Facebook

Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Renzoni Vineyards’

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

Share

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.

Share

Bruschetta with Warm Goat Cheese, Roasted Asparagus, and Pistachio Pesto

Friday, March 5th, 2021

Wine Paired Bruschetta

California’s asparagus season is short so it’s a good idea to get your fill while you can. When you crave a change-up from plain steamed or roasted asparagus, try them this way: on top of crunchy toast with warm, creamy goat cheese and a dollop of fragrant pesto. Serve as a hearty appetizer at a dinner party or enjoy for lunch with a green salad. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Riesling or Rosé.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • ¼ cup (35 g) raw pistachios
  • 16 large basil leaves
  • 1 small clove garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dozen very slender asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 4 slices sourdough bread, each about 4 by 3 inches (10 by 7.5 cm) and ½ inch (12 mm) thick
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 to 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ pound (110 g) fresh goat cheese with no rind

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). 

Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the pistachios, basil, garlic, and olive oil and pulse until the basil and nuts are finely chopped but do not grind to a paste. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the lemon zest and salt to taste. Add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the flavor.  

If necessary, trim the asparagus spears so they are no longer than the bread. Place them on a baking sheet and toss with enough olive oil to coat them lightly, about 2 to 3 teaspoons. Sprinkle with salt and roast until they are tender and starting to char, about 8 minutes.   

If the goat cheese is firm enough to slice, cut into three or four evenly thick slices and place them in a lightly oiled baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. If the goat cheese is too soft to slice, spoon it into a lightly oiled baking dish, flattening it slightly with the back of a spoon, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake until the goat cheese quivers when touched, like a soft custard, about 5 minutes. 

Toast the bread. Brush one side of each toast with olive oil. Divide the warm cheese among the toasts, spreading it evenly. Top each toast with asparagus and a dollop of pesto, dividing evenly. Serve immediately. 

Suggested Pairing:

Akash Winery ~ 2020 Parlez-Vous Rosé – A bright and intriguing French-style rosé as lovely as its name.

Baily Winery ~ 2019 Riesling – Delicate, dry and fruity white.

Miramonte Winery ~ 2018 Riesling – Spicy citrus, lemongrass, orange blossom, honeyed lemon, butterscotch, zen stone finish.

Robert Renzoni Vineyards – 2019 Lyric Rose – Dry Rosé made of Syrah grape, pale salmon hue, delicate bouquet of rose petals with peach skin exuding with flavors of guava and ripe peach.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

Getting to Know Temecula Valley’s Rockstar Tasting Room Staff

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

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

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

Walter Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diana Geenen


Diana Geenen, Hospitality Operations Manager, Leoness Cellars

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

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

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

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

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

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

Raymond Murgo

Raymond Angel Murgo, Tasting Room Manager, Falkner Winery

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Kessens

Laura Kessens, Wine Consultant, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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

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

LK: Hart Winery

TVWA: What is your favorite wine pairing?

LK: A glass of wine and a sunset!

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

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

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

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

Danaé Wegner

Danaé Wegner, Tasting Room Manager, Peltzer Family Cellars

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

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

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

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Barone

Rebecca Barone, Wine Server, Monte de Oro Winery

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

TVWA: Do you have a favorite wine pairing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share

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.

Share

It’s a Foodie Paradise!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

leoness

Most guests who are new to our wine country don’t realize just how unique the Temecula Valley Wine Country really is. Although, there are several aspects that make us unique, our thriving culinary scene certainly stands out at the top of the list!  In fact, there are over 15 of our wineries that have restaurants or eateries on their property.  Top chefs from all over Southern California are taking up roots in Temecula Valley Wine Country and several Temecula winery restaurants have received national acclaim.

One such restaurant, The Restaurant at Leoness Cellars, was recently rated #1 Winery Restaurant by USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice.  Also voted Best Restaurant of the IE (Inland Empire) for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, The Restaurant at Leoness features a variety of appetizers, colorful salads, unique flatbreads, and seasonal Chef Selections.

Additionally, The Restaurant at Ponte Winery was rated by OpenTable as one of the top 100 restaurants in the US for outdoor dining.  Their al fresco dining area is surrounded by vineyards and beautifully manicured gardens.

At Ponte Vineyard Inn, Bouquet Restaurant was recently awarded the TripAdvisor 2015 Certificate of Excellence! Dine indoors or out in the fine dining setting located at the luxurious AAA Four Diamond Inn, surrounded by manicured Italian gardens with stunning views of the vineyard and our 1-acre pond. Or, if you’re just looking for a quick bite, the alluring and elegant underground Cellar Lounge is located on the basement level of the Inn and features signature cocktails, craft beer, gourmet entrées and small plates.

No stranger to winning awards, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa’s Vineyard Rose Restaurant has been the winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the past five years.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, pairing their seasonal menu expertly with their award-winning wines.

Be sure to visit one of our winery restaurants on your next visit to Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country.  You’ll be glad you did!

Additional award-winning Temecula Valley Winery Restaurants:

Avensole Restaurant & Marketplace –  As Temecula’s newest Wine Country restaurant, Avensole offers a charming place to savor eclectic foods and delicious wines in a lively atmosphere.

Breezeway Grill at Lumiere Winery – Enjoy beautiful vineyard and mountain views from the patio of the Breezeway Grill.  Try the new peaches and ice cream dessert made with Lumiere’s Sauvignon Blanc.

Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Winery – Walking into Carol’s is somewhat like walking into a medieval or European castle. The menu features a variety of beautiful entrée salads, appetizers, sandwiches, fresh fish, steak, and pasta dishes.

Bel Vino Bistro -Bistro diners enjoy an upscale American menu with plates such as the seared albacore sandwich, delicious signature flatbreads, and fresh seasonal salads inspired by Chef Nathaniel Philips.

Meritage at Callaway Winery – Sitting high atop Temecula’s breathtaking wine country, Meritage at Callaway offers guests incredible panoramic views of the rolling hills and vineyards. Guests can enjoy a delightful array of fresh, farm-to-table meals, made from scratch.

Sangio’s Deli at Cougar Vineyard & Winery – Want a quick meal in the midst of wine tasting?  Look no further than Sangio’s Deli.  All Salads and Sandwiches are made to order with Boar’s Head quality products. Sliced meats and cheeses are also available.

Pinnacle at Falkner Winery – The Pinnacle offers great panoramic views, outstanding Mediterranean style food, and high quality service. Critics have consistently praised the food quality, customer service, and great ambiance at Pinnacle.

Baba Joon’s Kitchen at Fazeli Cellars – Baba Joon’s Kitchen provides a unique – and extensive – Mediterranean Persian fusion menu that results in a perfect wine pairing experience.

Flower Hill Bistro at Miramonte Winery – The bistro offers a variety of craft food items from the Fromage + Tomato, to the amazing Roasted Veggie flatbread, to the glorious Piri Piri Half Chicken.

Monte De Oro Bistro at Monte De Oro Winery – Offering casual lunch fare – seasonal salads, Panini’s, and pasta dishes along with delectable appetizers including meat & cheese plates, hummus, and seasonal snacks.

Annata Bistro at Mount Palomar Winery – Annata Bistro/Bar has a full service bar, handcrafted signature cocktail menu, beer on tap, all of the Mount Palomar Wines you know and love, and a Mediterranean inspired menu.

Cave Café at Oak Mountain Winery – With a focus on small plates of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with creative flavor and presentation, head chef Eric Celaya offers a menu with the variety necessary to create snack plates, tapas, light meals, full Mediterranean-style dining, or even just an intimate dessert.

Mama Rosa’s Trattoria at Robert Renzoni Vineyards – Pizzas, gourmet sandwiches and pasta rule the menu here.  Guest favorites include tortellini stuffed with braised short ribs, Gorgonzola cream sauce, garlic and Prosecco, and a meatball sandwich layered with sauce, salami, chili oil and Provolone, baked and finished with basil and Parmigiano.

Café Champagne at Thornton Winery – A breathtaking entrance to the Temecula Valley Wine Country, Café Champagne’s elegance combines with “Contemporary Fusion Cuisine” to create a well-rounded flair for the total gourmet experience.

Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery – Dine al fresco among the vines and enjoy casual, yet tasteful items fill the menu with delicious appetizers, gorgeous salads, scrumptious sandwiches, and of course Creekside seasonally inspired specials.

Share

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

Share

It’s Never Too Late for a Life in Wine!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

wilson-creek-winery-vineyard-family-sf13

It is often assumed that winery owners were born with dirt under their fingernails and raised among the vines by families who have been making wine for generations. While Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is certainly home to those with winemaking in their blood, a quick tour through the region also yields an entirely different crop of wine leadership – entrepreneurs who saw the promise of the region and left wildly different careers to build a life in wine.

One of the most iconic wineries in the region, Wilson Creek Winery, is home not only to great wines, but also to a diverse cross-section of skill sets. CEO Bill Wilson was a Series 7 financial planner specializing in tax-deferred annuities before answering the call of the vine, while Wilson Creek’s winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, was previously a self-described “cartoonist, weatherman, officiant, teacher and vineyard yoga guru.”

While owner & winemaker Robert Renzoni of Robert Renzoni Vineyards was actually born and raised in the wine business, he broke off early on to pursue music, touring with his alt-rock band “Absent” for 9 years before returning to his roots. The music never left him though, and today many of Renzoni’s wines are named for musical references, like the Pinot Grigio-Viognier blend, “Cantata” and the Super Tuscan-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, “Sonata.”

Palumbo Family Vineyards and Winery owner and winemaker Nick Palumbo played in New York City post-grunge band “The Morning Glories” and was also a chef in both New York and San Diego, cooking for the likes of George W. Bush and Wesley Snipes, among others. His wife and winery co-owner, Cindy, was an insurance agent for 15 years prior to jumping into wine.

Wiens Family Cellars owner and general manager, Jeff Wiens, had to go through two previous careers before landing in wine, including a 10-year stint as professional drummer, as well as a Senior Industrial Engineer in the aerospace industry.

But Temecula Valley isn’t only made up of former rock stars. Careers in business before wine were also common. Briar Rose Winery owner Les Linkogle had a successful career in mortgage banking, while his wife, Dorian was an executive vice president at the Aetna Corporation for 25 years before the two followed their lifelong dream to produce wine.

Frangipani Estate Winery owner and winemaker, Don Frangipani was growing mushrooms for his wife, JoAnn’s family’s mushroom farm in Escondido, as well as for their own mushroom-growing business on Mt. Palomar, and cooking for one of her family’s restaurants, before launching his career in wine.

Share
  • Categories

  • Archives

View Our Winery Map