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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country Rockstars Weigh in on Common Questions about Wine

Wine is supposed to help us relax, connect with others, and provide a feast for all the senses. But then why does it sometimes seem so complicated? From indecipherable tasting notes to words like “dry,” “tannic,” “aromatic,” and “sulfites” that leave us scratching our heads, it’s a wonder we don’t need a PhD to drink the stuff!

Fortunately, the experienced and deeply knowledgeable rockstars of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country are here to help! We tapped a few of our best and brightest to answer some of your most frequently-asked wine questions.

Q: What are “tannins”?

Renato Sais

A. Renato Saís, Winemaker, Akash Winery

Wine aficionados talk a lot about tannins, but what are they? Tannin basically refers to the dryness, bitterness, and astringency of a wine (typically red wine). It is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and the fruit skins of grapes used to produce the wine. Tannins can also come from the barrels that are used when aging many wines. These wood tannins are absorbed into the wine where various flavors become apparent.

Tannins start out tasting really dry, and it is through aging and manipulation, that we are able to transform a harsh “tannic” wine into a smooth, elegant, developed red wine. Tannins can be manipulated in different ways in the different steps of winemaking: Crushing and destemming, fermentation, aging and fining of the wine prior to bottling.

Because tannins are found in the skins of grapes, they are more present in red wines than they are in rosé or white wines. This is because red wines are fermented with skins, whereas whites and rosés typically aren’t.

Q. Speaking of dryness… What does it mean when we say a wine is “dry”?

Gus Vizgirda

A. Gus Vizgirda, Winemaker, Wilson Creek Winery:

It means the wine has a bad sense of humor.

Kidding… Simply put – “dry” is the opposite of “sweet.”

All wines start out as sweet juice made from the particular grape varietal; for example, Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. During the fermentation process, yeast consumes the sugar producing alcohol. So initially, the winemaker starts with a tank that’s 100% Chardonnay grape juice, and 0% wine. As fermentation progresses: Day 3 of fermentation 83% juice and 17% wine, Day 5 of fermentation 53% juice and 47% wine, so-on and so-on. As fermentation continues more sweet grape juice is fermented and converted into wine until the desired “Dryness” level is obtained. In general a “Dry” wine will have a grape sugar level at 0.4 – 0.6% (99.6 – 99.4% of the grape juice has been fermented by the yeast).

An interesting note is that the fruitiness of the grape remains with the dry fermented wine. In some cases, this fruitiness is intense and is often confused with sweetness.

Sweet wines are wines where not all of the sweet grape juice is fermented in the wine.

Q. Ok… Dry is the opposite of sweet, which can be confused with fruitiness. Can you explain what the difference is between a sweet and a fruity wine?

Danaé Wegner

A. Danaé Wegner, Tasting Room Manager, Peltzer Winery

A balanced wine encompasses a few elements that need to be cohesive: tannin, acid, sugar, and alcohol. Sugar is the most recognizable to our palates naturally, which is why us wine nerds often call sweet wines the “gateway wines.”

The difference between sweet wine and fruity wine is simple: we can measure sugar, but fruit is perceived. For example, there are grapes that are wildly aromatic and exude sweet floral notes like lilac and orange blossom, or ripe fruits like strawberry and white peach such as Viognier, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. These wines may have a perceived sweetness due to the recognition of sweeter fruit notes but could technically be dry.

A term y’all may have heard thrown around your local tasting room is “residual sugar” or R.S. This is the sugar content in the wine after the winemaker stops the fermentation process. A sweet wine ranges from 3% R.S. to upwards of 15%. This resulting percentage goes all the way back to farming!

In the vineyard, we measure sugar level in Brix, which is sugar by weight. As the berries ripen on the grapevine, their sugar level rises, which signals to the farmer that the fruit is ready to be harvested. A higher Brix level means a higher potential alcohol content because during fermentation, the natural and added yeast consume the sugar and produce alcohol, along with carbon dioxide and heat. 

