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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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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Geek Out on All Things Wine with These Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country Rockstars

Grapevines at Sunrise

Wine can be intimidating. We’ve all stood in the aisles of our favorite wine stores scanning the backs of labels for hints of anything that might give us a clue of what the juice in the bottle tastes like. We’ve all donned the deer-in-headlights look when a sommelier asks us what type of wines we prefer. Who hasn’t felt a sense of dread during the daunting wine service ritual, where the server waits expectantly while you swirl, sniff, sip and determine whether they may pour the wine for your guests, all eyes on you?

While being a wine expert isn’t a requirement for kicking back and enjoying a glass or two of our favorite beverage, sometimes a better understanding of how a product is made allows us to appreciate it even more.

Which is why we have brought in some of Temecula Valley Southern California’s best and brightest wine stars to answer some of your most frequently-asked wine questions!

Q: The vineyards are starting to look so pretty this time of year! What is actually going on with the vines right now?

A. Greg Pennyroyal, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards

As April approaches the vineyard is leaving its dormant stage and entering its first vegetative stage of budbreak. Wine Grapes (Vitis vinifera) are deciduous meaning they lose their leaves in fall and go into a dormancy period usually starting in late October and ending in April. Grapes also need a minimum of 150 Chill hours, a summation of the hours below 45 degrees, to assure they do not bud out too early and get damaged by a late frost. In Temecula, our standard “Frost Free Date” is April 15, giving a positive spin to a date that is usually not so great.

The grapes’ dormancy period also coincides with the rainy season of our Mediterranean climate – wet in winter, dry in summer, with a coastal influence. Our historical rain average for this time of year would be about ten inches; however we are under four inches to-date. This will assist in delaying a budbreak that is too early, however will require that we irrigate and add fertility as the cover crops and soil biology have had less of an opportunity to increase soil fertility.

After budbreak, the vines will enter a vegetative state where initial growth is remarkably fast. If you visit a vineyard one weekend, the following weekend will look like a different vineyard. Following this growth spurt, the vines set flowers. Grape flowers are very small and inconspicuous. When the flowers emerge, they are wrapped under a small cap called, appropriately enough, the calyptra. When the flowers are ready for pollination a gentle brush will cause the calyptra to pop off and the flower will rapidly open before your eyes, great vineyard entertainment after a glass of wine. The flowers have both male and female parts, so they do not need bees to pollinate. White wines are the first to emerge from dormancy followed by red varietals.

Q: How do winemakers get those tiny bubbles in bottles of wine?

A. Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations, Akash Winery

Those fabulous bubbles that make Champagne or sparkling wine so wonderful are products of carbon dioxide (CO2), created during the fermentation process when sugar and yeast are added to a still base wine. There are three primary ways to make sparkling wine: 

Some winemakers choose a labor-intensive traditional method of trapping the gas in the bottle, which then “lay down,” sometimes for decades, producing high-quality sparkling wine (think Champagne). The most important part of this process is the secondary fermentation, which happens as mentioned, inside the bottle. During this process, the yeast consumes the sugar which is where the carbon dioxide is produced. The wine is then left to lay on their “lees,” (dead yeast cells) for a period of time. While this may sound gross, these yeast cells are what give traditional method sparkling wines their signature toasty, yeasty, brioche-like flavors. The bottles are gradually rotated and tilted until they end up upside down, so that all of this sediment makes its way to the neck of the bottle, which is dipped into a solution to freeze the solid contents, making them easy to remove. Bottles are then topped up with the “dosage,” a combination of sugar and/or wine, donned with a cork and wire cage, and then ready for you to drink.

The Charmat Method (or tank method) is where the winemaker will use a pressurized tank for the secondary fermentation process (think Prosecco). Here the liqueur de tirage (a mix of wine, sugar and yeast) is added to the pressurized tank of still wine, in which the secondary fermentation. The wine, once ready, is then filtered and bottled from the tank. These wines are generally youthful and easy drinking!

