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

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

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

Let’s meet a few:

Brenda Ruocco

Brenda Ruocco, Director, Wholesale Operations for South Cost Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

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

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

Patricia O’Brien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

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

Jana Prais, Sales Director, Maurice Car’rie Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: Got any hobbies outside of the winery?

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

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

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

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

Dollie Pavlinch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

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

Ted Dorr, UPS Driver

Tedd Dorr & Mattie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

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

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez, Cellar Foreman, South Coast Winery

Juan Vazquez Gutierrez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVWA: What Makes Temecula Valley so special to you?

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

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

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PAN-SEARED SALMON WITH CORN AND POBLANO SALAD

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Pan-Seared Salmon

Wild-caught California salmon is one of the culinary highlights of summer in the Golden State. A fresh corn salad with a Mexican accent is the perfect complement and would be just as compatible with halibut fillets, scallops, or shrimp. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Grenache Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 2 large poblano or Anaheim chilies 
  • 2 ears yellow corn, husked 
  • 1 cup (40 g) very coarsely chopped cilantro 
  • ½ small red onion, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Juice of 3 limes, or more to taste 
  • 1 large avocado, ripe but firm, diced 
  • 3 ounces (2/3 cup/85 g) coarsely crumbled queso fresco 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • 1 serrano chili, finely minced (optional) 

Salmon

  • 4 six-ounce (175 g) skin-on salmon fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Lime wedges for serving 

Directions:

Make the salad: Preheat the broiler. Put the poblano or Anaheim chilies on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until blackened on all sides. Let cool, then peel, remove stems and seeds, and dice. Turn the oven to 425°F (220°C). 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the corn to the boiling water and boil 30 seconds, then remove the ears with tongs and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain when cool and pat dry. With a chef’s knife, cut away the kernels. You should have about 2-1/2 cups (350 g). 

 In a large bowl, combine the diced poblano or Anaheim chilies, corn, cilantro, red onion, olive oil, and juice of 3 limes. Add the avocado and queso fresco and toss gently.  

 Season well with salt and add more lime juice if desired. If the salad is not spicy enough for you, stir in some or all of the minced serrano chili.  

 Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and put the skillet in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Season the salmon with salt. Place the fillets in the skillet, skin side down, and bake until they just flake when probed with a paring knife, about 10 minutes.  

 Serve salmon immediately with the salad on the side. 

Suggested Pairings:

Churon Inn Winery ~ 2019 Sauvignon Blanc – Well balanced with citrus flavors

Hart Winery ~ 2019 Grenache Rosé – With notes of cherry, watermelon and cranberry.

Leoness Cellars ~ 2019 CS Sauvignon Blanc – Rich citrus and stone fruit aromas are complemented by subtle hints of lemongrass and a crisp, lingering finish.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa ~ 2017 Grenache Noir Rosé – Light in body, crisp in acidity and very dry, this rosé is the perfect wine for any cuisine and any festivity.

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Welcoming Guests Back ~ Safely & Responsibly

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Temecula Valley Wine Country

The safety of visitors, loyal customers and staff of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country is our greatest priority. With the sudden global spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are trying our best to keep our guests and employees safe and appreciate your understanding of new policies and processes. We appreciate your patience while we navigate this “new normal.”

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors announced that the Governor’s office approved a variance that would allow “Dine-In-Restaurants” to re-open in our County. The Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) has defined that “dine-in restaurants” includes restaurants and brewpubs, as well as supplier licensees that permit tasting and/or private events (such as wineries, breweries, and craft distillers). While our wineries are still not allowed to offer any sort of wine tasting on property, they will be allowed to sell glasses of wine and bottles of wine, as long as their guests purchase a meal provided by the winery restaurant, a licensed caterer or a food truck. 

