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Wine Country Recipe ~ Popcorn Trio

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

Popcorn Trio with Paired Wine

When it’s movie night – or the big game on TV night, make sure the snacks belong on the highlight reel. With this trio of wine-friendly flavored popcorns, the treats may steal the show. Make one, two or all three if you’re feeling ambitious. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ingredients:

Pimentón Popcorn 

  •  Stovetop Popcorn from ¼ cup popcorn kernels 
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), hot or mild, or paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 

Put the hot popcorn in a serving bowl. Add the butter, pimentón and salt and toss well.

Porcini Butter Popcorn 

  • Stovetop Popcorn from ¼ cup (55 g) popcorn kernels 
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons porcini powder or mushroom powder (see Note) 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 

Put the hot popcorn in a serving bowl. Add the butter, porcini powder and salt and toss well.  NOTE: You can find porcini powder at spice shops and well-stocked supermarkets, or you can make your own by grinding dried porcini to a powder in a spice mill. 

Brown Butter and Parmesan Popcorn 

  • 4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter 
  • Stovetop Popcorn from ½ cup (110 g) popcorn kernels 
  • 1/2 cup (30 g) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan often, until the butter stops foaming and hissing, a sign that most of the moisture has evaporated. At that point, the melted butter will begin to turn golden-brown and smell nutty. Remove from the heat. Put the hot popcorn in a serving bowl and pour the warm brown butter over the popcorn, leaving any dark solids at the bottom of the pan. Add the cheese and salt and toss well.  

Directions:

General stovetop popcorn preparation: Put 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 3 to 4 popcorn kernels in a heavy saucepan. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and place over medium heat. When the kernels pop, add ¼ cup (55 g) popcorn kernels and recover, leaving the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape. Cook over medium heat, shaking the saucepan occasionally, until you no longer hear kernels popping. Makes about 7-1/2 cups (1.75 liters). 

Suggested Pairings:

Altisima Winery ~ 2019 Chardonnay – Aged in half stainless steel and half new French oak barrels, this full-bodied Chardonnay is the perfect white wine for the red wine drinker, boasting strong oak aromatics, a creamy texture, and a butter finish.

Baily Winery ~ 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon –  Offers warm, rich tones with subtle, herbaceous qualities and a hint of mint. 

Oak Mountain Winery ~ 2021 Chardonnay – This chardonnay is more creamy, buttery, and oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, crème brulee and caramel.

Thornton Winery ~ Limited Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon -Very classic berry and pepper aromas came forth while subtle herbaceous notes meld with the warm toasty aromas from the oak.

Recipe and photo courtesy of The Wine Institute of California

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How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day All Month – or Year! – Long in Temecula Valley

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

We can think of no better way to experience romance than while sipping wine and taking in the rolling hills, hot air balloons, and gorgeous vistas of Southern California’s Temecula Valley. Whether you’re planning on hitting up some wineries with your significant other, hanging with your best gal (or guy!) pal, or rolling solo for a little self-care, we’ve got the wines and the experiences to help you celebrate your best Valentine’s Day yet, Wine Country-style.

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

If you’re headed out to Wine Country for some in-person swirling and sipping, check out these fun special events and ongoing winery programs that are sure to get the romance flowing year-round.

SIP Passport:

This ticket to Wine Country allows you and your honey to sip your way through Temecula Valley at your own pace. Enjoy a curated wine flight at any five of the participating wineries, Monday through Friday (Valentine’s Day just so happens to fall on a Monday this year!) and see where the experience takes you.

Monte de Oro Signature Food and Wine Series:

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds on February 14th, kick off the romance a little bit early at this feast for the senses including a multi-course culinary experience with a selection of Monte de Oro’s award-winning wines. Still determined to get out on the town on Valentine’s Day itself? Snag a ticket to Monte de Oro’s Valentine’s Day dinner, with a four-course meal, wine pairings, and live music.

Bottaia Blending Lab:

Sometimes, the best way spice things up is by taking on a new activity together. Become winemaker for a day at Bottaia’s unique wine blending lab, where you will roll up your sleeves and make your very own custom wine blend, complete with a cork and label. Lay the wine down to open up on your next anniversary or special occasion, or sip it while celebrating Valentine’s Day 2022.

