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A Bright Future for Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Get to Know the Next Generation and Youngest Rising Stars of This Top Wine Destination

Damian & Lucca Doffo

While many think Temecula Valley is a relatively young wine region, this Southern California wine hot spot actually celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018! In fact, Temecula Valley has been around long enough now that the next generation of winemakers and winery employees are starting to leave their mark on this dynamic wine destination. It’s not uncommon to see multiple family members working at the same winery, sons and daughters learning the ropes and making wines alongside their parents, and young, fresh-faced winemakers just starting out in their careers staining their hands purple in the cellar.

From Temecula Valley Wine Country pioneer Phil Baily’s 24-year-old grandson Alex, who is an integral part of the Baily harvest crew alongside Phil and Phil’s son Patrick, to Nick and Cindy Palumbo’s son Reed who has been put to work in all aspects of the winery, vineyard and production at Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery, to second generation winemaker Damian Doffo’s very young children who are regularly seen playing amongst the vines and at the winery, the future is bright Temecula Valley! Passionate winemakers, winery owners, and staff of all ages are all bringing a touch of magic to the region that Wine Enthusiast Magazine called one of the Top 10 Wine Destinations in the world in 2019.

We caught up with a few of Temecula’s youngest winemakers and next generation winery employees to learn what it’s like not only to work with family, but to be the faces of the future of Southern California Wine Country.

Jeff Carter, President of Carter Hospitality Group

Jeff Carter

Jeff is the son of Jim Carter, founder of Carter Hospitality Group and South Coast Winery, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Jeff was originally the CFO for Carter Hospitality Group from 1998 to 2011, ultimately becoming president in 2011.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

JC: Working with family can be a blessing and a curse. While we have many common goals to help the business succeed, we sometimes have different approaches. Since we’re more familiar, we can be and are more direct with each other versus a traditional corporate business setting. At the end of the day, we are family and work through those differences, ultimately bringing everyone closer together. Having lost my mother when I was 24 years old, I am thankful for the time spent with my father working on new endeavors. I hear so many people wishing they had spent more time with their loved ones; I get to do that on a daily basis.   

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JC: I think we are starting to see some of the transition from one generation to the next and I am not yet sure how it will all work out. Will the new visions of the next generation turn into reality, or will time and experience build an appreciation for what the first generation has built? I believe the next generation of winemakers will continue to create one-of-a-kind experiences for the public, just as the first generation did. The next generation has newer technologies and data to refine the quality of the wines and are able to cast a larger net outside of Southern California – which is exciting to see.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JC: Temecula Valley continues to build a stable of serious wineries making amazing and complex wines. I see Temecula Valley Wine Country expanding its presence in wine consumers’ minds and hearts, whether that is pulling in guests to the valley from a larger geographic area or putting a bottle of wine on their dinner table 3,000 miles away. Temecula has matured as a wine destination and wine aficionados across the country will continue to take notice.

Joseph Wiens, Winemaker, Wiens Family Cellars

Joseph Wiens

Joseph Wiens is one of about ten other members of the Wiens family that work at the winery. He followed in his father and founding winemaker Doug’s footsteps, and has been the head winemaker for nearly 11 years now.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

JW: Overall, it’s been great.  Our (huge) family all has special strengths in their positions, and we all work together to make sure our guests enjoy their time with us.  We have a tradition at our winery that gives the winemaking staff relative autonomy over our winemaking program, which is very freeing, and allows our creative sides flourish. Also, sometimes we fight (just like any other family).

TWVA: Fighting in any family is to be expected! At least you have wine to get through it. Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JW: The younger generation pushes to try new winemaking techniques, less traditional blends, and branding that resonates with our generation.  Since we have so many age groups involved at our winery, we tend to diversify our portfolio of offerings, which translates into a wine list that appeals to a very wide audience.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JW: I see more of the younger generation getting involved with winemaking and ownership.  That will help to keep Temecula Wine Country fresh, exciting, and relevant as a Southern California destination. 

With so many family members working alongside you, you must have some great stories to tell! Can you share?

JW: Although we’re a big, diverse family, we always get together for family gatherings.  Once the adults have enjoyed enough beer and wine, they challenge each other to a “feats of strength” game called leg wrestling (which looks as strange as it sounds).  Basically, two people lay on their backs and try to flip over the other person, using only their leg.  My uncle, Big Dave was the final boss, and to my memory, has never been beaten. 

Damian Doffo, CEO & Winemaker, Doffo Winery

Damian Doffo

Damian is the 37-year-old son of Marcelo Doffo, who purchased the land and planted vines in 1994, and wasted no time involving the whole family in the business, including Damian and his sisters Brigitte and Samantha. Damian has been the winemaker for 12 years, and also became CEO five years ago. Big sister Samantha is in charge of events and tours for the winery, and Damian’s other sister Brigitte handles all things related to design, merchandise, and aesthetic for the business.