While this is much welcome news, many of our wineries will need some time to transition into this new way of doing business and to ensure that they are following the health and safety guidelines set forth by the State of California and Riverside County.  Many of the wineries have reduced their capacity and are requiring reservations. We will be keeping our website current with information that we receive from the wineries as to their operating hours at this time.  However, please contact the winery you wish to visit prior to visiting to ensure you’re aware of their policies and procedures. Please click HERE for a list and information on current winery operating hours and requirements prior to your visit.

Thank you, wine-loving friends, for your continued support of our Temecula Valley wineries and we look forward to welcoming you back!

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ALMOND MERINGUE TORTE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND RICOTTA CREAM

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Almond Meringue Torte

Like strawberry shortcake but more elegant, this layered dessert needs to rest for a few hours before slicing to soften the crunchy meringue. It keeps for about a day so you can serve half for dinner and enjoy the other half for a decadent breakfast the next morning. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Muscat/Moscato or Riesling.

Serves 8

Ingredients
Meringue:

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 tablespoons (45 g) finely ground toasted almonds (see Note)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour


Filling:

  • ¾ pound (350 g) whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks
  • ¾ pound (350 g) strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground raw (unroasted) pistachios, for garnish
  • Mint sprig and sliced strawberry, optional garnish


Directions

Make the meringue: Preheat two ovens to 350°F (180°C) or position two racks in the upper third and bottom third of one oven. Line two heavy rimmed baking sheets with parchment and trace three 7-1/2-inch (19-cm) circles on the paper in pencil, two circles on one sheet and one on the other. Flip the parchment over so the batter will not touch the pencil marks.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until foamy. Add the sugar gradually, then the almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then raise the speed to high and whip until the sugar has completely dissolved and the meringue stands in firm peaks when the whisk is lifted.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Gently fold in the almonds, then the butter, then the flour.

Divide the mixture evenly among the traced circles and spread into evenly thick 7-1/2-inch (19-cm) rounds. Bake until golden-brown and no longer sticky to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. If you are using one oven, shift the position of the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and lift the parchment sheets onto a cooling rack. When the meringue tortes are completely cool, carefully peel away the parchment. Don’t worry if they stick a little bit.

Make the filling: In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, brandy, and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and gently fold in the whipped cream.

In a bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, and brandy. Toss gently and let stand 5 minutes.

Place one meringue on a cake stand or platter that will fit in the refrigerator. Top with one-third of the ricotta filling, spreading it evenly to the edges. Arrange half of the berries in an even layer on top of the ricotta. Top with another and half of the remaining ricotta filling, spreading it to the edges. Top the ricotta with the remaining berries in an even layer, then place the third macaroon on top. Spread the remaining ricotta filling on top of the torte, then cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

Just before serving, garnish the top with the ground pistachios and, if desired, with a mint sprig and sliced strawberry.

NOTE: Toast whole raw almonds in a 325°F (160°C) oven until golden inside, about 25 minutes. Let cool, then grind fine in a nut grinder or food processor.

Suggested Pairings:

Baily Winery ~ 2017 Riesling – This cool and crisp white wine is perfect on a summer day, enjoy it poolside with friends and family!

Europa Village ~ 2016 Muscat Canelli – Aromas and flavors of peach, apricot and orange blossom with a nicely balanced residual sugar.

Maurice Car’rie Winery ~ 2017 Moscato – 100% Muscat Canelli, shows delicious floral and fruity flavors of mango, peach and apricot.

Somerset Winery ~ 2019 Riesling – This beautifully light and aromatic wine is floral on the nose and offers notes of spicy cinnamon, baked apples, kiwi and pears.


Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California


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Temecula Wine Pairings for Your Thanksgiving Table

Friday, November 1st, 2019

In just a few weeks, your tummy will be rumbling and your mouth salivating with the promise of the once-a-year feast that is Thanksgiving. America’s biggest food holiday serves up the chance to do some serious (and seriously fun) fun wine and food pairing. Here in Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country, we’ve got the perfect wine pairings to go with each Thanksgiving course. No matter what your budget, this simple guide will have your friends and family giving thanks to you for making their holiday meal extra special.

