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Fun Facts About Merlot

December 19th, 2018

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!*

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 wines out!

Falkner Winery 2015 Merlot ~ This wonderful Merlot is deep in color and abundant in flavor. Enjoy the dark cherry, blueberry, and herbaceous notes with an elegant and smooth finish. 

Leoness Cellars 2012 Vineyard Selection Merlot ~ Concentrated layers of black currant and black cherry complemented by earthy aromas typical of this vineyard. Subtle nuances of tobacco and vanilla develop through a long, velvety finish. 

Mount Palomar Winery 2012 BOV (Best of Vintage) Merlot ~ The scents are of Cherry, plum, and cola. The tastes are of sour cherry, lavender, and dark chocolate, with a touch of black pepper.

*Sourced from Snooth/Wikipedia 

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Wine Country Recipe ~ Dungeness Crab Frittata

December 19th, 2018

Slice this frittata into thin wedges for a passed hors d’oeuvre or serve more generous portions with a tuft of salad as a first course. To dress it up for the holidays, top wedges with a dollop of crème fraîche and California sturgeon caviar. Serve with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay or Sparkling Wine.

Serves 6

Ingredients
½ pound (250 g) fingerling potatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
6 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives
¼ pound fresh Dungeness crabmeat

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Put the potatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, season with salt, and turn to coat with the oil and salt. Bake until tender when pierced, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then slice into ½-inch (12 mm) pieces. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with ½ teaspoon salt, several grinds of pepper, and the dill and chives. Stir in the crabmeat and potatoes, reserving a few larger pieces of crab for placing on the surface of the frittata later.

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the egg mixture and use a rubber spatula to distribute the crab and potato evenly. Cook without stirring for about 2 minutes, until the eggs begin to set, then place the reserved chunks of crabmeat on top. Continue cooking without stirring until the frittata is about two-thirds set, with some patches of liquid egg on the surface. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the surface is firm to the touch, about 6 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven and slide the frittata onto a cutting board. Let rest at least 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped dill, then slice into wedges and serve. The frittata is best warm, not hot.

Suggested Pairings: 

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2016 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay
Flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and hints of honeysuckle. Floral scents and an oaky finish will leave you longing for more. 

Oak Mountain 2017 Chardonnay ~ This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, creme brulee and caramel.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa Brut Sparkling ~ Crisp acidity and delicate yeastiness are enveloped in a rich tropical fruit aroma. A perfect change of pace!

Wilson Creek Winery Brut Sparkling Wine ~ Light and refreshing, and very fun. Great in Mimosas! A fun party sparkling wine.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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December Winery Events

November 30th, 2018

Avensole Winery
Hosted Tour & Wine Tasting /Available on Sunday of each the month / 2pm-3:30pm / For every adventure, there is discovery, for every unique place, there is a story. Take a guided journey through our lush vineyards and experience our rich heritage and handcrafted Avensole wines / Cost. $35 / Reservations required. Please call 951.252.2003 x312 to reserve.

Gourmet Cheese Artisanal Tour & Wine Tasting / Available on Friday of each month / 12pm / For the ultimate Wine Country experience, delight in an educational tour through our picturesque vineyard vistas and conclude this tour with a culinary treat of artisanal wine pairings featuring 7 Avensole wines / Cost: $75 / Reservations required online at link: http://www.avensolewinery.com/res-369934

Baily Winery
Estate Library Tasting / Every Thursday-Sunday / Available 11am-4pm / Enjoy exclusive library tasting of 5 different vintages (varietal will vary monthly). Tasting will take place at Baily Estate Tasting Room located on Pauba Road / Tours are available upon request / For reservations and pricing information please call Lisa at 951-972-9768

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Tree Lighting Celebration / December 14 / 5:00-9:00pm / Our Annual Barrel Tree Lighting Celebration is just around the corner! Bring the kids and family to meet Santa and enjoy cookie decorating, a hot chocolate bar, Christmas Carolers, discounts on wine, gifts and so much more! Come experience the magic of Christmas in wine country at Callaway Winery! /R.S.V.P. to (951) 676-4001. Free Admission.

Prix Fixe Friday & Sunday at Meritage / 5pm to 8pm / For $35 guests may enjoy a starter, an entrée and a dessert / Live Music offered on Friday nights / Reservation is not necessary. For menu information call 951.587.8889

Brunch Specials every Sunday at Meritage / 11am / Cost is $25 / Includes a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice, entrée and dessert. All food from Meritage is farm-to-table, either grown on property in restaurant garden or locally outsourced.

