Articles & Editorials
Articles & Editorials
Many people that live in Southern California have no idea that there is a spectacular, 3,000 acre wine region right in their backyard. Some people in the wine industry itself don’t give this area its due credit either. Many of the local wines here are world class, but underrated. Temecula is California’s only prominent American Viticultural Area south of Los Angeles. The region’s tasting rooms and gift shops are open to visitors year-round, and most wineries offer tours. In addition, some wineries hold special wine-and-food tastings, which are great for those who want a complete experience. But it doesn’t stop there: after a full day of wine tasting in the valley, be sure to spend a relaxing night in one of Temecula’s Bed and Breakfast’s, enjoy the thrill of gambling with lady luck at nearby Pechanga Casino or spend the next morning on a local hot air balloon ride right here in Temecula.
The magic that makes this a perfect grape growing spot is this: the area is situated between 1,400 and 1,600 feet above sea level, it has a dry, moderately warm daytime climate, and cool evenings thanks to breezes from the Pacific Ocean 22 miles to the west. Couple this with well-drained decomposed granite soils and the results are wines of distinctive flavors and superb structure.
Over twenty wineries are located in Temecula Valley, many of them award winners. The great thing about this area is that it offers delicious wines at affordable prices. You’ll find the ever popular Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc here, but you’ll also be able to taste Mediterranean varietals such as Viognier, Syrah and Pinot Gris. Wine tasting in Temecula is a great time!
These wines are nothing short of spectacular, as many have discovered. In fact, they have won numerous awards at domestic and international wines competitions.
A profile of three of Temecula’s favorites
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa: This vineyard, located on the eastern side of Mount Palomar has some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. Plus, the characteristic daytime heat and nighttime cold, provides the perfect agricultural setting for winegrowing. What makes South Coast different? This mountain vineyard has more sunshine than average, which helps to produce some incredible grapes and exceptional wines. In addition, they have an enchanting pool and spa, where you can renew yourself in luxury with a salon treatment. Located in the tranquil garden area, are individual whirlpools for men and women. Spa treatments include massage, a scrub or wrap, facials, manicures and pedicures. South Coast also offers a hot air balloon package.
-the LA 10
by Bradley J. Fikes and published in NC Times: Wednesday, Jul. 15, 2009 - 4:10 pm
Last year, it was shocking. This year, there are a lot more believers.
SOUTH COAST WINERY EARNS TOP HONORS IN STATE COMPETITION
South Coast Winery of Temecula was honored as Golden State Winery of the Year, an award that notes best overall performance at the competition. South Coast nabbed 39 awards, including five gold medals, to win this honor for the second consecutive year.
Monte Bello, in the Santa Cruz mountains, was noted as Vineyard of the Year.
The California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is recognized as North America's oldest wine competition. More than 600 wineries entered this year's event, with 60 judges evaluating wines over three days in early June. "Best of Show" honors and other top winners were announced in a pre-show ceremony at today's Grape & Gourmet, a wine and food event at the Sacramento Convention Center.
For a searchable database of winners, visit www.sacwineregion.com/resources.
THIS JUST IN...
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa Takes Tasting to a Higher Level with Two New Tours
In addition to bringing home 39 awards and being voted "Best Gold State Winery of the Year 2008/2009" by the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, this winery offers two wine tours sure to live up to their reputation.
Get a little group therapy with South Coast Winery Resort & Spa's "Vino-Vinyasa" yoga and wine tasting session. Follow an instructor through 80 minutes of unwinding while tasting six specially selected wines for a blissful experience. The cost is $35 per person, and reservations are required. Or, you can feel the rush with the "Gold Rush" Jeep Tour. This extended tour includes a behind-the-scenes excursion into the winery barrel room, vineyards and production facilities that grace the resort's 39 acres. Guests board the climate-controlled Gold Rush Jeep for a scenic excursion to the winery's private mountain vineyards found on the 400-acres known as Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard. Participants tour the various vineyard blocks topped off with a picnic and wine tasting. Limited availability, advance reservations are required.
Media Contact: Crystal Magon, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. (951)587-9463. Ext. 7204 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Located within view of the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California, Temecula is the area's only wine country. But with its relatively convenient location between Los Angeles and San Diego, the region's 20-plus wineries are ideally situation for a wine country retreat. "It's a beautiful area that has been very much built for day trips and short stays, and they are catering to people who do that," Drady says.
One of the larger wineries for meetings is the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa with 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor event space in a variety of venues. Wilson Creek Winery is another large venue, and offers state-of-the-art meeting facilities for groups up to 300, while Callaway Vineyard & Winery has four separate venues and can also accommodate up to 300.
Whitney Cummings heard a calling ---- and no ---- she isn't a nun.
"I don't think you choose to be a comedian. It chooses you. It's such a crazy, weird and hard life that you don't just fall into it. You have to actively pursue it and make sacrifices for it," Cummings said. "It's not like you say, 'Am I going to be a lawyer or a comedian?' Something calls you to be a comedian. I don't know if its damage and you need healing or damage and you're used to difficulty so you become a comedian because it provides you endless emotional, physical and mental challenges."
Whatever it was that drew Cummings to such a draining profession, that decision has proven successful ---- having received endless praise from fans and critics alike ---- even being named one of Entertainment Weekly's "Future Stars of Comedy" as well as one of Variety's "Ten Comics to Watch."
Though critics often refer to her style of comedy as "edgy," Cummings hates being pigeon-holed into such a cliched label.
"This makes me insane because I don't think what I do is edgy, really," she said. "If guys did the same material they wouldn't be labeled as edgy. Its just that society is so scared of sexuality and it comes off as edgy if a woman is strong and outspoken and sexual."
"I tend to write about topics that are too taboo, usually sexual, or just things we don't admit to ourselves like women snooping on men, cheating, etc. and I'm not coy or ashamed of my point of view. I have an aggressive, shameless energy, as well, which is a little threatening from what I understand and it comes off as edgy because people aren't comfortable with women acting like that."
Cummings will be performing March 7 as one part of a full night of comedy at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa ---- the first in a monthly series presented by The Comedy Store.
Although Cummings will be performing at a winery and the crowd may differ from that of a comedy club, she describes how material may or may not change to accommodate them.
"Well, it might since I'll likely be drunk," she said. "I am always doing new stuff so my material always changes but I don't really change material according to who I think is going to be there. I try not to tap dance like that because then you stop being yourself and it's a bad habit to start catering to what you think people like. But the venue does have an effect on how you deliver your material. If it's smaller, you just talk to them and if it's bigger you have to present your material in a more theatrical way."
Additional performers on March 7 include Comedy Store regular Robert Lariviere, and "Frank TV's" Freddy Lockhart. In additional to "Frank TV," Lockhart has appeared on numerous shows and comedy specials including "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham" and "Late Night with Carson Daly."
Due to the venue, the show will be geared toward the 21 and up crowd, but Cummings feels her material appeals to a wider audience.
"I tend to talk to a younger crowd but I think a lot of my stuff is relatable to every generation," she said. "At every age we break up, get married or remarried, get jealous, get our heart broken, get in fights, etc. The one thing that unites all of us is relationships and trying to make them work. Well, that and Facebook."