How do we enjoy both fruity and sweet wines? With sweeter wines, try an opposing, spicy food pairing like pepper jack cheese. With a fruity wine, try something that is also fruity to create a congruent pairing. Everyone’s palate is different, but we should all strive to find a purpose for every style of wine we encounter. Cheers! cialis

Q. Why do some wines give me headaches?

Michelle Vener

A. Michelle Vener, Tasting Room & Wine Club General Manager, Fazeli Cellars

Okay…stating the obvious first – drinking too much and not hydrating will give you headaches.  To avoid this, consume responsibly and hydrate. Let’s assume that this is not the problem. Next…

The common misconception is that wine headaches are caused by sulfites in wine. This is false. Sulfites do cause a few people sensitivity/allergy (1%) but they are found in so. many. things. From dried fruit, to deli meat, to tomato paste and even cereal- and the symptom would be more asthma-like, not a headache. If you aren’t having reactions from dried apricots and salami, you are likely not allergic to sulfites.

Tannin and histamines – ding ding ding…we have a winner! This is where it’s at folks. Some people have the misfortune of having a sensitivity/allergy to tannins, and histamines. This is caused by two different substances found in the skin and stem of the grapes.  Without getting super geeky and going on about Phenolic flavonoids, biogenic amines and enzymatic reactions, suffice it to say that this is a real thing and there is a solution!  If you suffer from this allergy you can take a histamine blocker (like Claritin) before enjoying a glass of wine and your problems will fade away (in more ways than one!).

Q. So how DO I know if I am allergic to sulfites?

Jennifer Buffington

A. Jennifer Buffington, Owner, Cougar Vineyard and Winery

Like many other allergens, the symptoms of an allergy to sulfites include: hives and itchiness, flushing, itchy throat, dizziness, trouble breathing and in some cases upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting. People who suffer from asthma, are much more likely to have an allergy to sulfites.

A sulfite allergy is an adverse immune response. It is when the immune system reacts negatively to sulfites. It can be treated with antihistamines or oral steroids. In rare cases, it may cause anaphylaxis and an epinephrine auto injector will be necessary to treat the person.

Sulfites are a natural by-product of yeast metabolism in the wine making process, so all wine contains small amounts of sulfites. Some wine makers add sulfites which can cause allergic symptoms to be more intensified.

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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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Meet the Husband-and-Wife Teams of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Friday, January 31st, 2020

All’s Fair in Love and… Wine?

With gorgeous vistas, world class wines, happening tasting rooms, friendly and knowledgeable people, amazing culinary options, and year-round perfect weather, there are few better places to spend Valentine’s Day – or any day, really – than Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country. But, what if you work in Wine Country? And, what if you work in Wine Country with your significant other?

Thinking about taking the next step with your honey and opening a winery? After catching up with some of Temecula Valley’s iconic winery couples, we learned that it is indeed possible to keep the romance alive, even when it means spending all day together on the job. It just involves lots of wine, functional plumbing, and occasionally leaving work at work, which, according to these dynamic duos, is harder that it sounds.

Les & Dorian Linkogle

LES AND DORIAN LINKOGLE, BRIAR ROSE WINERY

Les is the winemaker and the visionary force behind the winery. Dorian focuses on the administrative and hospitality-driven side of the business. They have been together for over 45 years, 20 of which have been spent operating the winery together.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Les: Dorian and I were high school sweethearts.

TVWA: Awwwww. What is the best part about working together?

Dorian: Sharing our passion for this wonderful wine culture with one another.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Les: You never stop working. You don’t take the necessary time off away from the winery, and the business dominates almost all of your conversations.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Dorian:  One harvest, under the light of the full harvest moon, Les set up a table in the middle of the vineyards. The table was complete with tablecloth, candle, wine and two glasses. Much to my surprise he wanted me to experience the magic of the energy of the vineyards just prior to harvest. As I sat there with him, I did experience the energy and sense of awe as I viewed the beautiful fruit hanging from the vines in the shadow of the moonlight, and I truly did feel the energy of the vines just as he had described.  It was an enchanted evening; one I will never forget.

Deane & Christine Foote

DEANE AND CHRISTINE FOOTE, FOOT PATH WINERY

Deane is the winemaker and works in the tasting room. According to Deane, Christine is “pretty much everything else. CFO, CEO… she’s the boss.”

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Deane: We met 20+ years ago while working at Teledyne in the City of Industry.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Deane: Seeing each other all the time and enjoying it.

TVWA: Do you ever not enjoy it?

Deane: When we have occasional differences in opinion on what should be done next. But she keeps me in line.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Deane: Our first date. We have been together ever since.