Doffo Winery Sweetheart Dinner:

Romance doesn’t need to be all chocolate and roses, right? On Saturday, February 12, hit up everyone’s favorite moto-themed winery for a decadent four-course meal with wine pairings while rubbing elbow’s with the tight-knit Doffo family and fellow wine (and motorcycle) enthusiasts.

Galentine’s at Peltzer:

On February 11, ditch the guys and celebrate being single (or single for a day) while you dance, shop, sip, and nosh the night away. Enjoy local bites and food trucks, live music, a pop-up market, and of course, lots and lots of Temecula Valley wine. 

Wine and Wellness at Akash:

Sometimes connecting with your partner means reconnecting with yourself as well. Akash Winery not only offers ongoing yoga and fitness classes among the vines, but they have also launched a one-of-a-kind Wellness + Wine club, featuring access to yoga, Lagree-inspired workouts, and kickboxing classes, not to mention post-workout sips and monthly bottles to take home. Nothing like a little sweat – or zen – to get in the mood for romance.

STAYING COZY AT HOME

If you’re looking forward to a little Netflix and chill this Valentine’s Day, you’re going to need a steady supply of wine. Here are a few of our favorites for sipping with your favorite partner in wine.

Bubbles

And we don’t mean the bath kind! Temecula Valley produces some spectacular traditional method sparkling wines, made with quality grapes and painstaking attention to detail, for the perfect kickoff to any special occasion (or to sip, like we do, on any ordinary Monday).

A few to try:

Thornton Winery Brut NV, $54 – Close your eyes and you’re in Champagne! A blend of classic Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this crisp, clean sparkler boasts juicy apple, pear, and tropical aromas, and a toasty, creamy finish.

Bottaia 2020 Rosé Spumante, $45 – We love the offbeat blend of Italian grapes in this dry, soft-pink bubbly, with notes of strawberry, raspberry, melon, and lime zest.

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvée Sparkling Syrah NV, $24 – Need something bright and juicy to pair with that box of Valentine’s Day chocolates? Pop a bottle of this deep crimson-colored red sparkling wine for a decadent treat.

Big, Bold Reds

There’s something about a rich, velvety red wine that just oozes romance. Temecula Valley is known for producing some truly exceptional full-bodied reds that are perfect for sipping with your significant other – with a special dinner or simply while curled up on the couch and enjoying each other’s company.

A few to try:

Baily Winery 2018 Meritage, $75

This rich, complex red is an elegant blend of classic Bordeaux grape varieties. It is lean but powerful, with ripe berry fruit, plum, sweet baking spices and an intriguing tobacco note.

Leoness Cellars 2018 Signature Series “Eloquent”, $99

This silky blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel is the ultimate contemplation wine. Dark berry fruit aromas are framed by notes of sweet and savory spice like vanilla, black pepper, chocolate, and anise.  

Fazeli Cellars 2017 Shiraz, $50

Taking its name from the fabled ancient Persian city of Shiraz, as well as the alternate spelling of “Syrah,” this wine boasts silky black currant and blackberry layered with vanilla, sweet tobacco, mocha and black pepper.

Something Sweet

Who needs a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates when you can sip your dessert with one of these indulgent sweet and fortified wine selections? Pair them with an after-dinner sweet treat, a salty cheese course, or nothing at all – they’re just that tasty.

A few to try:

Callaway Vineyard & Winery Late Harvest Cabernet Sauvignon, $26

Grapes spend extra time on the vines to develop the ripest possible fruit notes as well as elevated sugar levels to create this smooth, sensuous treat, packed with black cherry and raspberry jam, cinnamon and a hint of licorice.

Mount Palomar Limited Reserve Tawny Port, $65

This extremely limited bottling made from 100% estate grown grapes is made in the style of the great fortified wines of Portugal. A blend of 11- and 10-year tawny port, this rich, amber nectar is ripe with aromas of molasses, fig, tangerine, and brown sugar.

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Pop! Goes the Bottle: Your Temecula Valley Sparkling Wine Guide To Ring in the New Year

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Cheers to 2022!

Is there anything better than the sound of a bottle of sparkling wine popping during the holidays? Or any time, really? While we’re big believers in popping a bottle of bubbly any time that feels right, whether ‘tis the season’ or not, there is something particularly special about uncorking some fizz as we get ready to close out 2021… and fully prepare ourselves for what 2022 holds. Gulp.  

