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Summertime! And the livin’ is easy…

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

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

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

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

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

A few Temecula Valley wine suggestions for your next barbecue:

Baily Winery ~ 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese: fun, fruity and full of character
Miramonte Winery ~ 2019 Rosé: bright strawberry | watermelon flesh | cantaloupe | iris | hibiscus | off-dry
Robert Renzoni Vineyards ~ 2016 Big Fred’s Red: ripe blueberry and black cherry, hints of caramel
Maurice Car’rie Winery ~ Cody’s Crush: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petite sirah blend
Oak Mountain Winery ~ 2016 Merlot: aromas of black fruits such as black cherry, blackberry and cassis

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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.

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WINE MEETS CHEESE

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Wine Meets Cheese

This holiday season, up your cheese board game with these expert suggestions for pairings with some of our region’s most popular wines. Not sure what cheeses play well with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon? Now you know.

CHARDONNAY

  • Triple-cream cheese: These cream-enriched, high-fat cow’s milk cheeses have a texture like whipped frosting and a luxurious richness that work well with Chardonnay’s plush, rounded mouthfeel.
  • Brie: This semisoft cow’s milk cheese has a buttery, spreadable texture and mushroom scent. A velvety Chardonnay complements that supple, spreadable interior and the Brie doesn’t overwhelm the wine.
  • Monterey Jack: California’s iconic table cheese is mild, mellow, and a great melter. Try it on a grilled cheese sandwich with a glass of Chardonnay. The wine’s acidity and minerality help balance the buttery sandwich.


Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery – 2018 Winemaker Reserve Chardonnay ~ The 2018 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay is silky on the pallet with flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and hints of honeysuckle. Floral scents and an oaky finish will leave you longing for more. 

Oak Mountain Winery – 2019 Chardonnay ~ You can pick up apple, pineapple, honey, vanilla, and roasted flavors that really fill the mouth. This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, crème brulee and caramel. Pairs with roast chicken.

Ponte Winery – 2018 Chardonnay ~ A lively, fresh white wine with delicious Fuji apple and allspice notes. Let the lush mouthfeel & minerality on the finish whisk you away sip after sip.

ZINFANDEL

  • Hot pepper jack: An everyday cheese with some sass and spice makes a fun pairing for a peppery Zinfandel. Make quesadillas or mac-and-cheese with hot pepper jack, and Zinfandel will be just the right lively match.
  • Aged Gouda: Matured for six months or more, cow’s milk Gouda develops butterscotch aromas and a salted-caramel flavor (although the cheese doesn’t have a speck of sugar). A powerful Zinfandel with its ripe blackberry jam scent has the strength for that seeming sweetness.
  • Smoked Cheddar: Put a lightly smoked Cheddar on a charcuterie or antipasto platter and open a fruity, medium-weight Zinfandel. Give the wine a quick chill—maybe 15 minutes in the fridge—to brighten its fruity notes and make it a refreshing counterpoint to the smoky Cheddar.

    Suggested Pairings:

    Doffo Winery – 2017 Zinfandel ~ This Zinfandel is sure to delight the senses with aromas of plum, raspberry, figs, and cherries. The balanced acidity and voluminous mouthfeel leave a long lasting finish.

    Hart Winery – 2017 Zinfandel ~ This deliciously complex wine is illustrative of the quality attainable from a well-farmed young vineyard. Less spicy, jammy and lower in alcohol than a Northern California Zin, this wine is remini-cent of its first cousin Primitivo and is a fine complement a variety of dishes. 

    Lorenzi Estate Vineyards & Winery – 2015 Zinfandel ~  There is a seamless transition from the front to mid to finish on this wine. The finish is so clean, holding on to the dried fruit elements to the end and nothing is out of balance. It’s pure joy to drink this wine.


CABERNET SAUVIGNON

  • Camembert: Similar to Brie but smaller, Camembert is the perfect size for four people to share with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. A ripe Camembert has a big beefy aroma, with notes of mushroom and garlic. It can stand up to the deep flavor and tannic strength of Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Cheddar: An aged Cheddar has a creamy-yet-crumbly texture, layers of flavor that unfold slowly, and a vivid tang. Seek out a clothbound (also known as bandage-wrapped) Cheddar for maximum complexity and compatibility with a fine California Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Dry jack: The extra-aged version of a Monterey jack is firm, complex, and deeply nutty. It needs a concentrated red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon to match it in strength.