For Cummings, doing stand up comedy has become a lifestyle and she couldn't imagine living any other way.
"I do it because I love it. It's that simple," she said. "There isn't anything else that's as stimulating and rewarding and fulfilling. For me, stand up makes life matter more. You can take all the experiences you have, big and small, the pains and the victories and the annoyances, share them and make people learn from them and laugh at them. For me, it makes life have a point."
Comedy Store Presents at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
Celebratory Year for South Coast and its Wines
Jon McPherson, South Coast Winery Resort and Spa’s savvy master winemaker in Temecula Wine Country, recently sat at our booth to join us for lunch at their posh Vineyard Rose Restaurant. For a few minutes, he relaxed over a few examples of South Coast’s new releases. Jon came over from Thornton Winery 5 years ago where he gained a solid reputation as a meticulous craftsman of sparkling wine. Prior to coming to the Temecula Valley, he cut his teeth in the wine industry in Texas. At Thornton, he earned the title “America’s Most Honored Sparkling Wine Producer.”
Last year, the winery was judged the best in the state a the California State Fair and received the Golden Bear trophy for winning 39 awards including: 1 Best of State, 1 Best of Region, 12 Best of Class, 1 Double Gold and 5 Golds among others. In all, 255 awards were won in 2008 by this premier winery. At the end of the year, my Taste of Wine declared South Coast’s Wild Horse Peak 2005 Sangiovese, one of its Top Ten Tastings. I asked Jon how he has been able to extract excellence out of his varietals. He said “it’s about letting the grapes speak. We listen, then carefully nurture the process.” He then went on to describe my Top Ten Tasting winner: the 2005 Sangiovese. “The ’05 Sangiovese was planted near Palomar Mountain in the Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard, Thunderbolt Block. The fruit’s unusual depth of character and style is further accentuated by its exclusive aging in French oak barrels. The oak marries with the Sangiovese and adds a beautiful texture and complexity to its licorice and cherry notes. Supple tannins and racy acidity make it a standout 100% Sangiovese wine. It will age gracefully for the next 3 to 5 years.” Last year the ’05 Sangiovese, in addition to my Top Ten accolade, scored a Best of Class, a gold and 4 silvers.
South Coast Winery Resort and Spa sits on 38 acres and is a destination property. Now is a great time to visit. It has a special “Recline in ‘09” promotion for its 76 villas that sit in the vineyard. Sunday through Thursday, a nightly stay is just $149. and it includes a complimentary bottle of wine and many more credit perks. Call 866-994-6379 for reservations through January 31. You may also access www.wineresort.com for information on all its wines and amenities.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur, certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the top rated wine commentators on the web.
…Wine’s the name of the game at this three-story spa surrounded by South Coast Winery’s rolling vineyards. Take a break from indulgent treatments like a champagne manicure or dine fresh options from the specially created spa menu. Breakfast brings granola mixed fresh daily in the kitchen, while lunch offers healthy standards like veggie frittatas and chicken salad wraps. Oenophiles will also love the Vino-Vinyasa fitness class, which combines yoga and wine tasting in an 80-minute “wine and unwind” session.
The few steps and surrounding strip mall don’t scare me away. I take the step, and despite my aching knee and feeling of aging endlessness, I move towards the welcoming doors of the South Coast Winery Restaurant in Santa Ana aka Costa Mesa aka Newport Beach, aka aka aka.
Actually, I remember this haunt when it was a Bombay Bicycle Club, owned by a company called Associated Hosts out of Sherman Oaks. It is light years ago.
Today, the cell phones and blackberries are present as well as the new style patrons and illustrious owners. This is indeed an offshoot of the South Coast Winery in Temecula, and I am fortunate enough to be here on an occasion that celebrates their wine and good taste.
There is a trio of devoted and passionate employees from this estate. Jim Carter the owner, Jon McPherson, the winemaker, and Javier Flores, the assistant winemaker and viticulturist. They are rightfully proud of the “get acquainted” Syrah sparkling that is poured generously, and served with some ahi hor’duerves. The bubbles are crisp, and the Syrah is balanced and brilliant.
Our room tonight is called the “Vintner Room”, and there is a bar, plenty of space and round tables set for eight. There are some windows, and the atmosphere is perfect for a private party or wine tasting.
We move rapidly to the Grenache, served in a lovely oversized glass that accentuates the bouquet of roses, and sweet aromatic spices. This is a special wine and everyone knows it.
This is joined by duck comfit ravioli, gently drizzled with truffle sauce and easy enough to split with your fork!
The piece de resistance is the filet mignon, paired with the Carter Estate Merlot. This is a rich, deep Merlot, full of robust character, and enough pepper, licorice, and wood to allow it to stand up nicely with the filet that is prepared perfectly and accompanied with fresh vegetables and comfort sides.
The dessert does not disappoint, and Jon speaks about the solera system that is used to develop the late harvest Riesling that we are about to enjoy with a beautiful pastry quince with apples, pears, and cinnamon.
The South Coast Winery Restaurant is a find. And be it a private function, or dinner for two, there are some special sections here. There is also a fireplace with some lovely four tops nearby, a comfortable bar area with seats at the bar and also cocktail tables, plus of course the “Winery Styled” dining areas that would make you feel as though you were anywhere else but Orange County.
I enjoyed this special ambience just a few short blocks from the mall – The service is friendly and accommodating, and even though some of the entrees could have been a tad warmer, the kitchen did an excellent job at making everyone feel comfortable, at home, and embraced by a delightful wine and food pairing.
There is no “best table” at the South Coast Winery Restaurant…they are all good. From the bar to the “boardroom”, the kitchen to the Vintner Room, the patio to the fireside, it is all good here.
Come and relax, leave your troubles behind, and enjoy the feeling that inspires the South Coast Winery to be what it is. Excellence from the heart.
And the winner is…
It took winery founder Jim Carter just five years from the time he opened South Coast Winery in Temecula to win the California State Fair’s Golden Bear Winery of the Year Award. Master winemaker Jon McPherson, who is kind of the Jimmy Stewart clone in his unassuming manner, and wine maker Javier Flores, really gave little notice when they were called by fair judges. “We think you should come up here for the gala.” Then they found out.
South Coast Winery garnered an astonishing 23 medals out of its 36 entries and was voted by judges, who sniffed and swilled 25,000 glasses of wine from 649 state wineries, the best winery in the state. Just the exercise in tasting so many wines is an astonishing feat.
South Coast Winery itself sits on a 38-acre working vineyard and winery with a luxurious resort and spa that several guests have told this writer, “rivals any Ritz Carlton” or other boutique hotels. It took 155 years of State Fair wine competition to put Temecula on the map.
When I first visited Temecula in the early 90’s it was funky and remote, with a handful of smaller wineries nestled in relative anonymity near the Callaway and Thornton properties that cast the long shadows over the region. Now there are 30 wineries and the area has become both a tourist destination and a busy ex-urban enclave.
Mount Palomar Observatory is nearby; were it not for its status as the largest reflecting telescope ever built, no one would have taken notice of the area. The Cilurzo winery was first opened in 1968 so the region is but 40 years old. It earned American Viticultural Area status only four years ago (2004) the year after South Coast Winery opened for business.
