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It’s Official: Harvest is Here!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

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

Evening Harvest

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

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

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

THE PREP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or they’re just plain sensible:

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

THE REAL WORK

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE AFTERMATH

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

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

Photo courtesy of Matthew Burlile- Instagram: @temeculaphotography

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

Friday, October 30th, 2020

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

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

Wilson Creek Goldens

Wilson Creek Winery

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

Reddog

Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery

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

Little Richard

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

Bordeaux

Baily Winery

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

Duke

Peltzer Family Cellars

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

Buddy & Bandit

Oak Mountain Winery

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

Brodie

Akash Winery

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

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A Celebration of Temecula Valley Harvest… and of All Those Who Make our Wines Possible

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

When we pop the cork on one of our favorite bottles and pour ourselves a glass of a delicious wine, we are often thinking mostly about how it is going to make us feel, what we are going to pair it with, who else wants a glass, and if we will stop at just one. This harvest, we invite you to think of all the work that went into producing that bottle. From grape to glass, there are countless passionate people who work tirelessly to craft something that will not only delight your palate, but that will help you make lasting memories of both simple and important moments in life.

As a tribute to these folks, we are highlighting a few of the best and brightest from Temecula Valley’s vineyards and cellars. These men and women are rarely in the spotlight, but their talents shine in every bottle of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine that graces your table.

Ryan Hart

Ryan Hart, Assistant Enologist, Thornton Winery

Originally from Carlsbad, Ryan has been in Temecula Valley for four years now. And, if the name sounds familiar, it should. Yes, he is that Hart – Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country pioneer Joe Hart’s grandson – so you can say winemaking is definitely in his blood.  

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

RH: There really isn’t much of a typical day! That’s what makes this job so exciting, but in general I spend mornings tracking current ferments or making sure all the chemistry checks out with wines being held in a tank or barrel. I usually spend the later half of the day assisting Nick, our cellar lead, outside.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

RH: My favorite thing about harvest is the spontaneity. Every day is different. Situations arise and your skills at problem solving and risk management are often put to the test. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

RH: Temecula Valley has such a deep place in my heart. My earliest memories are of my climbing in fermentation tanks at my Grandfather’s winery, late night drives with my dad and brother to find grape boxes to pick grapes in (behind what seemed like every grocery store within 50 miles) and talking to my uncle Bill from behind the tasting room bar, the winery behind it a mystery.

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

RH: Last year I was in the midst of harvest at South Coast Winery. I couldn’t remember a weekend, let alone what day of the week it was and I was discussing this and the rigors of harvest with their enologist Emily and she told me she always liked harvest because it always felt so much like Summer camp. The more I thought of it, the more it really struck home. We see our coworkers often more than our families. We spend so much time together and the days can oftentimes seem endless but the memories we hold with us will last a lifetime. 

Nick Marsolino

Nicholas Marsolino, Production Lead, Thornton Winery

Nick is originally from neighboring Murrieta, and has been in Temecula Valley for 13 years. He works closely alongside Ryan Hart at Thornton.

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

NM: A typical day for me is when I first come in Ryan and I do morning pump overs and punch downs. We are a sparkling house at Thornton Winery, if we have wine on our riddling racks Ryan and I riddle. After our morning work we meet with Tom [Thornton Winery winemaker] and we go over what need to be done which varies each day. After we finish our tasks Ryan and I finish the day with afternoon pump overs and punch downs.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

NM: One of my favorite things about Harvest is watching the evolution from grape to wine. Being a part of that process is special.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

NM: Temecula is special to me because my family is here. I also see a lot of potential in Temecula valley as an AVA.

TVWA: Any standout harvest memories?

NM: This my second harvest so last year’s harvest is very memorable. This one incident happened where I was mixing one of our wines with a machine called a Guth, where you put its propeller through the racking valve and it mixes the wine. Well, when it was finish mixing, when I took off the Guth, I forgot to close the valve and got baptized with wine. Tom told me that I’m officially in the wine making business.

Reed Brady

Reed Brady, Vineyard/Winemaker Assistant, Palumbo Family Vineyard and Winery

Reed is born and bred Temecula Valley, and has lived here for all 25 years of his young life.

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

RB: This can vary quite a bit, but on an average harvest day I will drive the tractor at night and pick leaves from the bins. Then I will rush home and try and get a few hours of sleep. The next morning, I will destem all of the fruit picked that evening and do my punch downs or help out in the tasting room… whatever is needed for the day 

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

RB: The work. I love how challenging and how much work is required. I believe there are two types of fun: There’s the roller coaster ride that is fun for the moment but is always a fleeting type of fun. Then there is the long, hard days that really make you work for it. That’s the type of fun that lasts a life time, and you can look back at and talk about with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

RB: Being raised here in the Temecula wine country I have seen this valley grow a lot since we moved here in ‘95. It may have grown a lot, but it still maintains such a small-town feel. 