Callaway Winery Tours offered daily / 11am and 1pm / Tour only, $10 per person. Tour with tasting, $25 – tour includes 1 tank sample, 1-barrel sample and 4 additional tastes at the Tasting Bar / Reservations not necessary, but for 10 or more highly recommended / For more information call 951.676.4001

Carter Estate Winery and Resort
Elegant Food & Wine Pairing / $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member / 1pm & 3pm Monday-Sunday / Reserve your place for an indulgent wine and food pairing designed to tantalize the senses. Guests enjoy five specially selected Carter Estate Winery wines paired perfectly with a variety of cured meats, artisan cheeses and accompanied with seasonal accoutrements. Each pairing lasts approximately 90 minutes and is limited to just eight participants to allow for one-on-one interaction / Reservations recommended – Book a pairing on CarterEstateWinery.com

Falkner Winery
Wine Appreciation Class / December 15 / 10am -12:30pm / Designated for all levels of wine knowledge; $45/person /$40 Connoisseur/ $20 VIP; $70/person with lunch option. RSVP’s required 951-676-8231 x.109 or wineclub@falknerwinery.com

Sip N Paint Class “Personalized Ornaments” / December 20 / 6pm-8pm / $35 per person; $30 for members / Includes all materials. Wines available for purchase by glass or bottle.  Members do receive applicable discounts / Reservations are required online @Artfusionbdk.myshopify.com

Fazeli Cellars
Salsa Night
/ December 21 / Doors Open at 6:30 with 45-minute Salsa Lesson / No partner or experience needed! Admission fee is $20 for non-members (plus tax) and $15 (plus tax) for wine club members includes a glass of Sangria / Special Food Menu Items! Wine, Beer, Sangria available for purchase! /Purchase Tickets Here: http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-390887/Salsa-Night-111618.html

New Year’s Eve Party “An Evening in Casablanca” / December 31 /$120 Non-Members | $100 Members / Includes: Champagne Greeting, 3 Course Dinner & Live Music, DJ, Dancing, Casino and a Champagne Toast at Midnight. Wine & Beer Available for purchase / Purchase Tickets Here: http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-390943/New-Years-Eve-2018.html

Leoness Cellars
Winemaker Dinner / December 6 / 6:00pm – 10:00pm / $95 Members; $115 Non-Members, plus tax / VIP seating with owners, Mike and Lisa Rennie, in the Winder Room. $150 plus tax, no discounts. Only 16 seats available Enjoy a four course, wine-paired Winemaker’s Dinner hosted by Leoness Cellars winemaker, Tim Kramer and Executive Chef, Daragh Matheson. Sparkling wine reception under the Oak Tree and dinner following in The Restaurant at Leoness / Seating is limited / Reservations and tickets available by calling (951) 302-7601 ext.2

Lorimar Vineyard & Winery
Tree Lighting / December 2 / 5pm – 8pm / Kick off the holiday season off at Lorimar Winery with Santa, Cookies, and more! Free to enjoy but RSVP is requested by visiting us at https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408801/Tree-Lighting.html

Smoke & Vine: An Evening of Cigars and Wine / December 7 / 7:00p / Tickets: $85.00 ($76.50 Wine Club) Join us for a relaxing evening on the Vineyard Lawn; including four course dinner from Chef Jorge, paired with cigars from Casa Lovo, and Lorimar award-winning wines / For reservations please go to: https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408695/Smoke-Vine-An-Evening-Of-Cigars-And-Wine.html

Hanukkah / December 9 / 5pm – 8pm / Celebrate Hanukkah at Lorimar Winery with a Menorah Lighting, Latkes, and more! / Free to enjoy but RSVP is requested by visiting us at https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408802/Hanukkah.html

Sunday Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 11am –3 pm / $35 Adult / $31.50 WC / $15 (Ages 4-12) / Brunch includes one mimosa or glass of beer for ages 21+ / To Make a Reservation – https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408083/Sunday-Brunch.html

Mount Palomar Winery
Paint Nite at Mount Palomar Winery / December 2, 9, 15 / 1:00p-3:00p / Tickets $45; Use the coupon code CREATE30 to save $15! / Raise your glass to a NEW kind of night out! Paint Nite® invites you to create art over a glass of wine at a Mount Palomar Winery, guided by a professional artist and party host. Grab your friends and spend two hours drinking, laughing, and flexing your creative muscles. There’s no experience necessary and we’ll provide all the supplies, so you don’t have to worry about a thing (except having a great time!) / For reservations: https://www.paintnite.com/venues/mt-palomar-winery-133232

Peltzer Family Cellars
Peltzer Ice Rink / Open daily now through January 6th / 3pm-9pm / Ice Rink Bar Open Friday through Sunday 4-8:40pm / The farm is freezing over, y’all! For the first time ever Peltzer Farms will be featuring a full on Ice Rink! Ice Rink will be closed if it’s raining, for safety reasons. Ice Rink may be closed on specific dates based on private events. Admission (includes a pair of skates) General Admission $15; Kids 5 and under (with paid general admission) $11; Crush Club (wine club) members get $2 off admission prices. Admission (if you bring your own skates) General Admission $13; Kids 5 and under (with paid general admission) $9.

