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Get to Know the Rockstars of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Five Temecula Valley Winemakers Share Their Story

With over 40 different wineries in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country, there is a lot to discover. While the tasting rooms and world class wines are part of what makes the region so special, the people and personalities behind these wines are the true driving force behind this remarkable destination. Let’s get to know some of them.

Tom Stolzer Thornton Winery

Tom Stolzer, Winemaker at Thornton Winery

Tom dreamt about being a winemaker while studying biochemistry at San Francisco State University in the 1980s, eventually falling in love with everything wine-related while visiting wineries in Napa and Sonoma on the weekends. 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry and a LOT of wine from every region in the world later, Tom’s wife encouraged him to follow his dream of making wine commercially. He earned his winemaking stripes working alongside some of Temecula’s most iconic winemakers, including Wilson Creek’s Gus Vizgirda (then at Maurcie Car’rie), and South Coast Winery’s Jon McPherson and Javier Flores. Now the winemaker at Thornton Winery, he is working on defining his own style, with the goal of making “wines with pure fruit, balance and finesse…that reflect the character that Temecula Valley gives to the fruit.”

We caught up with him recently and asked him a few questions.

Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association: Why did you choose Temecula Valley as a place to make wine?

Tom: Initially, I chose Temecula Valley because it was the closest established wine region.  After moving to Walla Walla, Washington to continue in the wine business, I realized that my heart belongs in Southern California, for family reasons as well as for my appreciation of the Temecula Valley as a wine region.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Thornton Winery?

Tom: Thornton Winery has a long history of producing quality wines.  First, it was a sparkling wine house, with 100% of production to Méthode Champenoise produced sparklers.  We are now about 40% sparkling with the rest being red, white and rosé table wines.  I hope to see Thornton carry on that rich tradition, while we pick up the momentum left by our past winemakers and continue to make better and better wines.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Temecula Valley?

Tom: Temecula Valley has a great history and potential, and there are some wonderful wines being made here already.  I hope to see us focus on those varieties that are best suited to our climate and region, and become a destination for serious consumers who will come to the Temecula Valley for world class wines that they cannot find in any other region of California. 

David Allbright
Monte de Oro Winery

David Allbright, Winemaker at Monte de Oro Winery

Science always came easily to David. His love and passion for winemaking eventually came to life as he began to study and understand the interplay of biology, chemistry and geography in the world of wine and winemaking. He cultivated a particular interest in Oenology – the science of winemaking – and was able to build the various lab skills so essential in clean and precise winemaking techniques. He then got his official start as a winemaker under Tim Kramer of Leoness Cellars, working seasonally in the cellar and supporting the bottling crew.  David describes his approach to winemaking as “really straightforward.” He stresses the importance of “wine integrity,” believing that if we label the wine as Cabernet Sauvignon, then that’s what it should taste like. He calls this the “quality of being honest.”

Here’s what else he had to say:

TVWA: Why did you choose Temecula Valley as a place to make wine?

David: I like to think Temecula Valley chose me.  My first visit to Temecula Valley was in 1992 when I was a United States Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and I decided to visit some of the Temecula wineries.  A few years later, after graduating from Texas State University, I returned to Temecula and began working at Callaway Winery in 2001 under Tim Kramer as the assistant tasting room manager. In 2018, Temecula Valley Wine Country celebrated its 50th anniversary of the first commercial vineyard starting in 1968. That’s my birthdate! Maybe there’s a connection!

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Monte de Oro Winery?

David: Although Monte De Oro just celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a winery, it is really only in its second phase of growth and construction.  The first phase was the planting of 72 acres of vineyard in 2002, followed by the building and completion of the beautiful tasting room and winery in 2009.  Lastly, we will complete the final phase of a full-on natural gravity flowing wine production facility.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Temecula Valley?

David: I like to think I’m still a spring chicken in this winemaking community, so I truly believe the future belongs to the up-and-coming junior winemakers of Temecula Valley. These winemakers have been so fortunate to have learned from their mentors, and are now coming into their own in creating great, premium wines in their own personally-inspired style.