Suggested Pairings:

Baily Winery – 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ~  This Cabernet offers warm, rich tones with subtle, herbaceous qualities and a hint of mint. 

Leoness Cellars – 2017 Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Inviting aromas of black currant and boysenberry fruit layered with subtle notes of vanilla, black licorice, olive and sweet oak leading into a lingering finish.

Masia de la Vinya – 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Rose petals, baked cherry pie, slight bite of white pepper.

Content and photo courtesy of The Wine Institute of California.

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Winter in Wine Country

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Winter in the Vines

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

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

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

Additionally, our winemakers stay stay busy during winter processing wines from the recent harvest. This includes filtration, cold stabilizing, racking, and placing wine into barrels. In essence, there is no downtime in winemaking. The winemakers are always processing wine from the previous harvest and preparing for the upcoming bottling season. As far as vineyard maintenance goes, many of our winemakers agree that patience is key; waiting for the vines to go dormant and then pruning them back. Temecula’s winter keeps the vines asleep only as long as necessary and ensures a longer period of time to mature the clusters during the growing season.

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

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HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND BLACK OLIVE TART

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Heirloom Tomato & Black Olive Tart

Make this colorful savory tart in late summer when tomatoes are at their flavor peak. Serve in thin slices as an appetizer or in bigger portions with a side salad for lunch. The tart also works nicely as a side dish for a roast leg of lamb or roast chicken. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Zinfandel.

Makes one 9-inch tart to serve 6 to 8 

Ingredients

Tart dough 

  • 1 cup (125 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 
  • ½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, in 16 pieces
  • 1-1/2 pounds (680 g) heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼ inch (6 mm) thick, ends discarded 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1 dozen kalamata or black olives, pitted and halved 
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled fine 
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) goat cheese, at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoon plain yogurt, or as needed 
  • 1 small clove garlic, very finely minced 
  • Basil leaves for garnish 

Directions

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over the mixture and pulse until it begins to come together into a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and, using the plastic wrap as a barrier to avoid touching the dough, shape the dough into a ball. Wrap in the plastic, then flatten into a thick round disk. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough and place it in the center of a 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan with a removeable bottom. (Do not use a black metal tart pan or the dough will likely overbrown.) Again, using the plastic wrap as a barrier to avoid touching the dough, press the dough with your hand to flatten it until it covers the bottom and sides of the tart tin. You should have just enough dough to make a thin crust with no trim. Take care to make the dough evenly thick or it may burn in spots. Prick the tart shell with a fork in several places. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the tart shell to cover the bottom and top with pie weights or dried beans in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the pie weights and the foil. Return the tart pan to the oven and continue baking until the crust is lightly browned all over, about 15 minutes longer. Set on a rack; leave the oven on.

While the tart crust bakes, place the tomato slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pat the surface with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Transfer the slices to a cutting board and cut them in half, taking care to preserve their shape.

Arrange the tomato slices in the baked tart crust in concentric circles, working from the outside in and overlapping the slices. You should be able to fit all or most of the slices but reserve any extra for a salad. Tuck the olive halves into any crevices. Brush the surface with olive oil and scatter the oregano over the top. Return the tart to the oven and bake until the tomatoes are soft and sizzling, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. The tart is best when warm, not hot.

In a small bowl, blend the goat cheese and yogurt until very smooth. Add more yogurt if needed to create a sauce you can drizzle. Add the garlic (use less, if you prefer) and salt to taste.

Remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with the goat cheese mixture and top with a few torn leaves of basil. Serve warm.

Suggested Pairings:

Doffo Winery ~ 2017 Zinfandel – This Zinfandel is sure to delight the senses with aromas of plum, raspberry, figs, and cherries. 

Hart Winery ~ Huis Vineyard Zinfandel – This fruity, classic Zin has been aged 12 months in premium American oak and blend with a kiss of Petite Sirah. 

Leoness Cellars ~ 2017 Cellar Series Zinfandel – This wine offers rich aromas and flavors of blackberry and blueberry with hints of vanilla and lavender framed by soft tannins and a long, silky finish.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ 2014 Wild Horse Peak Zinfandel – Rich berry fruit and peppery notes with delicate caramel and chocolate.

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

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

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

Ryan Hart

Ryan Hart, Assistant Enologist, Thornton Winery

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Nick Marsolino

Nicholas Marsolino, Production Lead, Thornton Winery

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

TVWA: Any standout harvest memories?