TVWA: What is it like working with family?

DD: We love it! Our inside joke is that we even hang out after work. That’s how you know we really like each other! 

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

DD: I feel very lucky to be in the Temecula Valley amongst great company of young, talented winemakers. It’s been fun watching my peers develop and produce some amazing wines in the Valley.

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

DD: The next generation is putting their twist and mark on the valley. I believe that this last year really put some separation between the wineries that pivoted and adapted versus those that bunkered down and went static through the pandemic.  

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

DD: I see Temecula continuing to create its own legacy in the wine world. Our model doesn’t conform to the norms, but it’s working for us! Temecula needs to own its diversity and its tourism appeal and run with it! Celebrate the uniqueness of what our small slice of heaven offers the world.

Justin Knight, Winemaker, Danza del Sol Winery & Masia de la Vinya Winery

Justin Knight

Justin’s first job in wine was in the tasting room at Danza del Sol Winery over 12 years ago, where he first developed an interest in the production side of the business. After working under then-winemaker Mike Tingley and assistant winemaker Renato Sais, he learned the ropes, ultimately being promoted to head winemaker for both Danza del Sol and sister property Masia de la Vinya in 2018.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

JK: I wouldn’t want to be a “young winemaker” anywhere else. Being an up-and-comer in most industries can be an intimidating time, but the previous generation of winemakers has set a strong foundation which has allowed the beginnings of a new generation to come and thrive. There is also more of a camaraderie factor in the valley, that I don’t believe is as strong in many other regions. 

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

JK: Experimentation is one word that comes to mind in searching for differences in winemaking styles between generations. I think the younger generation will be more likely to experiment as they try and find a style of their own. Personally, I pull a lot of inspiration from the “old school” winemaking techniques that I learned from my predecessors, while also using a fair amount of “new” practices in order to make the best quality wine I can. 

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

JK: I see Temecula continuing to grow and getting more world recognition as our region’s potential is fully realized. 

Spenser Epperson, Sales Associate, Wiens Family Cellars

Spenser Epperson

Spenser’s mother was the first non-family employee at Wiens. She started out as a sales associate in the temporary tasting room trailer while the family was building what is now the winery’s main tasting room, ultimately becoming an assistant manager before retiring ten years after she started. Spenser has been a sales associate at Wiens for two years now.

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

SE: There has been noticeable change in the level of service expected, as well as amenities desired over the last 15 years or so. Many tasting rooms in the Valley were a belly-up style, and more informal for many years. With the change of guard, so to speak, the expectations are different, and many wineries have changed to meet demands like table service, on-site restaurants, and other amenities.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

SE: I believe Temecula is beginning to find itself with regard to what grape varieties can thrive and evoke a sense of place in our warm and arid climate. We are in the very early stages of transformation from a weekend destination to a serious wine region as the next generation of winemakers apply new ideas and begin to assert a more dominant role in the valley.

Meanwhile, my generation is beginning a transformation of their own. I feel my generation is much more open to new experiences. While my parents would stick to ordering a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay on a wine menu, my generation is much more open to new experiences, and is willing to try more esoteric grape varieties on a wine menu. They are also beginning to reach that age when my own parents began to discover wine. It is only a matter of time before these trends converge. When that happens, watch out!

TVWA: It’s great that Temecula Valley is home to so many unique grape varieties in addition to the classics! Can you share any funny stories from your experience working at Wiens?

SE: My mother once brought home a 2012 Grand Rouge (The Wiens Family flagship wine) for me to try. She opened it and left it on the counter. I found it and thought it was left out overnight, so I dumped it down the kitchen sink! Needless to say, I was sad when, years later, I finally had a chance to taste how good it is. We now laugh when we remember that story.

Olivia Bue, Winemaker, Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Olivia Bue

Olivia has been part of the winemaking team at Robert Renzoni Vineyards since 2014, becoming head winemaker in 2017. Her passion and commitment to quality have contributed in no small way to the large number of 90+ point scores Robert Renzoni wines have received over the years.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

OB: Honestly, I feel like I have a lot to live up to being among the youngest in the valley and surrounded by many incredibly talented winemakers here who have been making wine for decades. I have definitely leaned on them through the years to fully understand this region’s idiosyncrasies. When I first began working in Temecula Valley as a 23-year-old, I dreaded when people asked me my age, but here I am 9 years later and feel so proud of this opportunity to grow with the wine region.  

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

OB: The next generation of winemakers may be a bit more adventurous with old school winemaking philosophies. I think it’s great to see young adults enthused about wine, so our market is much bigger now than it was two decades ago. We younger winemakers are able to connect with that audience as well as the older consumers.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

OB: The main goal is for Temecula Valley to get recognized for quality winemaking beyond just Southern California. Seeing visitors specifically flying into Southern California to come spend a weekend in the beautiful Temecula Valley is so exciting. The unity this region has among the winery leaders is incredibly special. 