Justin Knight
Danza del Sol Winery

Justin Knight, Winemaker at Danza del Sol Winery

Like David & Tom, Justin was always drawn to chemistry and making things with his hands, which naturally led him to winemaking as a career path. His first job in wine was in the tasting room at Danza del Sol over 12 years ago, where he first developed an interest in the production side of the business. He then began to work under winemaker Mike Tingley and assistant winemaker Renato Sais, learning the ropes and further cultivating his passion. He eventually climbed the ranks from cellar hand to lab tech to cellar master and ultimately assistant winemaker under Arturo Villareal. In 2018, he was promoted to head winemaker for both Danza del Sol and sister property Masia de la Vinya, an achievement he credits not only to his education at UC Davis, but also to his three mentors, Mike, Renato and Arturo.

Justin describes his winemaking style as “an old-world approach, while incorporating new age techniques.” He aims to keep things simple, guiding the grapes to where they need to be in order to show best. “Simple yet elegant. Robust yet balanced,” he says. “Each varietal has its own story to tell; it’s my job to put it into words.”

TVWA: Why did you choose Temecula Valley as a place to make wine?

Justin: I consider myself a native to the Temecula valley, so to me the choice was easy. I’ve lived in Temecula for about 20 years, grew up playing soccer in this valley, and graduated from Great Oak High School. I wouldn’t want to be making wine anywhere else. Not only is Temecula my home, but its unique climate can produce some amazing wines.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Danza del Sol?

Justin: This year marks the 10-year anniversary for Danza del Sol Winery. The future is looking brighter than ever. We have plans on increasing our acreage and expanding our new wine selection. Look forward to trying our newly bottled whites, including Albariño, Chenin Blanc, and Grenache Blanc, starting this Spring.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Temecula Valley?

Justin: The sky’s the limit for the Temecula Valley, as more acres are planted, and more wineries built. The word continues to grow that this valley can compete with any wine region in the world. I recently heard someone say, “San Francisco has Napa, San Diego has Temecula.”  

David Bradley
Vindemia Winery

David Bradley, Owner &  Winemaker, Vindemia Winery

David and his wife Gail purchased land near South Coast Winery in 1999 to plant a vineyard and launch hot air balloons. After purchasing another vineyard, the couple started to learn how to grow wine grapes, ultimately inspiring them to make wine and open a winery. When asked about his winemaking philosophy, David says it’s not making wine in Temecula that’s difficult; it’s growing the grapes. “Our warm climate demands new techniques to produce age-worthy, well-balanced wines that have the potential to become really good wines. This requires ongoing education and experimentation,” he explains. “So Vindemia’s approach is not to stand still.”

So we cornered him and asked a few more questions.

TVWA: Why did you choose Temecula Valley as a place to make wine?

David: The choice of place was completely based on our hot air balloon business, California Dreamin’, moving from North San Diego to the Temecula Valley.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Vindemia?

David: Vindemia’s goal has always been to produce estate wines that fit the potential of the region at the very highest quality. Our future is based on this production, and our willingness to invest in this goal with people and technology. We will grow as the quality of our wine grows.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Temecula Valley?

Temecula Wine Country has experienced explosive growth. Wine regions seem to cycle and slow down over time to absorb new wineries and vineyard planting. To find a home for new small plot vineyards and expanded varietals, the quality of farming for these grapes will need to rapidly improve as lower quality vineyards are removed. Temecula Valley’s reputation is slowing and carefully growing into acceptance for producing high quality wine. Temecula needs more experienced and seasoned winemakers [to come join us out here].

Craig Larson
Callaway Vineyard & Winery

Craig Larson, Winemaker, Callaway Winery

Craig started his winemaking career as a cellar working in Washington State. His passion to create inspired him to become a winemaker, ultimately landing him at Callaway Winery in Temecula Valley, where he produces wine he describes as having “European influence – the expression of terroir and varietal character.”