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

Reed Brady

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Billy Bower

Billy Bower, Director of Agriculture, Stage Ranch Farm Management

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Vera

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Brian Marquez

Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

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

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

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

TVWA: What’s your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Kaitlin Murray

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite aspect of harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Gregorio Retana

Gregorio Retana, Cellar Master, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

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HARVEST PLATTER WITH DUELING DIPS

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Harvest Platter with Dueling Dips

Visit a nearby farmers market or farm stand (or your own garden) to find the season’s best produce for your platter. Think about contrasting color, texture and shape as you assemble your masterpiece. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients

Green Goddess Dip 

  • ¾ cup (175 g) mayonnaise 
  • ¼ cup (60 g) sour cream 
  • 3 anchovy fillets 
  • ¼ cup (10 g) sliced fresh chives
  • ¼ cup (10 g) minced flat-leaf parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon 
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice 
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • White wine vinegar 

 Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Dip 

  • 1 large red bell pepper, 8 to 10 ounces (215 to 275 g) 
  • 1/3 cup (15 g) soft fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 1/3 cup (35 g) lightly toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish 
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses, plus more for garnish 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
  • Scant ½ teaspoon toasted cumin seed, pounded fine or ground cumin 
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo or Maras chili, hot paprika, or other medium-hot ground red chili 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • Parsley or cilantro leaves for garnish 

Directions

Green Goddess Dip:

In a blender, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, chives, parsley, tarragon, lemon juice and garlic. Blend until completely smooth and green. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Taste and add a splash of wine vinegar if the dressing needs more acidity. 

 Makes about 1 cup (.25 l) 

Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

Preheat a broiler and position a rack about 6 inches (15 cm) from the element. Broil the bell pepper on a baking sheet until blackened on all sides. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then discard the skin and seeds. Pat the roasted pepper dry on paper towels. 

Put the roasted pepper, breadcrumbs, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, cumin and chili in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste and blend again. Taste and adjust the sweet-tart balance to your liking with more pomegranate molasses or lemon juice. 

Spoon the dip into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, a few chopped walnuts and parsley or cilantro leaves. 

Makes about ¾ cup (175 ml) 

Suggested Pairings:

Avensole Winery ~ 2018 Susan Sauvignon Blanc – Offers aromas of grapefruit and lemongrass, with hints of green apple on the palate, framed by crisp acidity and a long, refreshing finish.

Bolero Cellars ~ 2018 Granacha Rosa – Ripe stone fruits, wild strawberries and rosemary delight the nose; the palate sensation is that of biting a ripe, fleshy & juicy nectarine that has been soaked in white wine. The finish is surprisingly fresh and clean.

Fazeli Cellars ~ 2019 Boland Rooz Sauvignon Blanc – Fresh with a nose that is sweetly grassy and a hint of citrus followed by sour apple.

Lorenzi Estate Vineyards & Winery ~ 2019 Grenache Rosé – The wine has an amazing nose of strawberries and pink grapefruit and the color is an ethereal mix of silver and pink salmon. 

Recipe and photo provided by The Wine Institute of California

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

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

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

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

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

Nick & Cindy Palumbo
Owners, Palumbo Winery

Palumbo Vineyard & Winery

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

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

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

Steve Andrews
Owner, Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

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

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

Somerset Winery

Kurt Tiedt
President, Somerset Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Hart
Winemaker, Hart Winery

Hart Winery

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

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

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

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

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

Akash Patel
Owner, Akash Winery

Akash Winery & Vineyards

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

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

Happy Harvest!

Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press Enterprise/SGNC

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Temecula Valley’s Unsung Heroes ~ A Tribute to Those Working Behind the Scenes

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Last month we did a feature on the rockstar tasting room staff of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. It was such a hit that we decided this month to focus on another group of movers and shakers of Temecula Valley – the “Unsung Heroes” who are behind the scenes ensuring that the region runs smoothly on all fronts. These Wine Country warriors are the ones our visitors don’t often get to meet; the ones who make the actual functioning of our wineries possible. While sometimes it’s the winemakers and winery owners who get all the glory, Wine Country wouldn’t exist without the folks who work tirelessly every day to keep the lights on and create memorable experiences for our visitors.

Let’s meet a few:

Brenda Ruocco

Brenda Ruocco, Director, Wholesale Operations for South Cost Winery

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Brenda has been in Temecula for the last 20 years with her husband and her “Animal family of dogs and horses.” Anyone who has purchased a bottle of South Coast wine from a local wine shop or grocery store has Brenda to thank for it being on the shelf.