Fortunately, Temecula Valley is home to some truly exceptional sparkling wines made from traditional sparkling wine grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as some totally unique varieties like Shiraz and Pinotage. Before we dig into some of our favorite selections for the holidays and ringing in the new year, we thought it might be helpful to review some of the most common types of sparkling wines and how those delicate bubbles make it into our glass.

Méthode Traditionnelle

Also known as traditional method, or “Méthode Champenoise” – named for the region for this type of wine – this is the most painstaking, time-consuming way to produce bubbles. 

The winemaker produces a still, dry wine with high acidity, bottles it, and then adds a mixture of more yeast and sugar to each bottle, sealing it up with a crown cap. The yeast begins to ferment the sugar again, increasing the alcohol level slightly and releasing carbon dioxide. Since the CO2 has nowhere to go, it goes back into the wine in what is called the “secondary fermentation,” giving the wine its sparkles.

What makes wines produced in this way so special is the time it spends on its “lees” – the little yeast cells that die and float to the bottom during the secondary fermentation. Some wines spend a small amount of time on them, while others age for years, giving traditional method sparkling wines greater complexity, as well as those unmistakable and delicious toasty, brioche-like aromas, and allowing the wine to age for a long time.

After the specified aging period, the neck of the bottle is submerged in an ice bath which freezes the lees sediments in the neck of the bottle. When the crown cap is removed, the frozen sediment then pops out. Finally, the dosage – the winery’s signature mix of wine and, in some cases, sugar – is added to top the bottles up and determine their sweetness level, and the bottles are corked and caged and ready for our New Year’s celebrations.

Tank Method

Also known as Charmat method or Cuvée Close, these wines go through a similar, but far simpler process than the traditional method of production. Essentially the base wine stays in a large tank, to which a mix of sugar and yeast is added. The tank is sealed so that the secondary fermentation occurs on a much larger scale rather than in individual bottles. The wines are then filtered, the dosage is added, and they are bottled for consumption.

Generally speaking, these wines are intended for more immediate consumption. They are simple and fruit-driven, and absolutely perfect for an everyday sipper or an apéritif before the big holiday meal.  

Asti Method

This method is used to produce the sweet, low alcohol sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti found in Northern Italy. The aromatic Moscato grapes are pressed and the unfermented juice is chilled until the winemaker is ready to make the batch so the wine is as fresh as possible when it is released.

When it’s time, the must is warmed so that fermentation can begin. At first, the tank isn’t sealed, so the CO2 can escape. Partway through this alcoholic fermentation, the tank is sealed up to trap the carbonation. This whole process is cut short by chilling the wine once again so that some of the sugars remain in the wine, leaving it sweet and slightly sparkling. The wine is then filtered and bottled and ready for consumption.

There are of course other ways of producing sparkling wines, such as the transfer method (similar to the traditional method, but taking place on a large scale in tank), the “Ancestral Method” (used to make the funky, all-natural “pet-nat” that is the darling of many somms and wine geeks), and the simple method of just injecting carbonation to a still wine (new use for your SodaStream, anyone?). However, the methods we have outlined are the most common, and the ones you are most likely to find on your table this season.

A Few of Our favorite Temecula Valley Sparklers:

Here are a few to try as you close out this year and toast new beginnings and the promise of a fresh new year in Temecula Valley and beyond.

Carter Estate Winery 2015 Cuvée Prestige, $75 – Gorgeously complex with layers of baked apple, pear, and lemon curd, rounded out with rich notes of brioche and toasted hazelnut, and lifted by bright acidity. This is definitely a special occasion sparkler, produced in the traditional method with nearly six years on the lees.

Thornton Winery Brut NV, $54 – Produced in the traditional method from a blend of classic Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is a crisp, clean sparkler with juicy apple, pear, and tropical aromas, and a toasty, creamy finish.

Bottaia 2020 Rosé Spumante, $45 – Strawberry, crushed raspberry, melon, and lime zest burst from the glass with this baby-pink-hued sparkling rosé. Produced from a mind-bending blend of Italian grapes Fiano, Pecorino, and Montepulciano, this is not only a fantastic, party-pleasing holiday party bubbly, but also a delicious sipper year-round.  

