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Temecula Valley’s Unsung Heroes ~ A Tribute to Those Working Behind the Scenes

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Last month we did a feature on the rockstar tasting room staff of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. It was such a hit that we decided this month to focus on another group of movers and shakers of Temecula Valley – the “Unsung Heroes” who are behind the scenes ensuring that the region runs smoothly on all fronts. These Wine Country warriors are the ones our visitors don’t often get to meet; the ones who make the actual functioning of our wineries possible. While sometimes it’s the winemakers and winery owners who get all the glory, Wine Country wouldn’t exist without the folks who work tirelessly every day to keep the lights on and create memorable experiences for our visitors.

Let’s meet a few:

Brenda Ruocco

Brenda Ruocco, Director, Wholesale Operations for South Cost Winery

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Brenda has been in Temecula for the last 20 years with her husband and her “Animal family of dogs and horses.” Anyone who has purchased a bottle of South Coast wine from a local wine shop or grocery store has Brenda to thank for it being on the shelf.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job?

BR: A typical day in wholesale includes meeting with domestic and export wholesale buyers; conducting wine tastings; making sales calls to box and liquor stores and restaurants; checking inventory; writing orders; working closely with the winemaking team; managing our warehouse and supervising our wholesale team of eight.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

BR: Yes, I love wine! Of course I’m partial to ours. Currently, I’m enjoying our 2019 South Coast Pinot Grigio, 2015 Wild Horse Peak Merlot and Vineyard Rose Sparkling.

TVWA: You have been in the Valley for a long time. Can you share any memorable Wine Country moments? Can you share your best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country moments?

BR: The best Wine Country moment was receiving South Coast’s California State Winery of the Year award with our winemaking team – ALL four times! My most memorable moment was opening South Coast Winery and being part of the original team. It was so exciting to watch the construction team build our winery. Also memorable was helping to create the “Rock The Pink” brand to support Cancer Awareness.

TVWA: Wow. You could probably write a book about Temecula Valley Wine Country! Speaking of books, do you have any hobbies outside of the winery?

BR: I love to travel, marathon running, cooking/wine pairing, reading and gardening.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

BR: I recall being mesmerized by the valley on my first visit in 1990. I was on a business trip from Washington, DC, and had an extra day after a meeting in Carlsbad. The hotel I was staying at recommended a trip to Temecula Wine Country. I drove through early in the morning and saw a handful of wineries and hot air balloons overhead and knew I wanted to live here. Five years later after meeting my husband, we rearranged our lives to move to Temecula. We are both Italian and see so many comparisons to Italy. I’m so proud to represent this region and the opportunity to educate people about our terroir and beautiful valley.    

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

Patricia O’Brien

This Southern California native has been in Temecula Valley for 17 years. She is married to her best friend, Patrick, and together they have raised three kids: Mikayla age 25, Sean Patrick age 17 and Peyton age 9.  “I love my job,” she says. “But I have to say being a parent happens to be the best gig ever!”

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

PO: My workday usually starts at 7:30 am with a review of sales reports from the previous day, answering emails and tackling my infamous to-do list.  You see, I’m a firm believer in setting a daily tasks list.  I never put more than 6 things on my to-do list, so I don’t set myself up for failure.  My days usually consist of analyzing traffic, sales, and wine club attrition and sign up reports, evaluating wine projections, label approvals, reviewing and overseeing monthly social media and marketing plan, as well as meetings with the Controller, Winemaker, tasting room and wine club managers.  

TVWA: Whew! We are exhausted just thinking about your day! You must like to kick-back at the end of the day. Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

PO: Do I drink wine?! I’m passionate about wine. I love the process of growing grapes, harvesting grapes, and the art of turning those grapes into wine. I love wine so much, I enrolled in the WSET Level II class in Spring 2019 and passed the exam.  My favorite varietal is Old Vine Zinfandel but lately I’ve been enjoying Pinot Noir and dry rosé.

TVWA: Do you have a best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country Moment?

PO: I’ve been working in Temecula Valley Wine Country for 13 years. I have so many best, funny and memorable moments.  One of the best and funniest moments, is my initial interview with founder of Danza del Sol Winery, Bob Olson, almost 11 years ago.  I answered an ad for a job, and we met for breakfast at South Coast. It was the most casual interview I’ve ever had in my life. I basically ate breakfast with a complete stranger. When the interview ended, I called my husband and said, “That was the most chill interview I’ve ever had!” and by the time I made it home, Bob called to offer me the job. And the rest, as they say, is history! 

TVWA: If only all job interviews went like that! Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

PO: I’m an uber proud soccer Mom, (Go Legends FC Temecula Valley) who is obsessed with the art of charcuterie, a ferocious reader, and I love spending time with my family and friends.  

