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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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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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Grilled Sausages with Fig and Onion Jam

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

Chances are you’ll find many other uses for this fragrant sweet-tart jam. Enjoy it on a grilled-cheese or ham sandwich or serve it with a cheese or charcuterie board. It’s the perfect complement for fresh goat cheese or a tangy Cheddar. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

¼ pound (125 g) dried Calimyrna figs, stems removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, about 10 ounces (315 g), halved and thinly sliced from root to stem
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or more to taste
4 fresh Italian sausages, hot or sweet, 5 to 6 ounces (155 g to 185 g) each

Directions:

Put the figs in a small saucepan with 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, thyme, and fennel seed. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, golden-brown, and sweet, about 30 minutes. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

While the onions cook, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Lift the figs out of the liquid with a slotted spoon and slice thinly. Add the figs to the onions, along with the sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the fig-cooking liquid. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has been absorbed and the flavors have merged, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning. The jam should be moist with a balanced sweet-tart flavor.

Grill the sausages until they are nicely browned all over and feel firm when probed, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately with the warm jam.

Suggested Pairings:

Bel Vino Winery ~ Cabernet Sauvignon Vintners Selection – Aromas & flavors of black cherry, plum and dark chocolate.

Callaway Winery ~ 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah – Dark, spicy and brimming with black fruit, this vintage will only get better with time.

Danza Del Sol Winery ~ 2014 Syrah – Flavors of ripe black cherry, plum and hints of chocolate and tobacco laced finish.

Gershon Bachus Vintners ~ 2010 Aquilo God of North Wind Cabernet Sauvignon –  The smooth velvety finish carries a blackberry undertone

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Summertime Sipping!

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Barbecues are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and celebrate the day with Dad. And all that grillin’ just screams for a good red wine. But if you’re thinking it’s too warm for red, think again! With these few tips, finding the perfect summer sip won’t have to put your love of red on hold.

  • Chill out! Pop your bottle of red wine in the fridge for about 30 mins – or in an ice chest for about half that – and you’ll be amazed at how much more refreshing it will taste.
  • No or Low Oak wines are generally fresher and fruitier.
  • Low to Moderate Alcohol levels usually equate to lower tannin levels for a wine that won’t weigh you down.
  • Light to Medium bodied wines tend to be easy on the palate, bright and light.

So, whether you’re in the backyard or on the beach – serving burgers and brats, or steak and grilled veggies – there’s tons of options for pairing your favorite Temecula Valley wine with whatever you’re serving up.

If the mainstay is red meat, a spicy Zinfandel or Syrah would be perfect. If you’re looking for a more mellow choice, a fruit forward Merlot always works; it’s also great with chicken, pork chops or fish. If your fave is a Cabernet, go ahead and drink what you like. But try not to shortchange your options. Go for a nice red blend for the best of all worlds. And don’t forget about a blush wine; there’s nothing a nice dry rosé can’t do for spicy ribs and coleslaw – or a plate of spicy hot wings!

A few Temecula Valley wine suggestions for your next barbecue:

Baily Winery ~ Rosé of Sangiovese: fun, fruity and full of character

Danza del Sol Winery ~ Grenache: the color is light, but the aromas are bright

Maurice Car’rie Winery ~ Cody’s Crush: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah blend

Oak Mountain Winery ~ Merlot: berry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, and abundant smokey oak

Robert Renzoni Vineyards ~ Big Fred’s Red: ripe blueberry and black cherry, hints of caramel

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Wine Country Recipe ~ Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Lemons and Green Olives

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Meaty chicken thighs are braised and crisped in an aromatic broth infused with roasted citrus and North African spices. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large lemon, cut into 8 wedges, seeded
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup chicken stock
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
20 pitted green olives

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, deep skillet with lid or Dutch-oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown the chicken, skin-side down, then flip and cook 2 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Add the lemons to the same skillet and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes; transfer to a separate plate.

Pour off the excess liquid from the skillet, add the onions and 1 tablespoon oil and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft and golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, stirring frequently and stirring up any brown bits. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, and turmeric and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the stock, cinnamon stick, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then nestle the chicken, skin-side up, in the stock, making sure the skin is left exposed.

Cover the skillet, transfer to the oven, and bake 20 minutes. Remove the lid and scatter and tuck the lemons and olives around the chicken, leaving the chicken skin exposed. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the skin is golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Serve the chicken in shallow serving bowls with couscous.

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineayard & Winery ~ 2015 Special Selection Sauvignon Blanc – Pairs with scallops, oysters, prawns white lighter textured fish and wine & cream pasta sauces.

Danza Del Sol Winery ~ 2016 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 of crisp apple and lime.

Hart Winery ~ 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Citrus notes of guava and tangerine, a subtle herbal undertone and a clean peach finish. This alluring dry white wine is produced from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Hart Family Vineyard and Temecula Valley’s Huis Vineyard.