Light Appetizers + Mellow Whites
These bright yet mellow whites pair well with lighter dishes to kick off your Thanksgiving meal. The floral notes of a viognier complement a fall salad of pears, blue cheese and walnuts; a selection of fruit and cheeses match nicely with a chardonnay; and light pinot grigio will sing next to your pumpkin soup.

Callaway Vineyard & Winery 2016 Special Selection Chardonnay; $25.00

Danza Del Sol Winery, 2017 Pinot Grigio; $30.00

Briar Rose Winery 2017 Estate Viognier; $28.00

Herbacious Side Dishes + Spicy Reds
The spicy notes derived from these unique wine grapes pair especially well with stuffings and gravies seasoned with holiday herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary. Having a vegetarian Thanksgiving? These wines work well with earthy mushroom and winter squash dishes too!

Mount Palomar 2014 Castelleto Sangiovese; $40.00

Leoness Cellars 2016 Cellar Selection Zinfandel; $42.00

Doffo Vineyards 2016 Syrah; $62.00

Poultry & Meats + Bold Reds
Whether it’s wine or food, everyone looks forward to the main course. The dark fruit flavors in these big reds will enhance similar flavors in your herb-rubbed turkey or peppered roasts. Whether you’re serving poultry, lamb or beef, all three are bold enough to stand up to a rich meat course.

Baily Winery, 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon; $40.00

Monte De Oro Winery 2015 Merlot; $32.00

Wiens 2017 Reserve Tempranillo; $65.00

Dessert + Sweet Wines
Your Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without dessert, and no dessert is complete without wine – at least that’s how we feel! Apple pies and pear tarts are practically made to pair with a sweet moscato, where red delicious apples, kiwi , pears, and apricots come together nicely with honeysuckle and jasmine undertones.

Somerset Winery 2018 Muscat; $23.00

South Coast Winery Black Jack Port; 18.00

Robert Renzoni Vineyards 2017 Moscato; $22

One Meal, One Wine
On a wine-buying budget? Or just looking to simplify your evening by serving one wine from start to finish? Any of these four, well-priced wines fit the bill. Each is lighter on the palate, with only subtle hints of sweetness making them suitable to drink from appetizers all the way to dessert. Bon appetit!

Maurice Car’rie 2017 Chenin Blanc; $20.95

Miramonte Winery 2018 Rosé; $28.00

Falkner Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc; $27.95

Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery 2014 “50/50” Blend; 45.00

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POTATO FOCACCIA WITH OLIVES AND ROSEMARY

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Potato Focassia with Olives & Rosemary

Welcome guests to your home for dinner with a glass of your favorite Temecula Valley rosé and a slice of warm olive focaccia. If you’ve baked the focaccia hours before, you can reheat it quickly in a hot oven, although it’s plenty tasty at room temperature, too. Pack it on a picnic or a hike with your favorite salami and cheeses. Or adapt the topping to showcase a seasonal fresh vegetable like halved cherry tomatoes or strips of roasted sweet pepper. Adding cooked potato to the dough produces an especially moist and tasty result.

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 pound (250 g) Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 3⁄4 cups (465 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 1⁄2 teaspoons (8 g) kosher or sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating and brushing
  • 24 California olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary or dried oregano, finely crumbled

Directions

Put the potatoes in a small saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Do not add salt. Bring to a simmer over high heat, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced, 15 minutes or more, depending on size.

Remove from the heat, set aside 1 1∕3 cups (330 ml) of the potato water, and then drain the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and pass them through a ricer or food mill fitted with a fine disk into a bowl. If you don’t have a ricer or food mill, mash the potatoes well with a potato masher.

Refrigerate the potato water until it cools to 105° to 115°F (40° to 46°C). Put 1∕3 cup (80 ml) of the cooled potato water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let soften for about 3 minutes, then whisk with a fork to dissolve and let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk to blend.

