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This International Women’s Day, We Celebrate the Inspiring Women of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country wouldn’t run without the immensely talented women that make the region so special. From tasting room staff, to winemakers and assistant winemakers, to women in leadership, our Wine Country is jam packed with some fierce and fiery female power. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day – Tuesday, March 8 – is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” In celebration, we caught up with some of our favorite Wine Country women to and to ask them what this means to them, and learn more about their journey in wine.

These interviews may have been edited for brevity and/or clarity.

Emily Bloom, Enologist and Vineyard Coordinator, South Coast and Carter Estate Wineries.

Emily Bloom

Emily started her wine career as an intern at South Coast Winery in 2015, and has since expanded her role to work for South Coast’s sister winery – Carter Estate – as well. She grew up in San Diego, and always loved the climate of Southern California (what’s not to love?). “We have the ability to grow many different fruits and vegetables,” she says. “Including grapes!”

TVWA: What was the journey like for you to get to where you are today in your career?

EB: Having always been interested in agriculture, I attended Iowa State University for horticulture and worked on many different agricultural operations from tropical flowers to blueberries. I have found wine production to be creative and fun, and I cannot imagine myself in any other industry. Continued education is so important for professional growth. I have a certificate in Viticulture form Washington State University and will be starting WSET Level 4 this spring. 

TVWA: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” – What does this mean to you?

EB: A sustainable future in the wine industry is not possible without the inclusivity of those who identify as female, non-binary, and people of color. The recognition of inclusivity in a male dominated industry is crucial to the success and growth of the industry. Bringing different backgrounds and experiences to the table offers ways to improve and diversify the wine industry. We need to remove any existing barriers to enter the wine business and open paths for a diverse world of wine making. Just as wine should be enjoyed by all, a career in the wine industry should be accessible to all.

TVWA: What sorts of things do you do to lift other women up and support them personally and/or professionally?

EB: I very much enjoy mentoring our interns who work harvest, as well as leading the tasting room staff to shadow our production work. It is rewarding to be able to teach and mentor, and it gives me continued enthusiasm for our wine industry.

TVWA: Tell us something that many people would be surprised to find out about you!

EB: Outside of wine, I love to machine knit and sew! I made matching knit beanies for the production crew a couple years ago which was a lot of fun! Being able to create things brings such a feeling of joy and accomplishment.

Olivia Bue, Winemaker, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Olivia Bue

An Encinitas native, it’s no surprise Olivia returned to Temecula in search of a winemaking position after graduating from UC Davis with a Viticulture and Enology degree, and working for Molly Dooker in McLaren Vale, South Australia, and Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley. Olivia was hired and mentored by longtime Temecula Valley winemaker Gus Vizgirda in 2012, which allowed her to take the next step as Assistant and now Head Winemaker at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, where she has been for the past 8+ years.

TVWA: How long have you been in Temecula Wine Country? What drew you to the region?

OB: What drew me to Temecula Valley was the possibility to grow with the region and make an impact in the region’s accomplishments. Our main goal in Temecula Valley is to get recognized for our quality wines beyond just southern California. If I can be part of that movement, the decision to come South 10 years ago was beyond worthwhile.

TVWA: How did you get to where you are today in your career?

OB: I grew up surrounded by incredibly strong women. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and badass woman. Her positive attitude toward life and not allowing anything to get in the way of achieving your dreams was engrained in me at an early age. I never felt inferior as a woman in a male-dominated industry. I was more insecure of my age than gender in my earlier 20s. I was learning how to make wine in school before I was legal to drink it! I truly fell in love with the science and production of winemaking before the actual taste. 

TVWA: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” – What does this mean to you?

OB: I’ve chosen to not let discrimination deter me from achieving my goals. I’ve been lucky that being a woman has not held me back in any way. At Robert Renzoni Vineyards, the team has always advocated for me being a woman winemaker. Surrounding yourself by people who uplift and support you is key! What I love about wine is I’m judged on the final product, nothing else. 

TVWA: What sorts of things do you do to lift other women up and support them personally and/or professionally?

OB: I know many talented woman winemakers with their own personal labels, some of whom I went to school with at UC Davis, and I make sure to support their product and stock my wine fridge with their new releases.

