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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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Harvest is Here! Discover the Unique Tools and Techniques Temecula Valley Winemakers Use to Produce Some of Your Favorite Wines

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Winemaking is equal parts agriculture, science, and art. This magical combination has allowed for infinite permutations and possibilities for different styles and flavors of wines, and captivated wine lovers all over the world.

While many may assume that wine is simply fermented grape juice, from soil to grape to cellar to glass, there are, in fact, many, many options available to the winemaker when it comes to crafting a unique product. Some are more common – like aging the wine in small or large oak barrels. Other techniques are less traditional, and may be linked to a winery’s signature style, a winemaker’s preference, or a desire to experiment with something new and different.

Since harvest in Temecula Valley has officially begun, we thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain on some of this magic that happens in the winery. So, we caught up with a few Temecula Valley winemakers who shared with us some of the offbeat techniques and traditions they use to create the region’s world class wines.

Nick & Cindy Palumbo
Owners, Palumbo Winery

Palumbo Vineyard & Winery

In addition to only farming their own grapes, which allows them to pick precisely and by slope and orientation based on ripeness, Palumbo does all fermentation in open bins as opposed to tanks. Owner and winemaker, Nick Palumbo, feels this offers a much more hands-on approach.

“Oxygen is our friend during fermentation and punching down, and stirring of the active fermentation helps in a lot of ways,” he says. “Healthy fermentations, the efficient dissipation of heat (without costly, energy-hogging cooling units), and the binding, or ‘locking in’ of various flavor and color components are just a few reasons we do this.”

Palumbo also works with whole cluster pressing of their Viognier (grapes are neither destemmed nor crushed), resulting in more delicate, less astringent white wine due to the limited contact with skins and stems; and, hand-sorted, whole berry fermentation on their reds. Here, grapes are destemmed but not crushed, allowing the berries to more or less crush themselves under their own weight and begin fermenting with the addition of yeast. Winemaking in this way slows the release of tannin and color in order to give more control over the vinification process.

Steve Andrews
Owner, Oak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

In addition to having the first 104-foot subterranean wine cave in Temecula Valley, boasting more than 400 barrels of wine, a kitchen, banquet and tasting room, Oak Mountain is also home to a new, cutting edge piece of machinery, called “The CUBE.”

This vibrating grape destemmer ensures the gentlest possible process of removing grape berries from their stalks, and allows for raisined and overly mature grapes to remain on their stems so that they can easily be removed as waste. Only fruit free from defects is then recovered for fermentation, ensuring the resulting wine is clean and high quality.

Somerset Winery

Kurt Tiedt
President, Somerset Winery

Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Rome, Georgia…Temecula? What’s old is new again! Temecula newcomer Somerset Winery is making wine in Amphorae – giant vase-shaped clay vessels – a winemaking technique that originated thousands of years ago.

Winery president Kurt Tiedt, and winemaker David Raffaele, were intrigued by these vessels while attending the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in early 2020, and felt that they could be the key to taking their winery to the next level.

Since then, they have acquired three uniquely different amphorae – a classic Terracotta “Rotunda,” a “Terracotta Cigar,” and the “Opus 17” – a behemoth that stands over nine feet tall, has a six-inch thick interior, and weighs more than 8,000 pounds. All are imported from Italy.

These ancient vessels have seen a resurgence in recent years in many well-known wine regions because of their unique ability for winemakers to produce a wine that is somewhere between oak and stainless steel aged. While stainless steel tanks – being totally free from oxygen during fermentation – preserve the primary fruit characteristics of a wine, oak does the opposite. The porous nature of wood allows for plenty of oxygen and imparts other aromas, flavors, and additional tannin to the wine. Clay takes the best of both worlds – it, too, is porous and allows for the oxygen that is essential for giving a wine texture; but, it is neutral, so it also preserves the purity of aromas and flavors of the grapes, perfectly amplifying them in the case of quality fruit.

Somerset’s first Amphorae Syrah was just released, and is full-bodied, with mineral and earth tones and a creamy, smooth finish.

Jim Hart
Winemaker, Hart Winery

Hart Winery

Using Mission grapes from the Cazas and Hunter vineyards planted sometime between 1882 and 1905 on the Pechanga Reservation – by far the oldest wine grape plantings in Temecula Valley – Hart Winery produces a fortified Angelica wine made using the original winemaking techniques of the Franciscan missionaries. Angelica wine dates to the Mission period in California, and its name is thought to have been taken from the city of Los Angeles.

According to family history, the Hunter vineyards were planted from cuttings of original Mission Grapes taken from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside. Once extensive commercial vineyards, these two small remnant vineyards are still farmed by the descendants of the families who planted them well over 100 years ago.

DNA testing of the vines done by U.C. Davis confirms that these vines are original Mission rootstock – genetically identical to grape vines originally brought to California from Spain by Spanish Missionaries.

“[We at] Hart Winery are proud to work with the families who have preserved these heritage vineyards,” says Owner and Winemaker, Jim Hart. “We are honored to work with this exceedingly rare, ancient old vine fruit.”

Thought to be one of the first wines made in California, Angelica wines are fortified with brandy and aged for many years. Hart chooses to age their Angelica for over two years in old wine barrels, set outside in the warm Temecula sun, where the wine reacts with the heat and oxygen to develop deep caramel, hazelnut, root beer, and toffee notes. The barrels are never topped, and the heat plus the extended exposure to oxygen in un-topped barrels, ultimately changes the wine from its original light red to a brownish color as is typical for Angelica wines. It’s a rich, layered wine that makes for a decadent after-dinner drink with (or as!) dessert.

Akash Patel
Owner, Akash Winery

Akash Winery & Vineyards

Sometimes unique winemaking methods take the form of superstitions and traditions!

Akash Patel, Owner & Director of Akash Winery & Vineyards tells us they bury 11 pennies in the ground on the first day of harvest. According to the family, it’s an Indian good luck tradition that Mrs. Patel started for the winery. We’ll drink to that!

Happy Harvest!

Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press Enterprise/SGNC

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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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