Add the olive oil, riced potato, and the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) potato water to the proofed yeast. Stir to combine, then add the flour gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Keeping the dough in the bowl, knead it gently by hand until smooth, adding just enough additional flour to keep it from sticking to your hand. You should not need more than 1 to 2 tablespoons. Shape the dough into a ball and coat lightly with olive oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 1∕2 to 2 hours.

Punch the dough down. Using 1 tablespoon olive oil, grease the bottom and sides of an 11-by-17-inch (28-by-43 cm) rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. With well-oiled fingers, poke and prod the dough into a rectangle that fits the pan. The dough is elastic and will want to spring back. If it resists your attempts to flatten it enough to cover the pan, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. If it still springs back from the edges, let it rest for 5 minutes longer and try once more. You should be able to flatten it sufficiently after a couple of rests, but don’t worry if the dough doesn’t completely fill the pan. Let rise, uncovered, until puffy, about 1 1∕2 hours.

While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). If you have a pizza stone (or baking tiles), put it in the oven on the middle rack to preheat—ideally for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Arrange the olives, evenly spaced, on the surface of the focaccia, then gently press them into place. Brush the surface of the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then scatter the rosemary and a little salt on top. Place the pan on the baking stone, if using, and bake until the focaccia is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet back to front halfway through.

Immediately slide a long metal offset spatula under the focaccia to make sure it is not sticking to the baking sheet, then slide the focaccia onto a rack to cool. Slice into desired portions with a bread knife and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 11-by-17-inch (28 by-43 cm) focaccia

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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GRILLED SAUSAGES WITH FIG AND ONION JAM

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Grilled Sausages with Fig & Onion Jam

This recipe couldn’t be more perfect for a Father’s Day or summer BBQ. And chances are, you’ll find many other uses for this fragrant sweet-tart jam. Enjoy it on a grilled-cheese or ham sandwich or serve it with a cheese or charcuterie board. It’s the perfect complement for fresh goat cheese or a tangy Cheddar. Serve it with grilled sausages and pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

Ingredients
¼ pound (125 g) dried Calimyrna figs, stems removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, about 10 ounces (315 g), halved and thinly sliced from root to stem
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or more to taste
4 fresh Italian sausages, hot or sweet, 5 to 6 ounces (155 g to 185 g) each

Directions
Put the figs in a small saucepan with 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, thyme, and fennel seed. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, golden-brown, and sweet, about 30 minutes. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

While the onions cook, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Lift the figs out of the liquid with a slotted spoon and slice thinly. Add the figs to the onions, along with the sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the fig-cooking liquid. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has been absorbed and the flavors have merged, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning. The jam should be moist with a balanced sweet-tart flavor.

Grill the sausages until they are nicely browned all over and feel firm when probed, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately with the warm jam.

Suggested Pairings:

Akash Winery ~ 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – Bright aromas of pomegranate & fresh raspberry with hints of vanilla bean. Tart and round on the palate with tastes of cranberry, dark pepper, vanilla and cherry.

Chapin Family Vineyards ~ 2015 Syrah – Full-bodied taste, flavors of chocolate, blueberry and caramel with a hint of vanilla and finishes with a hint of spicy peppers.

Falkner Winery ~ 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – This delicious Cabernet has wonderful flavors of blueberry, blackberry, coco, and licorice on the finish. This is an easy to drink Cabernet without heavy tannins on the finish.

Leoness Cellars ~ 2015 Cellar Selection Syrah – This Syrah offers sweet blackberry and black cherry flavors complemented by hints of tobacco, black licorice and vanilla.

Photo and recipe courtesy of the Wine Institute of California.

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Wine Country Recipe ~ Dungeness Crab Frittata

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Slice this frittata into thin wedges for a passed hors d’oeuvre or serve more generous portions with a tuft of salad as a first course. To dress it up for the holidays, top wedges with a dollop of crème fraîche and California sturgeon caviar. Serve with your favorite Temecula Valley Chardonnay or Sparkling Wine.

