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

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

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

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

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

Nick & Cindy Palumbo
Owners, Palumbo Winery

Palumbo Vineyard & Winery

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

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

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

Steve Andrews
Owner, Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

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

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

Somerset Winery

Kurt Tiedt
President, Somerset Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Hart
Winemaker, Hart Winery

Hart Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Akash Patel
Owner, Akash Winery

Akash Winery & Vineyards

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

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

Happy Harvest!

Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press Enterprise/SGNC

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PAN-SEARED SALMON WITH CORN AND POBLANO SALAD

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Pan-Seared Salmon

Wild-caught California salmon is one of the culinary highlights of summer in the Golden State. A fresh corn salad with a Mexican accent is the perfect complement and would be just as compatible with halibut fillets, scallops, or shrimp. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Grenache Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 2 large poblano or Anaheim chilies 
  • 2 ears yellow corn, husked 
  • 1 cup (40 g) very coarsely chopped cilantro 
  • ½ small red onion, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Juice of 3 limes, or more to taste 
  • 1 large avocado, ripe but firm, diced 
  • 3 ounces (2/3 cup/85 g) coarsely crumbled queso fresco 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • 1 serrano chili, finely minced (optional) 

Salmon

  • 4 six-ounce (175 g) skin-on salmon fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Lime wedges for serving 

Directions:

Make the salad: Preheat the broiler. Put the poblano or Anaheim chilies on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until blackened on all sides. Let cool, then peel, remove stems and seeds, and dice. Turn the oven to 425°F (220°C). 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the corn to the boiling water and boil 30 seconds, then remove the ears with tongs and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain when cool and pat dry. With a chef’s knife, cut away the kernels. You should have about 2-1/2 cups (350 g). 

 In a large bowl, combine the diced poblano or Anaheim chilies, corn, cilantro, red onion, olive oil, and juice of 3 limes. Add the avocado and queso fresco and toss gently.  

 Season well with salt and add more lime juice if desired. If the salad is not spicy enough for you, stir in some or all of the minced serrano chili.  

 Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and put the skillet in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Season the salmon with salt. Place the fillets in the skillet, skin side down, and bake until they just flake when probed with a paring knife, about 10 minutes.  

 Serve salmon immediately with the salad on the side. 

Suggested Pairings:

Churon Inn Winery ~ 2019 Sauvignon Blanc – Well balanced with citrus flavors

Hart Winery ~ 2019 Grenache Rosé – With notes of cherry, watermelon and cranberry.

Leoness Cellars ~ 2019 CS Sauvignon Blanc – Rich citrus and stone fruit aromas are complemented by subtle hints of lemongrass and a crisp, lingering finish.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ 2017 Grenache Noir Rosé – Light in body, crisp in acidity and very dry, this rosé is the perfect wine for any cuisine and any festivity.

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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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Real Temecula Winemakers Drink Pink: Our Top Picks for Temecula Valley Rosé this Summer

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Rosé wine and the perfect pairing of cheese and fruit

Rosé all day. Yes way rosé. Stop and smell the rosé. You’ve probably heard them all, or seen them while scrolling through your Instagram feed, usually accompanied by gorgeous pics of glasses brimming with baby pink liquid being sipped by glamorous folks with designer shades and trendy outfits. The bottom line is that rosé is on the rise in a big, big way. 

“’Rosé All Day’ is not just a hashtag, it’s a cultural movement sparked by Instagram,” notes Alpana Singh, Master Sommelier in Business Insider. And the numbers don’t lie. In 2017 rosé sales were up 53% in the U.S., according to Nielsen, while wine sales overall increased by just 4%.

The pink stuff is here to stay, which is a good thing. Rosé is incredibly versatile, coming in a full spectrum of hues from barely-kissed blush to deep raspberry and everything in between, as well varying levels of dryness and a diverse range of flavor profiles from crisp and clean to luscious and mixed-berry-driven. It’s remarkably food friendly, a happy in-the-middle option with the ability to pair well with things that go with whites and reds. It’s also fun. While there seems to be a distinct rosé season – late Spring to early fall – the increased demand for drinking pink has opened up rosé for year-round drinking, with many retailers offering full sections dedicated to dozens of different selections.