TWVA: Why did you choose Temecula Valley as a place to make wine?

Craig: I chose Temecula Valley for the Southern exposure, and the opportunity to create wines from Southern grape varieties. 

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Callaway Winery?

Craig: I see Callaway continuing to pursue the research and development of unique grape varieties and wines.

TVWA: What do you see as the future of Temecula Valley?

Craig: I see more winemaking coming to the valley, and the development of viticulture here.

Huge thanks to these talented and passionate winemakers for taking the time to contribute to this story. Find out more about what’s happening in Temecula Valley at TemeculaWines.org and VisitTemeculaValley.com.

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October Winery Events

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Happy Hallowine

October is peak harvest season and the vineyards are in full wine production and we’ve got some exciting and unique October winery events! Come experience Halloween bashes, grape stomps, concerts, fall wine tours and tastings — and much more!

Avensole Winery
Hosted Tour & Wine Tasting /Available on Sunday of each the month / 2pm-3:30pm / For every adventure, there is discovery, for every unique place, there is a story. Take a guided journey through our lush vineyards and experience our rich heritage and handcrafted Avensole wines / Cost. $35 / Reservations required. Please call 951.252.2003 x312 to reserve.

Gourmet Cheese Artisanal Tour & Wine Tasting / Available on Friday of each month / 12pm / For the ultimate Wine Country experience, delight in an educational tour through our picturesque vineyard vistas and conclude this tour with a culinary treat of artisanal wine pairings featuring 7 Avensole wines / Cost: $75 / Reservations required online at link: http://www.avensolewinery.com/res-369934

Baily Winery
Doggie Costume Contest / October 27 / Join us for our Dog Day Sundays at Carol’s Restaurant located at Baily Winery. Doggie Costume judging at 1:30pm – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes! Don’t forget to bring your camera! / Carol’s Restaurant is open for lunch 11:30am – 3pm. Reservations recommended by calling 951-676-9243

Estate Library Tasting / Every Thursday-Sunday / Available 11am-4pm / Enjoy exclusive library tasting of 5 different vintages (varietal will vary monthly). Tasting will take place at Baily Estate Tasting Room located on Pauba Road / Tours are available upon request / For reservations and pricing information please call Lisa at 951-972-9768.

Bel Vino Winery
Oktoberfest / October 18 / 6:00-10:00pm / $5pp pre-paid tickets on our website or $10pp at the door / German Band, German Contests, Biergarten, Brat Bar, Dress Contest, Funnel Cakes / For reservations please visit https://www.belvinowinery.com/product/oktoberfest/

Sushi Wine Down / October 23 / 6:00-9:00pm / $50 pp / Featuring: Live Music from Jeff Brinkman. Price includes a Sushi Station featuring fresh premium grade fish such as Hawaiian Bigeye Tuna, JPN’s Yellowtail, Scottish Salmon and others. Prepared with natural and organic ingredients and fresh wasabi (root) / To purchase your tickets please visit https://www.hideawaycuisine.com/events

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Sip, Stomp & Play / October 5 / 6pm to 9pm / $72 pp, $64.80 wine club, $32 for kids ages 4-11; price does not include tax / Grab a bunch of your family and friends and join us for this fun-for-the-entire-family grape stomp and harvest festival! Bring the kids! We’ll have face painting, live music, dinner, dancing, a Lucy look-alike contest, and of course, grape stomping contests! Channel your inner Lucy and dress up for a chance to win prizes! We are serving up some hearty cuisine that’s perfect for keeping your energy up while you stomp and dance the night away! Get your tickets while you can, you won’t want to miss this! Tickets include: Admission to the event, one glass of Callaway wine, dinner, dancing, wine specials and grape stomping! / Purchase your tickets online at www.callawaywinery.com or at the winery.