Serves 6

Ingredients
½ pound (250 g) fingerling potatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
6 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives
¼ pound fresh Dungeness crabmeat

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Put the potatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, season with salt, and turn to coat with the oil and salt. Bake until tender when pierced, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then slice into ½-inch (12 mm) pieces. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with ½ teaspoon salt, several grinds of pepper, and the dill and chives. Stir in the crabmeat and potatoes, reserving a few larger pieces of crab for placing on the surface of the frittata later.

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the egg mixture and use a rubber spatula to distribute the crab and potato evenly. Cook without stirring for about 2 minutes, until the eggs begin to set, then place the reserved chunks of crabmeat on top. Continue cooking without stirring until the frittata is about two-thirds set, with some patches of liquid egg on the surface. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the surface is firm to the touch, about 6 minutes longer.

Remove from the oven and slide the frittata onto a cutting board. Let rest at least 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped dill, then slice into wedges and serve. The frittata is best warm, not hot.

Suggested Pairings: 

Callaway Vineyard & Winery ~ 2016 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay
Flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and hints of honeysuckle. Floral scents and an oaky finish will leave you longing for more. 

Oak Mountain 2017 Chardonnay ~ This chardonnay is lightly oaked with French oak imparting rich flavors of vanilla, butterscotch, creme brulee and caramel.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa Brut Sparkling ~ Crisp acidity and delicate yeastiness are enveloped in a rich tropical fruit aroma. A perfect change of pace!

Wilson Creek Winery Brut Sparkling Wine ~ Light and refreshing, and very fun. Great in Mimosas! A fun party sparkling wine.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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December Winery Events

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Avensole Winery
Hosted Tour & Wine Tasting /Available on Sunday of each the month / 2pm-3:30pm / For every adventure, there is discovery, for every unique place, there is a story. Take a guided journey through our lush vineyards and experience our rich heritage and handcrafted Avensole wines / Cost. $35 / Reservations required. Please call 951.252.2003 x312 to reserve.

Gourmet Cheese Artisanal Tour & Wine Tasting / Available on Friday of each month / 12pm / For the ultimate Wine Country experience, delight in an educational tour through our picturesque vineyard vistas and conclude this tour with a culinary treat of artisanal wine pairings featuring 7 Avensole wines / Cost: $75 / Reservations required online at link: http://www.avensolewinery.com/res-369934

Baily Winery
Estate Library Tasting / Every Thursday-Sunday / Available 11am-4pm / Enjoy exclusive library tasting of 5 different vintages (varietal will vary monthly). Tasting will take place at Baily Estate Tasting Room located on Pauba Road / Tours are available upon request / For reservations and pricing information please call Lisa at 951-972-9768

Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Tree Lighting Celebration / December 14 / 5:00-9:00pm / Our Annual Barrel Tree Lighting Celebration is just around the corner! Bring the kids and family to meet Santa and enjoy cookie decorating, a hot chocolate bar, Christmas Carolers, discounts on wine, gifts and so much more! Come experience the magic of Christmas in wine country at Callaway Winery! /R.S.V.P. to (951) 676-4001. Free Admission.

Prix Fixe Friday & Sunday at Meritage / 5pm to 8pm / For $35 guests may enjoy a starter, an entrée and a dessert / Live Music offered on Friday nights / Reservation is not necessary. For menu information call 951.587.8889

Brunch Specials every Sunday at Meritage / 11am / Cost is $25 / Includes a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice, entrée and dessert. All food from Meritage is farm-to-table, either grown on property in restaurant garden or locally outsourced.