Oak Mountain Winery ~ 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Succulent melon and grapefruit mingle together in this medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc. A light influence of French Oak rounds out this crisp, aromatic wine

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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Holiday Wine Pairing Guide

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Mom’s stuffing, Aunt Nancy’s cranberry sauce and your sister’s sweet potatoes.  Menu: done!  But what about the wine?  Choosing a bottle (or two!) of wine to bring to the holiday table can be tricky.  Appealing to not only your menu, but to a cross-section of practiced palates and novice wine drinkers may seem challenging.  But don’t stress out over one of the simplest tasks of the holiday season. Make it simple.  Any wine you enjoy is a good wine!

One certainly doesn’t need to look to others to rate, score or direct you to make a particular wine choice. Bring a wine you’re familiar with to the table.  Chances are it’ll be just fine – and maybe even sublime!

First and foremost, don’t worry about pairing with the herbaceous, the tart or the sweet accompaniments to your turkey, ham or prime rib.  It’s much simpler to match the wine to the main protein dish.  Here’s a few tried and true varietal selections for some classic holiday main dishes:

Wines to Serve with Ham
Ham just begs for a something lightly sweet.  Look for wines with a touch of residual sugar like a Baily Vineyard & Winery Riesling or a Maurice Car’rie Winery Gewurztraminer.  Both are lighter in style, a bit lower in alcohol and still offer plenty of food-friendly acidity and crowd-pleasing palate appeal.  If you’re looking for an easy to pair red, go for a lighter style like Tempranillo.  Great examples can be found at both Robert Renzoni Vineyard & Winery and at Danza del Sol Winery.

Wines to Serve with Turkey
Although an array of whites work perfectly well, Sauvignon Blanc is an all-time, hands-down favorite pick that holds up well to turkey – and all it’s side dishes. Temecula Valley provides the perfect playground for growing this varietal, so you’ll find many great examples of it here.  Beautifully aromatic offerings from the musqué clone can be found at Hart Winery and at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. Soft red varietals like Syrah also make suitable partners; you can find some fabulous ones at Falkner Winery and Leoness Cellars.

Wines to Serve with Prime Rib
White wines will have a hard time keeping up with the likes of Prime Rib, but there are so many reds to choose from that make impressive cohorts, you’re sure to find one you’ll all enjoy.  Choose an affable Cabernet Sauvignon from Callaway Vineyard & Winery, a food friendly Italian varietal like Montepulciano or Sangiovese from Cougar Vineyard & Winery or an amazing Super Tuscan blend, Due Rossi, from Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery.

Happy Holidays!

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Winter in Wine Country

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

So, what exactly goes on in the vineyards when it’s winter time?  The annual growth cycle of Temecula Valley’s grapevines consummates in autumn with leaf fall followed by vine dormancy. After harvest, typically August-October in Temecula, the vine’s roots and trunk are busy storing carbohydrate reserves produced by photosynthesis in their leaves. Once the level of carbohydrates needed by the vine is reached, the leaves change from green to yellow and start to fall off the vines. Usually after the first frost, the vine enters its winter dormancy period. During this time, winemakers get a break from the bulk of their farm work as the vines sleep and start to prepare for the next wine season.

During this dormant period, according to Wiens Family Cellars winemaker Joe Wiens, the vines don’t need a lot of attention. Wiens puts on a little water to keep the roots moist and let them sleep. “We get to breathe a sigh of relief after the long hours of crush but have plenty of other things to keep us busy” says Wiens. Blending, barrel work, and bottling, in addition to brushing up on wine knowledge, new techniques, and attending winemaking seminars to continually improve are some of the things that keep him busy.

Nick Palumbo, winemaker and owner of Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery shares: “Winter time is busy! The good news is it gets cold here in Temecula, so the vines go into dormancy and that gives us a chance to get caught up in the cellar after a long harvest season. That means topping barrels, assessing previous vintages and getting ready for bottling as well as general maintenance. Mulching is done if needed and pruning all needs to be done just after the holidays. Weed and pest control (gophers etc) as well as going through the irrigation system and getting that dialed in for the spring are all on the to do list. We also don’t forget to prep for much needed rain events. We need to make sure if and when we do get rain, it doesn’t erode our soils and farm roads. Winter is a good time for winemakers to take off the cellar boots, put on the farm boots, and get out in the quiet cold mornings alone and start making next years wine which will be hanging on the vines sooner than we think.”

At Danza del Sol Winery, Art Villareal, the winery’s winemaker, stays busy during winter processing wines from the recent harvest. This includes filtration, cold stabilizing, racking, and placing wine into barrels. “There is no downtime in winemaking. We are always processing wine from the previous harvest and preparing for the upcoming bottling season” says Villareal. As far as vineyard maintenance goes, Villereal says patience is key and waits for the vines to go dormant and then prunes them back. He also states Temecula is special as the winter keeps the vines asleep only as long as necessary and ensures a longer period of time to mature the clusters during the growing season.