Ponte Winery
Happy Hour in The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn / Every Monday-Thursday / 4pm-6pm / Free to attend / Head to Temecula Wine Country’s only cocktail bar, The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn, for happy hour specials on craft beer, flatbreads, Ponte wine on tap and more! Menu items $6 and up / For more information please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com

Brunch at Bouquet Restaurant / Every Saturday & Sunday / 7:30am-3:00pm / Offering indoor & outdoor seating options, Bouquet is the perfect spot to gather for a gourmet brunch. Enjoy a relaxing ambiance with stunning fountain courtyard, pond & vineyards views / To view menu and for reservations please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
Christmas at The Vineyard Rose / December 24th – Tuesday, December 25th / Brunch: 8:00am – 3:30pm | Dinner: 5:00pm – 9:00pm /Celebrate Christmas at The Vineyard Rose Restaurant with Christmas Day brunch and Christmas Eve & Christmas Day dinner / Reservations are required. Make a reservation at SouthCoastWinery.com

Harmonizing Hatha at the Grapeseed Spa / Every Mondays & Wednesdays / 9:00am – 10:00am This unique class enables you to find balance of body and mind. With gentle stretching, focused breathing and meditation, your instructor will take you on a journey through your personal chakras resulting in a mind and body that are more fluid and at ease / 4 people or more | $35 per person, 3 people or less | $65 per person / Spa Members | $16 per person / Reservation Information: Call 877.552.1731 to book your class.

Behind the Scenes Wine Tours / Tours are held daily at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3PM, Monday through Sunday/ $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member or Military / Learn more about our spectacular Southern California Temecula winery with a behind-the-scenes wine tour, from vineyards to crush pad. Each tour concludes with 5 wines paired with an individual plate of specially prepared lite-bite foods, designed to enhance your wine knowledge and experience / Reservation Information: Call 866-994-6379 Ext. 7217 to reserve your spot today / Due to the limited sizes of each tour, reservations are required with prepayment, and are non-refundable. Guests must be over 21 years of age to attend.

Wiens Family Cellars

New Year’s Eve 2018 Celebration / December 31 / 7pm-12:30am / $125 per guest / Join us this New Year’s Eve for our NYE dinner party! Enjoy a seated dinner followed by hours of DJ dancing to send the year 2018 off in style / For reservations please visit http://www.wienscellars.com/res-411819/New-Years-Eve-Celebration-2018.html

Wilson Creek Winery

New Year’s Eve Party / December 31 / 8 pm – 12:30 am/ Price: $150 / Wine Club $135 / Enjoy a 3-course food and wine-paired dinner with live music, a Dance Party with DJ, and a Late-Night Dessert Bar! Party Favors and an All-Night Bar included! Plan your last night of 2018, today!  / Purchase tickets: https://shop.wilsoncreekwinery.com/RESERVE.AMS

Bubble Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 10am-3pm / $51.95, Buffet only: $41.95, Children: $16.95 / Enjoy all your breakfast favorites, omelet stations, waffle stations, seafood stations, carving stations and dessert stations with beautiful vineyard views / Buffet (+ unlimited sparkling). Now serving Bloody Mary’s! / Reservations can be made at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or call 951.699.9463 for additional information.

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In Memoriam ~ Ben Drake

November 21st, 2018

We were deeply saddened to hear that our dear friend and colleague, Ben Drake passed away on November 7, 2018 after a courageous two year battle with cancer.

Ben was a fifth generation farmer in Riverside County and a resident of Temecula since 1973. Ben founded Drake Enterprises, Inc., a farm management company 40 years ago. They currently manage 750 acres of avocados and 450 acres of winegrapes in the Temecula Valley.

Ben accomplished much in his professional career including being a long-time Board member and President of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, President of the Rancho California Water District Board of Directors, Past Chairman of California Association of Winegrape Growers and Past President of Riverside County Farm Bureau just to name a few.

“It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Ben’s contributions to the success of Temecula Valley Wine Country,” said Krista Chaich, Executive Director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. “He was a tremendous leader and an ardent supporter of our wine region. Most notably, his leadership and guidance were never more apparent than when our winegrape growers were faced with the devastating loss of vineyards due to Pierce’s Disease, a bacterial infection that nearly wiped out our wine country. Ben called upon the State of California to assist in the fight against Pierce’s Disease through significant funding and helped to set up task forces and treatment and research programs. Many of us believe that had it not been for Ben’s efforts, our wine country wouldn’t be the thriving and award-winning wine region that it is today.”

“Ben served on our Board of Directors for several years and as the Board President from 2014 through 2016. During this time, he fiercely protected both our winery owners and wine grape growers and consistently put the best interests of our entire wine region first. It’s hard to imagine a world without Ben Drake. We’ll not soon forget his big, infectious laugh and his endearing gruffness. His loss will be felt for many years to come.”

Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association Board President, Danny Martin said “This valley owes him a lot. Everyone respected Ben Drake. He was opinionated but principled and everyone respected that about him. But more than that, Ben was just a wonderful person and he will be greatly missed.”

Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards Chief Executive Officer Bill Wilson admired Drake’s commitment to quality wines in Temecula.

“His tenacity and passion to encourage, if not demand, that everyone in the Temecula Valley do whatever it takes to grow the best wine grapes possible and make world-class wines from them,” Wilson said. “His legacy to that end will live on and within the next generation of winegrowers for many years to come!”

Ben is survived by Sharon, his wife of 43 years, four children and five grandchildren.

The California Association of Winegrape Growers has set up a scholarship in Ben’s name. Contributions can be made to: CAWG Foundation, 1121 L Street, Ste 304, Sacramento, CA 95814. Please indicate that the contribution is for the Ben Drake Scholarship Fund.

Read Ben’s full obituary here

 

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Temecula Valley Sparkling Wines for the Holidays

November 21st, 2018

As the holiday season approaches, wine lovers will be searching for wines that complement holiday dinners and can please a wide array of palates. Whether it’s a small gathering or a large soiree, Temecula Valley sparkling wines offer something for every wine personality. Sparkling wines are ideal for special occasions, and as the holidays approach, we’ve asked our winemakers which are their favorites that will work well for holiday entertaining and gift-giving.

Thornton Non-Vintage Brut

A blend of primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which gives the wine an exciting, crisp fruit character while taking on a clean and straight forward yeast flavor from the lengthy tirage time of 28 months using the méthode champenoise process. The addition of a small amount of Pinot Noir helps to round out the wine, giving it complexity and uniting the white varietals. The Thornton NV Brut has a lot of finesse along with apple, pear and tropical aromas, which meld with toasty yeast flavors, while the finish is long and creamy. $33 Bottle

South Coast Winery Sparkling Pinot Grigio

This sparkling Pinot Grigio is worlds apart from what is normally expected with this style of dry white wine. Finished as a “Brut” this is a Pinot Grigio with wonderful nuances of pears and apples, a touch of tropical fruitiness and crisp acidity. “Whenever toasting a special occasion, serve this wonderful sparkler and let the good times roll!” says winemaker Jon McPherson. $24 Bottle

Carter Estate 2014 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling

This product has been painstakingly nurtured to deliver a sparkling wine with the finesse, flavor and aroma of a fine méthode champenoise sparkling wine. The process included barrel fermentation and barrel aging of approximately 8% of the cuvee prior to the secondary fermentation. Once the Blanc de Blanc had been blended and undergone secondary fermentation, it was aged for an additional fifteen months on the yeast lees. This time on the yeast lees helped to develop the yeasty, toasty aromas, a very fine bubble bead, wonderfully full creamy textures and an extraordinary mousse. The bottle is brimming with fresh apple and delicate floral aromas; a hint of oak shows in the background with a nuance of vanilla, toasty cookie and a rich yeasty character. This wine has a very bright acidity and a refreshingly dry finish. “Definitely our finest sparkling release to date,” states winemaker Jon McPherson. $34 Bottle

Cougar Dolce

100% Estate Malvasia Bianca sparkling wine. Sweet, Muscat-like with notes of apricot, peaches and honey, for the taste buds that like more of a dessert flavor.

Oak Mountain Winery Raspberry Sparkling

This refreshing sparkling wine explodes with a slightly sweet raspberry candy touch.  Great for sipping by the pool or celebrating your special occasion.  Winner of a Silver medal – Orange County Fair Wine Competition.  Pairs well with ham, turkey, prime rib or most any main dish.  $25 Bottle

Though Temecula Valley wines can be ordered through the wineries’ online stores and shipped to most states, what better excuse to visit the destination and try the wines onsite. Temecula Valley is conveniently located in the center of Southern California, just an hour drive from San Diego, Palm Springs and Orange County and 90 minutes from Los Angeles. Many winery restaurants offer special holiday dining menus that pair wonderfully with their holiday wines. Resort, hotel, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rentals offer special packages and pricing for Sunday through Thursday stays.

 

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Pan-Seared Steak with Portobello Mushroom Sauce atop Mascarpone Polenta

November 21st, 2018

This classic dish highlights the earthy flavors of Portobello mushrooms, the richness of mascarpone polenta and the elegance of seared, rib eye steak. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Merlot or Syrah.

Ingredients:

3 cups (750ml) water
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock
1 cup (160g) course ground polenta
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
3 tablespoons (45g) mascarpone cheese
2 (8-ounce/225g) boneless rib eye steaks, 1½- inches (3.81cm) thick, removed from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking
4 tablespoons (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ pound (225g) portobello mushrooms, stems removed
2/3 cup (160ml) Temecula Valley Merlot
2/3 cup (160ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (15ml) balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon (2.5ml) salt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Pour the water and the chicken stock into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

When the water begins to simmer, whisk in the polenta and the 1 teaspoon (5ml) salt.