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

PO: What makes Temecula Valley so special to me is that although Temecula Valley is a vacation destination, with farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, hotels, golf courses, and over 40 wineries, which I am proud to be a part of, it has also been a great place to raise our children and given us the opportunity to make friendships that will last forever.

Jana Prais, Sales Director, Maurice Car’rie Winery

Originally from La Mirada, California, Jana has been in Temecula for 32 years! It’s amazing that she has any time for work in Wine Country, given she also has four grown children, another starting her senior year at Temecula Valley High School, two dogs, one cat, seven chickens and seven grandkids!

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

JP: No two days are the same for me and I love that part of the job. I usually start the day calling on stores and hand selling wine. I’ve been blessed to meet many wonderful people working in outside sales.

TVWA: We’re guessing you like to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, juggling a family of that size! Any favorites?

JP: Maurice Car’rie Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to wine. Although, our new Ultimate red wines are very impressive – the 2018 Tempranillo might be my favorite so far.

TVWA: You must have collected some memories during your 37 years in Temecula Valley. Do any stand out to you?

JP: Some of my fondest memories took place in the summertime at Cilurzo Winery.
Audrey would invite all 12 wineries to a pool party at her and Vince’s home. Everyone brought a dish and wine. She made the best cookies that paired perfectly with Cilurzo Petite Sirah. I think that kind of hospitality and those friendships are still happening today in Wine Country.

TVWA: Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

JP: I love meeting up with my wine country friends and enjoying a glass of wine!

TVWA: Hopefully you count us among those friends! What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JP: I’ve seen Temecula grow beyond what I could have imagined, but we still have that hometown feel and a great community. I’m proud to be part of Temecula and wine country. 

Dollie Pavlinch, Wine Society Volunteer Coordinator for Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association

Dollie Pavlinch

With the number events and fundraising efforts the TVWA is responsible for each year, it’s no wonder Dollie is a hero of Wine Country. Pouring wines & staffing events is hard work! Originally from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by way of Arcadia, California, Dollie has spent the last 20 years in Temecula with her husband, Don, and their “furry dog baby, Miss Molly.”

TVWA: What would you say is your earliest or fondest memory of Wine Country?

DP: You know, our first memory of Wine Country was stopping by Wilson Creek. At the time, it was a tiny bar with Rosie and Jerry and us, talking about moving here from the same area. Times have certainly changed.

TVWA: Those were the days! Got any hobbies outside of work?

DP: Since retirement from ATT, I enjoy every day… and, yes, I enjoy drinking Temecula wines! I love to sit on our patio with a glass of wine, overlooking the wineries. It is an enjoyment Don and I look forward to

TVWA: We love to do that too! Do you have any favorite wines?

DP: Oh dear… I love them all! Especially the bubbly…

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

DP: I love the people in Temecula. I especially love the Wine Country atmosphere. I also enjoy our wines. We have exceptional winemakers, each of whom take pride in their product!

Ted Dorr, UPS Driver

Tedd Dorr & Mattie

Everyone who is anyone out in Wine Country has likely had the good fortune of having Ted show up at their door with package deliveries or for pick-up. He has been on his current UPS route in Wine Country for over 25 years, making him a true fixture of the region. He has been married to his wife Debi for 31 years – the same amount of time he has been a UPS driver – and has two kids, Travis and Lauren, age 29 and 26, as well as a blonde lab named Bailey.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

TD: A typical day usually starts at 7 AM. I bring a trailer out with me to use for pick-ups in the afternoon, depending on who’s heavy on pick-ups. I try to accommodate to the wineries’ needs. If they need an early delivery or a later pick-up, I work around them.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

TD: I enjoy drinking wine. It’s funny. Years ago, when I first started the route, I wasn’t much of a wine drinker. But I learned to appreciate it through the years. Love the reds, but I’ll drink the whites also.

TVWA: You’ve probably seen it all out in Wine Country! Got any memories to share?

TD: I have seen the Valley grow from just a handful of wineries, to present time and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. The people in wine country are amazing. They have become like family. I really enjoy going to work and seeing everyone. 

TVWA: What do you like to do when you’re not traveling all over Wine Country for UPS?

TD: My hobbies are hanging out with my wife and family. I enjoy the beach. It’s my place to just get away and ride some waves. 

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

TD: I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of Wine Country all these years. The people are amazing. To be able share the growth in the valley and their friendships has been so rewarding. 

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez, Cellar Foreman, South Coast Winery

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez

Juan came to Temecula Valley all the way from Culiacá, in Sinaloa, Mexico a whopping 34 years ago! He is part of the dream team that has led South Coast Winery to receive the California State Winery of the Year title an unprecedented four times.

TVWA: What does a typical day look like on the job? 