Nick & Cindy Palumbo

NICK AND CINDY PALUMBO, PALUMBO FAMILY VINEYARDS & WINERY

Nick is the winemaker and Cindy, like Christine, is “everything else.” This seems to be a theme among winery couples!

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Nick: We met at Texas Lil’s in 2000, back when Old Town was a one-horse town. Cindy had chicken pox and I asked her if she wanted to go to “Wally World.” Truth. We got married in 2003.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Nick: The best part is we live and raise our kids onsite, in a healthy and beautiful environment. We live a healthy lifestyle, doing what we believe in and showing our kids that working hard and staying true to what you believe in is rewarding in many ways.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Nick: The worst part is we never seem to “get away.” That said, we live and work where other people dream of “getting away” to!

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Nick: It’s tough to pinpoint just one anecdote. Raising family, multiple farm animals and crazy customers over the years has afforded us years’ worth of stories. However, one that stands out is when a long-time customer requested a taste of our Sangiovese on his death bed. Seriously. It brought tears to our eyes.     

Ray & Loretta Falkner

RAY AND LORETTA FALKNER, FALKNER WINERY

Ray is the Chairman and CFO, in charge of all winery operations, including production and sales. He is also in charge of the on-site restaurant, Pinnacle. Loretta is the President and CEO, in charge of all weddings, special events and the gift shop. They have been together for 22 years, 19 of which have been at the winery.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Ray & Loretta: We met through friends in Dallas, TX, where we were living prior to moving to California

in 2000. While we each came from different work backgrounds (technology and fashion retail), we merged talents to build our winery operation. We had previously worked together at a start-up internet company in Dallas named Shabang.  

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

R&L: The best part is sharing in the successes when they occur. It also makes it easier to “bring work home” when there are work issues that are best discussed in great length in order to arrive at the best possible solution.

TVWA: What is the hardest part?

R&L: The most difficult part is when there are wide differences of opinion and neither of us wants to give in. We can usually get over the stubborn positions to reach a compromise though. Sometimes it is also difficult to get away from work when you see each other most hours of the day.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

R&L: One of them was the creation of our “Luscious Lips” wine and label.  Loretta felt that the winery should produce a visually catchy label that customers would be attracted to and purchase.  She decided two lips on the label would be the selling point.  Numerous employees and friends were asked to provide “lip imprints” so we could decide what to use.  All employees and friends were involved in the selection process. Ray wanted the lips embossed on the label so you could feel the lips as well as see them.  The next step was the wine itself – a Syrah with about 3% residual sugar. It was a true collaborative effort, and Luscious Lips has been an extremely successful wine ever since. 

Akash & Elena Patel

AKASH & ELENA PATEL, AKASH WINERY

Akash is the owner and director of the winery, and Elena is the wine club manager. They have been together for 9 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Akash & Elena: We met at school in 2004.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

A&E: Working together to create a place that people love coming to visit. A place, that if it wasn’t ours, we would visit. Plus, watching our joint visions come to life right in front of our eyes.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

A&E: There is no worse part! (Cough cough)… Not being able to shut off work after hours, and talk about things other than the winery.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

A&E: We’ve only been at it for 12 months, so we are still in our honeymoon phase of love and peace. Right now it is all memorable.

Carrie & Charlie Peltzer
Photo Courtesy of @paigecreative / @temeculavalleyvibe

CARRIE & CHARLIE PELTZER, OWNERS, PELTZER FARM & WINERY

Charlie is a professional investor in “rusty gold” and antiquities. Carrie is a designer. Together, she dreams it and he builds it! Much of what you see around Peltzer Farm & Winery are products from this duo. They have been together for 24 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Carrie: My aunt and uncle lived on the same street in Orange as Charlie and introduced us. At the time, we both had significant others… BUT, I later found out Charlie had two farm pups named Bonnie and Blue and I quickly fell in love with all of them. He’d take them to work with him every day. It was adorable. The rest is history and it’s been bliss ever since!