There are 33,000 arable acres in Temecula Valley, and 1,300 are planted with an amazing and eclectic selection of varietals. South Coast Winery has 36 different wines in its portfolio and the line keeps changing. This is not surprising since Carter and his associates have been selling grapes to other wineries for years, and with few exceptions, their offerings are produced from estate and area vines.
Three reasons account for this abundance: soil (soft granite loam that allows for easy drainage, altitude (1400-1600 foot elevation), and intense daytime sunlight with cooling air settling in from the Pacific Ocean 22 miles away. The resulting harvests produce very clean juice, far less herbaceous than gapes and ensuing wines produced 300-500 miles further north.
More established wineries of the north looked down their slopes as upstart Temecula began to audaciously promote its wines. The first attempts at popular varietals were uneven at best and more curiosity than coveted. That has changed as the vintners keep finding ways to showcase their wines. As a consequence, Temecula neatly situated in relation to Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, attracts hordes of visitors resulting in a half-billion dollars in visitor revenue when one counts the neighboring Pechanga resort and casino (Stats as of 2006).
I recently participated in a celebratory dinner at the South Coast Winery Restaurant in the OC Metro and went back a day later to assess the wines on their own without some very satisfying pairings with food. Here are my thoughts.
Ruby Cuvee NV Sparkling Syrah: Temecula is very good at Syrah. One enjoys intense berry fruit, pungent aromas and a long finish—some characteristics akin to drinking big cabs or zinfandels. But syrah is its own varietal and yields highly concentrated juice that produces wines that need little cellaring to enjoy. The non vintage cuvee is a child of the 2006 crush and is 100% syrah. This effervescent wine appears in the glass like red meat cooked medium rare on the rare side. But let us not confuse things, because this is a sparkler that has good acid balance to fruit and a very long, ruby sunset finish. It will make for ideal picnic wine, or a wine that can stand up to salads of arugula, Mache or spinach.
2006 Reserve Chardonnay from Ramirez and Huis Vineyards: oh, my! A chardonnay from California! Although the palaver on the list suggests baked apple, I taste citrus and vanilla, and mercifully, only a little oak. If you like buttery chardonnays that show up from Australia to Aconcagua, to our own northern producers, you may find this chardonnay a lot less so. It’s a drink now wine, but I’d like to see if can hang on for a few years. It really conveys the terrior of Temecula, with its well drained soil and the attendant minerality. It asks for your appreciation; it does not demand it.
2006 Grenache Carter Estate Vineyards: Grenache is the soul of Chateau-Neuf de Pape, the joyous wine of the Rhone Valley, and is or can be the source of the burst of everything that’s right in the world at that instant. It is also produced in Australia with great panache. The South Coast Winery vintage should be served at cellar temperature (55-58 degrees F) and allowed to slowly warm up. It looks like a pomegranate martini in a wine glass. It is barely fruit forward, slightly acid, which is why I would drink it a cellar temperature first and let the fruit emerge and take us down the lingering ride of its finish. Served with ravioli stuffed with duck confit, it proved a worthy companion.
2003 Carter Estates Private Reserve Wild Horse Peak Merlot is a mouthful of words and so is the splendid wine, worthy of some those Duckhorn Reserves I once could afford. This wine really shows itself elegantly and demonstrates how winemaker and viticulture can take the God given qualities of the local dirt and make it sing. The peak estate is up valley, in the hills, and Carter himself thinks it a special place. The Merlot has the fruit of just overripe strawberries, deep garnet color, a pristine balance and bare wisp of minerality, a gentle scintilla of oak and a lovely finish that lingers until you reach for the next sip. Make no mistake, this is a keeper but can be drunk now as opposed to waiting 10-12 more years.
Sparkling Gewurztraminer, NV: Californians make Rieslings and Gewürztraminer wines that rarely resemble the wines of Alsace or Germany. Still they have easy access and egress, slightly sweet, served in Teutonic bottles that look as long and slender as German cuisine decidedly does not. This sparkling take from South Coast is full of effervesce and enough acid to make it something other than the cloying goo that often passes for dessert wines made from this grape. I am pleased to report South Coast Winery has achieved something more appealing than so many other wineries that think dessert means honey and residual sugar. This one works. I offer Kudos to Mssrs McPherson and Flores.
The wines of South Coast and other Temecula-based wineries may not have the cachet of the brand name AVA’s in our state, but they enjoy a commensurate high ratio of cost to pleasure. If you want to overpay for wine in a spastic economy, feel free to do so. These wines fall in between $20-60. So they’re good to drink and lay up in the instance of the 03 Merlot and require no federal bailouts.
Remember, don’t believe everything you read. Drink the wine. It is good for you and your good opinion is as good as my good opinion. Oh well, at least most of the time.
10:00 PM PST on Thursday, December 25, 2008
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa makes a nice mini-retreat, for a night, a day or only for a couple of hours. The sprawling complex includes vineyards, lodgings in 76 villas, spa, banquet rooms and the Vineyard Rose restaurant. South Coast won Golden State Winery of the Year last July in the California State Fair's Commercial Wine Competition. It was a rare honor for Southern California.
A large golden bear, a replica of the award, stands by the bustling tasting room. The award itself, the 8-inch trophy called "Poppy," is on display in a showcase just past the entrance to the restaurant.
It is a warm, lodge-style dining room with an A-frame wooden ceiling, wine barrels on the walls and, this time of year, wreaths, red poinsettias and strings of golden lights. The festive decorations will remain for the winery's New Year's Eve dinner.
South Coast representative Crystal Magon describes the tone as casually elegant. For breakfast and lunch, the scale tips toward casual. For dinner, tables are dressed with linen, and elegance dominates.
Story continues below
The menu is extensive for all three meals.
Breakfast choices range from familiar three-egg plates to more fun selections such as banana pancakes served with vanilla bean sauce.
Story continues below
In addition to the pastas, fish and meats on the dinner menu, there are seasonal specials such as wild boar.
I visited for lunch, which runs toward appetizers, sandwiches and specialty pizzas. I tried one of the latter, the Rolling Hills, which features prosciutto and fresh tomato toppings but is defined by its gorgonzola cheese. It was great, with a thin crust, and there was plenty to take home.
For dessert, I had the pumpkin pie cheesecake, which had a creamy consistency and was adorned with fresh berries.
As you would guess, there is a wine for every food choice.
Last year, Jim Carter finished the $36 million South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, which boasts vineyard-surrounded villas and a three-floor spa and fitness center.
Soon, he expects to submit plans to Riverside County for Carter Estates, a winery resort in Temecula Valley Wine country that would be three tiems larger than South Coast.
“We want people all over the U.S. to know they can come to Temecula and have a great experience,” Carter said sitting in South Coast’s 12,000 square foot Vineyard Rose restaurant.
Today, most of the estimated 300,000 annual visitors to Wine Country drive into town for an afternoon of wine tasting at family-run wineries, maybe have lunch and head home. Wine Country has about 30 wineries, six restaurants and 100 lodging rooms. But Carter and others envision a vacation destination with an additional 20 wineries, at least nine restaurants, hundreds of rooms and at least four resorts, according to elopers, Riverside County planners and the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. One resort could cost $100 million.