JVG: It ranges from what the day brings. As of right now we have been busy with our bottling season and it is my job to ensure that everything runs smoothly from the tank to the bottle!

TVWA: Tell us about life outside the winery. Got family? Kids? Pets?

JVG: I have a 25 year-old son, and a 23-year old daughter. I have been married to my wife Blanca for 26 years this past April!

TVWA: Wow. You must drink a lot of wine then (we hear it is the key to a happy marriage!). Any favorites?

JVG: Yes I drink wine! I enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, or some type of dessert wine, which is my wife’s favorite.

TVWA: We’re guessing you’ve collected your share of memories over the past 34 years in Temecula Valley. Can you share any?

JVG: There was a time when I was unloading a Cherokee truck while working at Callaway. There was a truck driver who began to pull away from the location, but the pump was still connected to the truck! It’s funny now in hindsight, but at the time it was really scary. So now every time I see a Cherokee truck, I always remember that day!

TVWA: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working (or dodging trucks still connected to pumps)?

JVG: I love to go fishing with my family, which can be here locally at Lake Skinner, or at times going to fish off the Oceanside pier. I also love to play basketball with my son. Go Lakers!

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JVW: Temecula Valley was the first place I came to after having left my hometown in Mexico. So, to me Temecula was my first home in America and I am grateful to have learned new things here. And, I’m proud to be a part of the South Coast wine-making team!

Huge thanks to all of the extraordinary people who work tirelessly every day to keep our region alive and well, especially those who contributed to this piece. Temecula Valley has been able to grow into the ultimate quality wine and hospitality destination because of you.

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RAMEN WITH ASPARAGUS, SHIITAKE, AND EDAMAME

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Ramen with Asparagus

Everybody loves ramen. The noodles are slippery and satisfying, the broth nourishing, and it’s okay to slurp. Use this recipe as a template for your own inspirations. When asparagus is not in season, substitute spinach or mustard greens. If you can’t find edamame (soybeans), try green peas. A quivering six-minute egg continues to cook in the hot broth and adds richness. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Gewürztraminer or Riesling.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 1⁄2 cups (875 ml) rich chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1⁄2 cup (5 g) dried bonito flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1⁄2 pound (250 g) fresh ramen noodles
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, about 1 1⁄2 oz (45 g), stems removed, then sliced
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1⁄2 cup (70 g) fresh or frozen shelled edamame
  • 2⁄3 cup (70 g) diagonally sliced asparagus tips, in slices 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 1⁄4 cup (65 g) white miso
  • 1⁄4 cup (30 g) minced green onion, white and pale green part only
  • Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend), for garnish

Directions:

Bring the broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the bonito flakes, sprinkling them on the surface. Let them steep for 3 to 4 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth and return the strained broth to the saucepan.

Put enough water in a small saucepan to cover the egg generously but do not add the egg yet. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer so you can add the egg without jostling it. While the water is heating, prepare a bowl of ice water. With a large spoon, lower the egg into the simmering water, working carefully so it does not crack. Adjust the heat so the egg cooks at a gentle simmer. Cook the egg for 6 minutes exactly. Transfer the egg to the ice water with a slotted spoon. When cool, lift it out of the water and peel.

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ramen noodles and stir well to keep the noodles from clumping. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles are al dente (the timing will depend on their freshness). With tongs, lift the noodles out of the pot and into a sieve or colander. Rinse with cool water and shake well to remove any excess water. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil to prevent clumping.

Fill two large soup bowls with hot water from the ramen pot to warm them.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a small nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Return the broth to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the edamame and simmer gently until they are almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. (You can add frozen edamame without thawing.) Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Put the miso in a small bowl and whisk in enough of the hot broth to make a smooth, pourable mixture. Stir the thinned miso into the broth. Salt to taste.

Drain the hot water from the soup bowls. Divide the noodles and mushrooms between the bowls. Top with the steaming-hot broth, dividing it evenly. Halve the boiled egg and nestle one half in each bowl. Garnish generously with the green onions and shichimi togarashi and serve.

Suggested Pairings:

Bel Vino Winery ~ NV Riesling – Extremely aromatic with intense fruity aromas of nectarine, ripe apricot and pink lady apples.

Danza del Sol Winery ~ 2017 Gewurztraminer – Green Guava, floral, and gingerbread spice.

Mount Palomar Winery ~ NV Riesling – The taste is full with apricot, peach, tangerine, lychee, star fruit and guava. 

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ 2016 Dry Gewurztraminer – Exotic floral scents of roses, citrus, lychee fruit and bubble gum are balanced against the crisp acidity.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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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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Getting to Know Temecula Valley’s Rockstar Tasting Room Staff

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

We as wine lovers always like to hear how winemakers and winery owners got their start. We often think of them as local celebrities; their appearance in the tasting room is always met with hushed whispers and a great sense of excited anticipation – maybe they’ll sign my bottle! Or pour me a barrel sample! And they certainly deserve this rockstar status. However, there is another group of winery rockstars that equally deserve the spotlight – the tasting room staff who keep our glasses filled and hearts full.