Lastly, there is just plain carbonation, where carbon dioxide is simply added into the wine (think of your Soda Stream injecting bubbles into your water). You’ll know this one if you’ve ever had it though, as the bubbles with dissipate very quickly! 

And remember, those bubbles you have in your fridge which you are waiting for a “special occasion” to open: The special occasion is today, friends!

Q. Speaking of stuff getting into my wine, sometimes I see things floating in my bottle? Does this mean the wine is bad?

A. Jim Hart, Winemaker, Hart Winery

There are a number of things that can cause “chunkies” in wine, some of them intentional and others maybe not so intentional. In so-called “natural wines” (so-called because there really isn’t a true definition for natural wines), a certain amount of sediment and haze should be expected, as these wines are usually un-fined and unfiltered. Additionally, these wines are often made without added sulfites, and can occasionally undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle causing haze and “floaties.” More conventional wines are sometimes intentionally bottled without filtration as some winemakers believe filtration somehow strips a wine’s character (not true), and are okay with some sediment in their wine.

The most common cause of stuff floating is with wines that haven’t been properly cold or heat stabilized. Wines that aren’t properly heat stabilized will throw small amounts of haze or, in extreme cases, what appear to be floating globs in the bottle. Wines that aren’t cold stable will, when chilled, lose tartaric acid which will look like crystals (sometimes called wine diamonds).

The good thing about all these things you might find floating in your wine is that none of them are really harmful; just be careful who gets the last glass! 

Q. I love rosé. But how is it made?

A. Nick Palumbo, Winemaker, Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery

Rosé wine has gotten a bad rap from wine drinkers over the last few decades simply because so much of it has been made to appease the palate of a generation of consumers that grew up on overly sweet, processed beverages. That said there are basically three ways to make a rosé wine which can be broken down into a not-so-great way, a good way, and the best way!

Many don’t realize that all grapes, white or red, have clear juice inside when they first come off the vine. It is the skin of the grape that contains the color; so, in order to get a red wine, the winemaker needs to keep the juice in contact with the skins of a red grape in order for the wine to develop its color, along with everything else that gives the wine structure and flavor.

Some inexpensive rosé wines are simply a blend of finished Red and White wines that in different proportions can make a wine that looks the part but rarely if ever tastes anything like a classic, well-crafted rosé.

Then there is the saignée, or “to bleed” method, which is a really a good way to make two different wines from a single lot of grapes. It is also considered a way of making red wine better or more intense by “bleeding” off some of the juice early in the process, resulting in two separate lots that can be made into both a red and a rosé. If the winemaker is serious about the rosé, a very good wine can be made. However, this rosé is often considered a biproduct of the red winemaking. The locals drink that, while the winery ships the more expensive reds off to market.

The last method is an approach that wineries employ when their sole intent is to make a quality rosé, which results in a rosé that is often superior to the above methods. This method, often called “Limited Skin Maceration” (LSM) is a process in which the grapes are crushed and left in contact with the skins for a limited amount of time. The color can start to develop within minutes for grape varieties with very intense color, or can take up to 48 hours in some cases. When the desired color is achieved, the juice is separated from the skins, and fermentation is started much like a white wine would be made.

I have made wines from both saignée and LSM methods with great success, but am really proud of our current Spring release of our Rosato Secco. This wine is an LSM version of Sangiovese that is perfect for sipping by the pool, pairing with a charcuterie board, or – even better – a classic bowl of moules frites (steamed mussels and French fries) served by a beach in Southern California within miles of our beautiful Temecula Wine Country. Drink Local!

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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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Local Love: Our Favorite Temecula Restaurants Supporting Temecula Valley Wineries Right Now

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Our Favorite Restaurants with Temecula Wines

Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is a wondrous destination for discovering world-class wines, stunning vineyard views, talented winemakers, and memorable tasting experiences. But, as much as we don’t like to admit it, Temecula Valley isn’t just wine country. There is a vibrant scene in town with plenty to do and see… and even more to eat and drink.