We in Southern California feel right at home sipping rosé any day from January to December. It’s a drink that marries well with sunny days and a laid back SoCal spirit. Happily, Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country produces some truly outstanding bottles and has been doing so for quite some time. In fact, in 2001, in an article about the importance of supporting local wineries, the Wall Street Journal described Temecula Valley’s Hart Winery, saying they “Make one of America’s best rosé.”

When we asked Jim Hart what makes Temecula Valley rosé so special, he explained that, “It’s because it’s not produced as an afterthought. It’s produced to be a rosé. That’s why it’s so good. It doesn’t actually make sense to make rosé in Temecula because our fruit is too expensive to not go toward making reds. So when we take that high quality fruit and intentionally make a rosé with it, the result is amazing.” Jim says they pick their fruit early and then treat and ferment the wine like a white, which results in deeply expressive, high quality wines.

Here are a few of our favorite Temecula Valley picks for this rosé season and beyond.

Hart Winery Rosé of Sangiovese

Sangiovese is one of Italy’s flagship wine grapes and shines just as brightly in Temecula Valley. It is also a delight when used to produce rosé. To make this award-winning wine, Hart used a cold pre-soak followed by pressing, and a low-temperature white wine fermentation. The result is a lightly pink, near-dry, delicately scented and flavored rosé, bursting with strawberry and watermelon notes on an elegant, floral backdrop. Excellent with a wide range of foods, and a great summer sipper.

South Coast Winery Rosé of Tempranillo

Multi-award-winning and the only American rosé to earn a Double Gold at this year’s 50 Best rosé tasting, this wine is made from a blend of two different Iberian Peninsula clonal selections of Tempranillo (one Spanish and one Portuguese). Some of the fruit was machine harvested and quickly drained and pressed, while a portion was hand-picked and whole cluster pressed. The two lots were then blended prior to fermentation. The result is a wine with beautiful extraction and color, youthful acidity and great structure, offering ripe strawberry, sweet blackberry and watermelon notes. It is a wine with focus, finesse and elegance, showing wonderful varietal characters while remaining fresh and enjoyable.

2018 Robert Renzoni Vineyards Lyric Rose, $29

This is one of those amazingly quaffable wines that you could drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ballet slipper pink and perfectly dry, this summer sipper is made from 100% Syrah. It boasts delicate notes of Ranier cherries, fleshy white peach and rose petals that give way to rich flavors of guava and melon. A delightful aperitif wine, meant for sipping by the pool or as you stroll Temecula Valley vineyards.

2018 Akash Winery Parlez Vous Rosé, $35

This intensely hued rosé, packaged in a stand-out, uniquely shaped bottle, is impossible to miss. Made from Temecula Valley newcomer, Akash Winery, this is a complex rosé that demands attention. A massive onslaught of aromas burst from the glass, displaying crushed raspberry, cranberry and strawberry notes, followed by watermelon Jolly Rancher and kaffir lime leaves. But don’t let the sweet, ripe bouquet fool you. On the palate, this rosé is completely dry, with a plush, almost grippy mouthfeel and an endless finish, making it a truly versatile food wine, capable of standing up to heartier fare and meat-based dishes. 

2018 Ponte Pas Doux, $28

“Pas Doux” translates to “not sweet,” a descriptor that lets the drinker know this wine, made from old vine Sangiovese, was intentionally made in a classic, dry, Provençal style. The grapes were harvested at sunrise rather than in the dawn twilight in order to select the lightest clusters.  The light juice was then full-cluster pressed directly to tank, and briefly cold-stored in stainless steel to retain and develop the structure and brightness. The Rhône yeast used for fermentation achieved warmer temperatures than expected, resulting in a rich, round palate and ultra-tropical ripeness.  In the bottle, this juicy rosé is a dynamic, rich, dry and complex yet focused wine.  The crisp acidity makes it a match for light fare, poultry, seafood and salad, but it can also stand up to hard, robust cheese and dried fruits.

