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It’s Official: Harvest is Here!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

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

Evening Harvest

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

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

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

THE PREP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or they’re just plain sensible:

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

THE REAL WORK

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE AFTERMATH

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

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

Photo courtesy of Matthew Burlile- Instagram: @temeculaphotography

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Cheers to Dad! Father’s Day in Wine Country

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Cheers to Dad!

Summertime kicks off with a number of exciting events to celebrate Dad at your favorite Temecula wineries! From Father’s Day BBQ’s and brunches – you’ll find a handsome way to say “thank you” to that special father in your life.

Akash Winery & Vineyards        

BMW Performance Centre – West will be onsite with one of their performance BMW’s. Two gift certificates worth $299 each to be won. From 11am to close. Street Foods Co. Entertainment by Dustin Jake.

Cougar Vineyard and Winery

Stout Beer Floats, Stogies, and Pulled Pork Sandwiches.  11-4pm.  Call to reserve your spot today 951.767.8457. Cost $35 wineclub, $40 non-wineclub, 25 children 5-12, under 5 free when Dad present.

Europa Village Winery & Resort

This Father’s Day celebrate with an extravagant beer brunch buffet at Bolero Restaurante. Enjoy a complimentary glass of Bolero Beer or Cava and indulge in a variety of Spanish Fare. With everything from a Pastry station to a Seafood station to a Spanish Toast and Waffle Station to an Omelet and Carving Station, the options are endless! Seating Indoor & Outdoor at Bolero Restaurante | 10 am to 2 pm, Adults: $62 | Société / Europa Table members – $55.80, For reservations call 951.414.3802

Falkner Winery

Celebrate Dad this Sunday, June 20th at the Pinnacle Restaurant. This year we will be offering a $64 for two Father’s Day Special Menu featuring a shared Santa Barbara salad, Rib Eye Steak or Grilled Salmon entrees, & a dessert to share. Reservations available on Opentable.com or by calling (951) 676-8231 Option 4

Longshadow Ranch Winery       

Live music, food truck, wine, beer and brunch (reserve online at Longshadowranchwinery.com)

Peltzer Family Cellars

Annual Father’s Day Cornhole Tournament from 9-5pm on June 20th. Located on the Farm, cash jackpot, $50 ticket includes one team of two! Reserve your spot at peltzerwinery.com.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa            

Live music, food truck and lawn games. No reservation or purchases needed.

Wiens Family Cellars

This Father’s Day have a relaxed wine experience. Offering our “Big Reds” and “Crisp Whites”. No reservations are needed for the main tasting room or patio for groups 7 or smaller. For groups of 8 or more, please go to https://www.wienscellars.com/large-group-request or call 951-694-9892 to make reservations. Open daily from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm.

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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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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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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

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

Grapevines at Sunrise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations, Akash Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Jim Hart, Winemaker, Hart Winery

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

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

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

Q. I love rosé. But how is it made?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bruschetta with Warm Goat Cheese, Roasted Asparagus, and Pistachio Pesto

Friday, March 5th, 2021

Wine Paired Bruschetta

California’s asparagus season is short so it’s a good idea to get your fill while you can. When you crave a change-up from plain steamed or roasted asparagus, try them this way: on top of crunchy toast with warm, creamy goat cheese and a dollop of fragrant pesto. Serve as a hearty appetizer at a dinner party or enjoy for lunch with a green salad. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Riesling or Rosé.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • ¼ cup (35 g) raw pistachios
  • 16 large basil leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dozen very slender asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 4 slices sourdough bread, each about 4 by 3 inches (10 by 7.5 cm) and ½ inch (12 mm) thick
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 to 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ pound (110 g) fresh goat cheese with no rind

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). 

Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the pistachios, basil, garlic, and olive oil and pulse until the basil and nuts are finely chopped but do not grind to a paste. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the lemon zest and salt to taste. Add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the flavor.  

If necessary, trim the asparagus spears so they are no longer than the bread. Place them on a baking sheet and toss with enough olive oil to coat them lightly, about 2 to 3 teaspoons. Sprinkle with salt and roast until they are tender and starting to char, about 8 minutes.   

If the goat cheese is firm enough to slice, cut into three or four evenly thick slices and place them in a lightly oiled baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. If the goat cheese is too soft to slice, spoon it into a lightly oiled baking dish, flattening it slightly with the back of a spoon, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake until the goat cheese quivers when touched, like a soft custard, about 5 minutes. 

Toast the bread. Brush one side of each toast with olive oil. Divide the warm cheese among the toasts, spreading it evenly. Top each toast with asparagus and a dollop of pesto, dividing evenly. Serve immediately. 

Suggested Pairing:

Akash Winery ~ 2020 Parlez-Vous Rosé – A bright and intriguing French-style rosé as lovely as its name.