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is known for its warm and welcoming tasting rooms. This is in no small part thanks to the remarkable men and women who bring their passion and engaging personalities to work every day, and to the stories they share with visitors about our region. Let’s meet a few Temecula Valley tasting room legends.

Walter Carter

Walter Carter, Director of Hospitality, Danza del Sol Winery & Masia de la Vinya Winery

This Temecula Valley rockstar is no doubt one of the best-known personalities in Temecula Valley. Not only is he the consummate wine and hospitality pro, being a Certified Hospitality Industry Professional (CHIP), a 2-time Xenia Spotlight on Service award winner, and a Certified Sommelier, his infectious personality is legendary in both the tasting room and across the region as a whole. Originally hailing from Tampa, Florida, he has lived in Temecula for eight years.

TVWA: Tell us about your family. Kids? Dogs?

WC: Jamie Carter is my wife, and we have a blended family of six kids.

TVWA: Wow – six kids! No wonder you love wine. Speaking of which, tell us about your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

WC: After working a shift in a restaurant in Florida, the chef prepared gorgonzola-crusted lamb chops, which he then paired with a Chianti. It changed the way I saw wine FOREVER! I describe this as my coming to wine (not Jesus) moment. The way the wine elevated the food, and vice versa, was something I’ll never forget.

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

WC: Gorgonzola-crusted lamb chops paired with a Chianti (of course), and 2009 Danza del Sol Syrah paired with blue cheese cheesecake.

TVWA: We think we may already know the answer, but do you have a signature tasting room style or move?

WC: The “Walter Pour” – an exaggerated long pour with a smile.

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

WC: Meeting my future wife. She was hired a couple of months after I was. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would end up being my best friend in the whole wide world.

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

WC: Golfing, and I love to cook. I love a good grill session, crock pot recipe, air fryer (just got one and I love love love it), you name it. I find it therapeutic when I have time to put together a nice meal for my family to enjoy. That is something that is very important to me.

Diana Geenen


Diana Geenen, Hospitality Operations Manager, Leoness Cellars

This Upland, California, native has been in Temecula Valley for the past 6 years. She is the proud mama of three dogs and a bearded dragon, and enjoys painting, cooking, exploring the restaurant and craft brewing scene, and gardening. She has also been part of the same book club for 11 years! Now that’s commitment!

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

DG: When I first heard of blind tasting. I was amazed this was possible! Ever since then, I really concentrate on the characteristics of different varietals and regions and try to commit them to memory. I really enjoy practicing blind tasting with my co-workers. 

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

DG: When I’m feeling extra fancy, Sauternes and Foie Gras. Though, nothing beats a ribeye steak and a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon! 

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

DG: One of my favorite things that we do at Leoness is side-by-side comparisons. For example, the same varietal but from two different vineyards tasted side-by-side can show the guest how a vineyard really influences the end result. We are so lucky to have our Vineyard Series wines. Guests have so much fun talking about the wine this way and can pick their favorite. It’s great to witness their A-HA! moment!

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

DG: I think the most memorable moment for me was Valentine’s Day 2019. We had the biggest storm in Temecula, and all the roads were flooded. I barely made it to the winery, and we were actually forced to close for the day, along with many other wineries, because the weather conditions were so unsafe. Water was coming into the tasting room and into our barrel room. It was truly a sight I’ll never forget!

Raymond Murgo

Raymond Angel Murgo, Tasting Room Manager, Falkner Winery

Raymond is originally from Anaheim, California, but has spent the past 9 years in Temecula. He married his high school sweetheart, Ana, with whom he has two daughters, Angelina (age 11) and Avani (age 8), as well as an English Bulldog named Coco Lola, whom he affectionately refers to as his “fur baby.”

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

RM: My first A-HA was when I worked for Buzz and Kimberly Olson at Tesoro Winery. I had just turned 21 and, up to that point, I’d tasted wine maybe twice at family gatherings. It was an ‘06 Merlot, blue label, with the vineyard’s decal. It was the fabled unicorn; when we had a bottle out, it was like a golden treasure. So, I opened up the bottle and poured glasses for Buzz and me, and I and remember looking at how beautiful the deep blue hue was. I began swirling the glass and watching, almost in slow motion, the wine glide from side to side. We raised our glasses and took that luscious sip. Black cherry and plum, finishing with a softness… the vanilla just rolled on the back of your palate. We talked for a great while, finishing that bottle, but I wouldn’t believe, at 21 years of age, I had found what my love and passion would be. 