Callaway Winery Tours offered daily / 11am and 1pm / Tour only, $10 per person. Tour with tasting, $25 – tour includes 1 tank sample, 1-barrel sample and 4 additional tastes at the Tasting Bar / Reservations not necessary, but for 10 or more highly recommended / For more information call 951.676.4001

Carter Estate Winery and Resort
Elegant Food & Wine Pairing / $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member / 1pm & 3pm Monday-Sunday / Reserve your place for an indulgent wine and food pairing designed to tantalize the senses. Guests enjoy five specially selected Carter Estate Winery wines paired perfectly with a variety of cured meats, artisan cheeses and accompanied with seasonal accoutrements. Each pairing lasts approximately 90 minutes and is limited to just eight participants to allow for one-on-one interaction / Reservations recommended – Book a pairing on CarterEstateWinery.com

Falkner Winery
Wine Appreciation Class / December 15 / 10am -12:30pm / Designated for all levels of wine knowledge; $45/person /$40 Connoisseur/ $20 VIP; $70/person with lunch option. RSVP’s required 951-676-8231 x.109 or wineclub@falknerwinery.com

Sip N Paint Class “Personalized Ornaments” / December 20 / 6pm-8pm / $35 per person; $30 for members / Includes all materials. Wines available for purchase by glass or bottle.  Members do receive applicable discounts / Reservations are required online @Artfusionbdk.myshopify.com

Fazeli Cellars
Salsa Night
/ December 21 / Doors Open at 6:30 with 45-minute Salsa Lesson / No partner or experience needed! Admission fee is $20 for non-members (plus tax) and $15 (plus tax) for wine club members includes a glass of Sangria / Special Food Menu Items! Wine, Beer, Sangria available for purchase! /Purchase Tickets Here: http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-390887/Salsa-Night-111618.html

New Year’s Eve Party “An Evening in Casablanca” / December 31 /$120 Non-Members | $100 Members / Includes: Champagne Greeting, 3 Course Dinner & Live Music, DJ, Dancing, Casino and a Champagne Toast at Midnight. Wine & Beer Available for purchase / Purchase Tickets Here: http://shop.fazelicellars.com/res-390943/New-Years-Eve-2018.html

Leoness Cellars
Winemaker Dinner / December 6 / 6:00pm – 10:00pm / $95 Members; $115 Non-Members, plus tax / VIP seating with owners, Mike and Lisa Rennie, in the Winder Room. $150 plus tax, no discounts. Only 16 seats available Enjoy a four course, wine-paired Winemaker’s Dinner hosted by Leoness Cellars winemaker, Tim Kramer and Executive Chef, Daragh Matheson. Sparkling wine reception under the Oak Tree and dinner following in The Restaurant at Leoness / Seating is limited / Reservations and tickets available by calling (951) 302-7601 ext.2

Lorimar Vineyard & Winery
Tree Lighting / December 2 / 5pm – 8pm / Kick off the holiday season off at Lorimar Winery with Santa, Cookies, and more! Free to enjoy but RSVP is requested by visiting us at https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408801/Tree-Lighting.html

Smoke & Vine: An Evening of Cigars and Wine / December 7 / 7:00p / Tickets: $85.00 ($76.50 Wine Club) Join us for a relaxing evening on the Vineyard Lawn; including four course dinner from Chef Jorge, paired with cigars from Casa Lovo, and Lorimar award-winning wines / For reservations please go to: https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408695/Smoke-Vine-An-Evening-Of-Cigars-And-Wine.html

Hanukkah / December 9 / 5pm – 8pm / Celebrate Hanukkah at Lorimar Winery with a Menorah Lighting, Latkes, and more! / Free to enjoy but RSVP is requested by visiting us at https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408802/Hanukkah.html

Sunday Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 11am –3 pm / $35 Adult / $31.50 WC / $15 (Ages 4-12) / Brunch includes one mimosa or glass of beer for ages 21+ / To Make a Reservation – https://shop.lorimarwinery.com/res-408083/Sunday-Brunch.html