Prix Fixe Friday & Sunday at Meritage / 5pm to 8pm / For $40 guests may enjoy a starter, an entrée and a dessert / Live Music offered on Friday nights Reservation is not necessary. For menu information call 951.587.8889

Brunch Specials every Sunday at Meritage / 11am / Cost is $30 / Includes a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice, entrée and dessert. All food from Meritage is farm-to-table, either grown on property in restaurant garden or locally outsourced.

Callaway Winery Tours offered daily / 11am and 2pm / Tour only, $10 per person. Tour with tasting, $25 – tour includes 1 tank sample, 1-barrel sample and 4 additional tastes at the Tasting Bar / Reservations not necessary, but for 10 or more highly recommended / For more information call 951.676.4001

Carter Estate Winery and Resort
Wine & Chocolate Pairing / Every Friday of the month / 3:00pm / $45 Per Person ($40 Wine Club) / Your guided pairing experience includes a specially selected flight of five of our Carter Estate wines paired with 5 custom chocolates from local chocolate shoppe, SugarPlum Farm. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how our award-winning wines are made and learn how Carter Estate wines compliment and bring out the unique flavors of chocolate. Our Wine & Chocolate Pairing is approximately 90 minutes & has limited availability to provide a more intimate experience for our guests. Make your reservation today! Must be 21 or older. Reservation Information: Book a pairing on CarterEstateWinery.com.

Elegant Food & Wine Pairing / $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member / 1pm & 3pm Monday-Sunday / Your guided experience includes a specially selected flight of five of our Carter Estate wines paired with perfectly matched culinary bites from our Chef. Learn about the history of our beautiful Temecula Valley & get a behind-the-scenes look at how our award-winning Sparkling wines are made. Our Wine & Food Pairings are approximately 90 minutes & limited to eight guests.  Make your reservation today!  Must be 21 or older / Reservation Information: Reservations recommended – Book a pairing on CarterEstateWinery.com

Europa Village
Festa! featuring Ruben V / October 19 / 5:30-8:30pm / Enjoy wine, food and live music by Ruben V, benefiting Michelle’s Place! Food Tickets: $18; free admission / please visit www.europavillage.com for additional information.

Falkner Winery
Harvest Paint N Sip / October 13 / 12:00-2:00pm / Open to the Public! $45 per person / Ticket price includes all painting supplies and a glass of “Hot Lips” or Sangria / tickets available online https://store.falknerwinery.com/harvest-sip-n-paint-p199.aspx

Night of Witches n Ghouls Party / October 24 / 7:00-10:00pm / Cover charge $20 per person includes glass of Ghoulish Sangria or Zombie Hot Lips. Wine by the glass and bottle. (Industry and Wine Club discounts applicable) Karaoke by Sing It Like you Mean It, D.J. Lillian Thomas. Food available for purchase And don’t forget about our awesome Costume Contests!

Dia De Los Muertos Festival (Day of the Dead) / October 27 / 12:00-4:00pm Open to the public. Face painter, vendors, games, wine, sangria, and Hot Lips by glass or bottle. (Member discounts applicable) Food and Drink packages available. Picnic menu also available. No need to RSVP!

Fazeli Cellars
Annual Haunted Masquerade Ball / November 1 / Doors Open at 7pm / Don’t Miss Our Annual Haunted Masquerade Ball! Tickets Sell Out FAST, Get Yours NOW! / $28 Members | $35 Non-Members Includes Entrance and a Glass of Spooky Sparkling Wine / Drinks & food available for purchase | DJ & Dancing! Masks Desired but Not Required! To purchase your tickets please visit http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-391245/Haunted-Masquerade-Ball-2019.html

Frangipani Winery
Harvest Grape Stomp Party
/ October 13 / 2pm-5pm / Frangipani Estate Winery Wine club members $20 per person and General Guests $25 per person / Grape Stomping, Corn-Hole, & Bocce Ball tournaments with prizes for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place, live music and food / RSVP by October 10 to 951-699-8845 or email frangipaniwine@yahoo.com