Dakota Denton, Winemaker, Gershon Bachus Vintners

Dakota Denton

Dakota Denton is the 35-year-old winemaker at the picturesque Gershon Bachus Vintners along the De Portola Wine trail, where he has been working in winemaking since 2013.

TVWA: What is it like being among the youngest winemakers in Temecula?

DD: Being a young winemaker I find that people are surprised about my age, and time spent working for Gershon Bachus Vintners. It’s been amazing to be able to work with some of Temecula’s great winemakers at such a young age. I was lucky enough to start working full-time in production at the age of 20. The amount of support I have received from the winemakers before me and the encouragement to keep on pursuing my dreams has helped me meet my goals at a young age. 

TVWA: Do you see any differences in the way you and the next generation of winemakers and wine country personalities approach business, the community, and winemaking when compared to previous generations?

DD: As for winemaking, I’m going to have to say no, because the wine industry is constantly updating and innovating; so, as a winemaker – young or old – we are constantly trying to keep up with the times, and the best winemaking procedures to make the best product we can.

TVWA: What do you see for the future of Temecula Valley Wine Country?

Growing up in Temecula, I’ve been able to see wine country grow and grow, and the wine get better and better every year. Temecula Valley Wine Country is producing world class wines, and, as young winemakers, it’s our job to keep the quality next-level.

TVWA: Got any stories from when you were just starting out in the business?

DD: During my first production job on a hot summer day during harvest, the cellar crew and I got in trouble at work for starting a water fight that went on for about 10 minutes – all of us just spraying each other with hoses and dumping buckets of water on each other. It was a blast.

Photos courtesy of Carter Hospitality Group, Doffo Winery, Wiens Family Cellars, Danza Del Sol Winery, Robert Renzoni Vineyards and Gershon Bachus Vintners.

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Carrot Hummus with Spring Vegetable Crudités

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Carrot Hummus with Spring Vegetables

Blending carrots, chickpeas, and tahini produces a hummus with a captivating new taste. Cook the carrots first to heighten their sweetness, and then surround the fluffy spread with a garland of crunchy spring vegetables for dipping. Briefly blanching sugar snap peas and asparagus tips will brighten their color. Pair with your favorite Temecula Valley Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • ½ pound (225 g) carrots, peeled and coarsely grated 
  • Sea salt 
  • ½ teaspoon whole cumin seed or ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 can (15.5 oz/439 g) chickpeas, drained, or 2 cups cooked chickpeas 
  • 2 large cloves garlic 
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice, or more to taste 
  • ½ cup tahini 
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts  
  • Aleppo pepper, hot red pepper flakes, or paprika 
  • Spring vegetables for dipping, such as radishes, baby carrots, roasted beets, sugar snap peas, asparagus tips, Persian cucumbers, hearts of romaine, and scallions 

Directions:

Heat a 10-inch (25-cm) skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the carrots and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the carrots have wilted slightly and lost their crunch, about 3 minutes. Set the skillet aside. 

If using whole cumin seed, put the cumin seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the skillet often, until the cumin seed darkens and begins to smell fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool, then pound fine in a mortar. 

Put the carrots, toasted cumin or ground cumin, chickpeas, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Add the tahini and process until well blended. With the machine running, add enough water through the feed tube to make a smooth puree, about 1/3 cup. Add salt to taste and more lemon if desired. Process for 5 minutes to make a smooth, light hummus. Transfer to a serving plate, spreading it with a rubber spatula and making some “valleys” where oil can pool. 

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, shaking the skillet constantly, until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour the hot oil and pine nuts over the hummus. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and serve at once with vegetables for dipping. 

Suggested Pairings:

Hart Winery ~ 2019 Sauvignon Blanc – This alluring, food-friendly, classically-styled wine was produced from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown entirely in the Hart Family Vineyard. 

Longshadow Ranch Winery ~ Cloud Peak Sauvignon Blanc – A nicely crisp Sauvignon Blanc with hints of pink grapefruit. Nice sour finish.

Sweet Oaks Winery ~ 2017 Chardonnay –  The nose is bright and fresh with lemon-lime zest and golden apple aromas prevailing, due to stainless steel fermentation

Vitagliano Vineyards & Winery ~ 2018 Chardonnay – This bold yet balanced wine has aromas of peach and vanilla jumping out of the glass, it leads into a palate of velvety granny smith apple.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wine Institute of California

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Your Toughest Wine Questions Answered

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

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

Grapevines at Sunrise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Sharon Cannon, Director of Operations, Akash Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Jim Hart, Winemaker, Hart Winery

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

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

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

Q. I love rosé. But how is it made?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Fun Facts About Late Harvest Wine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

Late harvest vines

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

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

Here are five fun facts about late harvest wine!

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

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

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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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And Here’s How It All Began…

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Brookside Winery 1971

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy courtesy of The City of Temecula and Robert Renzoni Vineyards

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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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