2018 Wiens Family Cellars Rosé of Barbera, $26

We can’t get enough of the soft peach color of this elegant rosé, made from 100% Barbera, a grape that truly lends itself to rosé -making thanks to its ability to retain bright acidity. At only 11.5% alcohol it’s a great poolside or picnic sipper, but equally at home paired with an elegantly prepared dinner. Notes of ripe pink grapefruit, wet river stones, key lime and rose petal give way to mouthwatering peach and nectarine and a dry, lingering finish. 

2018 South Coast Winery Vineyard Rosé Sparkling Wine

It’s tough to talk about Temecula Valley rosé without mentioning bubbly. This wine, a blend of 52% Zinfandel 38% Tempranillo and 10% Merlot, captures the seductive fruit aromas and flavors from the three red varietals used in its creation. The estate grown grapes were specifically selected for their inherent red berry fruit character and their ability to work together in a blend. Each lot of fruit was whole cluster pressed and fermented separately prior to blending and secondary fermentation. Strawberry, raspberry and cherry rise out of the glass with each tiny bubble, making this wine a real “Jolly Rancher” treat. Finished as a Brut style, this wine has a very clean, bright acidity which makes it balanced, refreshing and inherently drinkable. 

Find all of these selections online or get them straight from the winery. With plenty to do, from wine tastings to concerts, festivals, hot air ballooning and more, you are sure to find enough to fill several days in Southern California Wine Country this Summer. Find out more about what’s going on all season long in the region Wine Enthusiast Magazine named one of the world’s Top Ten Wine Travel Destinations HERE.

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Baked Striped Bass with Peperonata, Olives, and Saffron Aioli

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Braised sweet peppers, potatoes, and tomato make a succulent foundation for baked fish. Sauced with a garlicky, saffron-scented aioli, the dish needs only some crusty bread to complete it. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Grenache Blanc or Rosé.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, halved and sliced
1 pound (500 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch (6 mm) thick
½ pound (250 g) peeled plum tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and sliced
1 green bell pepper, halved, seeded, and sliced
1 gold or yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded, and sliced
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, plus some for garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher or sea salt
½ cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) white wine
1 dozen black olives, preferably unpitted
4 fillets of striped bass or other firm white fish, 5 to 6 ounces (155 g to 185 g) each

Aioli
1 large clove garlic
Kosher or sea salt
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
½ cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, potatoes, tomato, peppers, parsley, oregano, saffron, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes render their juice and the vegetables begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and peppers are tender, about 20 minutes longer. Stir in the olives. Taste for salt.

Season the fish with salt and place the fillets on top of the bed of vegetables. Add ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water, cover and cook until the fish just flakes, about 10 minutes.

While the fish cooks, make the aioli: In a mortar, pound the garlic and a generous pinch of salt to a paste; alternatively, mince to a paste by hand. Put the egg yolk in a small bowl, add a splash of lukewarm water, and whisk. Begin adding the olive oil gradually—drop by drop at first—whisking constantly. (Recruit a helper to pour while you whisk.) When you have achieved an emulsion, you can add the oil a little faster. When you have incorporated all the oil, whisk in the garlic paste.

When the fish is ready, tilt the cooking pot and draw off about ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) of the juices. Whisk enough of these flavorful juices into the aioli to make it thin enough to drizzle. Taste for salt.

With a spatula transfer the vegetables and fish to individual shallow bowls or plates. Spoon aioli over the fish. Garnish with more chopped parsley.

Suggested Pairings: 

Chapin Family Vineyards ~ Rosella Rosé – Delicate flavor with a hint of grapefruit and a slightly dry and crisp finish.