Mount Palomar Winery
Paint Nite at Mount Palomar Winery / December 2, 9, 15 / 1:00p-3:00p / Tickets $45; Use the coupon code CREATE30 to save $15! / Raise your glass to a NEW kind of night out! Paint Nite® invites you to create art over a glass of wine at a Mount Palomar Winery, guided by a professional artist and party host. Grab your friends and spend two hours drinking, laughing, and flexing your creative muscles. There’s no experience necessary and we’ll provide all the supplies, so you don’t have to worry about a thing (except having a great time!) / For reservations: https://www.paintnite.com/venues/mt-palomar-winery-133232

Peltzer Family Cellars
Peltzer Ice Rink / Open daily now through January 6th / 3pm-9pm / Ice Rink Bar Open Friday through Sunday 4-8:40pm / The farm is freezing over, y’all! For the first time ever Peltzer Farms will be featuring a full on Ice Rink! Ice Rink will be closed if it’s raining, for safety reasons. Ice Rink may be closed on specific dates based on private events. Admission (includes a pair of skates) General Admission $15; Kids 5 and under (with paid general admission) $11; Crush Club (wine club) members get $2 off admission prices. Admission (if you bring your own skates) General Admission $13; Kids 5 and under (with paid general admission) $9.

Ponte Winery
Happy Hour in The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn / Every Monday-Thursday / 4pm-6pm / Free to attend / Head to Temecula Wine Country’s only cocktail bar, The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn, for happy hour specials on craft beer, flatbreads, Ponte wine on tap and more! Menu items $6 and up / For more information please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com

Brunch at Bouquet Restaurant / Every Saturday & Sunday / 7:30am-3:00pm / Offering indoor & outdoor seating options, Bouquet is the perfect spot to gather for a gourmet brunch. Enjoy a relaxing ambiance with stunning fountain courtyard, pond & vineyards views / To view menu and for reservations please visit www.pontevineyardinn.com.

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
Christmas at The Vineyard Rose / December 24th – Tuesday, December 25th / Brunch: 8:00am – 3:30pm | Dinner: 5:00pm – 9:00pm /Celebrate Christmas at The Vineyard Rose Restaurant with Christmas Day brunch and Christmas Eve & Christmas Day dinner / Reservations are required. Make a reservation at SouthCoastWinery.com

Harmonizing Hatha at the Grapeseed Spa / Every Mondays & Wednesdays / 9:00am – 10:00am This unique class enables you to find balance of body and mind. With gentle stretching, focused breathing and meditation, your instructor will take you on a journey through your personal chakras resulting in a mind and body that are more fluid and at ease / 4 people or more | $35 per person, 3 people or less | $65 per person / Spa Members | $16 per person / Reservation Information: Call 877.552.1731 to book your class.

Behind the Scenes Wine Tours / Tours are held daily at 11 AM, 1 PM and 3PM, Monday through Sunday/ $45pp; $40pp Wine Club Member or Military / Learn more about our spectacular Southern California Temecula winery with a behind-the-scenes wine tour, from vineyards to crush pad. Each tour concludes with 5 wines paired with an individual plate of specially prepared lite-bite foods, designed to enhance your wine knowledge and experience / Reservation Information: Call 866-994-6379 Ext. 7217 to reserve your spot today / Due to the limited sizes of each tour, reservations are required with prepayment, and are non-refundable. Guests must be over 21 years of age to attend.