Also, after becoming a mom 3 years ago, juggling work and family was/is challenging. Staying in touch with other women winemakers who recently expanded their families has been so motivating. It’s not easy working full time while being a mother of 2, especially during harvest, but it’s important to me for my kids to see what hard work and drive looks like. I’m so enthusiastic and passionate about making wine. It brings joy to my life which ultimately makes me a better mom. Early morning pump-overs will be part of the harvest norm for them.  Can’t wait to put them to work!

TVWA: Tell us something that many people would be surprised to find out about you!

OB: I grew up as a competitive gymnast; back flips were part of my everyday.

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

Patricia O’Brien

Patricia and her husband moved to Temecula from Carlsbad 19 years ago when she was pregnant with their second child. After leaving her corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom, she quickly realized she missed everyday adult interactions. Another mom pal of hers worked at a winery and encouraged her to apply for a position as Wine Club Manager. She got the job and has been in the business ever since.

TVWA: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” – What does this mean to you?

PO: As a mother of two very strong, sassy, smart and independent girls, I support gender equality now because I want them to have the same opportunities in sports, education, and careers as our son.  Working towards gender equality, I believe will make our future generations so much stronger. ‘Cause let’s face it; women get things done!

TVWA: What sorts of things do you do to lift other women up and support them personally and/or professionally? 

PO: Personally, I try to set an example for what it means to be present in not just my personal life but professional too.  My mother instilled in my siblings and I the Maya Angelou quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  So, I’m a firm believer a person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected. Here’s a few things I do to lift other women in my personal/professional life:

  1. Professional Development: At Danza del Sol Winery and Masia de la Vinya Winery we have a professional development program that assist employees who are interested in expanding their wine or wine business knowledge by participating in WSET or Sommelier certification. We also pay for our staff to participate in the TVWA CHIP (Certified Hospitality Industry Professional) program.
    1. Friendships: I also take the time to build friendships with other “women of wine” in Temecula.  Some of the best wine industry leaders I know are women who come from this Valley!  I appreciate their friendship, honesty, and value their advice.  I love that I can call them any time to seek their counsel or just to meet up for lunch or a glass of wine.  There are so many to name… you know who you are. 
    2. Appreciation: I’m a firm believer that a person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected. So, I try my best every day to incorporate one of these phrases in my personal and professional life:
      1. “Thank you, I appreciate you.”
      2. “Appreciate that, thanks.”
      3. “I appreciate the time it took for you to __________.” 

You should try it and see what results you get!

TVWA: Tell us something that many people would be surprised to find out about you! This could be a unique skill or hobby, a funny anecdote, language spoken, etc.

PO: For as strong and as badass as I’m perceived to be, I am a sucker for Hallmark Movies.  I know right, me? Yep!!!  Nothing takes my mind off the stresses of life more than a nice bottle of wine, gourmet popcorn and a predictable, over the top, sappy, two-hour Hallmark movie!  And don’t get me started about Countdown to Christmas Hallmark movies.  Don’t judge me!

Christina Falik, “Chief Wineaux,” Gershon Bachus Vintners

Christina Falik

Christina came to Temecula Valley 17 years ago from Laguna Beach, where she was raising her son with husband Ken, and running their marketing company. Being from New York, they moved inland to escape the coastal fog and enjoy the sunshine. After purchasing their 21 acres of land perched atop of a hill with “Views like Tuscany,” Christina says the wine bug hit her.

TVWA: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” – What does this mean to you? 

CF: Equality in general is vital for the growth of our society.  For each and every person looking for a job, or job advancement, it is essential that their talent is recognized and the pay to be the same regardless of gender, creed, or race.  Anything less, is unacceptable.

TVWA: What sorts of things do you do personally and/or professionally to lift other women up and support them personally and/or professionally?  

CF: I mentor women who have little or no experience.  I will take my time to teach them a trade, show them how I manage in the world today. I stand alongside my friends and associates in their time of need and offer my help and support whenever they struggle. I also believe that being positive is essential, and sometimes that trait needs to be encouraged. Wine Production has made great strides for women and the opportunities are there for those who are not afraid of the work or the hours. 

TVWA: Tell us something that many people would be surprised to find out about you! I used to be shy and I am a Pollyanna. I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I am pretty open these days, but it was a struggle for me as a younger person. I was not always outspoken, and I certainly did not like public speaking.  It took a lot of time to find my voice and pitch.