Hart Winery ~ 2016 Rosé of Sangiovese –  Lightly pink, near-dry, delicately scented and flavored Rose′ wine, very much in the dryer, food-friendly European style.

Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery ~ 2016 Grenache Blanc – Green apple and mandarin orange dominate with citrus peel with herbal notes in the mix.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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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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Baked Pears with Coconut Chocolate Crumble

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

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

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

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

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

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup water

1½ cups sweetened flaked (dried) coconut

1 cup all purpose flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

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

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F

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

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

Add the cinnamon mixture and toss again.

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

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

While the pears are baking, make the crumble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese

Carter Estate Winery ~ 2014 Brut Sparkling

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

Thornton Winery ~ Non-Vintage Blanc De Noir

 

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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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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Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Tomato-Corn Salsa, Guacamole, and Lime

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Eating with your hands was never so delicious with these tostadas layered with a bright salsa, creamy guacamole, and spiced shrimp. Arrange the fixings family-style and let everyone assemble their own tostadas. Pair with Temecula Valley Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.

Makes 8 tostadas; serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

Salsa:
1 cup fresh corn kernels cut from a cob or defrosted frozen corn
1 cup chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 green jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Guacamole:
2 ripe avocados
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Mexican hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt

Shrimp:
24 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
8 corn tostada shells
8 butter lettuce leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Mexican hot sauce
Lime wedges

Directions:

Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

Combine all of the guacamole ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork to blend.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (about 350°F). Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place in a bowl. Add the oil, cumin, cayenne, and salt and toss the shrimp to coat.

Arrange the shrimp on the grill grates over direct heat and grill until opaque through the centers, turning once or twice, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove and transfer to a plate.

To assemble the tostadas, spread a generous spoonful of guacamole on a corn tostada. Top with the lettuce, salsa, and shrimp. Garnish with cilantro and serve with hot sauce and lime wedges.

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2015 Special Selection Pinot Gris – Sun-ripened peaches, nectarine and honeydew melon aromas with hazelnut and a twist of lemon pie on the finish.

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

Lorimar Winery ~ 2015 Sauvignon Blanc – Let the crisp, cool guava quench your thirst as fresh melon and lemongrass awaken your senses.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards ~ 2016 Pinot Grigio “Julia’s Vineyard” – Fragrant and mildly floral with subtle notes of green apple, lemon and pear, with a crisp refreshing finish.

 

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Grilled Chicken and Avocado Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

All the flavors of summer come together with this light and refreshing salad.   It is packed with some of our favorite savory flavors and tossed with a dazzling lemon vinaigrette. For the perfect pairing, be sure to pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Rosé.

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless half chicken breasts

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

½ teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size pieces

3 cups baby or regular arugula leaves

1 piece Parmesan cheese (for shaving)

Directions:

1. Preheat the grill to medium high.

2. Cut each half chicken breast in half crosswise.

3. Brush the chicken pieces on both sides with olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Grill the chicken pieces for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.

5. To make the vinaigrette, pour the lemon juice in a large bowl. Whisk in the measured olive oil, lemon zest, honey, rosemary, garlic, and measured salt and pepper.

6. Cut chicken pieces crosswise into strips.

7. Add the chicken, avocado, and arugula to the vinaigrette. Toss gently to combine.

8. Divide the salad among the serving plates.

9. Top with shavings of Parmesan, cut with a vegetable peeler.

Suggested Pairings: 

Baily Winery 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese – Fun, fruity and full of character!

Doffo Winery 2016 Rosario –  A delightful fragrance of fresh strawberries, white rose, and hibiscus are mirrored on the palate.

Hart Winery 2016 Rosé of Sangiovese  – Lightly pink, near-dry, delicately scented and flavored Rose′.

Maurice Car’rie/Van Roekel Winery 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé – Wonderful notes of strawberry short cake, Asian pear, and springtime wildflowers.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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