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvée Sparkling Syrah NV, $24 – Few wines are more festive than this crimson-colored red sparkling wine, bursting with juicy, red berry fruit. Break into that box of holiday chocolates that your neighbor dropped off, and sip this alongside them for the perfect, indulgent treat.

Oak Mountain Winery Brut Sparkling, Temecula Valley, $27 – This is such a fun sparkling wine to sip with a spread of New Year’s Eve appetizers, and while getting ready to count down to midnight. Made from the offbeat Rhône Valley grape Roussanne, it’s got plenty of fresh fruit on the palate, with bright, mouthwatering acidity, and a clean, easy-drinking finish.

Happy New Year from Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country! See you in 2022!

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A Duo of Delicious Spreads

Monday, December 20th, 2021

If you’re entertaining, these simple and delicious spreads might be just what you’re looking for. Serve these wine-friendly spreads individually or as a colorful duo with a basket of flatbread crackers, crostini or pita crisps. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Sparkling Wine or Sparkling Rosé.

A Duo of Delicious Spreads

Ingredients:

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Feta 

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper, skinned and seeded 
  • 6 ounces (scant 1 cup/180 g) feta  
  • 1 large garlic clove 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • Hot red pepper and sea salt to taste 


Spinach, Cilantro and Tahini Spread 

  • 1 cup (1.5 oz/45 g) packed baby spinach leaves (no stems) 
  • ½ cup (65 g) frozen peas (no need to thaw) 
  • 1 green onion, white and pale green part only, sliced 
  • 6 to 8 sprigs cilantro, no thick stems 
  • 1 small garlic clove, sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) tahini 
  • Sea salt 
  • Lemon juice, as needed 


Directions:

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Feta 

In a food processor, puree all ingredients until fully blended. The mixture will be soft. Chill slightly to firm it. 

Spinach, Cilantro and Tahini Spread 

Put the spinach, peas, green onion, cilantro and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the tahini and a large pinch of salt and blend until smooth. Taste for salt and add a few drops of lemon juice if needed to brighten the flavor. 

Suggested Pairings:

Callaway Winery ~ NV Sparkling Bella Rosé – Elegant in both color and flavor, this charming wine greets you with juicy peach aromas touched with spicy white pepper. 

South Coast Winery ~ Extra Dry Brut – Delicate apple and berry with toasty yeast notes.

Thornton Winery ~ NV Brut – A blend of primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, giving our wine exciting, crisp fruit characters while taking on a clean and straightforward yeast flavor from the lengthy tirage time. 

Wilson Creek Winery ~ Rosé Sparkling Wine – Crisp, elegant and flavorful.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time – and Wine – of the Year

Friday, December 3rd, 2021

How Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country celebrates the holiday season
(Some of it might surprise you!)

Regardless of how you celebrate them, the holidays are a time of tradition. Whether you’re sipping something special while trimming your Christmas Tree, popping a bottle of bubbly to pair with your latkes during Chanukah (a seriously delicious pairing, by the way), or simply sitting on the couch with your favorite rustic red while watching everyone else prepare for the holiday season, chances are you and your family and friends do something year after year that makes the holiday season memorable for you.

Nowhere is the sense of tradition more prominent than in Wine Country. We had a blast catching up with some of our favorite winery personalities to find out how they celebrate the holidays, what special meals and libations are on their tables this time of year, and what unique rituals and traditions they practice with their friends and families.

For Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations at Akash Winery, it’s all about the perfect seasonal pairing, which, in this case, is Seafood and Champagne by the pool while playing backyard Cricket with her Australian family. Sound chilly? Thankfully, Australia is in the middle of Summer during our Winter months.

A love of wine clearly runs in the family for Danza del Sol and Masia de la Vinya winemaker Justin Knight, who takes advantage of them all being together during the holidays to fine tune their tasting skills. “For the past few years, we have done a blind tasting of red wines (usually 5-6 different varietals from different regions), ranging from a very modest price – gradually getting to a what I would consider an expensive bottle,” he explains. “Then everyone tastes the wines and rates them at their own pace. Of course, some Temecula wines are included. Then we do the big reveal. It makes for a fun time!”