Lorimar Winery
Night of the Living Wine-O’s
/ October 25 / 7:00-10:00pm / $20 per person; $18 Wine Club / Lorimar’s annual Halloween bash is back and it’s going to be better than ever! Join us for wine specials, live music by Mrs. Jones Revenge, Costume Contest, DJ, candy, and more! / Tickets are pre-sale only and include a glass of Spooky Sangria. (event is 21+, tax is not included) / Purchase Tickets – https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-410159/Night-Of-The-Living-Wineos.html

Movie in the Vines – Hotel Transylvania 2 / October 28 / Doors open at 6pm / Bring the whole family for a scary good time to see HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 on the Sunset Patio! /Pairings Food Truck opens at 6 pm; movie begins at sunset / Complimentary popcorn! Costume contest for the kids! Candy, Soda, & Snacks will also be available for purchase! (No outside food or drinks)/ Please RSVP – https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-409598/Movie-In-The-Vines-Hotel-Transylvania-2.html

Ponte Winery
Brunch at Bouquet Restaurant
/ Every Saturday & Sunday / 7:30am-3:00pm / Offering indoor & outdoor seating options, Bouquet is the perfect spot to gather for a gourmet brunch. Enjoy a relaxing ambiance with stunning fountain courtyard, pond & vineyards views / To view menu and for reservations please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com

Somerset Vineyard & Winery
70’s Disco Party / October 5 / 6:00-10:00pm / $95 per person; $76 for members / Enjoy a live musical production by the FUNKY HIPPEEZ, food provided by Southfork catering, contest & prizes for Best Dressed and Best Dance Moves! / Space is limited so reserve early! Please visit our website www.somersetvineyard.com or call 951-365-5522 to purchase your tickets today!

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
Country Concert featuring Eric Paslay
/ October 24 / Doors Open at 6:30pm; Show 7:00-9:00pm / Tickets start at only $35! / Join us among the vines and stars as South Coast Winery Resort & Spa presents an evening with country singer/songwriter Eric Paslay. This Platinum-selling, hit songwriter and dynamic performer has celebrated five No. 1 hits including “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” (Eli Young Band), “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” (Jack Owen), “Angel Eyes” (Love & Theft), “Rewind” (Rascal Flatts) and “Friday Night” his smash lead single from his critically acclaimed self-titled debut album. Enjoy great wine, local food trucks and this GRAMMY® nominee, hit songwriter for the wine COUNTRY night event of the year / For reservations please visit https://www.southcoastwinery.com/concerts/october-24-2019-country-concert

Behind the Scene Wine Tour / Available daily / 11 AM, 1 PM and 3PM, Monday through Sunday / $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member or Military / Learn more about our spectacular Southern California Temecula winery with a behind-the-scenes wine tour, from vineyards to crush pad. Each tour concludes with 5 wines paired with an individual plate of specially prepared lite-bite foods, designed to enhance your wine knowledge and experience / Reservation Information: Call 866-994-6379 Ext. 7217 to reserve your spot today / Due to the limited sizes of each tour, reservations are required with prepayment, and are non-refundable. Guests must be over 21 years of age to attend.

Thornton Winery
JAZZ CONCERT SERIES
Brian Culbertson / October 5 / 7:00pm
Cost: General Admission: $95, Gourmet Supper Package: $180

West Coast Jams / October 12 / 7:00pm
Cost: General Admission: $85, Gourmet Supper Package: $170

Jeffrey Osborne / October 20 / 4:00pmCost: General Admission: $85, Gourmet Supper Package: $170

To order your jazz tickets, please visit our website: www.thorntonwine.com or Call (951) 699-0099 EXT. 3127 to make reservations.