With all the activity in the valley during the winter, a visit to Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is an entertaining winter option. Many wineries offer behind the scenes tours where guests can see some of the winter viticulture and winemaking processes happen in person. While visiting, guests can stay at one of the many local inns, hotels, or resorts.

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Get Chilled in Temecula Valley Wine Country!

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

christmas-wine-photo-featured-520x400

Everyone knows that the holidays can be particularly busy, stressful and rushed.  Why not come and join us in Temecula Valley Wine Country on December 15th to “chill” with us!  Several of our wineries are keeping their doors open late so that you can participate in the Temecula Chilled Holiday Shopping Night from 5:00p-7:00p.

Just one trip to your local wine country will get you all the gifts you need to give. Plus, you can sip while you shop! Our winery gift shops offer unique and charming wine-themed gifts, specialty food items, home decor – and of course, delicious wine.

During the Holiday Shopping Night, shop at select tasting rooms and enjoy holiday refreshments, carolers, carriage rides at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and more!  Participating wineries include: Bel Vino, Callaway, Danza del Sol, Foot Path, Monte De Oro, Mount Palomar, Ponte, South Coast and Wilson Creek.

To learn more about Temecula Chilled and all of the activities planned, please click here.

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Temecula Wine Pairings For Your Thanksgiving Table

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Autumn table setting with pumpkins. Thanksgiving dinner and autumn decoration.

In just a few weeks, your tummy will be rumbling and your mouth salivating with the promise of the once-a-year feast that is Thanksgiving. America’s biggest food holiday serves up the chance to do some serious (and seriously fun) wine and food pairing. Here in Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country, we’ve got the perfect wine pairings to go with each Thanksgiving course. No matter what your budget, this simple guide will have your friends and family giving thanks to you for making their holiday meal extra special.

Light Appetizers + Mellow Whites

These bright yet mellow whites pair well with lighter dishes to kick off your Thanksgiving meal. The floral notes of light white wine complement a fall salad of pears, blue cheese and walnuts; a selection of fruit and cheeses match nicely with a Chardonnay; and light Pinot Grigio will sing next to your pumpkin soup.

Callaway Vineyard & Winery 2012 Special Selection Chardonnay; $25.00

Danza Del Sol Winery 2015 Pinot Grigio; $28.00 (1st Annual People’s Choice Blind Tasting Award Winner)

Monte De Oro Winery 2015 Nostimo; $23.00 (1st Annual People’s Choice Blind Tasting Award Winner)

Herbacious Side Dishes + Spicy Reds

The spicy notes derived from these unique wine grapes pair especially well with stuffings and gravies seasoned with holiday herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary. Having a vegetarian Thanksgiving? These wines work well with earthy mushroom and winter squash dishes too!

Mount Palomar Shorty’s Bistro Red; $20.00

Avensole 2012 Second Block Zinfandel; $60.95  (1st Annual People’s Choice Blind Tasting Award Winner)

Doffo Winery 2013 Syrah; $58.00

Poultry & Meats + Bold Reds

Whether it’s wine or food, everyone looks forward to the main course. The dark fruit flavors in these big reds will enhance similar flavors in your herb-rubbed turkey or peppered roasts. Whether you’re serving poultry, lamb or beef, all three are bold enough to stand up to a rich meat course.

Baily Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; $30.00

Fazeli Cellars 2012 Khayyam; $58.00

Wiens Family Cellars 2014 Bare Knuckle Petite Sirah; $48.00

Dessert + Sweet Wines

Your Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without dessert, and no dessert is complete without wine – at least that’s how we feel! Apple pies and pear tarts are practically made to pair with Ponte’s sweet moscato, where red delicious apples, kiwi , pears, and apricots come together nicely with honeysuckle and jasmine undertones. Or try the People’s Choice Blind Tasting award winner, Briar Rose’s Estate Riesling with your fruit tarts or pies.  And for a special treat, buy a bottle of Renzoni port to pair with a fudgy chocolate cake.

Briar Rose 2013 Estate Riesling; $25.00 (1st Annual People’s Choice Blind Tasting Award Winner)

Ponte Winery 2015 Moscato; $28.00

Robert Renzoni Paradiso Port; $49.00

One Meal, One Wine

Looking to simplify your evening by serving one wine from start to finish? Any of these four, well-priced wines fit the bill. Each is lighter on the palate, with only subtle hints of sweetness making them suitable to drink from appetizers all the way to dessert. Bon appetit!

Maurice Car’rie 2015 Chenin Blanc; $20.95

Miramonte Winery 2014 Grenache Blanc; $28.95

Falkner Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; $24.95

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvee; $22.00

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