The beauty of living in a wine region is that even if you’re not out visiting the vineyards, you can still enjoy local wines while you dine. In celebration of keeping it local, we have rounded up some of our favorite Temecula restaurants that prominently feature Temecula Valley wines, so you can keep sipping that beautiful juice, no matter where you are grabbing a bite.

Goat & Vine, 41923 Second Street, #102, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 695-5600

For the most delicious from-scratch pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and more, head to Old Town’s Goat & Vine. Believing that “Food is more than just nourishment; it is the ultimate expression of love,” Goat & Vine’s team starts the day at 3:00 AM to handcraft pizza doughs, breads, sauces, dressings, and proteins to serve to patrons over lunch and dinner. We often say the same thing about wine and winemaking, so be sure to peruse the many Temecula Valley wine selections on the menu to find the perfect pairing for this thoughtfully prepared cuisine. 

Bluewater Grill, 26700 Ynez Court, Temecula, CA 92591, (951) 308-2722

Who doesn’t love a big platter of oysters on the half shell or melt-in-your-mouth cedar-plank salmon washed down with a cold, crisp glass of Temecula Valley Pinot Grigio? Bluewater Grill features fresh, sustainable seafood prepared to taste, as well as other delicious items like steak, burgers, and chicken. And, they don’t just offer Temecula Wines and local craft beers; they also have a “Taste of Temecula” wine flight, as well as no corkage fee for all local wines, so you can spend the day shopping the wineries for your favorite bottles, and pop one open over dinner in town.

1909, 28656 Old Town Front Street, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 252-1902

Named for the year the old Machado building was rebuilt after burning down in 1908, 1909 was originally home to a trading post, livery, auto shop, church, and bar (the Long Branch Saloon was actually known as the roughest place in town – several bullet holes still dot the ceiling!). Today, the eye-catching (and totally safe!) restaurant and bar cooks up upscale pub classics alongside craft cocktails, brews, and wine – including wine list sections dedicated to local white, rosé, and red wines.

Cork Fire Kitchen, 44501 Rainbow Canyon Road, Temecula, CA 92592, (951) 976-3404

Known for seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine using many locally-sourced ingredients, including from the chef’s very own garden, it should come as no surprise that Cork Fire has a prominent selection of great Temecula Valley wines to choose from on the wine list. Sip a bottle of Lorenzi Vineyards Chardonnay, or Wiens Fumé Blanc while you take in golf course views or cozy up by the roaring outdoor fireplace on the veranda for the perfect Temecula food and wine experience.

The Great Oak Steakhouse, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 92592, (888)-PECHANGA

Nothing works up an appetite quite like winning (or losing!) a few hands of blackjack – or a day of wine tasting – so head on over to this classic steakhouse at Pechanga Resort Casino for a totally indulgent meal of 100% Prime Black Angus beef and other decadent dishes (hello, lobster mac & cheese and au gratin potatoes!), paired with one of the many available Temecula Valley wine selections. You will find full sections of the restaurant’s massive wine list – which has been recognized as noteworthy by the editors of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines – dedicated to local wines, as well as individual Temecula Valley bottlings included among varietal selections.

E.A.T. Marketplace, 28410 Old Town Front Street, Temecula, CA 92590, (951) 694-3663

There are few restaurants more dedicated to sourcing clean, sustainable, locally-driven foods than E.A.T. Marketplace. Making it part of their mission to support Temecula Valley’s local economy, they naturally offer a selection of Temecula wines and craft beers to sip alongside their healthful and delicious menu items. The restaurant also regularly partners with local wineries for events and programs that help tell the wine and culinary story of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country.