Stir for 5 minutes while the polenta is simmering.

Cover the polenta and turn the heat to low.

Cook for 40 minutes total stirring every 10 minutes making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan.

Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C).

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks generously with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) of the olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear for 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer the steaks to a shallow baking pan. (Set the skillet aside for later use.)

Roast the steaks in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the steaks from the pan and let the steaks rest while you make the mushroom sauce.

Thinly slice the mushroom caps into half moons then slice again crosswise into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) of olive oil in the skillet used for the steaks. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and cook and stir until golden brown. Add the wine and reduce the liquid by half.

Add the cream and balsamic vinegar and the ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and cover.

To serve, spoon desired amount of polenta in the center of each plate. Top polenta with sauce and strips of steak.

Suggested Pairings:

Avensole Winery 2014 Merlot ~ This wine is unique with blackberry and black cherry fruit with subtle hints of black licorice and vanilla, framed by silky tannins and a generous finish.

Carter Estate Winery & Resort 2012 Merlot ~ This Merlot has a very long finish that is silky and firm with a shapely, tart tannic backbone.

Fazeli Cellars 2014 Shiraz ~ Silky black currant and blackberry layered with hints of vanilla, earth and black pepper. Full-bodied with a rich, lingering finish.

Monte De Oro Winery 2014 Syrah ~  Accents of cocoa bean, clove, anise, red and black peppercorns with a long gripping finish.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Focaccia Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

November 1st, 2018

 

Focaccia Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms and Goat CheeseThis savory, custardy bread pudding makes an irresistible side dish for roast chicken, but it may well become a new tradition at your Thanksgiving table. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound (250 g) wild mushrooms such as crimini or oyster, sliced or quartered
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ large yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
½ pound (250 g) focaccia, 1 to 2 days old, in 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
¼ pound (125 g) fresh goat cheese with no rind
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) whole milk

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). Using 1 teaspoon butter, grease the bottom and sides of a 2-quart (2-l) baking dish. An oval baking dish measuring about 13- by 8- by 1-1/2-inches (33 by 20 by 4 cm) works well.

Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Do not stir for 30 seconds to allow the mushrooms to sear on one side. Then season with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are nicely browned and tender, about 3 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Set aside on a plate.

Let the skillet cool slightly, then add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil and return to medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and herbes de Provence. Sauté until the onion is soft, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the focaccia, mushrooms, and sautéed onions and garlic. Add the goat cheese in small clumps. Toss gently with a spatula.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Pour over the bread mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, so the bread absorbs some of the liquid.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and dot the surface with the remaining 1 teaspoon butter. Bake until puffed, nicely colored on top, and firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Suggested Pairings: 

Danza Del Sol Winery 2016 Reserve Chardonnay ~ Aromas of apple and pear with accompanying flavors of tropical pineapple and guava.

Oak Mountain Winery 2017 Chardonnay ~ This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, creme brulee and caramel.

Wiens Family Cellars 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir ~ Flavors of toasted oak, ripe raspberry, and cinnamon.

 

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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November Winery Events

November 1st, 2018

There’s a chill in the air now and suddenly we’re planning holiday meals! Whether your holiday plans keep you close to home or off visiting relatives, plan to sneak in a trip to Temecula Valley Wine Country to stock up on your favorite wine.

Avensole Winery
Casino Night /November 3 / 6:00pm-10:00pm / Avensole Winery invites you to a lively evening at Casino Night! Enjoy gaming, food, specialty sangria, music and exclusive prizes. Ticket includes 1 glass of Avensole’s seasonal Sangria and $500 in Big Bucks for Blackjack – Craps – Roulette – Poker! Trust your Luck! / Cost and reservation information – $55 non-member / $39 Wine Club, tickets online http://www.avensolewinery.com/res-391325/Casino-Night.html

Avensole Wine Wednesday – Holiday Desserts / November 14 / 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm / $33 Wine Club and $42 Non-Member / Expand your palate with specially themed wine tasting classes in the Discover Club, hosted by our Sommelier. This month we will explore holiday desserts! Taste six Avensole wines, each paired with custom artisanal baked holiday favorites. We will release our brand new Primitivo Port this evening! Special on wines tasted in the evening / For questions please contact tours@avensolewinery.com. Tickets must be purchased in advance online: http://www.avensolewinery.com/reservation-events

Hosted Tour & Wine Tasting /Available on Sunday of each the month / 2pm-3:30pm / For every adventure, there is discovery, for every unique place, there is a story. Take a guided journey through our lush vineyards and experience our rich heritage and handcrafted Avensole wines / Cost. $35 / Reservations required. Please call 951.252.2003 x312 to reserve.