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

RB: Sitting in a 55-gallon trash can filled with water while pressing merlot in 100 degree heat. Everyone else thought it was very funny; I thought it was cool.

Billy Bower

Billy Bower, Director of Agriculture, Stage Ranch Farm Management

Originally from Kirkland, Washington, Billy has spent the past 33 years in Temecula and is a celebrated fixture in Wine Country. Billy was, sadly, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. As with all things that he does, he is facing it with as much strength, perseverance, and humor as he can. Billy’s family has created a Go Fund Me account to help raise money to put toward treatment and non-covered care. Please donate here if you are able.

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

BB: Overseeing 450 acres of wine grapes and, at times, up to 35 employees makes for a busy day. I oversee all the new development, daily farming, along with any problems, diseases, and any other issues that might develop in the vineyards. August through October is harvest time, therefore we work 6, sometimes 7 days a week to get the harvest in. Harvest time is both rewarding and challenging. As of late, more challenging due to labor issues and changes in our weather pattern. Lately it’s been getting hotter and hotter which speeds up the harvest, which can affect the quality of our wine. 

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

BB: My favorite thing about harvest is seeing all the hard work during the growing season finally coming to an end – the end being a beautiful, bountiful harvest. I also have the opportunity and privilege of working with 8 different wineries in Temecula, and to see them produce great quality wines from our Temecula Valley, and knowing that it’s coming not only from myself, but also our hardworking team. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

BB: I moved to the Murrieta/ Temecula Valley area in 1987 as a teenager and fell in love with the slower paced family atmosphere, along with its great location being so close to the ocean and the mountains. I knew I wanted to make this my home. 

TVWA: Why did you decide to make Temecula Valley home?

BB: Agriculture was really secondary. I moved here to be in construction as a general contractor. But the recession in the late 80’s early 90’s caused me to get involved with agriculture. My family ended up moving back to Washington State for work, but I fell in love and didn’t want to leave. So I married my beautiful wife Kaijah and had two wonderful children, Jevon and Kelsey. After a couple of classes at UC Davis and lots of hands-on experience in the field I was happy to make agriculture my vocation in the Temecula Valley. 

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

BB: Harvest of ‘94 was very memorable because our first-born son was born September 8th, right in the middle of harvest. At those times husbands or men did not get to stay home and bond with their baby –haha! I had to sleep in the walk-in closet where it was cool and dark and I wouldn’t be disturbed by our newborn baby because I was working at night and sleeping during the day, opposite of my wife and baby’s routine. Needless to say, that was a difficult harvest.

Joe Vera

Joe Vera, Cellar Master (AKA “Cellar King Rat”), Wilson Creek Winery Years in Temecula

Despite hailing from Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico, Joe has been in the Temecula Valley for a whopping 54 years! And, more importantly, 2020 marks Joe’s 50th harvest in Temecula Valley!

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

JV: It’s a juggling act.  My regular day consists of compliance, cellar management and maintenance, training, weighing and harvesting… and a lot of head shaking.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

JV: I love watching the grapes come in and weighing and crushing them. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

JV: The valley is special to me because I came here as a teenager when Temecula had a population of 42. I’ve loved watching the growth (to whatever population it is now).  But the most special is the people I have met along the way.  My dad brought me here and put me to work.  As an adult, I had a great job at Callaway (I was there for 32 years) and never wanted to leave. [I ultimately] married and raised kids here in the valley.

TVWA: Can you share any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

 JV: This is serious stuff!  Probably the most memorable was two years ago when we broke a record here at Wilson Creek of harvesting 474 TONS!  It was crazy! There used to be a time where harvest was just a small group of us in the valley. We had lots of fun, we all worked close together and enjoyed the camaraderie.  Everyone knew everyone.  This valley is so big now and there are so many people I don’t know!  It’s become some serious business!  There is a small group of us that still get together every Friday and share our stories over a beer or two. This valley is very special.

Brian Marquez

Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

Even though he has been there since 2007, Brian is one of the few at Wiens Family Cellars who isn’t actually related to the Wiens family. But that hasn’t stopped him from being treated like a blood relative… for better or for worse!

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

BM: I start my morning flying hot air balloons Over Temecula. Then I get to the winery, and manage all of the fermenting lots. I also organize pressing and racking and bottling, because we bottle through harvest. I then question [winemaker] Joe [Wiens] on everything because that’s how we push each other. 

TVWA: What’s your favorite thing about harvest?