Got a favorite Temecula restaurant that also pours your favorite Temecula wines? Tell us about them! #DrinkTemecula

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Five Fun Facts About Late Harvest Wine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Late harvest vines

Many wine-lovers have yet to discover how delicious a late harvest wine can taste – especially when paired with cheese and honey, chocolate or a fruit-based dessert.

The perfect sweet dessert wine for Valentine’s day, late harvest wine is simple to understand and easy to find here in Temecula Valley!

Here are five fun facts about late harvest wine!

Facts courtesy of Wikipedia
  1. “Late harvest” refers to wines made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual and picked later than normal. Late harvest grapes are often more similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated while still on the vine.
  2. Late harvest wines are made around the world with almost every grape imaginable. Grapes like zinfandel and riesling are ideally suited to produce late harvest wine and are among the most popular.
  3. Grapes used for late harvest wines go through their full growth cycle and then some – becoming super sweet and losing acidity as they ripen.
  4. “Noble rot” is the term for the edible mold that causes grapes to lose nearly all of their water content. This natural process begins to take place in late September and can last until late October.
  5. Late harvest grapes are often hand-picked. Sometimes, the usable grapes from one vine may only produce enough juice for a single glass.

Looking for a great bottle of Temecula Valley Late Harvest Wine?  Check these wines out!

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Classic Beef Stew with Flaky Cheddar Chive Scones

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Classic Beef Stew

Most people have a soft spot for a good beef stew, the ultimate comfort dish on a cold night. This version will perfume your kitchen with the sweet scent of paprika and wine. On another occasion, try different vegetables, such as rutabagas, potatoes, or add chickpeas. Chances are you’ll devour a warm scone before you even get the stew to the table, but you’ll still have plenty of scones for dipping in the luscious sauce. If you’re pressed for time, serve the stew with egg noodles instead of the scones. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

Classic Beef Stew

  • 1-1/2 pounds (680 g) boneless beef chuck, in 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon California paprika or other sweet paprika 
  • ¾ cup (.2 l) dry white wine 
  • ¾ cup (150 g) fresh tomato pulp (see Note) or finely chopped canned San Marzano tomatoes 
  • 2 cups (.5 l) chicken broth, or more as needed  
  • 1 dozen fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • ½ pound (225 g) baby carrots, scrubbed 
  • ½ pound (225 g) small turnips, peeled and halved or quartered 
  • 1 cup (133 g) frozen peas, cooked and drained 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish 

Flaky Cheddar Chive Scones 

  • 2 cups (285 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 
  • 2 packed tablespoons thinly sliced chives 
  • 1 cup (70 g) coarsely grated Cheddar cheese, chilled 
  • Approximately 1-1/3 cups (320 g) heavy cream, chilled 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted 

Directions

Prepare the beef stew: Season the meat all over with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Set the meat on a platter and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Dredge the meat with flour, shaking off excess. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, brown the meat, working in batches to avoid overcrowding. Reduce the heat if needed to prevent scorching. Transfer the meat to a platter as it is browned.

Pour off any fat in the pot and return to medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onion, garlic, and paprika. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onion has softened and moisture from the onion has dissolved all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the tomato and cook for 5 minutes. Add the broth, thyme, and bay leaves. Stir to blend, then add the browned meat and any juices on the platter.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the meat is almost tender when probed with a fork, about 1 hour longer. Add the carrots and turnips, stirring them down into the liquid. Recover and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. If the stew seems too thick, thin with broth. Remove the thyme bundle and bay leaves, then stir in the peas and parsley. Taste for seasoning.

While the stew cooks, prepare the scones: Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat if you have one, or with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chives. Add the Cheddar and toss with a fork until well blended. Add the cream gradually, tossing with a fork until all the floury bits are coated. Use a dough scraper or spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the dough still in the bowl, gather it and knead it gently, just enough to form a cohesive mass.

Turn the dough out on the prepared baking sheet and pat and prod it into a ¾-inch-thick (19 mm) rectangle. The thickness is important, but the other dimensions don’t matter. Try not to work the dough or add additional flour.