Wendy Holder, VP of Marketing, Wilson Creek Winery

Wendy Holder

Wendy has been in Temecula Valley for a whopping 43 years! The things she must have seen! She began her career with Rancon Financial, where she worked for 14 years with Dan Stephenson, someone she desicribes as “An entrepreneurial visionary who contributed to the early development of “Rancho California” now known as Temecula.” She credits him for introducing her to the marketing profession, and she has since grown her experience in advertising, hospitality, and entrepreneurship herself. In 2009, she joined Wilson Creek to work alongside Bill Wilson in growing the iconic Temecula winery.

TVWA: The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” – What does this mean to you?  

WH: I am pleased to see how the roles and positions women now occupy in Temecula Wine Country have grown dramatically over the years. I feel the contribution of women has never been greater and their growing success has come directly from hard work, dedication, and passion for the wine industry in the valley. These key qualities are essential in any workplace and have been the best method of overcoming gender inequalities. 

TVWA: What sorts of things do you do to lift other women up and support them personally and/or professionally?

WH: I love to share my knowledge and experience by supporting, mentoring, teaching others and building trust. Confidence encourages initiative. Initiative brings personal and professional growth. I firmly believe women who commit themselves fully to their profession or personal endeavors, seek to always learn and grow, and remain steadfast and not dissuaded by difficulties, will always excel.

TVWA: Tell us something that many people would be surprised to find out about you!

WH: I was actively involved in 4-H in my youth, showing horses, sheep, goats and dogs. I became the Riverside County Horse Show Champion when I was fifteen years old. It was during these years that I was mentored by one of my 4-H leaders, Audrey Cilurzo. Many know Audrey as one of the pioneers of Temecula Wine Country, a very intelligent and caring person with a strong business sense and a consummate professional. It was with Audrey that I poured my first glass of wine at the balloon and wine festival over 32 years

Check back for part 2 of this story on Tuesday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, as we continue to celebrate our fabulous women in wine.

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A Bright Future for Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Get to Know the Next Generation and Youngest Rising Stars of This Top Wine Destination

Damian & Lucca Doffo

While many think Temecula Valley is a relatively young wine region, this Southern California wine hot spot actually celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018! In fact, Temecula Valley has been around long enough now that the next generation of winemakers and winery employees are starting to leave their mark on this dynamic wine destination. It’s not uncommon to see multiple family members working at the same winery, sons and daughters learning the ropes and making wines alongside their parents, and young, fresh-faced winemakers just starting out in their careers staining their hands purple in the cellar.

From Temecula Valley Wine Country pioneer Phil Baily’s 24-year-old grandson Alex, who is an integral part of the Baily harvest crew alongside Phil and Phil’s son Patrick, to Nick and Cindy Palumbo’s son Reed who has been put to work in all aspects of the winery, vineyard and production at Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery, to second generation winemaker Damian Doffo’s very young children who are regularly seen playing amongst the vines and at the winery, the future is bright Temecula Valley! Passionate winemakers, winery owners, and staff of all ages are all bringing a touch of magic to the region that Wine Enthusiast Magazine called one of the Top 10 Wine Destinations in the world in 2019.

We caught up with a few of Temecula’s youngest winemakers and next generation winery employees to learn what it’s like not only to work with family, but to be the faces of the future of Southern California Wine Country.

Jeff Carter, President of Carter Hospitality Group

Jeff Carter

Jeff is the son of Jim Carter, founder of Carter Hospitality Group and South Coast Winery, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Jeff was originally the CFO for Carter Hospitality Group from 1998 to 2011, ultimately becoming president in 2011.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

JC: Working with family can be a blessing and a curse. While we have many common goals to help the business succeed, we sometimes have different approaches. Since we’re more familiar, we can be and are more direct with each other versus a traditional corporate business setting. At the end of the day, we are family and work through those differences, ultimately bringing everyone closer together. Having lost my mother when I was 24 years old, I am thankful for the time spent with my father working on new endeavors. I hear so many people wishing they had spent more time with their loved ones; I get to do that on a daily basis.   