The more than 20 million residents in Southern California also could take advantage of preliminary plans for a 3,000 seat amphitheater, helicopter landing pad, petting zoo, bungalows with private entrances for celebrities and Venice-style gondola rides on a lake.
The expected growth concerns some residents of Wine Country, an unincorporated area east of Temecula with dirt roads, vineyard covered hills and homes on several-acre lots. They worry about traffic and the condition of roads, some of which the county plans to address. Others said they want more offerings.
One recent afternoon, George Ferencik, 60 of Boston, tasted wines at South Coast with his daughter, Jessica, 22, of Huntington Beach. They believe it’s important to have wineries with restaurants and hotels so visitors don’t have to travel home at night.
“if it’s all in one, that’s perfect,” Jessica Ferencik said.
That’s what Carter has in mind across the street from South Coast at Carter Estates, a resort he hopes to complete in five years. Plans not yet submitted to the county call for a three-story, 120 room hotel, 99 bungalows, a winery, a restaurant, a 3,000 seat amphitheater, and 31,000 square feet of shops, including an art gallery and a jewelry store, Carter said. Each bungalow would have a garage and a private gate for movie stars to enter unseen.
NO SLOWING DOWN
… South Coast is the only winery currently offering many of these amenities. With that in Mind, Jason Brockman, 23, of Monrovia and his girlfriend, Tiffany Scott, 24, of Santa Ana, traveled to South Coast to spend a night last month in a villa. “You don’t want to spend all day drinking wine and then have to drive home,” Scott said while tasting wines at South Coast one afternoon last month. The resort includes a 15,000-square foot spa and fitness center, a winery, and the Vineyard Rose restaurant, where dinner entrees cost up to $34. There also are 76 villas that go for up to $389 a night. Each has a fireplace, Jacuzzi tub and 500-thread-count sheets. “I want you to say, if you’re going to come to Temecula, you got to go to South Coast or Carter Estates,” Carter said. “I’m trying to raise the bar: If you come here, you got to try what I consider the best.”
The Vineyard Rose, the restaurant at the Temecula Valley's South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, has been reinvented following the changing of the guard in the kitchen.
Chef Dan Saito, who opened the restaurant in 2005 and brought Pacific Rim flavors and Hawaiian expertise with him to the resort, moved on last year.
Taking his place is Tuscan-born Alessandro Serni, formerly chef of Vivace, the Italian fine-dining restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara in Carlsbad. Serni also has worked as executive chef of catering and special events at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.
Serni, who lives with his family in nearby Winchester, is overjoyed about his position at South Coast Winery. "I'm now about 10 minutes from home," said the beaming chef.
Making the change from the two-hour drive to Anaheim or the hour-long drive to the Four Seasons Aviara is Serni's idea of a good deal. Winery owner Jim Carter believes that Serni's Mediterranean-based menu and expertise more readily complement the wines made at South Coast and in the rest of the Temecula Valley.
While traces of Pacific Rim remain on the menu, Serni's Mediterranean touch is unmistakable. Take for instance the Fried calamari and Shrimp with garlic aioli or the Ahi Tuna Proscuitto starters on the dinner menu. Or the Saffron Seafood Chowder or Caprese salad with homemade mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and pesto.
Serni's past and risotto dishes have always wowed me. The Vineyard Rose dinner menu offers Penne Pasta Frutti di Mare; Rigatoni with Bolognese Sauce, baby spinach and olive-oil-poached tomatoes; Wild Mushroom Risotto with a parmesan tuille; and a Saffron Risotto with organic vegetable ragu.
Dinner entrees include South Coast Tuscan-style Cioppino; a Petite Filet Mignon with pan-roasted potatoes, Sicilian caponata and a merlot-braised shallot sauce; and a Colorado lamb chop with osso buco.
Each item on the menu has a wine-pairing suggestion chosen by executive winemaker Jon McPherson, who has been crafting wines in the Temecula for more than two decades.
Serni is the highest-profile chef in Temecula these days, and his track record alone makes it worth the drive from San Diego to check out The Vineyard Rose.
Also worth mentioning are the room accommodations -- 76 villas surrounding the winery and vineyard -- and the full-service GrapeSeed Spa.
Serni also is preparing for the debut of a new restaurant and tasting room, called South Coast Winery Restaurant. Serni also is preparing for the debut of a new restaurant and tasting room, called South Coast Winery Restaurant, just north of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. The opening is scheduled for next month.
The San Diego International Wine Competition is the oldest and largest of the three competitions I direct. Each year on the morning after the event closes, I pore over the results and marvel at the nuggets that jump out at me.
The showing of California's Bogle Vineyards for example. Six Medals -- two gold, two silver and two bronze and none of the wines costs more than $13...
South Coast Winery, a newcomer to the Temecula valley, also picked up 11 medals, including a gold for its 2004 Wild Horse Peak "Lone Boulder Ridge" Syrah (#38), which is a favorite of mine. South Coast's other vineyard-designated syrah, the excellent 2004 Rolling Hills Estate Syrah ($24) claimed a silver medal. ...
It was a daunting but enjoyable task for 32 judges Wednesday and Thursday at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino. They sampled 2,100 wines entered in the 22nd Pacific Rim International Wine Competition. That included wines from Temecula and Rancho Cucamonga and countries as far away as New Zealand and Australia. And, for the first time, wines from Japan.
An assembly line of wine stewards opened bottles and poured wine in a separate, warehouse-size room before bringing a dozen at a time to each of the judges. Each judge tasted 193 glasses of wine Wednesday, when they awarded medals in 403 categories based on the variety of the grapes, the year the wine was bottled and its price.
Then Thursday, they drank an uncounted number to select the sweepstakes winners.
"They don't drink the wine," said Yolanda Daly, the competition director. "They smell it. They taste the texture. Most of the wine winds up getting spit out."
Nevertheless, she said organizers made sure to provide shuttle service so none of the judges would have to get behind the wheel of a car. "I'm not drinking much of anything, " said Robert Small. He said the judges would be challenged to award gold medals in a competition that pits some of the best wines in the world against each other. "This should be a good year for wine," Small said. "Last year's vintage was very good in California and many places around the world." He said the taste of good wine "jumps out at you. It's pretty easy to taste the difference, although some categories are a little more difficult than others. For me, the ones that are very ripe and high in alcohol tend to have a sameness coming through."
A dozen glasses of golden chardonnay, each with a numbered tag, were lined up on a table in front of Javier Flores at the start of the judging. Flores, 46, a Temecula resident for 17 years and a winemaker at South Coast Winery, said he does his best work early in the day before he has tasted too many wines. "The cheeses and the water be between flights of wine help me keep from getting tired," he said.
Palate fatigue, the wine judges say, is one of their biggest hurdles.
Daly said the judges are carefully chosen and tested to make sure they know their stuff.
"This is what these guys do for a living," she said. "It's something we are genetically built to do or not built to do. It's amazing to me how these guys can tell the difference. I can't. I couldn't do what they do."
Results of the judging were to be emailed to the entrants at the end of the competition. Later, a booklet will be printed listing all the winners and will be sent to the wineries, along with the medals.