With a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 12 scones. Separate them on the baking sheet. With a pastry brush, baste the tops with melted butter.

Bake until nicely browned and well risen, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Divide the stew among soup bowls, garnishing each portion with parsley. Pass the scones separately.

Note: To make fresh tomato pulp, cut 2 large plum tomatoes in half lengthwise. Grate on the large holes of a box grater until only the skin remains in your hand. Discard the skin. You should have about ¾ cup pulp (150 g).

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery – 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ~ The palate expresses notes of clove, chocolate covered cherries and dark fruits. Soft tannins with hints of caramel and toasty oak lead into a long smooth finish.

Churon Inn Winery – 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Upfront you will surround yourself with the aromas and flavors of cherry and bell pepper.  Finish off with a soft finish and lingering fruit. 

Falkner Winery – 2017 Syrah ~ Enjoy the wonderful deep purple color of this Syrah and the lush flavors or ripe plum, black cherry, tobacco, chocolate, and a bit of spiciness.

Foot Path Winery – 2016 Syrah ~ The vintage of this wine complemented the natural character of the Syrah grape. It caused the wine to be rich and bold, yet plush and fruity.

Recipe and photo provided by The Wine Institute of California

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From Valentine’s Day to The Big Game: Your Temecula Valley Wine Guide for All of February’s Celebrations

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Wine is our love language!

February is full of wine-drinking occasions, from marking the end of Dry January (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing), to Valentine’s Day, to the Super Bowl, and everything in between. Whether you are planning a romantic night in with your honey, a night of yelling at your TV screen and high-fiving your family over touchdowns, or just stocking up after a month of nothing but diet soda and sparkling water, we’ve got your guide for what to drink for all occasions this month.

BUBBLY

It doesn’t matter if you’re toasting your love or the winning team, sparkling wine is a great option for a celebration or for sipping with just about anything you’re eating, from game day food to fancy dishes to an entire box of Valentine’s Day chocolates (no judgement).

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvée Sparkling Syrah, $20

Everyone loves to pair chocolate with wine, but the two often go together like a Taurus and a Leo – in other words, not so well. We have, however, found an exception. Pop a bottle of this crimson-colored red sparkling wine, bursting with juicy, red berry fruit, and dip into that box of Valentine’s Day chocolate for the perfect, indulgent treat.

Your Game Day Selection:

Carter Estate 2014 Blanc de Blanc Brut, $40

This crisp, clean, bone-dry bubbly is made in the méthode Champenoise, AKA how they do it in the most famous sparkling wine region of the world, Champagne. It’s light and complex, with tiny bubbles that will totally upstage any frosty game day lager.

WHITE WINE

We know sports spectating usually calls for frosty beers, but why not opt for a cold, crisp glass of white wine instead? These selections are refreshing and equally at home with a spicy plate of nachos as they are with that house-made Fettuccine Alfredo from your favorite Italian take-out spot.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Oak Mountain Winery Chardonnay, $26

Valentine’s Day Dinners are often decadent affairs – lobster tails dipped in butter, juicy roast chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, bacon-wrapped scallops (is your mouth watering yet?)… This lightly oaked Chardonnay is rich yet balanced, with bright green apple, lemon curd, and crème brulée, and will be the perfect accompaniment to your romantic dinner for two.

Your Game Day Selection:

Danza del Sol Vermentino, $34

This fresh, juicy Vermentino, a grape that is equally at home in Temecula as it is in Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany, will have you feeling like you’re watching the game from Italy. Notes of ripe, fleshy stone fruit, lime zest and white flowers give way to a clean, oyster shell finish. The very definition of “quaffable.”