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JC: I think we are starting to see some of the transition from one generation to the next and I am not yet sure how it will all work out. Will the new visions of the next generation turn into reality, or will time and experience build an appreciation for what the first generation has built? I believe the next generation of winemakers will continue to create one-of-a-kind experiences for the public, just as the first generation did. The next generation has newer technologies and data to refine the quality of the wines and are able to cast a larger net outside of Southern California – which is exciting to see.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JC: Temecula Valley continues to build a stable of serious wineries making amazing and complex wines. I see Temecula Valley Wine Country expanding its presence in wine consumers’ minds and hearts, whether that is pulling in guests to the valley from a larger geographic area or putting a bottle of wine on their dinner table 3,000 miles away. Temecula has matured as a wine destination and wine aficionados across the country will continue to take notice.

Joseph Wiens, Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

Joseph Wiens

Joseph Wiens is one of about ten other members of the Wiens family that work at the winery. He followed in his father and founding winemaker Doug’s footsteps, and has been the head winemaker for nearly 11 years now.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

JW: Overall, it’s been great.  Our (huge) family all has special strengths in their positions, and we all work together to make sure our guests enjoy their time with us.  We have a tradition at our winery that gives the winemaking staff relative autonomy over our winemaking program, which is very freeing, and allows our creative sides flourish. Also, sometimes we fight (just like any other family).

TWVA: Fighting in any family is to be expected! At least you have wine to get through it. Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JW: The younger generation pushes to try new winemaking techniques, less traditional blends, and branding that resonates with our generation.  Since we have so many age groups involved at our winery, we tend to diversify our portfolio of offerings, which translates into a wine list that appeals to a very wide audience.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JW: I see more of the younger generation getting involved with winemaking and ownership.  That will help to keep Temecula Wine Country fresh, exciting, and relevant as a Southern California destination. 

With so many family members working alongside you, you must have some great stories to tell! Can you share?

JW: Although we’re a big, diverse family, we always get together for family gatherings.  Once the adults have enjoyed enough beer and wine, they challenge each other to a “feats of strength” game called leg wrestling (which looks as strange as it sounds).  Basically, two people lay on their backs and try to flip over the other person, using only their leg.  My uncle, Big Dave was the final boss, and to my memory, has never been beaten. 

Damian Doffo, CEO & Winemaker, Doffo Winery

Damian Doffo

Damian is the 37-year-old son of Marcelo Doffo, who purchased the land and planted vines in 1994, and wasted no time involving the whole family in the business, including Damian and his sisters Brigitte and Samantha. Damian has been the winemaker for 12 years, and also became CEO five years ago. Big sister Samantha is in charge of events and tours for the winery, and Damian’s other sister Brigitte handles all things related to design, merchandise, and aesthetic for the business.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

DD: We love it! Our inside joke is that we even hang out after work. That’s how you know we really like each other! 

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

DD: I feel very lucky to be in the Temecula Valley amongst great company of young, talented winemakers. It’s been fun watching my peers develop and produce some amazing wines in the Valley.

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

DD: The next generation is putting their twist and mark on the valley. I believe that this last year really put some separation between the wineries that pivoted and adapted versus those that bunkered down and went static through the pandemic.  

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

DD: I see Temecula continuing to create its own legacy in the wine world. Our model doesn’t conform to the norms, but it’s working for us! Temecula needs to own its diversity and its tourism appeal and run with it! Celebrate the uniqueness of what our small slice of heaven offers the world.

Justin Knight, Winemaker, Danza del Sol Winery & Masia de la Vinya Winery

Justin Knight

Justin’s first job in wine was in the tasting room at Danza del Sol Winery over 12 years ago, where he first developed an interest in the production side of the business. After working under then-winemaker Mike Tingley and assistant winemaker Renato Sais, he learned the ropes, ultimately being promoted to head winemaker for both Danza del Sol and sister property Masia de la Vinya in 2018.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

JK: I wouldn’t want to be a “young winemaker” anywhere else. Being an up-and-comer in most industries can be an intimidating time, but the previous generation of winemakers has set a strong foundation which has allowed the beginnings of a new generation to come and thrive. There is also more of a camaraderie factor in the valley, that I don’t believe is as strong in many other regions. 

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JK: Experimentation is one word that comes to mind in searching for differences in winemaking styles between generations. I think the younger generation will be more likely to experiment as they try and find a style of their own. Personally, I pull a lot of inspiration from the “old school” winemaking techniques that I learned from my predecessors, while also using a fair amount of “new” practices in order to make the best quality wine I can. 