Baily Winery ~ 2019 Riesling – Delicate, dry and fruity white.

Miramonte Winery ~ 2018 Riesling – Spicy citrus, lemongrass, orange blossom, honeyed lemon, butterscotch, zen stone finish.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards – 2019 Lyric Rose – Dry Rosé made of Syrah grape, pale salmon hue, delicate bouquet of rose petals with peach skin exuding with flavors of guava and ripe peach.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California.

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What’s Better Than Delicious Wine? Delicious Wine With A Side Of Adorable Wine Country Pets!

Friday, October 30th, 2020

Meet Some of Temecula Valley’s Favorite Furry (and Feathery!) Friends

Let’s face it. We could all use a bit of levity right now. Since everyone loves animals, we decided to shine the spotlight on some of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country’s real celebrities – the furry friends that capture the hearts of our guests with their wet noses, wagging tails, and big hearts. Here are a few of our favorites:

Wilson Creek Goldens

Wilson Creek Winery

Visitors to Wilson Creek Winery may have met the many resident Golden Retrievers, including ten-year-old Tipsy, who loves to chase stray cats and hunt for other winery creatures. While Tipsy considers herself brave, she still heads to the closet to hide behind clothes if the smoke alarm goes off. We don’t blame her – those things are loud! Tipsy grew up around the winery and absolutely loves people. She often comes down to the winery to visit with staff, many of whom she knows have hidden treats. Smart girl.

Reddog

Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery

There are lots of animals to visit over at Palumbo at any given time, from chickens to pigs to dogs. However, the most notorious of the bunch is probably their seven-year-old Australian Red Heeler-Pit Bull mix rescue, Reddog. Anyone who follows the Palumbos on social media will no doubt have seen a picture of Reddog in his favorite state: chasing rabbits. He jumps the fence and catches at least one rabbit a day. Lucky tasters on the patio are occasionally gifted with one of Reddog’s bunny conquests, and the tasting room has, on occasion, been evacuated on account of the gas Reddog gets from eating too many rabbits. When Reddog isn’t chasing poor bunnies, he’s either sleeping or thinking about harvest, his favorite time of year. In fact, every year when harvest is over, he goes into a bit of a depression. Who can blame him? It’s the most exciting time of the year in Wine Country!

Little Richard

Let’s not forget about Palumbo’s star rooster, Little Richard. This one-year-old spitfire loves to cock-a-doodle-doo all day long, while walking the winery fence and hitting up the tasting patio to visit with guests. When we asked if he had any weird habits, owner Cindy Palumbo told us, “He is a rooster, so everything he does is pretty weird.” We’ll drink to that.

Bordeaux

Baily Winery

Fans of Baily Winery will likely have met their resident rodent control officer, Bordeaux. This eight-year-old Tiger Cat loves people, greeting visitors and looking for attention from everyone who comes into the winery. Bordeaux is such a famous fixture at Baily that he was
featured on the label of their 2017 Sangiovese.

Duke

Peltzer Family Cellars

If you haven’t yet played a game of soccer, wine glass in hand, with Peltzer’s black and white Border Collie, Duke, you are missing out. This five-year-old pup loves to challenge guests to a match in front of the Crush House. In fact, he is such a natural at footie, that instead of retrieving balls with his mouth during a game of fetch, he rolls them back with his nose, Pelé-style. Duke sits outside of the Crush House all day greeting and visiting with guests, just waiting for someone to challenge him to a Wine Country World Cup.  

Buddy & Bandit

Oak Mountain Winery

Brothers Buddy and Bandit are the inseparable sibling duo over at Oak Mountain. These ten-year-old Queensland Heelers also love to chase rabbits (no word on any tummy troubles though) and sniff the grapes to see if they are ripe, no doubt a useful skill at a winery. While they make great watch dogs, they’re not so great with other animals. That doesn’t stop them from hanging out over at the Oak Mountain production facility, keeping everyone company and playing in the water when the team is washing out tanks.

Brodie

Akash Winery

Visitors to Akash love their one-and-a-half-year-old Goldendoodle, Brodi. This big, happy fluffball loves to chase the lizards that sunbathe on warm Southern California days, and is guilty of occasionally breaking guests’ wine glasses with his enormous, constantly wagging tail. Because he spends so much time hanging out with Akash’s Aussie Director of Operations, Sharon Cannon, some say Brodi is starting to bark with an Australian accent.

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

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

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

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

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

Nick & Cindy Palumbo
Owners, Palumbo Winery

Palumbo Vineyard & Winery

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

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

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

Steve Andrews
Owner, Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

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

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

Somerset Winery

Kurt Tiedt
President, Somerset Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Hart
Winemaker, Hart Winery

Hart Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Akash Patel
Owner, Akash Winery

Akash Winery & Vineyards

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

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

Happy Harvest!

Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press Enterprise/SGNC

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Our Top Temecula Valley Wine Picks for Summer

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Summer Sippin’

There’s something about Summertime sipping that just feels right. Maybe it’s the sensation of a breeze cooling our neck as the sun warms our face while enjoying a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio on our patio; maybe it’s the sun staying out just that little bit longer; or maybe it’s the amazing food that comes out during the warmer months – the smell of the grill, the sweet juices of peaches and watermelons running down our chins, fresh seafood, burgers, corn on the cob… Whatever it is, there’s just nothing like a great mid-summer glass of wine. But what to sip?

Here are some of our favorite go-to wines for the Summer months:

Sparkling

Not only does bubbly pair perfectly with just about any type of cuisine, it is a wonderful treat no matter the occasion. From milestone celebrations to simply feeling good on a Tuesday, it’s the ultimate refresher after a long day (or at the beginning of one – hello, brunch!).

Pair with: Literally anything. But bubbles and salty, fatty, fried, or crispy food is a match made in heaven. Think potato chips, calamari, tempura shrimp, truffled popcorn, cured meats and cheeses… we could go on… and on…

Some wines to try:

Thornton Winery NV Brut

Carter Estate Winery 2015 Blanc de Noir

Oak Mountain Winery NV Pinotage Sparkling

Leoness Cellars NV Brut

Crisp, Unoaked White

We all love a rich, buttery Chardonnay, but hot weather calls for something a bit more quaffable. Instead of those weightier whites like Viognier and Chardonnay, opt for something light and bright. Classic Italian and Spanish grapes like Arneis, Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Albariño, and Verdelho are juicy and fresh, and act like a refreshing squeeze of lemon on your favorite Summer dishes.

Pair with: Seafood dishes prepared in a variety of styles, summer salads, and creamy pasta dishes.

Some wines to try:

Hart Winery 2019 Albariño

South Coast Winery 2019 Verdelho

Cougar Winery 2019 Estate Falanghina

Danza del Sol 2018 Vermentino

Rosé

There’s a reason “rosé all day” isn’t just a social media hashtag, it’s also a way of life: You can literally drink the stuff all day, every day. Rosé is a fantastic Summer sipper because it comes in so many different styles and hues, making it the whole package when it comes to food-friendly wine pairings. From pale pink and dripping with notes of watermelon and lime, to fuller-bodied and bursting with berry fruit, there’s a style to suit every palate, culinary creation, and occasion. And, it’s also pretty darn good on its own – unless you count your feet in the pool, a lazy swing in a hammock, or a sunset barbecue as part of your pairing.

Some wines to try:

Ponte Winery 2019 Pas Doux

Robert Renzoni Vineyards 2019 Lyric Rose

Doffo Winery 2019 Rosario

Akash Winery 2019 Parlez Vous Rosé

Light Red

Still craving that inky red wine, even in 100-degree weather? While Temecula Valley can be known for rich, full-bodied, luxurious wines, the region also produces quite a few lighter-bodied, fruity red wines, which are absolutely stunning on a warm summer day. Serve them with a slight chill to bring out the bright berry fruit. We promise you’ll thank us for the suggestion.

Pair with: Simple grilled meats and kabobs, tomato-based pastas, pizza

Some wines to try:

Fazeli Cellars 2015 Phel Phel

Baily Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc

Wiens Family Cellars 2018 Pinot Noir

Europa Village Bolero Cellars 2016 Garnacha

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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country Rockstars Weigh in on Common Questions about Wine

Wine is supposed to help us relax, connect with others, and provide a feast for all the senses. But then why does it sometimes seem so complicated? From indecipherable tasting notes to words like “dry,” “tannic,” “aromatic,” and “sulfites” that leave us scratching our heads, it’s a wonder we don’t need a PhD to drink the stuff!

Fortunately, the experienced and deeply knowledgeable rockstars of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country are here to help! We tapped a few of our best and brightest to answer some of your most frequently-asked wine questions.

Q: What are “tannins”?

Renato Sais

A. Renato Saís, Winemaker, Akash Winery

Wine aficionados talk a lot about tannins, but what are they? Tannin basically refers to the dryness, bitterness, and astringency of a wine (typically red wine). It is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and the fruit skins of grapes used to produce the wine. Tannins can also come from the barrels that are used when aging many wines. These wood tannins are absorbed into the wine where various flavors become apparent.

Tannins start out tasting really dry, and it is through aging and manipulation, that we are able to transform a harsh “tannic” wine into a smooth, elegant, developed red wine. Tannins can be manipulated in different ways in the different steps of winemaking: Crushing and destemming, fermentation, aging and fining of the wine prior to bottling.

Because tannins are found in the skins of grapes, they are more present in red wines than they are in rosé or white wines. This is because red wines are fermented with skins, whereas whites and rosés typically aren’t.