After enjoying their typical holiday meal of Prime Rib and Cabernet Sauvignon, Steve Thornton of Thornton Winery has a similar tradition in his home. “We all get together and play games,” he says. “Once the kids go to sleep, we pull out a bunch of local wines and vote on which one is the best. Whoever wins takes the wine home – if any is left.”

Walter Carter, Director of Hospitality for Danza del Sol Winery, stumbled upon a perfect pairing for an unconventional holiday meal, and never looked back. “Our first holiday together, my wife and I wanted to do something non-traditional, so we decided to make ribs as the main protein and we paired it with a Danza del sol Syrah,” he shares. “It was delicious! So now every year we make ribs and try to discover a new Syrah to pair with it. It’s one of the things I look forward to most every year.” Thankfully, Temecula Valley just so happens to be great region for world class Syrah.

Akash winemaker Renato Saís also appreciates a good Syrah this time of year, pairing it with roast turkey and menudo, a spicy Mexican tripe stew, in a tradition that was passed down from his mom and his “Jefecita,” or “little chief” – AKA his grandma.

Temecula Valley Brand Marketing Partner Devin Parr has one of the most bizarre traditions we’ve heard of. Rather than stuffing traditional stockings hung over the fireplace, she and her family stuff nylon pantyhose – both legs! – full of presents. “I have no idea how this started, but we have been stuffing pantyhose for generations in our family,” she explains. “As I kid, I could think of nothing more exciting – or occasionally terrifying if you forgot it was Christmas – than seeing this giant, stuffed half-body lying on the floor full of presents on Christmas morning. My husband eventually joined in the tradition, and now he puts a fantastic bottle of wine in the toe of each leg of my stocking. Don’t tell Santa.”

Oak Mountain Winery owner Val Andrews celebrates more than just Christmas over the holidays. Her family’s festivities kick off on December 24, which is also her birthday. “We get treated every year to our friends’ winter wonderland house for a dinner that includes smoked rack of lamb and twice baked potatoes paired with a bottle of Oak Mountain Pinotage,” she says. “For Christmas, we start with family breakfast, which rolls into a lunch of cold cuts, sandwiches, and a snack with some Sparkling Brut from Oak Mountain. Dinner will be a 5-hour smoked pork crown roast and smoked baby potatoes in garlic and rosemary paired with our Tempranillo.”

For Christine Foote of Foot Path Winery, it’s all about girl power over the holidays. She has two sisters, who each have a daughter. Every year for the past sixteen years, they have done a Sister-Daughter outing. This year, they plan to travel to Texas to welcome the newest addition – Alana – to the family. Of course, a ready supply of Foot Path wine has already been sent out to Texas, so all are ready to properly toast the inauguration of Christine’s first grandchild into this touching tradition. “We do this to honor our mom,” says Christine. “The Christmas of 1995, we all went to see a ballet and then for lunch. That following April, mom passed away at age 68. So, we decided to revise the event.”

Whatever your family tradition is this holiday season, we hope you spend it surrounded by love, laughter, and, of course, a healthy dose of Temecula Valley wine.

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Grilled Five-Spice Chicken with Cucumber Peanut Salad

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Grilled Five-Spice Chicken with Cucumber Peanut Salad

Vietnamese chefs introduced Californians to the delights of five-spice chicken, and the dish is now entrenched in the Golden State repertoire. A cool, crunchy, lime-laced cucumber salad provides a refreshing contrast to the highly seasoned chicken. The marinade makes the chicken skin extra-crisp and tasty, so purchase skin-on thighs if possible. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Merlot!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Marinade 

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce  
  • ¼ teaspoon five-spice powder 
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced 
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, about 1-1/2 pounds (680 g)

Cucumber Peanut Salad 

  • 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced 
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated 
  • ½ small sweet red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice with some pulp 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce  
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced 
  • ½ small jalapeño chili, minced (remove seeds first, if desired) 
  • ¼ cup (10 g) coarsely chopped cilantro 
  • ¼ cup (30 g) chopped roasted unsalted peanuts  
  • Lime wedges 

Directions:

Prepare the marinade: Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, five-spice powder, garlic, shallot, and sugar and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Put the chicken thighs in a glass baking dish or other container just large enough to hold them. Pour the marinade over the thighs and turn them to coat all over. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, turning once halfway through. 

