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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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Soft-Centered Chocolate Babycakes with Red Wine Raspberry Sauce

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Chocolate Babycakes with Red Wine Raspberry Sauce

Served warm with red wine raspberry sauce, they are almost molten inside, with crunchy edges. The recipe makes four, so you can have one cake apiece with your sweetie and save the other pair for lunch the next day. When cool, they taste like a super-rich brownie. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley dessert or sparkling wine.

Ingredients:

Sauce 

  • ½ cup dry red wine 
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar 
  • ½ pint (6 ounces) raspberries 

Cakes 

  • 5 ounces (155 g) unsalted butter 
  • 5 ounces (155 g) bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao), chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder 
  • 2 large whole eggs plus 1 egg white 
  • ¾ cup (185 g) granulated sugar 
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Pinch sea salt 
  • ½ cup (60 g) sifted all-purpose flour 
  • Confectioner’s sugar for serving 

Whipped cream or ice cream, optional 

Directions:

Prepare the sauce: Put the wine and sugar in a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate several hours until cold. Set aside 1 dozen raspberries for garnish, then put the remainder in a small food processor or blender. Puree until smooth, then add the chilled red wine syrup and puree again. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds, pressing firmly with a spatula.  

Prepare the cakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour the insides of four 1-cup (250-ml) ramekins, shaking out excess flour.  

 Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and espresso powder. Let stand until the chocolate melts, then whisk to blend. 

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg white. Add the sugar gradually, whisking well. Add the vanilla and salt. Whisk until the sugar is no longer grainy. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to blend. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour. 

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared ramekins. They will be about two-thirds full. Set them on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the cakes are well risen and mounded on top, with many surface cracks, 30 to 32 minutes. 

Protecting your hands with oven mitts, immediately invert a cake onto an individual dessert plate, then quickly invert onto another dessert plate so that the cake is right side up. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Let cool for 5 minutes. 

Spoon the red wine raspberry sauce around the warm cakes, dividing it evenly. Scatter the reserved raspberries on top of the sauce. Dust the surface of the cakes with confectioner’s sugar.  Serve immediately, with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. 

Suggested Pairings:

Bel Vino Winery ~ Prima Vintners Select -Aged in French oak barrels for 10 years, Prima is incredibly silky, smooth and caramel like, with a great balance of flavor and sweetness.

Chapin Winery ~ Chapin Allure Bubbly Sweet Moscato – Flavors of honeysuckle, apricots and pears.

Lorimar Winery ~ NV Dolce Vita – A blend of several years Zinfandel harvests that date back 15 plus years. With luscious chocolate, caramel, brown sugar on the nose with a rich, sweet finish. Smooth, seductive and sultry; a true treasure.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ Sparkling Gewurztraminer – Finished with a delicate sweetness that enhances the overall fruity character.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California


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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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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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WINE MEETS CHEESE

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Wine Meets Cheese

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

CHARDONNAY

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


Suggested Pairings:

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

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

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

ZINFANDEL

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

    Suggested Pairings:

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

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

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


CABERNET SAUVIGNON

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


Suggested Pairings:

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

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

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

Content and photo courtesy of The Wine Institute of California.

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Winter in Wine Country

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Winter in the Vines

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

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

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

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

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

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HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND BLACK OLIVE TART

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Heirloom Tomato & Black Olive Tart

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

Makes one 9-inch tart to serve 6 to 8 

Ingredients

Tart dough 

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Pairings:

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

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

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

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

Recipe & photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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HARVEST PLATTER WITH DUELING DIPS

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Harvest Platter with Dueling Dips

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

Ingredients

Green Goddess Dip 

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

 Roasted Red Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Dip 

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

Directions

Green Goddess Dip:

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

 Makes about 1 cup (.25 l) 

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

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

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

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

Makes about ¾ cup (175 ml) 

Suggested Pairings:

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

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

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

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

Recipe and photo provided by The Wine Institute of California

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