Blessing Just The Beginning
-Taste of Temecula
By: Ashley Ludwig
When asked if I could attend the Blessing of the Vines event at South Coast Winery, I jumped at the opportunity. What a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon, welcomed by Temecula’s premier South Coast Winery Resort & Spa to an event that launches their grape growing season.
Then, I cast a wary glance at my two daughters, 7 and 5, and asked into the phone, “Is this a family event, or an adult occasion?” Oh, a family event, to be sure, I was told. The vine blessing is when South Coast upholds the European tradition, “dating back to 1598, wherein workers and vineyards were traditionally blessed each year to ensure a good harvest. A blessing was then preceded by a parade through the vineyard, followed by a wine tasting and entertainment.”
Sounded good! We packed the girls in the car, and set off—ten minutes from home, to what I like to call, Disneyland for adults. South Coast just has that feel, that look about it, with welcoming arms of its wisteria graced breezeways, the baskets of geraniums exploding in bloom, and bright spring leaves of the vines. The spring air scented with a perfume of floral scents and the earthy tones of the vineyard. Though sun warmed, a brisk April breeze had me zipping up jackets.
I am not certain if the good Lord plays favorites in wine making, growing, or sporting events, but the blessing, offered up by Pastor Phil Hottsenpillar, of the Yorba Linda Friends Church, endeared my heart even more to one of my favorite Temecula Wineries. Couples walked hand in hand through the vines; all hearts, minds, and attention on the abundance of the grapes, of friends, and family. Who wouldn’t find favor on such a spot of heaven in the valley?
Backyard Barbecue, Cajun Style!
Upon entry down the stairs to the private party, I held tight to my daughter’s hands, made sure that the sweet receptionist hadn’t overstated things. My little one began tapping her toes to the washboard beat of the Bayou Brothers singing about some fun on the bayou! Scanning the tables, I breathed in relief.
There, in the middle, a family with two little boys happily munching burgers, their faces painted, and balloon animal swords resting at their sides. That said, I pointed the girls off to Sparkles the Clown , (South Coast truly thinks of everything) and didn’t see the kids for quite some time. When I did, they bore happy signs of glittery butterfly cheeks, and wore balloon wings to match. We found a table out of the fray, near the sparkling waterfall, and set up our “camp.”
Eat, Pray, Love
Time to dig in to the gorgeous, sumptuous display of food! South Coast offered a menu of delicious salads, scalloped corn, the famous Mojo potatoes, with main course of grilled bratwurst, barbecue chicken, and hamburgers with all the fixings—everyone ate their fill. Sugar cookies and warm pineapple-maple cake made dessert a treat! And, South Coast’s exuberant Merlot caps off the best of barbecues.
Following the meal, Matt—one of South Coast’s many employees at the event—offered my family a “down home” tour of the vineyard by tractor. We gratefully agreed, giving Sparkles a little break, and took our turn on the comfortable parade through the vineyard.
The sun arced over the San Jacinto Mountains as we began our tour, where we learned about the different grapes grown on the property. The girls delighted in the real John Deere tractor while I finished my wine, and chatted with a lovely couple from San Diego, up for the full event. (For just over $200, guests enjoyed an overnight Stay in Luxury Deluxe Villa with Jacuzzi, Fireplace, and Private Patio, 2 Tickets to the Blessing of the Vines BBQ Event, a Comp Bottle of Wine in Villa, Tasting Flight for Two, and a Discount Passport Booklet filled with property freebies and discounts.) I did my best not to look too jealous, but I’m pretty sure I failed. Next year, we’re calling in the troops (grandma & granddad), my husband and I agreed.
Laurie and Jerry Levy, wine club members, have come up for many events of late, but this one, according to Laurie, was her favorite. “Where else can you come, stay in a villa, and enjoy such fantastic food and company, for such a reasonable price?”
Where else, indeed?
The tractor tour took us past the villas, the beautiful, relaxing Grape Seed Spa, and the warehouses where South Coast’s award winning wines are stored. Our guide pointed out where South Coast is planning a hotel extension of somewhere between 50-55 rooms, and the beautiful viewed Rose Arbor, popular for South Coast weddings. As we rolled back to the event, we thanked Matt, said goodbye to our new friends, and the girls raced to see if Sparkles was still there. Yes! We all were all equally grateful for that one.
I ventured on to talk wine-blending with one of South Coast’s tasting room experts, and learned a thing or two about the Wild Horse label wines: specifically, the 2006 Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and the 2007 Petite Verdot (oh! My new favorite—a volcanic explosion of rich earthy, jammy, berry flavors, with a dynamic finish that just keeps going, and going, and going…); I met my match with that one. We tasted, compared, and decided how to pick and choose a precise blend of each. Ultimately, I decided for us that a trio of equal measure equaled bliss in a bottle.
The sun set beyond the South Coast Winery bell tower, and alas! Sparkles time at South Coast was done. The Bayou Brothers band picked up tempo to a rollicking beat as the April twilight chilled, and the dancing commenced! But, two little girls needed to be wrangled home.
Yes, we look forward to coming back in the fall for the Blessing of the Wine , a thanksgiving offered for the harvest (to be held September 25th, 2011). And maybe next time we’ll have grandparents in tow, to play with the kids so we can stay overnight in a villa of our own. A mamma can dream…