Friday Live Music – B.I.G. / October 11 / 6:00-9:00pm / General Admission $15 in advance; $20 at the door. VIP $40 for the first six rows. No food service / Dinner tables available. *All guests at table must order dinner! / Must order tickets on our website: www.thorntonwine.com

Friday Live Music – Bon Jovi Tribute
/ October 25 / 6:00-9:00pm / General Admission $25 in advance; $30 at the door. VIP $40 for the first six rows. No food service / Dinner tables available. *All guests at table must order dinner! / Must order tickets on our website: www.thorntonwine.com

Cooking Class / October 27 / 1:00pm -3:00pm / Theme is Scary Desserts & Appetizers / For more information and reservations please visit  www.thorntonwine.com

Vindemia Vineyards & Estate Winery
Harvest Celebration with Special Guest Chef Drew Deckman / November 2 / 4:30pm- 8:00pm / $75 for Wine Club Members and $95 for non-members We are overjoyed to host Super Chef Drew Deckman here in Temecula Valley! Chef Deckman is the head chef at his restaurant, Deckmans’s in Ensenada and is known for his superb dishes in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. Our November 2 event includes a four-course meal grilled by Deckman himself, paired with unreleased Vindemia wines, live music and more! / Please RSVP to wineclub@vindemia.com by October 18 – spots are limited!

Wiens Family Cellars
Refugio Vertical Pairing Dinner / October 27 / 7:00pm-10:00pm / $100 regular; $80 Wine Club Member / A Cabernet lover’s delight! Join us for our Refugio Wine Dinner! At this event we’ll showcase four vintages of our flagship Refugio Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a wonderful dish! / Advance reservation can be made by visiting https://www.wienscellars.com/res-415408/Refugio-Vertical-Pairing-Dinner-2019.html

Wilson Creek Winery
Wine Academy – Wine 101 / October 5 / 6:00pm-9:00pm / General $20-$35; Wine Club Members $20 (limit 4 guests $35) / Come join us for an educational journey through wine. Our top-notch instructors will make your wine experience interactive and interesting. Enjoy wine education while tasting different wines with light appetizers. Reserve Members are complimentary with Wine Passes – Call 951-252-8523 to reserve. ONLY 10 SPOTS AVAILABLE!

Lauren Alaina Country Concert / October 11 / 6:00pm-9:00pm / General Admission $60; Wine Club Members $54 / Join us under the stars in the heart of wine country for an amazing up close and personal show with LAUREN ALAINA and Opening Band Honey County! / For reservations please visit www.wilsoncreekwinery.com

Harvest Festival – Grape Stomp / October 18 / 6:00pm-9:00pm / General Admission $75; Wine Club Members $67.50 / Fall is a time to gather! Join us for our Harvest Festival! Buffet Style Dinner, Pumpkin Carving Contest, Grape Stomping, & Live Music! Enjoy all of these fun activities included with your ticket. LIVE ENTERTAINERS: Kodi Lee & Midnight Satellites /  For reservations please visit www.wilsoncreekwinery.com

Bubble Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 10am-3pm / $51.95, Buffet only: $41.95, Children: $16.95 / Enjoy all your breakfast favorites, omelet stations, waffle stations, seafood stations, carving stations and dessert stations with beautiful vineyard views / Buffet (+ unlimited sparkling). Now serving Bloody Mary’s! / Reservations can be made at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or call 951.699.9463 for additional information.

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So Cal Wine TV- Tour Callaway Vineyard & Winery

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Learn about Callaway Vineyard & Winery’s new and exciting improvements!  If you have not been lately, you will be pleasantly surprised by the new courtyard and remodeled barrel room. If you are looking for delicious dining, come out to their Meritage Restaurant, which was named one of the “Hot 100 Restaurants in the Inland Empire” in the May issue of the Inland Empire Magazine.  To learn more, visit Callaway Vineyard & Winery.

Callway Vineyard & Winery Tasting Room hours: Open daily from 10am-5pm.  Daily complimentary tours times on weekdays are 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Weekend tour times are 11am-4pm, every hour on the hour; (951) 676- 4001; 32720 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA92591

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