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Carrie: My favorite part about working with Charlie is coming up with an idea, spinning it around my head, and putting it on paper. Charlie takes once glance and he’s off building it. He loves projects (most of the time) and I love ideas – it just works.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Carrie: The fact that you can’t just shut it off… without three glasses of wine, that is.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Carrie: One of my favorite stories is from while we were building the Crush House. Starbucks was getting

rid of some of their furniture for a remodel. Charlie, being Charlie, picked up a couple of leather chairs they threw out and brought them home. We ended up putting the two chairs in the middle of the Crush House. Every day at 4 or 5 pm when we were done with the day, we would sit in those chairs, relax, talk about what was next in the build, dream about the future of the place, and crack a cold one. They’re still in Charlie’s workshop to this day!

Steve & Valerie Andrews

Valerie & Steve Andrews, Oak Mountain Winery

Steve is the President and Valerie is the Vice President of this dog-loving winery. They have been together for 22 years.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Valerie:  We met online on a singles site

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Valerie: We have the same work ethics. We create our next project together, from planting our vineyards over 20 years ago, to building our 10,000 square-foot wine cave. Steve has the technical ideas and expertise while I am the creative, artistic side.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Valerie: There is no worst part.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Valerie: In the very beginning we bottled our small amount of wine with a gravity feed, 4-spout bottler. Steve had the tote of wine raised on a forklift so, by gravity, the wine would flow to the bottler that we had set on the ground. I was in charge of putting the bottles under the spouts and then pulling them off when full for Steve to cork. Well, sometimes the bottler would lose its prime, so I had a syringe to suck the wine back to prime. It didn’t work very well, so I just would suck on the end of the spout to get the wine going again. Eight hours later there was a very happy, very drunk Val. Steve still laughs about that one.

Gerry & Rosie Wilson

GERRY AND ROSIE WILSON, WILSON CREEK WINERY

It is impossible to talk about Temecula Valley Wine Country Couples without thinking about Gerry and Rosie Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery. These two lovebirds have been together for a whopping 65 years! Read the story of how they met here.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Rosie: Being together and sharing this journey. Knowing what each other is doing each day.

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Rosie: There isn’t one.

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Rosie: When we were building the winery, someone told us that the Balloon and Wine Festival was to be at Lake Skinner the next day. We felt that we should have something to show people driving by our property that we were building a winery, so we constructed a sign that said “Wilson Creek Winery” and added a white oval at the top that said “Open Soon.” We slogged through the mud and rain and installed it. Well, with all the problems that occurred along the way, we opened nearly TWO years later. I guess we gave the word “soon” a new meaning!   

Bill & Jenifer Wilson

BILL & JENIFER WILSON, WILSON CREEK WINERY

It looks like Gerry and Rosie started something much bigger than their relationship when they got together, because this other iconic Wilson Creek Couple has been together for 32 years!

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Bill: I was going to a bar early because a person I had never met and haven’t seen since forgot his ID!

Jenifer was there following a Heart Association fundraiser, hoping to find a handsome doctor, but met me instead.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Bill: We see each other every day!

TVWA: What is the worst part?

Bill: We see each other every day!

TVWA: Do any moments stand out for you during your time working together?

Bill: It was when we were building the winery, living in a double wide with no electricity & no running water, with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. One day, my wife hands me a training potty dispenser for me to empty, and proclaims, “It’s not your daughter’s.” That was extremely motivating to hurry up and get the construction done! 

Phil & Carol Baily

PHIL & CAROL BAILY, BAILY WINERY

Another famous Temecula Valley couple, Phil and Carol Baily were among the first to settle in Temecula Valley and build the region to what it is today.

TVWA: How did you two meet?

Phil: We were introduced to each other by our sisters in 1967 in Whittier, California where we both were raised. Our sisters felt that we were a perfect match; they were right, because five months later we were married, and this past November, we celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary.

TVWA: What is the best part about working together?

Phil: Every part of our business is the result of both of us working hard and working together.  Every major decision was made by the two of us hashing things out, not being afraid to take the steps to begin, and adjusting as things evolved and the environment changed. And we’re not done yet.

Special thanks to all the winery folks who contributed to this piece. For more about Temecula Valley Wine Country and all the passionate people who make it so special, click HERE.

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Our Favorite Temecula Valley Grapes for Fall Sipping

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Beautiful Fall Vineyards

As summer winds to an end, and pumpkin spice starts creeping into what seems like literally everything, it’s about that time to turn our palates to Fall flavors, especially when it comes to wine. Harvest is under way and this year’s grape crop is getting picked and processed into a new vintage. As we welcome this change in weather and celebrate the next phase in the life cycle of the grape, we thought we would put together a list of some of our favorite wine grapes for fall. Whether you love the classics or are itching to try something new and unique, you’re bound to find something you like in this lineup.