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

BR: A typical day in wholesale includes meeting with domestic and export wholesale buyers; conducting wine tastings; making sales calls to box and liquor stores and restaurants; checking inventory; writing orders; working closely with the winemaking team; managing our warehouse and supervising our wholesale team of eight.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

BR: Yes, I love wine! Of course I’m partial to ours. Currently, I’m enjoying our 2019 South Coast Pinot Grigio, 2015 Wild Horse Peak Merlot and Vineyard Rose Sparkling.

TVWA: You have been in the Valley for a long time. Can you share any memorable Wine Country moments? Can you share your best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country moments?

BR: The best Wine Country moment was receiving South Coast’s California State Winery of the Year award with our winemaking team – ALL four times! My most memorable moment was opening South Coast Winery and being part of the original team. It was so exciting to watch the construction team build our winery. Also memorable was helping to create the “Rock The Pink” brand to support Cancer Awareness.

TVWA: Wow. You could probably write a book about Temecula Valley Wine Country! Speaking of books, do you have any hobbies outside of the winery?

BR: I love to travel, marathon running, cooking/wine pairing, reading and gardening.

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

BR: I recall being mesmerized by the valley on my first visit in 1990. I was on a business trip from Washington, DC, and had an extra day after a meeting in Carlsbad. The hotel I was staying at recommended a trip to Temecula Wine Country. I drove through early in the morning and saw a handful of wineries and hot air balloons overhead and knew I wanted to live here. Five years later after meeting my husband, we rearranged our lives to move to Temecula. We are both Italian and see so many comparisons to Italy. I’m so proud to represent this region and the opportunity to educate people about our terroir and beautiful valley.    

Patricia O’Brien, Vice President of Sales & Operations for Danza del Sol Winery and Masia de la Vinya Winery

Patricia O’Brien

This Southern California native has been in Temecula Valley for 17 years. She is married to her best friend, Patrick, and together they have raised three kids: Mikayla age 25, Sean Patrick age 17 and Peyton age 9.  “I love my job,” she says. “But I have to say being a parent happens to be the best gig ever!”

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

PO: My workday usually starts at 7:30 am with a review of sales reports from the previous day, answering emails and tackling my infamous to-do list.  You see, I’m a firm believer in setting a daily tasks list.  I never put more than 6 things on my to-do list, so I don’t set myself up for failure.  My days usually consist of analyzing traffic, sales, and wine club attrition and sign up reports, evaluating wine projections, label approvals, reviewing and overseeing monthly social media and marketing plan, as well as meetings with the Controller, Winemaker, tasting room and wine club managers.  

TVWA: Whew! We are exhausted just thinking about your day! You must like to kick-back at the end of the day. Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

PO: Do I drink wine?! I’m passionate about wine. I love the process of growing grapes, harvesting grapes, and the art of turning those grapes into wine. I love wine so much, I enrolled in the WSET Level II class in Spring 2019 and passed the exam.  My favorite varietal is Old Vine Zinfandel but lately I’ve been enjoying Pinot Noir and dry rosé.

TVWA: Do you have a best, funniest or most memorable Wine Country Moment?

PO: I’ve been working in Temecula Valley Wine Country for 13 years. I have so many best, funny and memorable moments.  One of the best and funniest moments, is my initial interview with founder of Danza del Sol Winery, Bob Olson, almost 11 years ago.  I answered an ad for a job, and we met for breakfast at South Coast. It was the most casual interview I’ve ever had in my life. I basically ate breakfast with a complete stranger. When the interview ended, I called my husband and said, “That was the most chill interview I’ve ever had!” and by the time I made it home, Bob called to offer me the job. And the rest, as they say, is history! 

TVWA: If only all job interviews went like that! Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

PO: I’m an uber proud soccer Mom, (Go Legends FC Temecula Valley) who is obsessed with the art of charcuterie, a ferocious reader, and I love spending time with my family and friends.  

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

PO: What makes Temecula Valley so special to me is that although Temecula Valley is a vacation destination, with farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, hotels, golf courses, and over 40 wineries, which I am proud to be a part of, it has also been a great place to raise our children and given us the opportunity to make friendships that will last forever.

Jana Prais, Sales Director, Maurice Car’rie Winery

Originally from La Mirada, California, Jana has been in Temecula for 32 years! It’s amazing that she has any time for work in Wine Country, given she also has four grown children, another starting her senior year at Temecula Valley High School, two dogs, one cat, seven chickens and seven grandkids!