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JK: I see Temecula continuing to grow and getting more world recognition as our region’s potential is fully realized. 

Spenser Epperson, Sales Associate, Wiens Family Cellars

Spenser Epperson

Spenser’s mother was the first non-family employee at Wiens. She started out as a sales associate in the temporary tasting room trailer while the family was building what is now the winery’s main tasting room, ultimately becoming an assistant manager before retiring ten years after she started. Spenser has been a sales associate at Wiens for two years now.

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

SE: There has been noticeable change in the level of service expected, as well as amenities desired over the last 15 years or so. Many tasting rooms in the Valley were a belly-up style, and more informal for many years. With the change of guard, so to speak, the expectations are different, and many wineries have changed to meet demands like table service, on-site restaurants, and other amenities.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

SE: I believe Temecula is beginning to find itself with regard to what grape varieties can thrive and evoke a sense of place in our warm and arid climate. We are in the very early stages of transformation from a weekend destination to a serious wine region as the next generation of winemakers apply new ideas and begin to assert a more dominant role in the valley.

Meanwhile, my generation is beginning a transformation of their own. I feel my generation is much more open to new experiences. While my parents would stick to ordering a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay on a wine menu, my generation is much more open to new experiences, and is willing to try more esoteric grape varieties on a wine menu. They are also beginning to reach that age when my own parents began to discover wine. It is only a matter of time before these trends converge. When that happens, watch out!

TVWA: It’s great that Temecula Valley is home to so many unique grape varieties in addition to the classics! Can you share any funny stories from your experience working at Wiens?

SE: My mother once brought home a 2012 Grand Rouge (The Wiens Family flagship wine) for me to try. She opened it and left it on the counter. I found it and thought it was left out overnight, so I dumped it down the kitchen sink! Needless to say, I was sad when, years later, I finally had a chance to taste how good it is. We now laugh when we remember that story.

Olivia Bue, Winemaker, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Olivia Bue

Olivia has been part of the winemaking team at Robert Renzoni Vineyards since 2014, becoming head winemaker in 2017. Her passion and commitment to quality have contributed in no small way to the large number of 90+ point scores Robert Renzoni wines have received over the years.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

OB: Honestly, I feel like I have a lot to live up to being among the youngest in the valley and surrounded by many incredibly talented winemakers here who have been making wine for decades. I have definitely leaned on them through the years to fully understand this region’s idiosyncrasies. When I first began working in Temecula Valley as a 23-year-old, I dreaded when people asked me my age, but here I am 9 years later and feel so proud of this opportunity to grow with the wine region.  

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

OB: The next generation of winemakers may be a bit more adventurous with old school winemaking philosophies. I think it’s great to see young adults enthused about wine, so our market is much bigger now than it was two decades ago. We younger winemakers are able to connect with that audience as well as the older consumers.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

OB: The main goal is for Temecula Valley to get recognized for quality winemaking beyond just Southern California. Seeing visitors specifically flying into Southern California to come spend a weekend in the beautiful Temecula Valley is so exciting. The unity this region has among the winery leaders is incredibly special. 

Dakota Denton, Winemaker, Gershon Bachus Vintners

Dakota Denton

Dakota Denton is the 35-year-old winemaker at the picturesque Gershon Bachus Vintners along the De Portola Wine trail, where he has been working in winemaking since 2013.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

DD: Being a young winemaker I find that people are surprised about my age, and time spent working for Gershon Bachus Vintners. It’s been amazing to be able to work with some of Temecula’s great winemakers at such a young age. I was lucky enough to start working full-time in production at the age of 20. The amount of support I have received from the winemakers before me and the encouragement to keep on pursuing my dreams has helped me meet my goals at a young age. 

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

DD: As for winemaking, I’m going to have to say no, because the wine industry is constantly updating and innovating; so, as a winemaker – young or old – we are constantly trying to keep up with the times, and the best winemaking procedures to make the best product we can.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

Growing up in Temecula, I’ve been able to see wine country grow and grow, and the wine get better and better every year. Temecula Valley Wine Country is producing world class wines, and, as young winemakers, it’s our job to keep the quality next-level.

TVWA: Got any stories from when you were just starting out in the business?