ROSÉ

Real sports fans drink pink. And, nothing says romance like a glass of ballet-slipper-hued nectar. If you are someone who loves the cool, crispness of a great glass of white wine, but are also looking for something with a bit more oomph, rosé is the perfect option.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Ponte Winery “Pas Doux,” $30

“Pas Doux” translates to “not sweet,” a descriptor that lets the drinker know this wine, made from Sangiovese, was intentionally made in a classic, dry, Provençal style. This juicy rosé is bursting with strawberries and rose petals – in other words, all the ingredients of a romantic encounter.

Your Game Day Selection:

Robert Renzoni Vineyards Lyric Rosé, $29

This is a wine we refer to as “crushable,” meaning that you could drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, if you’ve got a long day of watching sports ahead of you, snag a bottle of this baby pink, dry rosé, with notes of white peach, guava, lime zest, and melon. It will pair nicely with that killer seven-layer dip you make. 

RED

Given the cold, wet weather over the past few weeks, we’ve found ourselves wondering if we really do live in Southern California! Fortunately, we’ve found solace in the plush, full-bodied red wines that our Temecula Valley wineries are known for to keep us warm. Snuggle up with your significant other or curl up on the couch to watch the Big Game with one of these hearty selections.

Your Valentine’s Day Selection:

Baily Winery Cabernet Franc, $35

You can close your eyes and pretend you’re having date night in Bordeaux… or better yet, among the gorgeous rolling hills of Temecula Valley. Baily Winery is known for their traditional, Old World take on winemaking – in particular Bordeaux-style blends – and this Cabernet Franc is no exception. Ripe berry and plum mingle with exotic spice and black pepper and a touch of forest floor. This is a wine to linger over now with your partner, or put away for several years until your next big anniversary.

Your Game Day Selection:

Europa Village Barbera, $42

We love this bright, fresh Barbera, produced from vine cuttings that trace their heritage all the way back to Italy’s Piedmont region, from which the Barbera grape hails. It’s juicy and packed with tart cherry and berry fruit, and just a touch of spice, making it a heavenly match for a big pot of spicy game day chili.

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WINTER BEET AND CITRUS SALAD WITH DATES AND ALMONDS

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Winter Beet & Citrus Salad

Sweet, tart, crunchy, tangy—this colorful salad has it all. Its contrasting textures and surprising flavors keep you coming back for another refreshing bite. Serve the salad with store-bought roast chicken or grilled lamb chops. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay or Sparkling Wine.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium golden beets, about ¾ pound (325 g), greens removed if attached 
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
  • 3 whole allspice berries 
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme 
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • Sea salt  
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted 
  • 2 large navel oranges or blood oranges 
  • ½ large fennel bulb 
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise 
  • 2 ounces feta, preferably Greek or French 
  • Fresh mint leaves 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the beets in a baking dish with the vinegar, allspice, thyme, and ½ inch of water. Cover and bake until the beets are tender when pierced, 45 to 60 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled, then slice thin.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Cut a slice off both ends of each orange so it will stand upright. Stand each orange on a cutting surface and, using a sharp knife, remove all the peel and white pith by slicing from top to bottom all the way around the orange, following the contour of the fruit. Slice the peeled oranges crosswise ¼ inch thick. Discard the first and last slices if they seem to be mostly membrane. Remove the small bit of white pith at the center of each slice.

Cut the halved fennel bulb in half lengthwise. With a vegetable slicer or by hand, shave or slice very thin. Put the fennel in a small bowl and add just enough of the olive oil-lemon dressing to coat the fennel lightly. Toss gently.

On a serving platter or on individual salad plates, arrange the beets and oranges informally, breaking the orange slices into half-moons or even smaller pieces. Scatter the fennel on top, then top with the dates, almonds, and crumbled feta. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Scatter a few small mint leaves on top, or tear into smaller pieces if they are large. Serve immediately.

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2018 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay – Silky on the pallet with flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and hints of honeysuckle.