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

RM: My favorite wine pairing has to be Falkner Winery’s Amante Super Tuscan paired with the Spanish Octopus we serve at our on-site restaurant, The Pinnacle. Chef Jason just knows his way with it to keep the tenderness, and the Amante accentuates the red plum, roasted pepper, and roundness. You would think I’d go with white wine, but no way! I learned with many of the dishes at The Pinnacle Restaurant that our Amante is a killer treat! 

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasting room style or move?

RM: So my family, friends, and wine club member have sent me some insightful characteristics when I asked them about this (and some direct messages that are strictly meant to stay in the tasting room… those had-to-be-there moments!). But what I have gotten mostly as feedback is that I make wine approachable to all visitors. I am able to tell a story about the world of Temecula Valley Wine Country with knowledge, ease, and laughter! It’s almost as though I bring them into the backyard, and we can just relax for those 45 mins… it’s home. 

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

RM: My most memorable moment had to be when Kyla Pratt, an actress who played in one of my childhood favorite movies called “Love & Basketball,” stopped by to visit. She was so fun; she even got behind the bar with me and started pouring for her party. It was just another one of those times that it felt like we were all friends and family hanging out. 

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

RM: Outside of the wine world, I’m a huge family man. With my Mexican-American lifestyle we have a party to go to every weekend, prior to COVID. I love taking my girls to family adventures. I can’t breathe without my Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe fanatic), and Anaheim Angels. I played almost every sport from the age of 7 years old and up. So, when I can rally the troops, we get together and play basketball. But, one of my hidden passions is that I love history and literature, especially historical fiction. I am currently writing a biography about my family and linking the social norms and experiences from the 1990s to present. It’s a whole lot of fun learning where you came from to practicing the foundation for your future grandkids. 

Laura Kessens

Laura Kessens, Wine Consultant, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

This Scottsdale, Arizona native has been in Temecula for a whopping 20 years! When not charming guests with her warm personality and wine knowledge at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, she spends her time cooking, going wine tasting, and hanging out with friends and family, especially her two daughters.

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

LK: Hart Winery

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

LK: A glass of wine and a sunset!

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

LK: I’m not going to tell you what it is! You’ll just have to come experience it for yourself!

TVWA: Ha! Fair enough. Can you at least share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

LK: Some guests asked me where I liked to go wine tasting. I told them. The next day, they came back to me with the wine they had bought and wanted me to sign a bottle for them… wow.

Danaé Wegner

Danaé Wegner, Tasting Room Manager, Peltzer Family Cellars

Even though Danaé was born in Lake Arrowhead, California, she definitely considers Temecula her hometown. This makes sense given she has been here for 25 years! Her love of wine infuses even her life outside of the winery. She loves to create lavish charcuterie spreads and host friends and family for what her friend and Certified Sommelier, Art DeCaro, has lovingly dubbed “Wine Family Dinner.” She also loves to snuggle her “big baby bear” (AKA a very large Newfoundland dog) named Amber Jean.

TVWA: What was your first “a-ha!” wine moment?

DW: For my 21st birthday, my wine-loving Aunt Georgi took my sister, Dara, and I out to the Mission Inn in Riverside to celebrate. We stayed up all night talking and drinking her favorite go-to everyday bottle, St. Francis Zinfandel. I realized that evening that wine creates moments, which create memories, and I was in love. 

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

DW: As a Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 certification holder, I enjoy only the finest food and wine pairings, like Peltzer’s DOCG Prosecco and the Pizza con Rucola from our friends at Spuntino’s!

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

DW: Reaching up on my tip-toes in order to pour a glass of wine across the bar for thirsty customers. Being 5 feet tall creates strong calves in this industry!

TVWA: Can you share one of your most memorable tasting room moments?

DW: While taking a group through a tasting, it seemed apparent that one of the younger gentlemen wanted to be sure that I knew he was wildly experienced in the world of wine. I asked if he had ever had our premium sparkling wine. No, he had not. Well, it is very exclusive and I would have to go ask my manager if I could pour it for him. 

Permission granted! I went into the back and pulled out our Non-Vintage Pellegrino. It was his favorite wine of the day, and his friends appreciated his slightly shorter wine snob stance. We keep in touch, and I attended his wedding in 2016.

Rebecca Barone

Rebecca Barone, Wine Server, Monte de Oro Winery

Although Rebecca was born in in Northern California, she has called Temecula home for the past 19 years. Her 21-year-old son and his wife are serving in the Air Force, and her 18-year-old daughter just graduated high school. She has been married for 29 years, and has an adorable little Chihuahua named Cheerio.

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

RB: My favorite pairing is a big red with some salty Manchego or Parmigiano cheese.

TVWA: Do you have a signature tasing room style or move?

RB: I would say my style is honest and authentic but also fun and knowledgeable.