DD: During my first production job on a hot summer day during harvest, the cellar crew and I got in trouble at work for starting a water fight that went on for about 10 minutes – all of us just spraying each other with hoses and dumping buckets of water on each other. It was a blast.

Photos courtesy of Carter Hospitality Group, Doffo Winery, Wiens Family Cellars, Danza Del Sol Winery, Robert Renzoni Vineyards and Gershon Bachus Vintners.

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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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From Valentine’s Day to The Big Game: Your Temecula Valley Wine Guide for All of February’s Celebrations

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Wine is our love language!

February is full of wine-drinking occasions, from marking the end of Dry January (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing), to Valentine’s Day, to the Super Bowl, and everything in between. Whether you are planning a romantic night in with your honey, a night of yelling at your TV screen and high-fiving your family over touchdowns, or just stocking up after a month of nothing but diet soda and sparkling water, we’ve got your guide for what to drink for all occasions this month.

BUBBLY

It doesn’t matter if you’re toasting your love or the winning team, sparkling wine is a great option for a celebration or for sipping with just about anything you’re eating, from game day food to fancy dishes to an entire box of Valentine’s Day chocolates (no judgement).

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvée Sparkling Syrah, $20

Everyone loves to pair chocolate with wine, but the two often go together like a Taurus and a Leo – in other words, not so well. We have, however, found an exception. Pop a bottle of this crimson-colored red sparkling wine, bursting with juicy, red berry fruit, and dip into that box of Valentine’s Day chocolate for the perfect, indulgent treat.

Your Game Day Selection:

Carter Estate 2014 Blanc de Blanc Brut, $40

This crisp, clean, bone-dry bubbly is made in the méthode Champenoise, AKA how they do it in the most famous sparkling wine region of the world, Champagne. It’s light and complex, with tiny bubbles that will totally upstage any frosty game day lager.

WHITE WINE

We know sports spectating usually calls for frosty beers, but why not opt for a cold, crisp glass of white wine instead? These selections are refreshing and equally at home with a spicy plate of nachos as they are with that house-made Fettuccine Alfredo from your favorite Italian take-out spot.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Oak Mountain Winery Chardonnay, $26

Valentine’s Day Dinners are often decadent affairs – lobster tails dipped in butter, juicy roast chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped scallops (is your mouth watering yet?)… This lightly oaked Chardonnay is rich yet balanced, with bright green apple, lemon curd, and crème brulée, and will be the perfect accompaniment to your romantic dinner for two.

Your Game Day Selection:

Danza del Sol Vermentino, $34

This fresh, juicy Vermentino, a grape that is equally at home in Temecula as it is in Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany, will have you feeling like you’re watching the game from Italy. Notes of ripe, fleshy stone fruit, lime zest and white flowers give way to a clean, oyster shell finish. The very definition of “quaffable.”

ROSÉ

Real sports fans drink pink. And, nothing says romance like a glass of ballet-slipper-hued nectar. If you are someone who loves the cool, crispness of a great glass of white wine, but are also looking for something with a bit more oomph, rosé is the perfect option.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Ponte Winery “Pas Doux,” $30

“Pas Doux” translates to “not sweet,” a descriptor that lets the drinker know this wine, made from Sangiovese, was intentionally made in a classic, dry, Provençal style. This juicy rosé is bursting with strawberries and rose petals – in other words, all the ingredients of a romantic encounter.

Your Game Day Selection:

Robert Renzoni Vineyards Lyric Rosé, $29

This is a wine we refer to as “crushable,” meaning that you could drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, if you’ve got a long day of watching sports ahead of you, snag a bottle of this baby pink, dry rosé, with notes of white peach, guava, lime zest, and melon. It will pair nicely with that killer seven-layer dip you make. 

RED

Given the cold, wet weather over the past few weeks, we’ve found ourselves wondering if we really do live in Southern California! Fortunately, we’ve found solace in the plush, full-bodied red wines that our Temecula Valley wineries are known for to keep us warm. Snuggle up with your significant other or curl up on the couch to watch the Big Game with one of these hearty selections.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Baily Winery Cabernet Franc, $35

You can close your eyes and pretend you’re having date night in Bordeaux… or better yet, among the gorgeous rolling hills of Temecula Valley. Baily Winery is known for their traditional, Old World take on winemaking – in particular Bordeaux-style blends – and this Cabernet Franc is no exception. Ripe berry and plum mingle with exotic spice and black pepper and a touch of forest floor. This is a wine to linger over now with your partner, or put away for several years until your next big anniversary.