Grape: Chardonnay

What it’s like: If you’re part of the “Anything but Chardonnay” crowd, you need to think again. Chardonnay is a wonderfully versatile grape that comes in so many different styles, from crisp and clean with notes of green apple and citrus, to rich and buttery, dripping with tropical fruit and caramel, and everything in between.

Why we love it: Although classically linked to the Burgundy region of France, Chardonnay is actually the most-planted white grape in the world, growing in every region wine grapes are planted, including Temecula Valley. Chardonnay is the perfect departure from the light and zingy whites of Summer. It’s got a little more body, and takes on a wide range of dishes depending on the style of the wine.

Some to try:

2017 Robert Renzoni “Barile” Chardonnay, $28

A complex and elegant wine, boasting hints of baked apple, buttered toast and hazelnut.  Aged for 10 months in 40% new French Oak.

2018 Oak Mountain Chardonnay, $24

This Chardonnay is only slightly oaked, imparting delicate flavors of vanilla, butterscotch and caramel, mingled with apple, pineapple, honey and vanilla. A dream paired with roast chicken.

2018 South Coast Winery Chardonnay “Sans Chêne,” $16

Translating to “without oak,” this Chardonnay is bright and clean, with notes of Honeycrisp apple, citrus zest, and jasmine blossom and a long, mouth-watering finish.

Grape: Viognier

What it’s like: Viognier is a red-wine drinker’s white. It’s rich, luscious and full-bodied, with powerful and unmistakable floral aromatics.

Why we love it: Viognier originated in Southern France and the Rhône Valley, and thrives equally well in the soils and climate of Temecula Valley. Like Chardonnay, it tends to have more weight than other whites so can stand up to some of the richer flavors of Fall.

Some to try:

2018 Doffo Winery Concrete Fermented Viognier, $32

This vibrant wine’s aromatics explode with bright floral notes on the nose, delighting the senses as it hits the palate. An elegant backbone of acidity balances out the soft tones of honeysuckle and apricot.

2018 Monte de Oro Viognier, $23

Ripe stone fruit meets tropical aromas and notes of apple blossom in this rich bottling. The luscious and layered palate of this wine makes it a great match for exotic cuisines like spicy Thai and Indian dishes.

2018 Europa Village Viognier, $35

While Viognier is sometimes fermented in oak, this bottling was done in stainless steel in order to let the pure, rich fruit character prevail. Aromas of ripe nectarines, orange blossoms and a hint of fresh herbs flow into a soft and balanced palate with long-lasting, tingling acidity. This wine is perfect for sushi night with family and friends.

Grape: Cinsault (also Cinsaut)

What it’s like: If you like lighter bodied wines like Pinot Noir and Gamay, you will love Cinsault. Hailing from Southern France as well, this grape is capable of producing elegant, complex wines with juicy red fruit and unique savory notes when handled well.

Why we love it: It’s not Winter yet, so if you’re not ready to move to the heavy Syrahs and Zinfandels we crave in cold weather, Cinsault is the perfect pick. It’s juicy, it’s easy-drinking and it’s great with all kinds of dishes. If you’re really not ready for Summer to be over, you can even serve it with a slight chill.

Some to try:

2014 Fazeli Cellars “Phel Phel” Cinsault, $38

A true cherry pie of a wine! Bright red stone fruit with subtle hints black pepper, cigar and spice. Medium bodied with soft but ample tannins.

2016 Wilson Creek Winemaker’s Select Cinsault, $60

This Temecula Valley Cinsault displays lively floral and ripe strawberry aromas on the nose, and a lush, warm palate balanced by an elegant structure. A perfect food wine, pair this with pizza, pasta, cheese and charcuterie.

2016 Leoness Cellars Cellar Selection Cinsaut, $28

This bottling is bursting with aromas of cherry and raspberry with hints of black licorice and spice. The wine is soft, elegant and approachable thanks to the addition of a light touch of Syrah & Grenache and 18 months spent in small French Oak barrels.