Oak Mountain Winery ~ 2018 Chardonnay – This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, creme brulee and caramel.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ Brut – Delicate bubbles burst with lively fruit notes that combine with hints of toasted brioche, giving way to a layered, lasting finish.

Thornton Winery ~ NV Blanc De Noir – a rich, complex sparkler made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes. With a hint of color from minimal skin contact, it has a hint of strawberry and toasty yeast, with citrus and apple flavors.

Recipe & photo courtesy of The Wine Institute of California

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And Here’s How It All Began…

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Brookside Winery 1971

In the 1850s, Temecula became a stop on the stagecoach lines that were becoming the logistical route of choice in California. So popular was this route, a post office was set up in town which was a rare institution in California at the time. Settlement increased during the late 1860s as displaced Confederates moved West in the wake of the Civil War.

Because of the region’s isolation, Temecula retained many of its Native American, Spanish and Mexican customs and culture long after California was ceded to the United States. Throughout time, however, Native American lands were being purchased or seized and in 1875, the final blow was delivered when tribal nations signed a treaty relinquishing the remainder of their land in the Temecula Valley. A decade later, the Native Americans who remained were relocated to the Pechanga Reservation.

The railroad line boosted Temecula’s economy when the route was extended to the region in 1882. Unfortunately, the line was abandoned later that decade due to damage from incessant flooding. The major industries during these years were stone quarries, cattle and shipping. During the American Prohibition of the 20s and 30s, the Temecula Valley operated its share of bootlegging and speakeasies.

In 1904, Walter Vail arrived in Temecula and bought nearly 90,000 acres in the region. His family would do much to influence and shape the town during the first half of the 20th century. The Vail family’s biggest achievement was damming the Temecula River and creating Vail Lake in 1948.

In 1961 Mahlon Vail had been successfully operating the enormous Vail Cattle Ranch for nearly six decades. He was in his seventies and his health was failing. With no immediate heirs Vail began actively seeking a buyer for the ranch. One of those potential buyers contacted Richard Break, an experienced farm manager and broker from Fresno. The buyer wanted his professional opinion on the feasibility of growing citrus on the property. After reviewing temperature records for the Temecula area kept by the University of California at Riverside, Break became convinced that the climate and soil conditions in the valley were better suited for the growing of wine grapes.

In 1964 Vail successfully completed negotiations on the sale of the ranch to Kaiser Industries and Macco Realty, who together formed the Rancho California Development Corporation. Throughout 1965 the development company mapped out its plans for a “Master Planned Community.” The community would include commercial and industrial sites as well as residential and agricultural development. The campaign attracted the attention of a number of notables including then California Governor Ronald Reagan, who purchased a sizable portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau.

Another Hollywood couple who saw an opportunity to pursue a long-held dream of retiring to a sizable estate with a comfortable Mediterranean style adobe was Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo. In 1967 they purchased 40 acres of property down a long dirt road known as Long Valley Road (soon to become Rancho California Road). The Cilurzo’s established the first modern commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley in 1968.

In 1974, the founding of Callaway Winery (by Ely Callaway, of golf fame) marked the beginning of large production winemaking in the Temecula Valley. Callaway, sold the winery in 1981 to Hiram Walker and Sons. John Poole opened Mount Palomar Winery in 1975, and in 1978 the Cilurzos opened another Temecula winery at a new site. Their original vineyard, Temecula’s oldest, is now owned by Maurice Carrie Winery. Today, there are over 40 wineries in the Temecula Valley.

Though Temecula became an incorporated city in 1989, the region officially became an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984. Modern Temecula Wine Country is located east of the Rainbow Gap in Riverside County and the Temecula wine community has grown considerably since its humble beginnings.

Copy courtesy of The City of Temecula and Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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How Our “New Normal” is Actually a Better Normal

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Cheers to 2021!

Well, the day we never thought would come finally did, and 2021 is officially in full swing. While the world is still a bit topsy turvy, and so much uncertainty remains, the start of a new year seems as good a time as any to look back on lessons learned, and contemplate what comes next.