BM: That it’s acceptable to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon at 9 am! One of the things I look forward to is when all the white wines are done fermenting and we have new wines in the tanks to finally taste. Also, I get to bring my kids with me and they love helping with punch downs 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

BM: I grew up in Temecula and had the opportunity to help build up this region. I have been making wine here for 13 years, and have been getting attention from all the older guys that have been doing it for years before us, and being told I’ve got what it takes to help put Temecula on the map mean a lot. This is my home, where I was raised and where I raise my kids. 

TVWA: Got any funny or memorable moments or anecdotes from a past harvest (or this one)?

BM: Joe and I constantly saying, “Theoretically it should work.” We are professionals…but we never went to school for this.

Kaitlin Murray

Kaitlin Murray, Wine and Viticulture Intern/Server, Peltzer Winery

A SoCal native from Mission Viejo, Kaitlin has only been in Temecula for two months, but already feels right at home.

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

KM: When I started at Peltzer I was an intern. We were about six weeks away from harvest. I would get to the vineyard early to collect berry samples for brix testing. During this time, I really got to know the vineyard and it became one of my favorite parts of the day. A lot of time is dedicated throughout the day planning for things needed for harvest like bottles, storage and cleaning supplies. Once harvest started it was over in the blink of an eye. This was my first harvest so everything was very exciting and new. It definitely was a lot of work, but I’m really glad I was able to be a part of such an important time in the wine’s life.

TVWA: What is your favorite aspect of harvest?

KM: My favorite thing about harvest is just how fast-paced the whole process is. It’s definitely a thrill and you always have to be on your toes. 

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

KM: I’ve only been in Temecula for 2 months now, but I’m already in love. The location is absolutely beautiful, but it is really the amazing people that have made this place so special to me. I love the passion and commitment that the people have for creating delicious wines!

TVWA: Can you share any memorable moments in your winemaking journey so far?

KM: This is a tough question for me because this was my first harvest and the whole process will forever be cherished. But one thing that I will think about and look forward to for next year are the early mornings in the vineyard. Standing in the middle of the vineyard I am surrounded by the plants that give our wines life. I can only see the vines and the sky which is usually filled with hot air balloons amidst the rising sun. There is a crispness in the air that jumpstarts me for the day. Everything is so peaceful and calm.  It is pure tranquility.

Gregorio Retana

Gregorio Retana, Cellar Master, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Originally from Mexico, Gregorio has been in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country for 21 years.

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

GR: My day to day is always different depending on the season; harvest, bottling, cellar, or vineyard practices to name a few. From barrel work and racking a tank in the cellar, to discing the vineyard or bottling our wine, my typical day ranges.

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

GR: My favorite thing about harvest is experiencing the whole process of grapes being turned into wine and enjoying it with my family and friends.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

GR: From working with Stage Ranch for years planting vineyards across Temecula Valley, and now becoming the cellar master at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, I have met a  lot of people through the Valley who I’ve become close friends with. I’m so happy to have made Temecula Valley my home and feel lucky to have played a part in almost every vineyard in this region.

TVWA: Can you share a memorable moment during your time in Wine Country?

GR: A memorable moment here at Robert Renzoni Vineyards is simply how we all treat each other like we are family. I’m glad to call this place my second home.

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Temecula Valley Winery Owners Tell All! Their “Family Favorites.”

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

favorite_filled_2

Have you ever wondered which wine is a “family favorite” at your favorite Temecula Valley winery?  We have too…so, we decided to ask a few of our winery owners which of their wines is their favorite….and, why.  Of course, we knew that asking them this question would be much like asking parents of multiple children which is their favorite, but we thought we’d give it a whirl!

Nick Palumbo, owner of Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery says that he and wife Cindy’s fave is the “Tre Fratelli” Meritage blend.  As Nick tells it, not only is this wine consistently very good, but it’s got sentimental value for the Palumbo Family as well.  It is one of the first blended wines they produced in 2002 when Palumbo Winery opened and takes its name “three brothers” from the 3 boys of the Palumbo Family. The current release 2012, is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

The Lin Family, owners of Callaway Vineyard & Winery, have a brand new favorite wine. They challenged their winemaker, Craig Larson, to pull out all the stops and “do whatever it took, with no cost restrictions” to create a Cabernet Sauvignon that reflects their dedication and passion to bring the best quality wine in all of Temecula Valley and California.  What came of this challenge is the OPR, the Owner’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which the Lins believe has captured the very essence of everything they envisioned.