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

JP: No two days are the same for me and I love that part of the job. I usually start the day calling on stores and hand selling wine. I’ve been blessed to meet many wonderful people working in outside sales.

TVWA: We’re guessing you like to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, juggling a family of that size! Any favorites?

JP: Maurice Car’rie Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to wine. Although, our new Ultimate red wines are very impressive – the 2018 Tempranillo might be my favorite so far.

TVWA: You must have collected some memories during your 37 years in Temecula Valley. Do any stand out to you?

JP: Some of my fondest memories took place in the summertime at Cilurzo Winery.
Audrey would invite all 12 wineries to a pool party at her and Vince’s home. Everyone brought a dish and wine. She made the best cookies that paired perfectly with Cilurzo Petite Sirah. I think that kind of hospitality and those friendships are still happening today in Wine Country.

TVWA: Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

JP: I love meeting up with my wine country friends and enjoying a glass of wine!

TVWA: Hopefully you count us among those friends! What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JP: I’ve seen Temecula grow beyond what I could have imagined, but we still have that hometown feel and a great community. I’m proud to be part of Temecula and wine country. 

Dollie Pavlinch, Wine Society Volunteer Coordinator for Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association

Dollie Pavlinch

With the number events and fundraising efforts the TVWA is responsible for each year, it’s no wonder Dollie is a hero of Wine Country. Pouring wines & staffing events is hard work! Originally from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by way of Arcadia, California, Dollie has spent the last 20 years in Temecula with her husband, Don, and their “furry dog baby, Miss Molly.”

TVWA: What would you say is your earliest or fondest memory of Wine Country?

DP: You know, our first memory of Wine Country was stopping by Wilson Creek. At the time, it was a tiny bar with Rosie and Jerry and us, talking about moving here from the same area. Times have certainly changed.

TVWA: Those were the days! Got any hobbies outside of work?

DP: Since retirement from ATT, I enjoy every day… and, yes, I enjoy drinking Temecula wines! I love to sit on our patio with a glass of wine, overlooking the wineries. It is an enjoyment Don and I look forward to

TVWA: We love to do that too! Do you have any favorite wines?

DP: Oh dear… I love them all! Especially the bubbly…

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

DP: I love the people in Temecula. I especially love the Wine Country atmosphere. I also enjoy our wines. We have exceptional winemakers, each of whom take pride in their product!

Ted Dorr, UPS Driver

Tedd Dorr & Mattie

Everyone who is anyone out in Wine Country has likely had the good fortune of having Ted show up at their door with package deliveries or for pick-up. He has been on his current UPS route in Wine Country for over 25 years, making him a true fixture of the region. He has been married to his wife Debi for 31 years – the same amount of time he has been a UPS driver – and has two kids, Travis and Lauren, age 29 and 26, as well as a blonde lab named Bailey.

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

TD: A typical day usually starts at 7 AM. I bring a trailer out with me to use for pick-ups in the afternoon, depending on who’s heavy on pick-ups. I try to accommodate to the wineries’ needs. If they need an early delivery or a later pick-up, I work around them.

TVWA: Do you drink wine? If yes – any favorites?

TD: I enjoy drinking wine. It’s funny. Years ago, when I first started the route, I wasn’t much of a wine drinker. But I learned to appreciate it through the years. Love the reds, but I’ll drink the whites also.

TVWA: You’ve probably seen it all out in Wine Country! Got any memories to share?

TD: I have seen the Valley grow from just a handful of wineries, to present time and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown. The people in wine country are amazing. They have become like family. I really enjoy going to work and seeing everyone. 

TVWA: What do you like to do when you’re not traveling all over Wine Country for UPS?

TD: My hobbies are hanging out with my wife and family. I enjoy the beach. It’s my place to just get away and ride some waves. 

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

TD: I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of Wine Country all these years. The people are amazing. To be able share the growth in the valley and their friendships has been so rewarding. 

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez, Cellar Foreman, South Coast Winery

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez

Juan came to Temecula Valley all the way from Culiacá, in Sinaloa, Mexico a whopping 34 years ago! He is part of the dream team that has led South Coast Winery to receive the California State Winery of the Year title an unprecedented four times.

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

JVG: It ranges from what the day brings. As of right now we have been busy with our bottling season and it is my job to ensure that everything runs smoothly from the tank to the bottle!