The Room Report
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, California. 951-587-9463 wineresort.com
Rates: Basic villas start at $209 weekdays; $289 weekends. Suites are $309 and $389. Daily resort fee.
STAY HERE IF YOU'RE: On vacation, looking for a romantic getaway, like wine or all of the above.
IT'S CLOSE TO: Not much, which makes it a great get-away. San Diego is 65 miles away. Los Angeles is about 100.
THE ROOM ARE: Large (575 square feet), sumptuously decorated and private. Ask for one in the back with a patio that overlooks the citrus orchard and vineyard. Huge soaking tub in the marble bathroom. In-room coffee and mini-fridge; free wireless Internet access. A bottle of wine is included as are tickets to the on-site wine tasting.
THEY PUT ALL OF THE MONEY INTO: The villas and spa. Set on 38 acres, the resort is complete with restaurant, tasting room, shop and meeting rooms, while the 76 villas are a short distance away. The GrapeSeed Spa features a big pool, fitness facility and second-floor treatment rooms and balcony overlooking the pool and resort. The staff is professional and accommodating.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Weekends are at a premium during high season. June-October, so you'll pay more if that's the only time you can go. Sunday-Thursday is cheaper and quieter. Check out the spa and golf package for additional savings. And take home a bottle of the Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.
That's the Spirit
Macho Wines for Your Man. You'd love to share a romantic bottle of wine with your man, but he prefers Michelob to Merlot. Crystal Magon, Marketing Director for South Coast Winery Resort & Spa suggests some wines sure to satisfy your ale aficionado.
Just as wine drinkers enjoy a fine bottle for its unique fragrance or spicy taste, so too do beer drinkers. They key to finding a wine your husband will enjoy is selecting one that is full-bodied and similar in character to his favorite beer.
Wine that tastes like beer? Not exactly...
The key ingredient that gives beer its flavor is called "hops." Hops come from the flowers of Humulus Lupulu and contribute a bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt in the beer and adds flowery, fruity, herbal aromas.
Wine has an ingredient similar to "hops" called Linalool. Linalool (also spelled Linalol) is a naturally occurring compound in grapes that offers a pleasant scent, adds balance and can contribute spicy, fruity, herbal aromas to wine.
Ladies take note: Linalools often times exhibit a hop-like character like that found in beer.
5K Through the Vineyards Benefits Michelle's Place
The 5K through the Vineyards on Saturday, May 5, from 8 to 11 a.m. will benefit Michelle’s Place. All are encouraged to put on walking shoes and join the fun at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. Cost per person ($15) includes a t-shirt, pink lemonade and a great time!
Gather friends, family and neighbors for the first annual event to help provide resources for women and their families dealing with breast cancer. All proceeds benefit Michelle's Place, the breast cancer resource center. For more information, visit Michelle's Place offices or South Coast Winery or visit http://www.michellesplace.org/.
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa invites wine connoisseurs and amateurs to take a new tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the goings-on in a real working winery. Tours run daily Monday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Stroll though the vineyards, explore the crush pad, enter the halls of the winery to see where the magic happens and enjoy wine right out of the barrels. The tour concludes with a private wine and cheese pairing experience. Cost is $20 per person. For more information call 1-800-801-WINE.
The GrapeSeed Spa at South Coast is now offering Wine Country visitors the ultimate European spa experience at a working winery. Surrounded by vineyards and offering incredible vistas of the surrounding mountains, the 15,000-square-foot Tuscan-style spa features 11 treatment rooms for massages, facials, and body treatments, a salon, outdoor garden, relaxation lounge and a complete fitness facility. The richly appointed spa can accommodate a 20-person wedding party and has four couples rooms, says Wendy Rahier, spa director. “There’s no destination like this in California or the rest of the country,” she said. “Where can you find a world class spa, next to luxury villas, a working winery and 160-seat high-end restaurant?” The spa’s “wet area” includes a pool, sauna and steam rooms and relaxing whirlpools. After receiving a treatment, relax with a complimentary glass of South Coast wine in the lounge or on the second-story veranda. On the ground floor a full retail boutique offers selected premium products that are used in the treatments. To see the spa for yourself, public tours are offered on Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 4 to 5p.m. or call 800-801-WINE for your own private tour.
Alessandro Serni, an accomplished international chef who has wowed diners from Tuscany to Anaheim, has joined South Coast Winery Resort & Spa as executive chef of the Vineyard Rose Restaurant. “We are fortunate to have attracted such a creative culinary talent to South Coast,” said Jim Carter, owner and creator of the 38-acre destination resort in the heart of Temecula’s Wine Country. “His unique experience and skills will allow us to better match our award-winning wines with exceptional Mediterranean-style food.” Serni takes over the reins of a kitchen headed by Dan Saito, who will become executive chef at South Coast Winery Cafè, a new restaurant and wine tasting room that Carter is building just north of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. Over the next few months, Italian-born Serni will help make Vineyard Rose’s menu more wine friendly as the 160-seat restaurant celebrates a special collaboration with award-wining South Coast winemaker Jon McPherson. Before joining South Coast, Serni, 39, was executive chef in charge of banquets and special events at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. At the Four-Diamond Four Season Aviara Resort in Carlsbad he was banquet chef, and chef at the California Bistro and at Vivace, voted the best Italian restaurant in San Diego four straight years.
In a tradition that dates back centuries to European vineyards, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa will host its third annual blessing of the vines celebration on June 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The event will include a processional tour through the vineyards with the vine blessing, and will be followed by a Texas-style barbecue, complete with a complimentary glass of wine and entertainment. Cost is $35 for Wine Club members and $45 for non-members. South Coast is one of the few wineries in the Temecula Valley to ask for divine assistance during the growing season, a tradition that is not lost on winemaker Jon McPherson. “It’s just a blessing to hopefully bring about a bountiful harvest,” he explained. The blessing will be done by Father Francis Marcolongo of Escondido, a priest from the Old Holy Catholic Church. The ceremony will follow an old Roman ritual: first he will give the blessing in Latin and English, and then go among the vines to sprinkle holy water.
TV and radio personality Chef Mario Martinoli has been a fan of Temecula Valley wines since the early 1980s. He’s seen the community grow from its rural roots to one with nearly 200,000 residents. He’s also watched as Wine Country has matured into a premier winemaking region that rivals any in the state. “Look at the gold medals Temecula wineries are winning,” he said. “You don’t need to talk to me, just look at the trophy cases.” Martinoli will further his longstanding relationship with Temecula and its wines when he serves as master of ceremonies and auctioneer at the annual Winemakers Gold Dinner & Auction on July 22 at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa . The multi-course meal matches gourmet food and award-winning Temecula wines. Martinoli has always appreciated the straightforward and hardworking approach Temecula winemakers have taken to improve their craft and wines. “Temecula never wanted to be anything but Temecula,” he said. Martinoli, who hosts several “Food and Dining” featurettes heard each day on KFWB News 980, believes Temecula wines can go “toe to toe” with any in the state. Although Temecula has been known for its white wines, he said the region is gaining a reputation and following with its reds, especially red blends and unique varietals. “They are very drinkable wines,” he said. “They are extremely open-armed wines that let you taste the love.” Cost of the Winemakers Gold Dinner & Auction is $100 per person plus a small processing fee. For more details call 800-801-WINE.