Wiens Family Cellars

New Year’s Eve 2018 Celebration / December 31 / 7pm-12:30am / $125 per guest / Join us this New Year’s Eve for our NYE dinner party! Enjoy a seated dinner followed by hours of DJ dancing to send the year 2018 off in style / For reservations please visit http://www.wienscellars.com/res-411819/New-Years-Eve-Celebration-2018.html

Wilson Creek Winery

New Year’s Eve Party / December 31 / 8 pm – 12:30 am/ Price: $150 / Wine Club $135 / Enjoy a 3-course food and wine-paired dinner with live music, a Dance Party with DJ, and a Late-Night Dessert Bar! Party Favors and an All-Night Bar included! Plan your last night of 2018, today!  / Purchase tickets: https://shop.wilsoncreekwinery.com/RESERVE.AMS

Bubble Brunch Buffet / Every Sunday 10am-3pm / $51.95, Buffet only: $41.95, Children: $16.95 / Enjoy all your breakfast favorites, omelet stations, waffle stations, seafood stations, carving stations and dessert stations with beautiful vineyard views / Buffet (+ unlimited sparkling). Now serving Bloody Mary’s! / Reservations can be made at www.wilsoncreekwinery.com or call 951.699.9463 for additional information.

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Temecula Valley Sparkling Wines for the Holidays

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

As the holiday season approaches, wine lovers will be searching for wines that complement holiday dinners and can please a wide array of palates. Whether it’s a small gathering or a large soiree, Temecula Valley sparkling wines offer something for every wine personality. Sparkling wines are ideal for special occasions, and as the holidays approach, we’ve asked our winemakers which are their favorites that will work well for holiday entertaining and gift-giving.

Thornton Non-Vintage Brut

A blend of primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which gives the wine an exciting, crisp fruit character while taking on a clean and straight forward yeast flavor from the lengthy tirage time of 28 months using the méthode champenoise process. The addition of a small amount of Pinot Noir helps to round out the wine, giving it complexity and uniting the white varietals. The Thornton NV Brut has a lot of finesse along with apple, pear and tropical aromas, which meld with toasty yeast flavors, while the finish is long and creamy. $33 Bottle

South Coast Winery Sparkling Pinot Grigio

This sparkling Pinot Grigio is worlds apart from what is normally expected with this style of dry white wine. Finished as a “Brut” this is a Pinot Grigio with wonderful nuances of pears and apples, a touch of tropical fruitiness and crisp acidity. “Whenever toasting a special occasion, serve this wonderful sparkler and let the good times roll!” says winemaker Jon McPherson. $24 Bottle

Carter Estate 2014 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling

This product has been painstakingly nurtured to deliver a sparkling wine with the finesse, flavor and aroma of a fine méthode champenoise sparkling wine. The process included barrel fermentation and barrel aging of approximately 8% of the cuvee prior to the secondary fermentation. Once the Blanc de Blanc had been blended and undergone secondary fermentation, it was aged for an additional fifteen months on the yeast lees. This time on the yeast lees helped to develop the yeasty, toasty aromas, a very fine bubble bead, wonderfully full creamy textures and an extraordinary mousse. The bottle is brimming with fresh apple and delicate floral aromas; a hint of oak shows in the background with a nuance of vanilla, toasty cookie and a rich yeasty character. This wine has a very bright acidity and a refreshingly dry finish. “Definitely our finest sparkling release to date,” states winemaker Jon McPherson. $34 Bottle

Cougar Dolce

100% Estate Malvasia Bianca sparkling wine. Sweet, Muscat-like with notes of apricot, peaches and honey, for the taste buds that like more of a dessert flavor.

Oak Mountain Winery Raspberry Sparkling

This refreshing sparkling wine explodes with a slightly sweet raspberry candy touch.  Great for sipping by the pool or celebrating your special occasion.  Winner of a Silver medal – Orange County Fair Wine Competition.  Pairs well with ham, turkey, prime rib or most any main dish.  $25 Bottle

Though Temecula Valley wines can be ordered through the wineries’ online stores and shipped to most states, what better excuse to visit the destination and try the wines onsite. Temecula Valley is conveniently located in the center of Southern California, just an hour drive from San Diego, Palm Springs and Orange County and 90 minutes from Los Angeles. Many winery restaurants offer special holiday dining menus that pair wonderfully with their holiday wines. Resort, hotel, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rentals offer special packages and pricing for Sunday through Thursday stays.

 

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