 Prepare the cucumber salad: Put the cucumber, carrot, and onion in a bowl and toss gently to mix. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, water, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and chili. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Add the cilantro and peanuts and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 

 Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place skin side down on the grill. Brush the flesh side with any marinade in the baking dish. Cook on both sides until the skin has browned and crisped and the chicken juices run clear, not pink, when probed at the bone, about 20 minutes.  

 Divide the cucumber salad and the chicken among 4 dinner plates. Garnish with lime wedges. 

Suggested Pairings:

Frangipani Winery ~ 2017 Merlot – Smooth from start to finish, berries and spice throughout.

Leoness Cellars ~ 2015 Vineyard Selection Merlot – Well balanced and well structured, with beautiful layers of blackberry, black cherry, and plum complemented by earthy aromas

Monte De Oro Winery ~ 2016 Merlot – A medium+ aroma intensity of freshly picked raspberries, bing cherries, and strawberries with vanilla, cocoa bean, red bell pepper, red flowers, clove, cinnamon and charred oak.

Thornton Winery ~ 2016 Merlot – Merlot has cherry, black berry currant and blueberry notes along with a fruit-driven entry that is complemented by oak barrels from France, Eastern Europe and North America.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Your Guide to the Perfect Temecula Valley Wine Country Picnic

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

Picnicking with Wine

While Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country has many different restaurant dining options at wineries as well as in town, it’s also a great place for a casual picnic (over a glass or two of local wine, of course). With gorgeous weather virtually year-round, and plenty of places to grab delicious provisions, it’s time to pack your picnic basket and head out to Southern California’s most picturesque wine region for a perfect al-fresco wining and dining experience. Here’s how.

Step 1.  Pick Your Spot.

You truly can’t go wrong throwing down a blanket at any of the Temecula Wineries that offer grounds for picnicking while in Wine Country. Many wineries also conveniently offer a selection of small bites to purchase with your wine, like snack boxes with cheese, charcuterie, and other wine-friendly nibblies.

Wilson Creek Winery has sprawling grounds with plenty of spots to settle in for a day of sipping, noshing, and relaxing. There’s even a small children’s play structure for an experience that keeps the whole family happy. Longshadow Ranch Vineyard and Winery is also a great place to visit, offering panoramic views of Wine Country in a working farm setting, as well as a friendly cohort of animal pals to meet. Stop in at Maurice Car’rie Winery and grab one of their world-famous baked brie and sourdoughs along with a bottle of their estate grown and produced wine and you have yourself a perfect picnic lunch.

Step 2. Stock Up on Tasty Bites.

Most wineries have something for you to grab on-site to go with your wine, whether it’s a full restaurant meal, a few picnic staples, or local food trucks parked outside. Sangio’s Deli at Cougar Winery is one of our favorites for delicious subs and sandwiches, pizzas and salads, paired perfectly with the wines made primarily from native Italian grapes. Watch the world go by on the patio at Doffo Winery over a cheese and charcuterie plate or a hummus plate featuring their famous housemade chimicurri, prepared daily by Fuego y Sal Catering, while sipping on one of the winery’s many award-winning selections.

If you’d prefer a true Wine Country picnic, stop by Grazing Theory in Temecula and order one of their eye-catching, gourmet charcuterie or veggie lunch boxes that feature lots of local ingredients and artisanal products. Or, grab one of the delicious sandwich selections prepared on bread baked in-house daily from Great Harvest Bread Co. in town for the perfect picnic lunch.

Step 3. Pop a Bottle.

While we always believe that if you like the wine, and you like the food, you have yourself a perfect pairing, there are nevertheless some wines that just seem made for Wine Country picnicking.