Wine Country Restaurants
A year ago, Will Greenwood was a Washington, DC, chef who had cooked for presidents but wanted to move to California. He looked at Napa and Sonoma counties' wine regions. A friend then suggested the Temecula Valley. Two months ago, he started as chef of Cafe Champagne at Thornton Winery. “I think Temecula is at the cutting edge of becoming a pretty big player,” said Greenwood, who wants to turn Cafe Champagne into a world-class restaurant like those in Napa.
Greenwood is among several chefs — who have done everything from cook for Microsoft founder Bill Gates to win national awards — to take over Temecula Valley Wine Country restaurants in recent years. They are offering everything from a $60 center-cut filet mignon and Australian lobster plate to grilled lamb loin with minted tabouleh pomegranate barbecue sauce for $38.
The chefs, quality of food and increasing number of restaurants have been noticed by the thousands of tourists who annually visit the Wine Country, said tourism officials and business owners.
“I think Temecula is at the cutting edge of becoming a pretty big player,” said Will Greenwood, who became a chef at Café Champagne at Thornton Winery two months ago. John Dimitroff, of Perris had lunch last week at Café Champagne with his wife, Jeanette, and their daughter and granddaughter from Pennsylvania. “It’s a little pricey,” he said, “but when you sit down you say, ‘Man, that’s worth it.”
Officials at the Westgate Hotel in San Diego, where rooms go for $399 a night, also have noticed. For the second consecutive year, they invited Temecula Valley Wine Country chefs to prepare a six-course meal for diners paying $75 for food and wine.
Restaurants were a main point of contention late last year when Riverside County planning commissioners debated and eventually approved new Wine Country zoning rules. They set guidelines on whether a landowner can open a restaurant in conjunction with a winery based on the number of acres owned. Landowners argued that adding a restaurant and other amenities, such as hotels and special event facilities, were necessary to make the winery financially feasible.
“The growth of restaurants in the Temecula Valley Wine Country is similar to what California wine regions, including Napa and Sonoma counties, have experienced in past decades,” said Burke Owens, associate director of wine at COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa Valley. In the 1970s, before Napa Valley wines had the reputation they do today, the area had no restaurants that Burke described as super-premium, meaning each diner would expect to pay $75 or more for food and wine. There are about 30 such restaurants now, he said. “If someone is willing to pay 50, 75, 100, 300 dollars for a bottle of wine they’ve got be willing to spend that much money for dinner,” Burke said by phone.
Greenwood has won chef-of- the-year awards from national food associations and has cooked for both presidents Bush. He was one of five finalists to be White House chef for the Clintons. Greenwood thinks of Temecula as the Napa Valley of 15 years ago. He is set to unveil a new menu next week at The Champagne Café at Thornton Winery. Entrée prices will range from $25.95 to $37.95.
Dan Saito, chef at Vineyard Rose Restaurant at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa that opened in October, learned from Wolfgang Puck of Spago in Hollywood. He helped cater Microsoft’s Bill Gates wedding reception in Hawaii. His entrées range from $19 to $34. The Pacific-influenced menu features fish flown in from Hawaii and Alaska.
Steven Hamlin took over as chef at Allie’s at Callaway Winery in 2001. He has won several chef competitions and teaches a wine-and-food pairing class for San Diego State University. Hamlin said the restaurant’s center-cut filet mignon is especially popular. It’s featured in three entrées. They range in price from $38, when served on top of a portobello mushroom filled with Gorgonzola vinaigrette and tossed exotic greens laced with merlot glace d’ viande. The filet paired with Australian lobster laced with a delicate beurre blanc and garnished with French tarragon is $60.
The Flip Side
Phil Baily opened Baily Winery & Vineyard in 1986 and has had a restaurant on site since 1992. The latest incarnation, Carol’s Restaurant, is named after his wife, who is the chef. It serves lunch only. The restaurant opened in 2002 and was serving lunch to 75 to 80 people a day, Baily said. Now, it's usually between 30 to 50 people he said. He attributes the decline to the increased competition as more restaurants have opened in Wine Country.
A restaurant opened at Churon Winery in April 2004. It closed six months later because with limited space the winery couldn’t hold the number of special events it wanted when the restaurant was open, said Cathy Lyle, Churon’s general manager.
Last Saturday (March 18, 2006) was an ideal time to stay at home in front of a blazing fireplace with a good book. Not only were torrential rains and chilling hail pelting the roads leading to Temecula, but the deadline for completing income tax materials was rapidly approaching.
But these minor problems could not deter wine enthusiasts from joining other connoisseurs in the inaugural regional wine tasting event hosted by the Temecula Winegrowers Association at the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. With representatives from 14 state wine associations participating, it was possible to sample wines from Mendocino to San Diego County and points between. More than 1,000 guests and wine industry officials participated, making this the largest number ever to attend an event sponsored by the local Wine Country Association.
I observed only smiles and appreciative comments from those sampling signature wines of California’s vineyards and the cheese and hors d’oeuvres from Chef Dan Saito and his South Coast Vineyard Rose restaurant staff. With hundreds of California varietal wines to sample, the challenge was to pace oneself. Some notes:
Livermore County’s Concannon Vineyard poured a well-regarded petite sirah, and the supply rapidly diminished as word of this gem was shared. One of the more popular wines produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains region was the Bargetto Winery’s pinot grigio with intense fruit flavors.
Santa Maria County’s Ovene Winery offered samples of its Rose of Syrah, reminiscent of the wines of Provence and a complex blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and just a touch of muscat. Several suggested that I taste a wine from the Lodi County region, particularly the zinfandel produced by St. Amant Winery.
Amador County is noted for its place in the discovery of gold some 150 years ago. As a longtime member of E Clampus Vitus, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit the historical sites of the Mother Lode over the years. These days, more visitors have enjoyed sipping the wines that have earned Amador County international fame. The robust old-vine zinfandels bearing the Karly label have brought many wine lovers to Plymouth, and rightly so.
Paso Robles Wine Country is a tad closer than Amador and equally friendly when it comes to touring and tasting local wines. Among the 80 wineries in this region, the J. Lohr Vineyards is one of the best known. Their Hilltop Vineyard cabernet sauvignon is an excellent example of what the region’s climatic conditions can produce. The winery is off Highway 101, and open daily.
Sonoma County, often in the shadow of nearby Napa Valley, has more going for it than the Sonoma Plaza with its cheese and gift shops. I sampled an outstanding pinot noir from the Williams Selyem Winery. The Mendocino County Winegrowers Alliance was well represented last Saturday, with more than 50 wineries in operation there. Of course, Napa Valley is world renowned as a premier location for outstanding varietals. Vineyards with international reputations for award-winning wines surround Highway 29, and Fetzer's chardonnay is one of them.
The steep slopes of the Carmel Valley to the rolling hills of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County offer the potential to grow quality premium wines. Heller Estate was among the first to discover the merits of this unique microclimate. Their dry-farmed. organically grown merlot is an example of the skill of local winemakers.