TVWA: What does life look like for you outside of the winery? Got any hobbies?

RB: My hobbies – other than wine – are being with my family, reading, hiking, and being outdoors.

Huge thanks to all the amazing winery staff who contributed to this piece. Got a favorite Wine Country tasting room rockstar? Tell us on social media and we will give them a shout out!

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Fun Facts About….Late Harvest Wine

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Late Harvest Wine Grapes

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

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

Here are five fun facts about late harvest wine!
Facts courtesy of Snooth and Wikipedia

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

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

Late Harvest Viognier, Danza del Sol Winery; $38
Late Harvest Malbec, Doffo Winery; $69
Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Europa Village; $24
Late Harvest Grenache, Lorenzi Estate Vineyards & Winery; $36

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Riesling-Poached Pear with Caramel Sauce

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Share a silky, wine-poached pear with friends on a hot summer night. Both the pear and the luscious caramel-yogurt sauce can be prepared ahead, so dessert will be ready when you are. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) Riesling
1 cup (250 ml) water
6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) granulated sugar
½-inch piece of vanilla bean
1 ripe but firm Bartlett or Anjou pear

Caramel Sauce:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup (2 oz/60 g) plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, at room temperature
Small chunk of bittersweet chocolate, optional

Directions
In a small saucepan, combine the wine, water, sugar, and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Peel the pear with a vegetable peeler, leaving the stem intact. Place the pear on its side in the simmering liquid. Spoon some of the liquid over the exposed pear. Cut a parchment round a little larger in diameter than the saucepan and place it over the pear, tucking the edges under the liquid to hold the parchment in place. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Remove the parchment and use 2 large spoons to gently turn the pear over without damaging the flesh. Recover with parchment, tucking the edges under as before, and continue simmering until the flesh is just tender when pierced, about 10 minutes longer. The pear will continue to cook as it cools. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pear carefully to a lidded container. Remove the vanilla bean from the poaching liquid. Simmer the poaching liquid until reduced to ½ cup (4 fl oz/125 ml). Cool completely, then pour it over the pear.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day, turning the pear every few hours in the syrup.

Make the caramel sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the sugars and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until reduced to 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons, about 4 minutes. Do not reduce further or the caramel will be too sticky. Pour into a measuring cup and let cool 2 minutes. Put the yogurt in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the caramel. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

To serve, cut the pear in half lengthwise. Core both halves with a melon baller. Put the halves, cut side down, on a work surface and thinly slice lengthwise, leaving the slices attached at the stem end. Using a spatula, transfer each pear half to an individual plate, maintaining the shape of the pear half. Press lightly on the slices to fan them. Spoon the caramel sauce alongside and drizzle about 1 teaspoon of the pear poaching syrup over the pear. If desired, use a rasp grater or other fine grater to grate a little bittersweet chocolate over all. Serve immediately.

Pairing Suggestions:

Baily Winery ~ 2017 Riesling – This cool and crisp white wine is perfect on a summer day, enjoy it poolside with friends and family!

Danza Del Sol Winery ~ 2017 Sauvignon Blanc – A mouthwatering balance of fresh fruit and acidity. Opens with aromas of white blossoms that lead to white peach, melon, and ripe citrus. Flavors include crisp apple and lime.

Hart Winery ~ 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Citrus notes of guava and tangerine, a subtle herbal undertone and a clean peach finish.

Mount Palomar Winery ~ NV Riesling – The wine is fragrant with pear, guava, gardenia, and banana.  The taste is full with apricot, peach, tangerine, lychee, star fruit and guava.  

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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May’s Official Wine Days

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

As if we needed a day to drink wine, May 25th is the unofficial, official National Wine Day (not to be confused with National Drink Wine Day held in February each year).  And, if that’s not enough, we also celebrate International Sauvignon Blanc Day, World Moscato Day and National Chardonnay Day in May!

Wondering how did these days come to be? Actually, official wine days are pretty unofficial. They are usually a movement started by a variety of individuals or organizations with a passion for juice. Based on our research, National Wine Day started in 2009 and, since then, a variety of wine appreciation days have popped up in the calendar. So, now you know how easy it is to make an official wine day!

First up on the calendar, #SauvBlancDay is on May 5th. Originating in the Bordeaux region of France, the grape is also widely planted throughout New Zealand – and grows with ease here in the Temecula Valley. An acidic wine that displays a citrus-y, grapefruit-like quality, it’s a pleasing choice for a warm summer day. A very versatile vino, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with shell fish, grilled vegetables (even asparagus!) and cheeses. It’s the perfect picnic wine!

Some Temecula Valley stand-outs are from Hart Winery, Danza del Sol Winery and Peltzer Winery.