Gourmet Cheese Artisanal Tour & Wine Tasting / Available on Friday of each month / 12pm / For the ultimate Wine Country experience, delight in an educational tour through our picturesque vineyard vistas and conclude this tour with a culinary treat of artisanal wine pairings featuring 7 Avensole wines / Cost: $75 / Reservations required online at link: http://www.avensolewinery.com/res-369934

Baily Winery
Estate Library Tasting / Every Thursday-Sunday / Available 11am-4pm / Enjoy exclusive library tasting of 5 different vintages (varietal will vary monthly). Tasting will take place at Baily Estate Tasting Room located on Pauba Road / Tours are available upon request / For reservations and pricing information please call Lisa at 951-972-9768

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Prix Fixe Friday & Sunday at Meritage / 5pm to 8pm / For $35 guests may enjoy a starter, an entrée and a dessert / Live Music offered on Friday nights / Reservation is not necessary. For menu information call 951.587.8889

Brunch Specials every Sunday at Meritage / 11am / Cost is $25 / Includes a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice, entrée and dessert. All food from Meritage is farm-to-table, either grown on property in restaurant garden or locally outsourced.

Callaway Winery Tours offered daily / 11am and 1pm / Tour only, $10 per person. Tour with tasting, $25 – tour includes 1 tank sample, 1-barrel sample and 4 additional tastes at the Tasting Bar / Reservations not necessary, but for 10 or more highly recommended / For more information call 951.676.4001

Carter Estate Winery and Resort
Elegant Food & Wine Pairing / $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member / 1pm & 3pm Monday-Sunday / Reserve your place for an indulgent wine and food pairing designed to tantalize the senses. Guests enjoy five specially selected Carter Estate Winery wines paired perfectly with a variety of cured meats, artisan cheeses and accompanied with seasonal accoutrements. Each pairing lasts approximately 90 minutes and is limited to just eight participants to allow for one-on-one interaction / Reservations recommended Book a pairing on CarterEstateWinery.com

Europa Village
Festa with Endeavor/ November 18 / 5:30pm-8:30pm / Enjoy wine, food and live music by Endeavor, benefiting Fine Arts Foundation! / Free admission / Food Tickets: $18

Falkner Winery
Veterans Day Specials / November 9 to 11 / 10am-5pm / Special sales for active duty and retired military w/ valid ID / Classic Wine Tasting and 15% off in our tasting room / 15% off Pinnacle Restaurant on Nov 11th only.

Sip N Paint Class “Wreath” / November 15 / 6pm-8pm / $35 per person; $30 for members / Includes all materials. Wines available for purchase by glass or bottle. Members do receive applicable discounts / Reservations are required online @Artfusionbdk.myshopify.com

Wine Appreciation Class / November 17 / 10am -12:30pm / Designated for all levels of wine knowledge; $45/person /$40 Connoisseur/ $20 VIP; $70/person with lunch option. RSVP’s required 951-676-8231 x.109 or wineclub@falknerwinery.com

Fazeli Cellars
Salsa Night / November 16 / Doors Open at 6:30 with 45-minute Salsa Lesson / No partner or experience needed! Admission fee is $20 for non-members (plus tax) and $15 (plus tax) for wine club members includes a glass of Sangria / Special Food Menu Items! Wine, Beer, Sangria available for purchase! /Purchase Tickets Here: http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-390887/Salsa-Night-111618.html

Mount Palomar Winery
Rat Pack Revisited / November 2 / 6:00pm-10:00pm / General admission $100; Wine Club $90 / The Rat Pack returns on at Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula! Enjoy dinner and a show in our beautiful barrel room when three incredible performers recreate the Rat Pack live. Spend an enchanting evening with Frank, Dean, and Sammy, while you sip award-winning wines and enjoy an exclusive dining menu / Tickets are extremely limited, do not wait! Purchase tickets online at: https://www.mountpalomarwinery.com/Rat-Pack-Revisited

Ponte Winery
Happy Hour in The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn / Every Monday-Thursday / 4pm-6pm / Free to attend / Head to Temecula Wine Country’s only cocktail bar, The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn, for happy hour specials on craft beer, flatbreads, Ponte wine on tap and more! Menu items $6 and up / For more information please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com

Brunch at Bouquet Restaurant / Every Saturday & Sunday / 7:30am-3:00pm / Offering indoor & outdoor seating options, Bouquet is the perfect spot to gather for a gourmet brunch. Enjoy a relaxing ambiance with stunning fountain courtyard, pond & vineyards views / To view menu and for reservations please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
Tree Lighting Festival / November 30 / 6:00pm – 9:00pm / Join us for our Annual Tree Lighting Festival! This event will be full of activities for the entire family to enjoy / Your ticket to the event includes: buffet dinner, Christmas Carolers and Choir, tractor and horse carriage rides, Christmas movie screening, cookie decorating, face painting elf, Santa photos and of course Tree lighting / Adults $35.00 Children (12 & under) $12.50; Children 2 & under – Free / South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is proud to be an official Toys for Tots drop-off location / Reservation Information: Purchase tickets through our Online Store at SouthCoastWinery.com