Temecula Valley Wine Country went through a roller coaster of changes in 2020, as we implemented new policies to keep our customers and staff members safe, and experimented with creative ways to keep you engaged. While some changes we will be happy to say goodbye to when things get back to normal, some new practices we may hang on to just a little bit longer, if not forever, because, well… we kind of like them.

Change can often be uncomfortable, but it isn’t always a bad thing. So, in celebration of flexibility and fresh new starts, we would like to share the top five things that came out of 2020 that we will not be saying goodbye to in 2021.

  1. Reservations and Seated, Guided Tastings

When wineries were asked to implement social distancing protocols by limiting visitor numbers and requiring spacing among tables and tasting areas, reservation systems and more formal seated tastings made it easier to manage customer flow, while still ensuring a pleasant experience for guests.

What many of us realized in the process was that these guided tastings allowed us to get to know our customers better, and gave our guests more opportunities to ask questions, and learn more about our wineries and the wines in their glasses. While we look forward to welcoming guests back to our communal – and convivial! – tasting bars, we don’t anticipate our wineries giving up the more intimate, seated, guided tasting format any time soon. In fact, we look forward to new ways our wineries can use this type of experience to educate and entertain Temecula Valley visitors!

2. Taking Things Virtual

Why just get a bottle of wine when you can get a bottle of wine and meet the winemaker… virtually, from the comfort of your living room couch? 2020 was the year of the Zoom happy hours and virtual experiences and boy did we have fun with these! From virtual winery tours to wine club parties to educational tastings and more, Temecula Valley wineries took to the Internet to meet their fans and share their sips and stories.

Not only has this been a great way for us all to stay in touch with customers, but it has also been a way for us to make new friends across the country. We know wine lovers in other states and cities may not be able to visit us all the time, but Temecula Valley wineries can ship wine to just about any state, and the Internet knows no state lines! We can’t wait to see you on our computer screens over a glass or two of wine soon.

3. Trying New Wines

Nothing makes you crave new things quite like being stuck in your house, not being able to see your loved ones, and having all your favorite activities canceled for months on end. This boredom led many of us to take up new hobbies, learn different languages, and master new skills.

It led us to branch out of our sipping comfort zone to give some of those hard-to-pronounce grapes (hello, Falanghina!) a try. One of the most beautiful things about Temecula Valley is that we grow dozens of different varieties that all thrive here thanks to our Southern Californian Mediterranean climate. We know we won’t be losing that sense of adventure when it comes to wine discoveries in 2021; we hope you will keep up the curiosity as well!

4. Cool New Events

Temecula Valley is known for some pretty amazing events year-round thanks to gorgeous vineyards, stunning properties, and nearly 365 days of sunshine. When social distancing and outdoor tasting and dining requirements were put in place, Temecula Valley wineries had to get really creative when it came to event planning. The result? Fun new outings like drive-in movies, socially distanced yoga, and intimate (but at totally spaced-out tables) wine dinners among the vines.

Temecula Valley wineries have always thought outside the box when it comes to interesting grape blends, planting new varieties, and producing exciting wines. We are excited to see what’s next on the event horizon once things open back up. Hopefully some of these new, creative event concepts stick around, because there are few things better than sipping a bottle of your favorite Temecula Valley wine from the flatbed of your truck while watching “The Sandlot” on the big screen at sunset.

5. Gratitude

We’ve said it once, and we will say it again. We could not have gotten through 2020 without our loyal and supportive customers and visitors. We have also been reminded of the power of a simple thank you; of taking time to acknowledge those around us who keep us smiling – and afloat. Many Temecula Valley wineries have said thank you with special offers, discounts and promotions on wine, dining and shipping. No doubt we will continue to see these in the coming months. But we will never stop feeling grateful for YOU, and all that you as visitors and fans do to make our Wine Country so special.

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