The Grape: Cabernet Franc

What it’s like: Cabernet Franc is actually one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents (the other being Sauvignon Blanc), and yet it is often overlooked in favor of its more famous offspring. Known for its role in Bordeaux blends, it stands alone quite well, offering savory notes of bell pepper, green herbs, graphite, berry fruit and cedar

Why we love it: Cabernet Franc has the benefit of being both age-worthy and drinkable now. Its medium-bodied structure makes it a great food wine, but it also holds up to serious oak treatment quite well, giving it a wide range of different possible styles depending on how it is handled. 

Some to try:

2016 Baily Winery Cabernet Franc, $35

Baily Winery is known for their traditional, Old World take on winemaking 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, or put away for several years to let it develop.

2015 Thornton Cabernet Franc, $41

Notes of crushed raspberries, black currants, violet and graphite are prominent on the nose, backed by a pleasant green bell pepper note. This Cabernet Franc is medium-bodied with well-integrated tannins and a smooth mouthfeel.

2016 Hart Winery Cabernet Franc, $28

A balanced wine with crisp acidity and bright fruit reminiscent of Cabernet Franc wines from France’s Loire Valley. Notes of green olive, clove, raspberry and violet on the nose are followed by tart berry fruit and licorice, backed by firm, elegant tannins on the palate.

Share your favorite Temecula Valley wine picks for Fall! Tag us @temeculawines using the hashtag #DrinkTemecula.

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So, You Want to Be A Winemaker?

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

You sit down to dinner and uncork a beautiful bottle of 2014 Syrah. As you swirl and sip, you start to imagine life as a winemaker. The romance of waking up on a cool September morning, opening your blinds and looking out onto your perfectly manicured vineyards. The satisfaction of tending to your vines, watching them flourish, and ultimately fermenting and bottling the grapes for your family dinner table.

Think you’ve got what it takes?

We sat down with some of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country’s local rockstars – our winemakers – to ask them what really goes into producing the delicious wines that we simply get to open and enjoy. From grueling hours to the infamous “black hands” to strange harvest rituals, they gave us the good, the bad and the ugly on what it takes to be a winemaker during harvest.

Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association: What does a typical day during harvest look like?

Greg Pennyroyal, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Creek Winery: It is Monday at 11: 30 PM. My crew shows up in 30 minutes. We will harvest Viognier until dawn because that is what is best for wine quality. Quality of life can wait until next year when this wine will be on my dinner table and hopefully yours. Some may say this is exceptional effort but for those of us who are possessed by the muse of Vitis Vinifera, it is the best way – no, the only way – to bring in the fruit that I have nurtured since last fall. People ask, “Why are you here in the middle of the night?” To which I quote Thoreau, “Why are you not here?”

Dakota Denton, Winemaker, Gershon Bachus Vintners: I wake up, put my boots on, and walk the vineyards in the cool of the morning. Then, it’s off to the cellar or crush pad for pump-overs and to crush more grapes. By the time this is done it is time to pull samples for the lab, a second set of pump overs and a beer to end the day. Then repeat!

Olivia Bue, Winemaker, Robert Renzoni Vineyards: First and foremost, attire: Jeans (even if it’s 100° F out), old t-shirt (stained with the previous vintage’s wine), steel toe boots (always make sure to shake out dirt and grape skins), big harvest hat…Oh, and of course our purple cracked hands.

Then the day consists of early morning vineyard visits to collect grape samples for analysis; hydrometer 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 (making sure to not get too close, lest we get hit with a CO2 bomb); and, most importantly, tasting each lot daily.

Once reds come in the real harvest bootcamp begins! This means pump-overs 3 times daily with at least 3 hours off in between. This involves sanitizing all hoses and pumps before and after each lot, making any necessary adjustments to the wine, and removing fallout seeds to minimize astringency. As the reds approach the end of alcoholic fermentation, it’s time to drain the tank of all its wine, leaving behind skins to get pressed out. To remove skins from the tank, we jump inside to shovel them out into the bins below the tank door. This is always a good workout!

TVWA: What is the hardest part of harvest?

DD: Waking up early.

OB: When my alarm goes off at 3 AM.