Your Game Day Selection:

Europa Village Barbera, $42

We love this bright, fresh Barbera, produced from vine cuttings that trace their heritage all the way back to Italy’s Piedmont region, from which the Barbera grape hails. It’s juicy and packed with tart cherry and berry fruit, and just a touch of spice, making it a heavenly match for a big pot of spicy game day chili.

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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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Pan-Seared Steak with Portobello Mushroom Sauce atop Mascarpone Polenta

Wednesday, 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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Baked Pears with Coconut Chocolate Crumble

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Want to surprise that special someone with a yummy Valentine’s treat?  This recipe looks perfect for the occasion!

Delicate and fragrant, these baked pears have a sweet crunchy topping laced with coconut and chocolate. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Sparkling Rosé or Dessert Wine.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

6 Bosc pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, quartered, cored and cut lengthwise into ½ inch slices

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup water

1½ cups sweetened flaked (dried) coconut

1 cup all purpose flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F

Mix the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Toss the pears with the lemon juice in a large bowl.

Add the cinnamon mixture and toss again.

Spread pear slices evenly into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish and drizzle with the water.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until pears are tender.

While the pears are baking, make the crumble.

Mix the coconut, 1 cup flour, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

Using your fingers, pinch the butter into the coconut mixture to form a slightly damp coarse mix with pea-size crumbles.

Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. (Can be baked in the oven with the pears).

Remove the crumble from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate evenly over the crumble and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

To serve, divide pear slices among 6 dessert plates and top each serving with a spoonful of crumble.

Top with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese

Carter Estate Winery ~ 2014 Brut Sparkling

Hart Family Winery ~ 2017 Rosé of Sangiovese – Platinum Medal Winner; 2018 Winemaker’s Challenge Wine Competition

Thornton Winery ~ Non-Vintage Blanc De Noir

 

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Filet Mignons with Blue Cheese Butter and Cranberry Zinfandel Sauce Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

These tender filet mignon steaks are napped with a rosemary-infused red wine reduction and topped with a luxurious compound butter, making this dish worthy of any celebration. Pair with your favorite Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 large heads garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature

Sauce:
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup plus 2 cups red Zinfandel wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary

Smashed potatoes:
2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
Salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup roasted garlic puree
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Steaks:
6 filet mignons, each about 6 ounces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

Directions:

Roast the garlic:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel away the outer layers from the garlic head, leaving the cloves intact. Slice about 1/4-inch from the tops of each garlic head. Arrange, cut-side up, on a large piece of foil. Lightly drizzle with the oil, then fold the foil up around the garlic and seal. Bake the garlic in the oven until the garlic is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool to the touch, then squeeze the garlic into a bowl, and mash with a fork to form a paste. There should be about 1/2 cup.

Make the compound butter:
Mash the butter, cheese, and 1 teaspoon of the roasted garlic paste in a small bowl to blend. Place the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder about 3-inches in length. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving and cut into 6 equal disks.

Prepare the sauce:
Combine the cranberries and 1/4 cup Zinfandel in a small bowl.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the 2 cups Zinfandel, the broth, and rosemary. Boil the sauce until reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Drain the cranberries and add to the sauce; discard the soaking liquid.

Prepare the potatoes:
While the sauce is reducing, place the potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt in a pot and cover with cold water. Boil until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the sour cream, roasted garlic, butter, pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt and mash the potatoes with a potato masher until well blended. Keep warm.

Cook the filet mignons:
Season the filet mignons with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the meat in the skillet and cook to desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to warm serving plates and top each steak with a knob of compound butter.

Pour the reserved wine sauce into the same skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter until smooth and remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauce around the steaks. Serve with the garlic smashed potatoes.

Suggested pairings:

Carter Estate Winery & Resort 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 4

Danza Del Sol Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Doffo Winery 2014 Zinfandel

Ponte Winery 2015 Zinfandel

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Dream Big ~ Jim Carter, South Coast Winery

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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

 

Jim and Dawn Carter, owners

Jim and Dawn Carter, owners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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