Q. Speaking of dryness… What does it mean when we say a wine is “dry”?

Gus Vizgirda

A. Gus Vizgirda, Winemaker, Wilson Creek Winery:

It means the wine has a bad sense of humor.

Kidding… Simply put – “dry” is the opposite of “sweet.”

All wines start out as sweet juice made from the particular grape varietal; for example, Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. During the fermentation process, yeast consumes the sugar producing alcohol. So initially, the winemaker starts with a tank that’s 100% Chardonnay grape juice, and 0% wine. As fermentation progresses: Day 3 of fermentation 83% juice and 17% wine, Day 5 of fermentation 53% juice and 47% wine, so-on and so-on. As fermentation continues more sweet grape juice is fermented and converted into wine until the desired “Dryness” level is obtained. In general a “Dry” wine will have a grape sugar level at 0.4 – 0.6% (99.6 – 99.4% of the grape juice has been fermented by the yeast).

An interesting note is that the fruitiness of the grape remains with the dry fermented wine. In some cases, this fruitiness is intense and is often confused with sweetness.

Sweet wines are wines where not all of the sweet grape juice is fermented in the wine.

Q. Ok… Dry is the opposite of sweet, which can be confused with fruitiness. Can you explain what the difference is between a sweet and a fruity wine?

Danaé Wegner

A. Danaé Wegner, Tasting Room Manager, Peltzer Winery

A balanced wine encompasses a few elements that need to be cohesive: tannin, acid, sugar, and alcohol. Sugar is the most recognizable to our palates naturally, which is why us wine nerds often call sweet wines the “gateway wines.”

The difference between sweet wine and fruity wine is simple: we can measure sugar, but fruit is perceived. For example, there are grapes that are wildly aromatic and exude sweet floral notes like lilac and orange blossom, or ripe fruits like strawberry and white peach such as Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. These wines may have a perceived sweetness due to the recognition of sweeter fruit notes but could technically be dry.

A term y’all may have heard thrown around your local tasting room is “residual sugar” or R.S. This is the sugar content in the wine after the winemaker stops the fermentation process. A sweet wine ranges from 3% R.S. to upwards of 15%. This resulting percentage goes all the way back to farming!

In the vineyard, we measure sugar level in Brix, which is sugar by weight. As the berries ripen on the grapevine, their sugar level rises, which signals to the farmer that the fruit is ready to be harvested. A higher Brix level means a higher potential alcohol content because during fermentation, the natural and added yeast consume the sugar and produce alcohol, along with carbon dioxide and heat. 

How do we enjoy both fruity and sweet wines? With sweeter wines, try an opposing, spicy food pairing like pepper jack cheese. With a fruity wine, try something that is also fruity to create a congruent pairing. Everyone’s palate is different, but we should all strive to find a purpose for every style of wine we encounter. Cheers!

Q. Why do some wines give me headaches?

Michelle Vener

A. Michelle Vener, Tasting Room & Wine Club General Manager, Fazeli Cellars

Okay…stating the obvious first – drinking too much and not hydrating will give you headaches.  To avoid this, consume responsibly and hydrate. Let’s assume that this is not the problem. Next…

The common misconception is that wine headaches are caused by sulfites in wine. This is false. Sulfites do cause a few people sensitivity/allergy (1%) but they are found in so. many. things. From dried fruit, to deli meat, to tomato paste and even cereal- and the symptom would be more asthma-like, not a headache. If you aren’t having reactions from dried apricots and salami, you are likely not allergic to sulfites.

Tannin and histamines – ding ding ding…we have a winner! This is where it’s at folks. Some people have the misfortune of having a sensitivity/allergy to tannins, and histamines. This is caused by two different substances found in the skin and stem of the grapes.  Without getting super geeky and going on about Phenolic flavonoids, biogenic amines and enzymatic reactions, suffice it to say that this is a real thing and there is a solution!  If you suffer from this allergy you can take a histamine blocker (like Claritin) before enjoying a glass of wine and your problems will fade away (in more ways than one!).

Q. So how DO I know if I am allergic to sulfites?

Jennifer Buffington

A. Jennifer Buffington, Owner, Cougar Vineyard and Winery

Like many other allergens, the symptoms of an allergy to sulfites include: hives and itchiness, flushing, itchy throat, dizziness, trouble breathing and in some cases upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting. People who suffer from asthma, are much more likely to have an allergy to sulfites.

A sulfite allergy is an adverse immune response. It is when the immune system reacts negatively to sulfites. It can be treated with antihistamines or oral steroids. In rare cases, it may cause anaphylaxis and an epinephrine auto injector will be necessary to treat the person.

Sulfites are a natural by-product of yeast metabolism in the wine making process, so all wine contains small amounts of sulfites. Some wine makers add sulfites which can cause allergic symptoms to be more intensified.

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