May 9th is #MoscatoDay.  The day was introduced here in the US by Gallo Family Vineyards back in 2012 to celebrate the rising popularity and sky-rocketing sales of the varietal. If you know nothing about Moscato (or Muscat/Muscat Canelli), it originated in the Piedmont region of Italy where it’s a favorite due to its sweetness, lightness and affordability – and is popular as a sparkling wine. You’ll find Moscato table wines in white, red or rosé styles, and they make an especially delicious dessert wine. With it’s bouquet of peach, honey and citrus, a delicate sweetness and fresh acidity, it’s perfect served with a plate of fresh cheeses.

Try the Muscat Canelli from Callaway WineryCarter Estate or Oak Mountain Winery.

And then there’s the day to pay homage to the old standby, Chardonnay. #ChardonnayDay is sharing it’s special day with National Wine Day this year on May 25th.  The world’s most planted white wine grape varietal is enjoyed by fans all over the world. Generally dry to medium-dry with pear, apple, tropical or citrus fruit flavors, Chardonnay is grown in virtually every wine-producing region. Watch hot Girl Alone shows on live sex chat Girls from all over the World. . Online blonde webcam chat rooms sorted by categories. Hot amateur porn videos and best free sites. Crisp and fresh with little to no oak aging, or creamy and buttery with extensive oak aging, there’s a Chardonnay out there that will make just about anyone smile!

Enjoy the Chardonnay from Masia de la Vinya Winery, Thornton Winery or Wiens Family Cellars

But, who needs a National Day to enjoy a glass of wine or two?  That’s certainly not how we roll here in Temecula Valley, Southern California’s beautiful wine country.

#drinktemecula

Reference: Wine Folly

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Mother’s Day in Temecula Wine Country!

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Spending the day in Temecula Valley’s Wine Country……well, we can’t think of a better gift for Mom this Mother’s Day!  We’ve got you covered with brunches and lunches and everything in between. Here’s a list of wineries celebrating all of the Mom’s out there:

Baily Winery
Mother’s Day lunch at Carol’s Restaurant /
May 14 / 3-course lunch from 11:00-3:00 / Menu and prices will be posted on our website on May 1st.  It will be reservation only, credit card necessary for reservation / For reservations call 951.676.9243 or visit www.Bailywinery.com

Bel Vino Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch / May 14 / Two seating’s: 9:30 to 11:30 and 12:30 to 2:30 / Set up on top of Bel Vino’s Hilltop Terrace, we will be hosting a bottomless mimosa brunch, to include an Egg Bar, Bagel Bar, Carving Station. Spring Salad, Chicken and Waffles, Assorted Desserts, Crab Cakes, Yogurt Parfaits, Fruit Varieties, Live Music and more! Wine and Beer Extra. Children 3 and under are free / $83.99 for non-members, $71.06 for Wine Club Members, $29.67 for children / Call 951-676-6414 to make reservation.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery
Mother’s Day Special Treat
/ May 14 / 11am-6pm / Join us for a Special Treat…Bubbly Peach Sangria Flute Floats! / $8 each; Logo flute INCLUDED. $4 each for Wine Club Members!  The first 25 guests to pre-pay will also receive a long stem rose for Mom!  Come by…call 951.767.8398…or email events@cougarvineyards.com to pre-pay.

Danza del Sol Winery
Mother May I GET SAUCED?!! / May 14 / 1:00p -4p / Treat Mom to a fun filled afternoon of food, wine, and culinary entertainment for Mother May I GET SAUCED?! / Price: $58.50 – $65.00 / Please check our website www.danzadelsolwinery.com for additional information and reservations.

Europa Village
Mother’s Day Lunch / May 14 / 12pm-3pm / Gourmet three-course champagne lunch prepared by Executive Chef Dean Thomas. Live music by Jimmy Patton / Tickets $54 per person, children 10 & under $17. Tickets available via website www.europavillage.com or calling Event Department (951) 695-7175.

Falkner Winery
Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch in the Pinnacle Restaurant
/ May 14 / 10am-3pm / For a full menu please visit www.falknerwinery.com. Live Entertainment will be provided / Cost: $69.95+/person (Wine Club $59.95+/person) Children (3-10) $29.50+/child (Wine Club $24.95+/child) / Reservations required please call 951-676-8231 option 4.