Gus Vizgirda, Winemaker, Wilson Creek Winery: The harvest has its many expected effects, such as exhaustion. But one that is seldom talked about is what I like to call the “Black Hand.” This happens when calloused hands come in contact with red grape juice. It is the natural condition of a winemaker during harvest. As much as “Black Hand“ is an honorable winemaking badge, it has disadvantages. My wife thinks it’s disgusting and makes me look dirty; and my grandchildren think that I have some sort of disease, avoiding my hugs. So, if you see me around during this time of the year with my hands in my pockets, understand this: I have “Black Hand.” I’m polite not to show it in public, but – believe me – in the privacy of my home late at night I look at my hands in wonderment and passionate pride, remembering the good times I had this Harvest… and longing for grandchildren’s hugs.

TVWA: What is your favorite part of harvest?

GV: Getting to the winery at 3 AM. I love to work in the morning and see the sunrise as we are pressing the grapes. I enjoy completing most of the work before the heat of the day.

OB: Processing grapes as the sun rises. And, when the last lot is pressed out; not because harvest is over but because I can finally look back and feel proud of all the blood, sweat and tears put into the vintage.

DD: The nonstop craziness from start to finish.

Joseph Wiens, Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars: The change of pace is welcoming. We are busy bottling non-stop before crush to free up our tank space, so we look forward to getting back into the harvest season. This is also our first look at the new vintage. We’re excited to see the fruit that we’ve been watching mature on the vines finally come in for processing into wine.

TVWA: Do you have any harvest rituals – before, during or after?

DD: Every harvest I stop shaving (not saying I ever started).

OB: Happy hour at 9am.

JW: We have a rule that after our first 8 hours of work for the day, we can start cracking brews to get us through the remainder of the day.

Javier Flores, Winemaker, South Coast Winery & Carter Estate Winery: The Sunday before Harvest, I pray for a good crop and that no one gets hurt. A safe harvest is a good harvest. Then the very first day of Harvest we buy breakfast burritos for all the winemaking team members to celebrate the beginning. The very last day of Harvest we hang a plastic Skeleton with dates marking the start and finish of the harvest. Then the following Friday we have a super lunch at our winery, prepared by winemakers.

GV: I play my bugle at passing hot air balloons and play “Reveille” at sunrise for [Wilson Creek owners] Rosie and Gerry. The balloon passengers are always surprised.

TVWA: What is the craziest/scariest/funniest thing that has happened to you during harvest?

DD: Not knowing that a keg that it was still fermenting, I started to open it. After the second turn of the clamp, there was a loud bang (as if a shotgun had gone off right in front of me), and wine shot up to the ceiling, covering me from head to toe.

JW: A couple of years ago, we got a new press. We overloaded it with Zinfandel that had fallen apart (the skins didn’t hold up, and the whole lot looked more like a grape smoothie than wine). The Zin smoothie clogged up the drain holes in the press, and once the press started pressurizing, the wine had nowhere to go. The seals on the press broke open, and about 4 tons of purple slop poured out onto the crush pad. We frantically started trying to shovel it up, and soon decided it was a lost cause. We were up to our ankles with slop, and one of our workers made a snide remark. I flung a shovel full of slop at them, which devolved into a full-fledged Zin slop fight. It was a huge mess, and a bummer to lose some wine, but we laughed about it in the end, and learned the limitations of our new press!

TVWA: What is the timeline of a bottle of wine, from planting to uncorking it for dinner?

JW: It really depends on the wine. We will actually start bottling our 2018 white wines in early October. These early bottlings (like our dry rosés, Albariño and Pinot Grigio) have light, volatile aromatics that tend to flash off if we wait too long to bottle, so we try to capture that freshness as early as possible. We could be enjoying a nice, crisp rosé of Pinot Noir for dinner while we are still processing reds! Our red wines take anywhere from 1 to 4 years to make it onto our lists, as their aromas and flavors develop slowly with barrel ageing. Typically with newly planted vines, it is the “third leaf,” or third growing season, before we harvest any fruit. So, planting-to-uncorking could be as short as 4 years for our whites, to more than 40 for some of our old vine reds.

DD: Anywhere from 5 to 10 years depending on what kind of wine, and how long you are aging the wine in barrels and bottles.

Special thanks to the Temecula Valley winemakers who shared their harvest stories with us for this article.

Next time you uncork, take a moment to reflect on just what went into making that magical juice in your bottle, and give a toast to your local winemakers.

Happy harvest to winemakers all over the world, and happy California Wine Month to all.

Photo courtesy of Burlile Photography

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Thank a Winemaker Day!

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Thank a Winemaker Day!