GrapeSeed Spa’s Deck the Halls Holiday Event / November 16 / 7:00pm – 9:00pm / Join us for GrapeSeed Spa’s annual holiday event, Deck the Halls! For just a $20 reservation fee you will receive access to BOGO bookings, 30% off all retail, two drink tickets, small appetizers and treats, chair massages, photo booth, and raffles! Come stock up for Christmas with creative spa gifts / Terms and Conditions: Must call in to reserve your spot and pay $20 reservation fee. BOGO only accessed by paying the $20 reservation fee and attending the event. BOGO services are to be redeemed December 2018-January 31, 2019. Offerings only good the night of event / Cost: $20 Reservation Fee / Reservation Information: Purchase tickets through our Online Store at SouthCoastWinery.com

Behind the Scenes Wine Tours / Tours are held daily at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3PM, Monday through Sunday/ $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member or Military / Learn more about our spectacular Southern California Temecula winery with a behind-the-scenes wine tour, from vineyards to crush pad. Each tour concludes with 5 wines paired with an individual plate of specially prepared lite-bite foods, designed to enhance your wine knowledge and experience / Reservation Information: Call 866-994-6379 Ext. 7217 to reserve your spot today / Due to the limited sizes of each tour, reservations are required with prepayment, and are non-refundable. Guests must be over 21 years of age to attend.

Thornton Winery
Thanksgiving Day Dinner / November 22 / 12:00 noon-5:00 pm / Adults $59.95 plus tax & gratuity. Children 12+ $19.95 plus tax & gratuity. Children 5 Under free / For reservations and menu options please call (951) 699-0099 for additional information.

Wilson Creek Winery
Bubble Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 10am-3pm / $51.95, Buffet only: $41.95, Children: $16.95 / Enjoy all your breakfast favorites, omelet stations, waffle stations, seafood stations, carving stations and dessert stations with beautiful vineyard views / Buffet (+ unlimited sparkling). Now serving Bloody Mary’s! / Reservations can be made at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or call 951.699.9463 for additional information.

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Now I Know My ABCs… of Temecula Valley Wine Grapes ~ An A-Z of What Shines in Southern California Wine Country

October 19th, 2018

New Zealand and Sauvignon Blanc. Oregon and Pinot Noir. Napa and Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina and Malbec. Like bread and butter, all famous wine regions seem to have a famous grape counterpart.

In Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, there’s often a hearty debate about what grape the region should be known for. Its Syrahs have received countless awards. But Temecula Valley Sangiovese is top-scoring as well. And what about the luscious, beautifully floral Viognier that so many wineries are famous for? Or the bright, savory sleeper of the Valley, Cabernet Franc?

This isn’t because Temecula Valley winemakers can’t make up their minds! This diversity is a result of a Mediterranean climate that is well-suited to grow a wide range of grapes, and, more importantly, a culture among winemakers to experiment with new grape varieties.

Visitors to the region delight in the immense diversity of offerings, as there truly is something for every type of wine enthusiast. From Arneis to Zinfandel and everything in between, let’s take a look at some of the key grape players that have put Temecula Valley on the global wine map.

Arneis – A little-known grape from Northern Italy, Arneis also shines in Temecula Valley. Here, it expresses itself with notes of peach, apricot and almond, with floral notes and bright acidity. Check out Arneis from Hart Family Winery.

Barbera – A versatile, food-friendly grape from Northern Italy as well, this variety shows amazing promise in Temecula Valley. Southern California Barbera offers rich fruit and wonderful structure. Try Barbera from Europa Village.

Cabernet Franc – This grape is normally a blending variety in Bordeaux, but we are seeing it more and more as a single varietal, especially in Temecula. Baily Winery does an impressive vertical tasting of 6-8 vintages of Temecula Valley Cabernet Franc, showing the strength and longevity of this variety.

Falanghina – This ancient variety from Campania in Southern Italy is simply magical in the hands of Cougar Winery.

Grenache – Often found in blends from France’s Rhone Valley, or throughout Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, Temecula Valley winemakers play with this grape often, either on its own or in blends. Check out Temecula’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Wine – a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.

Mourvedre – Again, often a blending grape, this variety shows great promise on its own in Temecula  Valley, boasting notes of cooked fruit and spice and impressive body. Visit Wiens Family Cellars for a taste.

Montepulciano – Another Italian variety that just sings in Temecula Valley, bursting with fruit, sweet spice and delightful acidity. Robert Renzoni Vineyards’ Winemaker, Olivia Bue, has brought out the best in this grape.

Petite Sirah – This grape – known for its intense color, and bold flavors of black fruits, chocolate and spice – may have originated in France, but it was born to be grown in Temecula Valley. Wilson Creek makes a particularly noteworthy bottling, which also won the 2016 People’s Choice award.