San Diego County has 21 wineries from Escondido to Julian and Ramona. I have enjoyed tasting Shadow Mountain’s “Milli-Deux,” a white table wine from the elevation of 3,400 feet near beautiful Warner Springs.
Needless to say, Temecula’s wineries were well represented. Joe Hart, president of the sponsoring Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, and his Hart Winery proudly served his cabernet franc, while neighboring Callaway was represented by its dolcetto. Thornton Winery poured its nebbiolo, a wine reminiscent of Italy’s barolo.
It was good to see the fine reception that Mount Palomar’s NV port received. Stuart Cellars’ malbec, Bella Vista’s Sonata, and Wilson Creek’s merlot were all popular choices, as were Ponte’s proprietary Beverino and the Palumbo Family Vineyards’ Tre Fratelli blend.
The hosting South Coast Winery poured a pair of its outstanding wines, a syrah and a viognier. Miramonte Winery served its sauvignon blanc, and Maurice Car’rie was the sole winery to pour muscat canelli. Three wineries served cabernet sauvignon: Baily, Leonesse Cellars and Weins Family Cellars, although the latter was of the blush designation. Temecula’s Falkner Winery also poured its sauvignon blanc, and the newly named VR La Cereza Winery was the only one to pour pinot grigio and gewurztraminer to complete the local offerings.
According to Linda Kissam, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, participation at this inaugural event exceeded initial expectations. Plans are already underway to schedule a renewal next year, with the possibility of making it a two-day event.
Vick Knight is a former Regional Director of Les Amis du Vin, the international wine appreciation society. He is the author of “Toasting Temecula Wines” and a resident of Canyon Lake.
New York, NY - When asked what else a travel writer does on a specific trip, besides dining, taking photos, touring sites of interest and running from one locale to the other, the response that impresses the most is that “I continue to work.” Does that follow with a “wink, wink?” Maybe. And, maybe I get in a few moments at the fitness center or pool but, mostly, I am reviewing all the press material I have collected, writing voluminous notes about the events of the day while they are still fresh in my memory and, frankly, thinking about my next trip.
“Love You Baby, Love You; Let’s Do Lunch.” That seems to be the constant refrain when on the west coast, particularly in the L.A. area. And, they drive just about everywhere - scratch that and make it “they drive everywhere” since the public transportation leaves a lot to be desired. As for lifestyle, try this - rush hour at Noon and 9PM. What’s up with that?
Earlier this year I decided to give it my all and booked nine different luxury hotels (and one budget) in an 11-day 575 mile driving odyssey from San Diego to the Los Angeles area and back. This is the story of that sojourn.
In the hardest to find at night category but with the best accommodation - Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe, 25 miles from downtown San Diego and my first night’s stop. Huge living room, Jacuzzi, small kitchen, gigantic bathroom, fireplace, cathedral ceilings, lots of closets, outdoor patio, three TV’s, fresh orange juice and newspaper delivered every morning. My kind of place. Built in 1989, the city of Santa Fe does not allow large outside lights at resorts like this one…hence, the 18 tennis courts are sunlight only.
There are four nearby golf courses and a spa is slated to open in the spring of this year. The soon to open Villas at Rancho Valencia with its private residence club are shared ownership condos (not time shares). This area was once part of the Fairbanks (Douglas) Ranch. A member of Relais & Chateau, the 40 acre, 49 villas resort was named the #2 North American Resort by Conde Nast Traveler, which also placed them on their 2006 Gold List and called them a “very secluded California hacienda.” Tennis Magazine said they were one of the top-10 tennis resorts in the U.S.
Best view from a hotel restaurant - La Valencia Hotel in downtown La Jolla, 15 minutes from San Diego and a sister resort to Rancho Valencia. The hotel was built in 1926 with many rooms (and the terrace restaurant) facing La Jolla Cove and the Pacific Ocean. There are 115 rooms, suites and villas and, interestingly, no floors 1, 2 or 3. There are separate suites that are not attached to the historic older portion and can, therefore, offer modern touches. The 10th floor Sky Room French restaurant has 12 tables and booths and superb service. Close your eyes and envision a huge pink estate from the Golden Era of Hollywood and you have it.
Location, contrary to the popular refrain in real estate, isn’t always everything. From the outside, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa doesn’t look like its interior. It is located on a main road outside of town opposite the University of California at San Diego and 14 miles from the San Diego airport. General Manager Guiseppe Lama came from the classic Hotel Del Coronado and brought most of his staff with him, including Executive Chef Jesse Frost. He helped design the rooms because he came onboard while the hotel was being built in 2004. The 210 rooms are set in an octagon around a courtyard with pathways, gardens, fountains and feature an Executive Learning Retreat. Passionate about service and details, Giuseppe is proud that Conde Nast Traveler referred to The Estancia as “one of the world’s hottest new hotels for 2005/2006.” It is also on their Gold List and a 4 Diamond AAA property.
Most romantic getaway and best place to steal a moonlight kiss from your partner…located in the coastal village of Del Mar, 20 minutes north of San Diego, L’Auberge Del Mar Resort & Spa is an AAA 4 Diamond property. Built in 1989 it replaced two older hotels that were the home away from home of Hollywood celebrities who attended the nearby Del Mar Racetrack. Bing Crosby was one of the owners of the track and photos of his cronies are scattered throughout the hotel. There is a private path leading from the 120-room main building to Torrey Pines State Reserve and the Pacific Ocean below. I loved the Chardonnay Vitalite Spa Treatment using Chardonnay grapes, of course.
Best resort, even if you don’t gamble, and laced with 2,000 slot machines and 70 table games the Barona Valley Ranch Casino Resort offers more than just gambling to its visitors. The land was purchased by the Barona Band of Mission Indians in 1932 and the resort/casino, located 30 minutes from downtown San Diego on reservation land, was opened in 2003 (there was Bingo in a tented area for years previously). Their golf course was rated as the third best resort course in California and the 400 rooms resemble the rustic California ranch-style of the 1930’s. Be sure to enjoy dinner at the Barona Oaks Steak House and a relaxing massage in the spa. If possible, ask and get a tour of the very secluded private gaming rooms located downstairs although they maintain that they are only available to players with a credit limit of at least seven figures. There is a helicopter and limousine available to take that particular individual and/or his family directly into the private parking garage. Slot machines are $500 and $1,000 and the non-gamblers in the group have a private chef and entertainment available in an adjacent room.
Built in 1968 on 350 acres, the Temecula Creek Inn offers wonderful views of the golf courses and mountains. How about a resort with three golf courses within walking distance from your room? Temecula Creek Inn is under the same ownership as Rancho Bernardo Inn and chances are that your balcony will overlook the first hole of one of the three 9-hole courses. Built in 1968 on 350 acres, there are 130 rooms, many of which face the San Jacinto Mountains. The old historic Stone House is also the site for many weddings. There are winery tour packages (The Temet Grill has a great local wine list) and the largest Indian casino in California is only three miles away. The town of Temecula, with its 24 family owned wineries, has grown to over 100,000 populations.