Anatomy of Winemaker

Gus Viszgirda, Wilson Creek winemaker

A recent photo shared by Wilson Creek Winery, “The Anatomy of a Winemaker”, created by winemaker, Gus Viszgirda, certainly gave us all a laugh. But it also made us think…

Clearly, making great wine is a hands-on profession. And the picture truly illustrates what our winemakers look like to us on any given work day. Gone is the clean clothed, shiny shoe’d, wine sipping winemakers most of our visitors are accustomed to seeing. Most of the time, they’re rubber boot wearing, wine stained cellar dwellars who are dragging hoses, cleaning tanks and topping barrels – all which are part of a days work. Truth be told, most days you couldn’t slap the smile off their faces.  Winemaking truly is a labor of love!

So, in their honor, we’ve decided to declare today, “Thank A Winemaker” day! Let your favorite winemaker know how much you appreciate all the effort that goes into each bottle. Without their dedication, what would we be drinking???

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Last Day for Grape Day, April 21

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Keyways Vineyard & Winery; Thursday, April 21, 7:30am- 6pm

Grape Day is a one day conference featuring in-depth seminars on the latest advances and developments in viticulture and vineyard management. Winemakers, winery owners, vineyard managers, and anyone who is interested in the business of wine can attend this great event!

Purchase TICKETS here

See agenda below…

 

 

 

 

Agenda

7:30 – 8am  Vendor Exhibits, Registration, Continental Breakfast- Sponsored by Riverside Agricultural Supplies

8 – 8:15am  WelcomeJeff Wiens; Wiens Family Cellars, TVWA President, Ben Drake; Drake Enterprise, TVWA Viticulture Chair

8:15 – 8:30am  Temecula Area-Wide GWSS ProjectDr. Nick Toscano; Extension Specialist, Emeritus, College of Natural and Agricultural  Sciences, University of Riverside

8:30 – 9am  The Effectiveness of Within-Vineyard Sharpshooter Control for Limiting PD Spread Dr. Matthew Daugherty; Assistant Extension Specialist, UC Riverside

9 – 9:45am  Preventing Establishment of European Grapevine Moth Through Early Detection Dr. Walt Bentley; UC IPM Entomologist, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Fresno County

9:45 – 10:30am  Designing a Cover Crop System for your Vineyard:  A Landscape Approach Dr. Glenn McGourty; Viticulture and Plant Science Advisor, UC Cooperative; Extension, Mendocino and Lake Counties

10:30 – 10:45am  Break, Vendor Exhibits

10:45 – 11:30am  Hang Time and Crop Forcing- Dr. Sanliang Gu; Professor of Viticulture and Ricchiuti Chair of Viticulture Research Fresno State University

11:30am – 12:15pm  State of the Wine IndustryPatrick Comiskey; Senior Correspondent, Wine & Spirits Magazine

12:15pm – 1pm  Lunch, Vendor ExhibitsSponsored by Labeltronix

1 – 1:45pm  Update on Powdery Mildew- Dr. Doug Gubler; Plant Pathology Department, UC Davis

1:45 – 2:30pm  Marketing and Social MediaPaul Mabray; Founder, VinTank – A Wine Industry Think Tank

2:30 – 2:45pm  Break, Vendor Exhibits

2:45 – 4:15pm  Finishing TanninsJose Santos; Business Director, Enartis Vinquiry

4:15 – 6pm Wine & Cheese Reception- Sponsored by Crop Production Services

Participating Vendors

AWC Packaging, American AgCredit, California Glass, Chart/Cryotech Intl., Duarte Nursery, Electrostatic Spraying Systems, Enartis Vinquiry, Guillaume Grapevine NurseryMicroworks Wine Software, NuEarth, PBM Supply & Mfg., Precision Agri-Lab, Pro Refrigeration, Inc. Riverside Agricultural Supplies, Soil Topography Information, Sunridge Nurseries, SunWize Technologies,Tonnellerie Radoux USA, Inc., Vineyard Industry Products, Vyant/Marfred Industries, WineWare Software Corp.

Thank you to the following sponsors:
Crop Production Services, Riverside, CA, Labeltronix, Orange, CA, Riverside Agricultural Supplies, Ontario, CA, My VIP Events, Canyon Lake, CA.



 

Dr. Doug Gubler
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