Lorimar Vineyard & Winery
Treat Mom to a Special Champagne Brunch / May 14 / 10am or 12:30pm / Located on our Vineyard Lawn / $60 regular, $55 WC / Tickets available through www.lorimarwinery.com

Mount Palomar Winery
Mother’s Day at Annata Bistro/Bar / May 13 and May 14 / 11:00am – 7:00pm / Celebrate Mother’s Day all weekend at Annata Bistro/Bar! All Moms receive one complimentary classic Mimosa on Mother’s Day weekend, plus we’re running a limited time Mother’s Day menu / For reservations and information please visit https://www.mountpalomarwinery.com/MothersDay

Oak Mountain Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch in The Cave / May 14 / 11am-4pm / For a complete brunch menu please visit our Events page at www.oakmountainwinery.com / $39 pp., Members $30 plus tax, includes 1 glass new Release Wine. Children, ages 6-12 are $15 +tax – 5 years and under are free. Gratuity not included; no refunds within 24 hours / Reservations 951 699-9102, events@oakmountainwinery.com

Thornton Winery
Mother’s Day Buffet / May 14 / 11am-4pm / Cost: $62.95 plus tax & gratuity (Adults). $22.95 plus tax & gratuity. Child 12- 6 yrs. old $19.95 plus tax & gratuity. (5 years and under – FREE). Call for Reservations: (951) 699-0099

Wilson Creek Winery
Mother’s Day Brunch / May 14 / 10am – 3pm /Enjoy live entertainment, our annual Petting Zoo, and a special bottle of wine to go home with mom! / Buffet + unlimited Sparkling Wine $64.95. Buffet Only $58.95. Children $14.95 / Reservations are required, online at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or by calling 951-699-9463.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day in Wine Country!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

TheMothers Day 2 ancient Greeks paid annual homage to Cybele, the mother figure of their gods, the Romans dedicated an annual spring festival to the mother of their gods, and in 16th century England, a celebration called “Mothering Sunday” was inaugurated — a Sunday set aside for visiting one’s mother.  When President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill back in 1914 designating the second Sunday in May as a legal holiday to be called “Mother’s Day”, he dedicated the day “to the best mother in the world, your mother.”

Show your Mom how special she is!  Lunch, brunch, dinner – or just a day of wine tasting – is surely one way to get on her good side.  And remember, you’re the reason she drinks wine in the first place…

Here’s just a few ideas for spending Mother’s Day in Temecula Valley Wine Country:

If brunch suits your fancy, you’ve got lots of options!  Try Carol’s at Baily Winery; 11a-3p, Bel Vino Winery; 9a-3p, Danza del Sol Winery; 10a or 1p, Doffo Winery; 10a or 12:30p, Frangipani Winery; 11a-3p, Monte de Oro Winery; 10a or 12:30p, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa; 10a – 3p, Thornton Winery; 11a-4p, Wiens Family Cellars; 11a-1p, Wilson Creek Winery; 10a-3p.

Lunch and Dinner will both be served at Meritage Restaurant at Callaway Vineyard & Winery from 10a-8p.

And if you’ve always wanted to Learn To Paint, Oak Mountain Winery is offering a fun alternative to the usual at 1p.

All of our wineries will be open and ready to see you.  Happy Mothers Day, all!

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May 5th is Cinco de Vino Day!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

cinco de mayoOh me, oh my, oh!  It’s Cinco de Vino!  Okay, so it’s really Cinco de Mayo, but come on!  Loving all things wine, what else are we gonna’ talk about?

Mexican food with wine, you say?  If you’ve never ventured into pairing wine with your favorite Mexican food, trust us.  It’s as fun as it is easy!

Let’s start with a little hint: alcohol intensifies the heat of chiles, and chiles intensify the alcohol, so choosing lower alcohol wines is the first step.  The second step is to choose those that are crisp with acidity.  They’re best suited to complement the complex flavors and spices of great Mexican cuisine.  And thirdly, always pair the wine with the sauce, not the protein. i.e., consider the ingredients in your dishes.  In general, red wines will work best with earthy chipotle, pasilla or adobo chile sauces – or if it’s all about that cheese!  White wines will work better with lime, citrus, tomatillo and cilantro or herbal sauces. Cinchy, huh?

Some particularly good white varietals to consider might include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, an Albarino – or even a dry Riesling.

Red wine lovers should try Tempranillo, Sangiovese or Malbec, a luscious Zinfandel or even a supple Syrah.

But, like we always say, wine guidelines and suggested pairings are just that – suggestions. The right wine for you is the one you like best!  We just recommend that if you’re entertaining, play it safe and have a couple of different options available.

There’s a Temecula Valley wine out there that will make your Mexican fiesta excelente and take your meal from tasty to sabroso!

Some Temecula Valley white wines to try:

Hart Winery “Two Vineyard Blend” Sauvignon Blanc
Cougar Winery 100% Pinot Grigio
Baily Winery dry Riesling
or Danza del Sol “Sabroso”, a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc – perfect for dessert!

If you prefer reds, try:

Longshadow Ranch Estate Tempranillo
Frangipani Winery’s Estate Sangiovese
one of Doffo Winery’s many Malbecs
Lorenzi Winery “Zin City” Zinfandel
Falkner Winery “Rock Creek” Syrah

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