TVWA: Tell us about life outside the winery. Got family? Kids? Pets?

JVG: I have a 25 year-old son, and a 23-year old daughter. I have been married to my wife Blanca for 26 years this past April!

TVWA: Wow. You must drink a lot of wine then (we hear it is the key to a happy marriage!). Any favorites?

JVG: Yes I drink wine! I enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, or some type of dessert wine, which is my wife’s favorite.

TVWA: We’re guessing you’ve collected your share of memories over the past 34 years in Temecula Valley. Can you share any?

JVG: There was a time when I was unloading a Cherokee truck while working at Callaway. There was a truck driver who began to pull away from the location, but the pump was still connected to the truck! It’s funny now in hindsight, but at the time it was really scary. So now every time I see a Cherokee truck, I always remember that day!

TVWA: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working (or dodging trucks still connected to pumps)?

JVG: I love to go fishing with my family, which can be here locally at Lake Skinner, or at times going to fish off the Oceanside pier. I also love to play basketball with my son. Go Lakers!

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

JVW: Temecula Valley was the first place I came to after having left my hometown in Mexico. So, to me Temecula was my first home in America and I am grateful to have learned new things here. And, I’m proud to be a part of the South Coast wine-making team!

Huge thanks to all of the extraordinary people who work tirelessly every day to keep our region alive and well, especially those who contributed to this piece. Temecula Valley has been able to grow into the ultimate quality wine and hospitality destination because of you.

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RAMEN WITH ASPARAGUS, SHIITAKE, AND EDAMAME

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Ramen with Asparagus

Everybody loves ramen. The noodles are slippery and satisfying, the broth nourishing, and it’s okay to slurp. Use this recipe as a template for your own inspirations. When asparagus is not in season, substitute spinach or mustard greens. If you can’t find edamame (soybeans), try green peas. A quivering six-minute egg continues to cook in the hot broth and adds richness. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Gewürztraminer or Riesling.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 1⁄2 cups (875 ml) rich chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1⁄2 cup (5 g) dried bonito flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1⁄2 pound (250 g) fresh ramen noodles
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, about 1 1⁄2 oz (45 g), stems removed, then sliced
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1⁄2 cup (70 g) fresh or frozen shelled edamame
  • 2⁄3 cup (70 g) diagonally sliced asparagus tips, in slices 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick
  • 1⁄4 cup (65 g) white miso
  • 1⁄4 cup (30 g) minced green onion, white and pale green part only
  • Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend), for garnish

Directions:

Bring the broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the bonito flakes, sprinkling them on the surface. Let them steep for 3 to 4 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth and return the strained broth to the saucepan.

Put enough water in a small saucepan to cover the egg generously but do not add the egg yet. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer so you can add the egg without jostling it. While the water is heating, prepare a bowl of ice water. With a large spoon, lower the egg into the simmering water, working carefully so it does not crack. Adjust the heat so the egg cooks at a gentle simmer. Cook the egg for 6 minutes exactly. Transfer the egg to the ice water with a slotted spoon. When cool, lift it out of the water and peel.

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ramen noodles and stir well to keep the noodles from clumping. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles are al dente (the timing will depend on their freshness). With tongs, lift the noodles out of the pot and into a sieve or colander. Rinse with cool water and shake well to remove any excess water. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil to prevent clumping.

Fill two large soup bowls with hot water from the ramen pot to warm them.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a small nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Return the broth to medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the edamame and simmer gently until they are almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. (You can add frozen edamame without thawing.) Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Put the miso in a small bowl and whisk in enough of the hot broth to make a smooth, pourable mixture. Stir the thinned miso into the broth. Salt to taste.

Drain the hot water from the soup bowls. Divide the noodles and mushrooms between the bowls. Top with the steaming-hot broth, dividing it evenly. Halve the boiled egg and nestle one half in each bowl. Garnish generously with the green onions and shichimi togarashi and serve.

Suggested Pairings:

Bel Vino Winery ~ NV Riesling – Extremely aromatic with intense fruity aromas of nectarine, ripe apricot and pink lady apples.

Danza del Sol Winery ~ 2017 Gewurztraminer – Green Guava, floral, and gingerbread spice.

Mount Palomar Winery ~ NV Riesling – The taste is full with apricot, peach, tangerine, lychee, star fruit and guava. 

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ 2016 Dry Gewurztraminer – Exotic floral scents of roses, citrus, lychee fruit and bubble gum are balanced against the crisp acidity.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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