemaker Justin Knight, who takes advantage of them all being together during the holidays to fine tune their tasting skills. “For the past few years, we have done a blind tasting of red wines (usually 5-6 different varietals from different regions), ranging from a very modest price – gradually getting to a what I would consider an expensive bottle,” he explains. “Then everyone tastes the wines and rates them at their own pace. Of course, some Temecula wines are included. Then we do the big reveal. It makes for a fun time!”
After enjoying their typical holiday meal of Prime Rib and Cabernet Sauvignon, Steve Thornton of Thornton Winery has a similar tradition in his home. “We all get together and play games,” he says. “Once the kids go to sleep, we pull out a bunch of local wines and vote on which one is the best. Whoever wins takes the wine home – if any is left.”
Walter Carter, Director of Hospitality for Danza del Sol Winery, stumbled upon a perfect pairing for an unconventional holiday meal, and never looked back. “Our first holiday together, my wife and I wanted to do something non-traditional, so we decided to make ribs as the main protein and we paired it with a Danza del sol Syrah,” he shares. “It was delicious! So now every year we make ribs and try to discover a new Syrah to pair with it. It’s one of the things I look forward to most every year.” Thankfully, Temecula Valley just so happens to be great region for world class Syrah.
Akash winemaker Renato Saís also appreciates a good Syrah this time of year, pairing it with roast turkey and menudo, a spicy Mexican tripe stew, in a tradition that was passed down from his mom and his “Jefecita,” or “little chief” – AKA his grandma.
Temecula Valley Brand Marketing Partner Devin Parr has one of the most bizarre traditions we’ve heard of. Rather than stuffing traditional stockings hung over the fireplace, she and her family stuff nylon pantyhose – both legs! – full of presents. “I have no idea how this started, but we have been stuffing pantyhose for generations in our family,” she explains. “As I kid, I could think of nothing more exciting – or occasionally terrifying if you forgot it was Christmas – than seeing this giant, stuffed half-body lying on the floor full of presents on Christmas morning. My husband eventually joined in the tradition, and now he puts a fantastic bottle of wine in the toe of each leg of my stocking. Don’t tell Santa.”
Oak Mountain Winery owner Val Andrews celebrates more than just Christmas over the holidays. Her family’s festivities kick off on December 24, which is also her birthday. “We get treated every year to our friends’ winter wonderland house for a dinner that includes smoked rack of lamb and twice baked potatoes paired with a bottle of Oak Mountain Pinotage,” she says. “For Christmas, we start with family breakfast, which rolls into a lunch of cold cuts, sandwiches, and a snack with some Sparkling Brut from Oak Mountain. Dinner will be a 5-hour smoked pork crown roast and smoked baby potatoes in garlic and rosemary paired with our Tempranillo.”
For Christine Foote of Foot Path Winery, it’s all about girl power over the holidays. She has two sisters, who each have a daughter. Every year for the past sixteen years, they have done a Sister-Daughter outing. This year, they plan to travel to Texas to welcome the newest addition – Alana – to the family. Of course, a ready supply of Foot Path wine has already been sent out to Texas, so all are ready to properly toast the inauguration of Christine’s first grandchild into this touching tradition. “We do this to honor our mom,” says Christine. “The Christmas of 1995, we all went to see a ballet and then for lunch. That following April, mom passed away at age 68. So, we decided to revise the event.”
Whatever your family tradition is this holiday season, we hope you spend it surrounded by love, laughter, and, of course, a healthy dose of Temecula Valley wine.