Pinot Grigio/Gris – Very few wine regions in the world don’t grow at least some Pinot Grigio, and there is a wide range of different styles of this wine, from light and fruity to complex and age worthy. In Temecula, the wines are fuller in body, with crisp acidity and ripe fruit notes.  For a real treat, and a fun alternative to your everyday Prosecco, try South Coast Winery’s sparkling Pinot Grigio.

Roussanne – This Rhone Valley Grape, often blended with Marsanne and Viognier, can be quite interesting on its own if handled properly. Sip on Oak Mountain’s Temecula Hills Roussanne for a taste of this variety.

Sangiovese – One of Italy’s signature grapes, Sangiovese could very well have been born in Temecula Valley. Most winemakers in the region bottle this versatile variety, in a wide range of styles. Be sure to visit Robert Renzoni Vineyards for a spectacular lineup.

Syrah – Another grape that is emerging as a king of Southern California wine country is Syrah and the climate in Temecula Valley is perfect for it. Try any of Leoness Cellars’ offerings to get a sense of the true potential of this variety.

Tempranillo – This Spanish variety does very well in Temecula Valley, both blended and on its own. Try one from Danza del Sol Winery.

Viognier – A full-bodied, perfumed variety from Southern France, Viognier is widely found in Temecula Valley, where it finds powerful expression. Doffo Winery’s Concrete-Fermented Viognier is a must when exploring this variety.

Zinfandel – While this grape originated in Croatia, many think of it as the quintessential American variety. In Temecula Valley, it is rich and juicy but the region’s winemakers have shown some restraint in crafting it, preserving bright acidity and structure in most bottlings. Van Roekel Estate’s Zinfandel from some of the region’s oldest vineyards is a stunning example.

Call us selfish but with so many delicious grape varieties to choose from in Temecula Valley, why should anyone have to choose just one?

To find out more about these and other wineries in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, visit www.temeculawines.org.

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Why Temecula Valley’s Climate is Perfect for Wine Grapes… And Vacationers!

September 26th, 2018

“It’s too hot to grow wine grapes in Southern California.”

We hear this a lot out in Temecula Valley. Every time we do, we smile to ourselves as it’s an open invitation to explain why this wine region is not only perfect for vacationers, but for producing world-class wines as well.

Picture your ideal vacation. Does the image of waking up to a beautiful sunrise that warms the air just enough that you can enjoy coffee out on your balcony or get in a quick morning run in slightly crisp air with no sticky humidity sound about right?

Does sitting on a patio enjoying a Southern California lunch in 72-degree weather, sun shining, not a cloud in the sky in mid-November while your friends back home are kicking muddy slush from an early snowfall off their boots before getting into their cars on a grey and dreary day sound appealing?

Imagine yourself in a luxurious king-sized bed at your hotel after a fun and sun-filled day of wine tasting, hiking or shopping, all windows open to allow in the cool night breezes to lull you to sleep.

This is vacationing in Temecula Valley, all year round. It also describes key aspects that make this region suitable for growing wine grapes.

A Mediterranean Climate is generally classified as having a long growing season (early Spring to late Fall) of moderate to warm temperatures, moderate winters and relatively low rainfall. Since regions of Mediterranean climate are influenced by cold ocean currents during the Summer months, the weather during this time is dry, stable and pleasant with strong diurnal shifts. This means that, while the days are warm and sunny, the nights cool down quickly. These regions receive most of their precipitation for the year during the Winter months.

Major wine producing regions with Mediterranean climates include Tuscany and parts of Southern Italy, the Southern Rhone Valley, Provence, most of Greece, many parts of Spain, Southern Oregon, Baja California, the Napa Valley and, of course, Temecula Valley. These are many of the regions we think of when we think of premium wines and dream travel experiences.

What makes Temecula Valley at home among these well-known wine regions is that it boasts long, sunny days that allow wine grapes to ripen and develop the sugars that will ultimately turn the grapes into wine. However, the region is home to significant maritime influence as well. Just 22-miles from the Pacific Ocean, Temecula Valley is bordered by coastal mountain ranges and inland valleys. As the sun warms the inland valleys east of Temecula, the warm air rises, forming a low-pressure area which pulls the cooler, much heavier air from the Pacific Ocean in through two breaks in the mountains — The Rainbow Gap and the Santa Margarita Gap. This cool air creates the pattern of warm sunny days, breezy afternoons and cool nights, ideal conditions for the wine grapes to develop complex flavors and aromas, while retaining pleasant balance and freshness from desirable acidity levels.

Think about it: Virtually year-round sunshine and warm or moderate temperatures, cool nights, relatively little rainfall, not to mention high quality wines, unique wine-tasting experiences, and the relaxed, welcoming vibe that is synonymous with Southern California. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast or just looking for a dream vacation, Temecula Valley should be added to your list of top wine destinations to visit.

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