Whether you’re celebrating a milestone Wine Country-style, or simply celebrating everyday life, a bottle of bubbly is always a delight. Carter Estate Winery and Thornton Winery offer the valley’s best traditional-method sparkling wines in a range of styles, from brut to sweet, Blanc de Blancs to Blanc de Noirs and everything in between. Sparkling wines are also the perfect pairing for a just about any dish, so sip this festive wine while taking in Vineyard views and enjoying the afternoon breezes Temecula Valley is so famous for. We also love a crisp white or light rose while noshing on picnic fare, especially in the warmer months. Hart Winery produces several crisp, clean, mouth-watering white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, and Arneis that are perfect for sipping at one of their picnic tables in the summer. If you’re feeling pink, grab a bottle of Akash Winery’s Parlez Vous Rosé for a tasty lunch accompaniment. If red wine is more your thing, try something lighter and fruitier, like a bottle of Fazeli Cellar’s Phel Phel, a bright and juicy 100% cinsault, or even something like South Coast Winery’s sparkling Shiraz for something totally different.

Step 4. Strike a Pose.

No picnic is complete without a few selfies or group photos! Showcase you, your family and friends living your best life in Temecula Valley with a photo or two to document the occasion. Don’t forget to tag us at @temeculawines and use the hashtag #DrinkTemecula so we can share in your adventures!

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Easter in Temecula Valley Wine Country

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Easter Weekend in Wine Country

FALKNER WINERY – EASTER SPECIAL CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH MENU – Because of Covid-19 concerns, this year’s Brunch will be plated dishes rather than buffet.  This year the menu will be à la carte and include many Mediterranean style food offerings.  The brunch will consist of both breakfast and dinner. All guests over 21 will receive a complimentary glass of Champagne. As the name implies, Champagne will be part of the meal along with other beverage options including discounted wine by the glass and several specialty cocktails. Live entertainment will also be provided.  Special Easter gifts will be given to all children upon arrival. 

When: Sunday, April 4, 2021

Duration: 10:00am -3:00pm

Price: A la carte menu. For full menu visit www.falknerwinery.com

Reservation info: Reservations should be made by calling 951-676-8231 ext. 4 or online at their website of www.falknerwinery.com.   Reservations are available from 10 am–3:00pm. 

CALLAWAY VINEYARD & WINERYMeritage Restaurant at Callaway will be offering their new Spring menu along with special menu items for Easter such as a braised lamb shank with rosemary honey, mashed potatoes, baby carrots, and smoked salmon deviled eggs plus a whole lot more!

When: Sunday, April 4th

Duration: 11am to 5pm

Price: A la carte

Reservation info: (951) 587-8889 or visit callawaywinery.com

THORNTON WINERY – Easter Served Buffet Champagne Restaurant. Full Easter menu available for viewing at www.thorntonwine.com.

When: Sunday, April 4, 2021

Duration: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Price: $64.95 plus tax and tip, 12 & under $19.95

Reservation info:  Please visit www.ThorntonWine.com, www.OpenTable.com or call 951-699-0099

OAK MOUNTAIN – Easter Special Brunch Menu. To view full menu, please visit us at www.oakmountainwinery.com or call 951.699.9102 to request for the menu.

When: Saturday, April 3rd and Sunday, April 4, 2021

Duration: 11:00am – 5:00pm

Price: Individually priced brunch menu items.

Reservation info: Reservations highly recommended by calling 951.699.9102

EUROPA VILLAGE – Celebrate Easter Sunday with exclusive Spanish-style three-course Easter Brunch. Tempt your tastebuds at Bolero Restaurante with a delicious Roasted Carrot and Coriander Bisque, a Honey Glazed Ham or Slow-Roasted Prime Rib and a decadent Carrot Swirl Cheesecake or Chocolate & Hazelnut Torta.

When: Sunday, April 4th

Duration: 11:00am – 3:00pm

Price: $69 Adults | $39 Child

Reservation info: Reservations can be made at https://www.europavillage.com/bolero/restaurante/#reservations or by calling (951) 414-3802

AVENSOLE WINERY RESTAURANT – Easter Weekend Specials

MENU: Eggs Benjamin, Lamb Burger, Rack of Lamb. FESTIVE SIPS: Seasonal Mimosas

LIVE MUSIC 5-8pm, Friday – Michael Edon, Saturday – John Evans

When: Friday 4/2 & Saturday 4/3 5-8pm, Sunday 4/4 11am-5pm

Duration: Friday & Saturday

Price: prices vary – view our Easter Menu on our website

Reservation info: www.avensolewinery.com/restaurant

CAROL’S RESTAURANT AT BAILY WINERY – 3 course meal with choice of 3 appetizers, 5 entrees and 2 desserts with one complimentary Mimosa.