Over at Oak Mountain Winery, owners Steve and Valerie Andrews’ favorite is their Tenacious.  This wine is a Syrah-heavy Rhone blend named after Valerie’s mother who passed away over 25 years ago.  Val says “my mother, Arlene was tenacious in everything she did, and she did plenty.  Her license plate on her car was Ten8shs.  Whether she was working in the family liquor store, volunteering at the hospital, battling cancer or just being a great mom and friend, she was tenacious.  My parents introduced the wine industry to Steve and I, and look what happened!  Sorry to say, the wine is so good we drank it all…but a new vintage is coming soon.”

Monte De Oro Winery’s Ken Zignorski is passionate about their Syrah.  For him, it’s all about how well it pairs with food. Ken says “I like pairing the Syrah with a nice ribeye steak or tri-tip on the grill.  It’s got a full-bodied, mellow and a nice, lasting finish for me.  And, I think that Syrah is one of those grapes that really demonstrates Temecula Valley’s capabilities as a wine region.”

Rick & Jennifer Buffington, owners of Cougar Vineyard & Winery, lists Aglianico as their family favorite.  A black grape grown in the southern regions of Italy, it originated in Greece and was brought to the south of Italy by Greek settlers. Although it’s not a popular wine amongst the Temecula wineries, it is one that the Buffington family is proud to offer since it isn’t widely available and is very unique.  They appreciate the wine’s complexity, high acidity, firm tannins, rich flavor and its ability to pair well with food.  Plus….it only gets better with age!

At Briar Rose Winery, owners Les & Dorian Linkogle didn’t hesitate when it came to their favorite wine.  Sacrament is a rare and historic Mission Wine.  The Mission Wine is made from the Mission Grape planted by Father Junipero Serra to use for the Sacrament of Communion as he established 9 California missions from 1769-1782.  These Mission Grapes, also known as the Heritage Grape of the State of California, were planted along the El Camino Real by the Founder of California Missions.

Well, it’s safe to say that our owners love their Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends!  So, what is your favorite Temecula Valley wine….and why??

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Big Dreamers: Nick & Cindy Palumbo, Palumbo Family Vineyard & Winery

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Welcome to our new blog series: “Big Dreamers.”

Here you’ll read about the inspiring true stories of our Temecula Valley winemakers and winery owners. You’ll learn where they’ve come from before settling in Temecula, CA – and what keeps them passionate about the sometimes not-so-glamorous art (and science) of making good wine.

Nick & Cindy Palumbo have owned and operated Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery since 1998.

1.  What were you doing before owning and operating your winery?

NICK:  I have done A LOT! I was an ocean lifeguard, a rock star in NYC, a chef and now – winemaker.

CINDY:  I was an insurance agent for 15 years prior to the winery.

2.  What inspired you to want to buy a winery and what were the circumstances around choosing Temecula Valley, CA?

NICK: I was just coming back to SoCal after time in NY and lucked into this emerging Valley.  I saw potential for better wine and vineyard quality than what was here before, so I took charge.

CINDY:  I was already living in Temecula Valley and met Nick after he purchased the vineyards. A few years later I encouraged him to turn the garage into a winery, to quit selling his fruit to other winemakers and to open up his own shop.

3.  What were your expectations of the winemaker lifestyle at the beginning?  Were they way off or right on?

NICK:  I only expected to have to work really hard.  I wanted to prove it could be done through hard work and sacrifice. I certainly didn’t expect to make any money at it. I was right! I knew what I wanted – and the rewards for making quality wine would come if I just kept my head down and proved it though doing it.

CINDY:  I had zero expectations of the lifestyle – and that’s probably a good thing. It’s not nearly as glamorous as most people think – but I wouldn’t change it!

4.  People might think winemaking is glamorous.  Would you like to set them straight?

NICK:  If you’re an authentic winemaker, the glamorous parts come when no one is looking. It’s a lifestyle that you can’t pretend to live. Working hard, raising children and farming for quality is the reward… not what people see in the magazines.

CINDY:  There are definitely some glamorous sides to the wine industry. Nick is so down-to-earth and he takes winemaking so seriously that we don’t really experience that side of it in our lives. A true winemaker is focused on just that – making good wine.

5.  What is your least favorite thing about running a winery?  What is your most favorite – the reason you get up in the morning?

NICK: There really is no part of what I do that is worse or better. If you love what you do for a living, then it’s all good!

CINDY:   Least favorite thing about owning a winery is probably the fact that we can never get away from it. We live there, we sleep there, we work there, we are raising our family there; it’s always our focus. Sometimes I think it would be nice to just be able to work 9 to 5 and leave the office at the office. My favorite part about it is the lifestyle. We live in the middle of a vineyard, we raise our own animals, our (four) kids get to grow up see what we make with our hands. Winemaking in Temecula is truly a labor of love that we are allowed to include our whole family in.

To learn more about California’s Big Dreamers, click here!

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