When: Easter Sunday 11:30 to 3:00.

Price: $39.95 ($20 per person No-Show Charge)

Reservations: Call 951-676-9243 for reservation

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

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

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

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

Ryan Hart

Ryan Hart, Assistant Enologist, Thornton Winery

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Nick Marsolino

Nicholas Marsolino, Production Lead, Thornton Winery

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

TVWA: Any standout harvest memories?

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

Reed Brady

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Billy Bower

Billy Bower, Director of Agriculture, Stage Ranch Farm Management

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Vera

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Brian Marquez

Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

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

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

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

TVWA: What’s your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Kaitlin Murray

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite aspect of harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

Gregorio Retana

Gregorio Retana, Cellar Master, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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

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

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

TVWA: What is your favorite thing about harvest?

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley special to you?

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

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

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

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Our Top Temecula Valley Wine Picks for Summer

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Summer Sippin’

There’s something about Summertime sipping that just feels right. Maybe it’s the sensation of a breeze cooling our neck as the sun warms our face while enjoying a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio on our patio; maybe it’s the sun staying out just that little bit longer; or maybe it’s the amazing food that comes out during the warmer months – the smell of the grill, the sweet juices of peaches and watermelons running down our chins, fresh seafood, burgers, corn on the cob… Whatever it is, there’s just nothing like a great mid-summer glass of wine. But what to sip?

Here are some of our favorite go-to wines for the Summer months:

Sparkling

Not only does bubbly pair perfectly with just about any type of cuisine, it is a wonderful treat no matter the occasion. From milestone celebrations to simply feeling good on a Tuesday, it’s the ultimate refresher after a long day (or at the beginning of one – hello, brunch!).

Pair with: Literally anything. But bubbles and salty, fatty, fried, or crispy food is a match made in heaven. Think potato chips, calamari, tempura shrimp, truffled popcorn, cured meats and cheeses… we could go on… and on…

Some wines to try:

Thornton Winery NV Brut

Carter Estate Winery 2015 Blanc de Noir

Oak Mountain Winery NV Pinotage Sparkling

Leoness Cellars NV Brut

Crisp, Unoaked White

We all love a rich, buttery Chardonnay, but hot weather calls for something a bit more quaffable. Instead of those weightier whites like Viognier and Chardonnay, opt for something light and bright. Classic Italian and Spanish grapes like Arneis, Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Albariño, and Verdelho are juicy and fresh, and act like a refreshing squeeze of lemon on your favorite Summer dishes.

Pair with: Seafood dishes prepared in a variety of styles, summer salads, and creamy pasta dishes.

Some wines to try:

Hart Winery 2019 Albariño

South Coast Winery 2019 Verdelho

Cougar Winery 2019 Estate Falanghina

Danza del Sol 2018 Vermentino

Rosé

There’s a reason “rosé all day” isn’t just a social media hashtag, it’s also a way of life: You can literally drink the stuff all day, every day. Rosé is a fantastic Summer sipper because it comes in so many different styles and hues, making it the whole package when it comes to food-friendly wine pairings. From pale pink and dripping with notes of watermelon and lime, to fuller-bodied and bursting with berry fruit, there’s a style to suit every palate, culinary creation, and occasion. And, it’s also pretty darn good on its own – unless you count your feet in the pool, a lazy swing in a hammock, or a sunset barbecue as part of your pairing.

Some wines to try:

Ponte Winery 2019 Pas Doux

Robert Renzoni Vineyards 2019 Lyric Rose

Doffo Winery 2019 Rosario

Akash Winery 2019 Parlez Vous Rosé

Light Red

Still craving that inky red wine, even in 100-degree weather? While Temecula Valley can be known for rich, full-bodied, luxurious wines, the region also produces quite a few lighter-bodied, fruity red wines, which are absolutely stunning on a warm summer day. Serve them with a slight chill to bring out the bright berry fruit. We promise you’ll thank us for the suggestion.

Pair with: Simple grilled meats and kabobs, tomato-based pastas, pizza

Some wines to try:

Fazeli Cellars 2015 Phel Phel

Baily Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc

Wiens Family Cellars 2018 Pinot Noir

Europa Village Bolero Cellars 2016 Garnacha

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