If style is at the top of your list, head for the decorated public rooms and use of art you will discover at Rancho Bernardo Inn located on 297 acres 40 minutes north of San Diego. The 287 rooms are scattered among 8 buildings with 12 tennis courts and 45 holes of golf are available. The public rooms are filled with antiquities, oriental rugs, lots of art and wood beam ceilings. Tennis Magazine called Rancho Bernardo “A Top-50 U.S. Tennis Resort.” El Bizcocho restaurant has a 1,300 bottle wine list that has won the Best of Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator and is Zagat’s highest rated restaurant in a golf resort in southern California. AAA has awarded the Inn its 4 Diamond award.
When in California one must locate at least one vineyard of note, likely dozens. In this case you might have to settle for a view of one - South Coast Winery Resort & Spa on the main road through Temecula. The 76 private villas come complete with fireplaces and spa tubs. There is a bottle of South Coast wine awaiting you on your private terrace overlooking the vineyards. The Vineyard Rose restaurant serves local cuisine and also faces the vineyards with a winery that was built in 2002, along with the spa and conference center on a 400 acre property with 38 acres of vineyards.
Very often, a family owned venue exudes the most warmth and the best welcome mat, as is the case with the Newport Channel Inn, family owned since 1972. The travel channel called Newport Beach one of the top 10 beaches in the USA. If you are looking for a change of pace and a smaller locale, you have found it. On the main highway just outside town it is, literally, steps from the beach. I was provided with maps and discount coupons for many of the attractions...nice touch. While there be certain to take the ferry to Balboa Island ($1.50 with auto for the 4 minute ride), then a walk along the Balboa Fun Zone (lots of shops & great for the kids); a visit to the Newport Pier and the Nautical Museum and, finally, a brief stop at Fashion Island with its 200 stores. Nice day. Did you know the TV show OC is filmed here? Just a bit or trivia.
One more great place was dinner at restaurant Whist, voted by Food & Wine Magazine one of the 50 best hotel restaurants in America, just across the street from L’Merigot, where I happened to be staying. Originally built in 1969 as another hotel it was reborn in 2002 after a complete renovation. But, once inside, it is easy to note the effort that went into every detail of the hotel from the 14-foot-tall light sculpture to the china displays and oversized cameos. An excellent value with the tasting menu of four courses matched with three wines and all for only $100. The 163 room hotel has lots of Pacific Ocean views.
With all there was to see on this trip it was hard to select that absolute best sunset view but I seemed to find it, together with a fantastic massage at L’Merigot Beach Hotel & Spa, albeit not both at the same time. This is the highest rated AAA & Mobil property in Santa Monica (a JW Marriott hotel), opened in 2000 with 175 rooms and a pet friendly program. The rooms are very large and one with a private balcony makes it all the more enticing as one watches the sun rise and set over the Pacific Ocean. Dinner in the Cezanne Restaurant, prepared by Executive Soux Chef Robert Harrison, is an experience not to be missed, and the French menu was inspired by local Farmers Markets.
Hotel Del Coronado was built in 1898. If you want to be in the midst of San Diego and within walking distance of just about everything in town, head for the Hilton Gaslamp Quarter Hotel located in the heart of the historic Gaslamp Quarter (National Historic District) and directly across the street from the Convention Center. The National Weather Service called the climate in San Diego the most ideal in America. Within the walking distance referred to are shopping, theatres, art galleries and over 150 restaurants and clubs. For example, Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, Seaport Village, The San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, Maritime Museum (5 ships), harbor cruises and cruise line docks are all along the Gaslamp Quarter. The airport is only 10 minutes, cutting that last minute rush down to an almost acceptable experience. Seek out a room in the Enclave at the Hilton (30 lofts & suites), a “hotel within a hotel” with 14-foot loft ceilings, a private elevator and entrance as well as a whirlpool tub. If you can make the time, head over to the world famous San Diego Zoo…with over 4,000 animals, Coronado Island and the historic (1898) Hotel Del Coronado; Balboa Park with 1,400 acres, 15 museums and 85 cultural institutions. It is the largest urban cultural park in America. Still got a moment or two? OK, head for the Cabrillo National Monument, the 3rd most visited national monument in the US, Old Town, the birthplace of California history and the most visited site in San Diego. If you are on an extended holiday then you will have time to cross the border and see Tijuana, Mexico a half-hour south of town and Sea World & Legoland, also about a half hour distant.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone was among an estimated 300 community leaders, growers and winemakers on hand to help dedicate more than $2 million in upgrades that have helped to beautify Wine Country. The beautification effort included stone entry archways, directional markers, rail fencing, roses, cork oaks and Italian cypress installed on Rancho California Road, the main artery running through 2,000-acre Wine Country. The ribbon cutting between two ice sculptures duplicating the entry monuments took place at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. The project is funded by Riverside County and supplemented with an annual maintenance assessment from Temecula Valley winery owners.
…South Coast Winery Resort & Spa has released a pair of Rosé wines that are designed to appeal to both experienced and novice wine lovers. Record crowds at the winery over the President’s Day weekend got a chance to sample South Coast Winery 2005 Merlot Rosé ($14) and 2005 Cabernet Rosé ($14) for the first time. The 2005 Merlot Rosé is a light, mildly sweet, drinkable wine that goes well with nearly all food. With 4 percent residual sugar, it has become a favorite of those who prefer a less dry wine. South Coast this year also produced a Cabernet Rosé, which wine maker Jon McPherson said carries sensational strawberry flavors and has residual sugar of 2 percent.
The California Regional Wine Tasting to be held in Temecula on March 11 is living up to its historic billing. Not only is it a sellout, but organizers have sold twice as many tickets as originally projected. More than 1,000 wine lovers are expected to attend the one-day gathering at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa that will feature more than 100 different wines from 14 of California’s best wine-producing regions. For those who missed this year’s inaugural event, don’t despair. Plans are being made to make the wine tasting an annual event that will take in California and the rest of the country. Event organizers hope to expand the event in 2007 to include one day to sample California wine and a second day to taste American wines from places such as New York, Ohio, Maryland and Virginia. “Our vision is to make it into a two-day signature event,” said Linda Kissam, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, which is co-sponsoring this year’s event.
Vineyard Rose restaurant and its executive chef, Dan Saito, continue to reap regional recognition. Following a glowing review in the San Diego Union Tribune in January, Saito was featured in a segment of KFMB Channel 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. Saito chatted with reporter Nichelle Medina about South Coast Winery Resort & Spa owner Jim Carter’s philosophy and vision of bringing quality wines and culinary experiences to Southern California. Carter, who began growing grapes in the Temecula area in the 1990s, built South Coast, a 38-acre destination property in the heart of Temecula’s Wine Country that produces award-winning wines. Carter wants everyone to be able to share in the ultimate Wine Country experience at a working winery. Vineyard Rose, the centerpiece of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, opened last summer. Lynn Alley wrote in the San Diego Union Tribune earlier this year that the restaurant “can hold its own among the best San Diego County has to offer.” Saito traded in a career in the international electronics business to attend culinary school in Paris. He worked under notable chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Towers and Julian Serrano, and at the Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii.
An inflection point for the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association will be the most important event in the appellation’s history, on Saturday March 11th.
The Association was granted important funds by the national Wine Institute to help underwrite the first “California Regional Wine Tasting” in two decades, being held at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa from 11 am to 4:30 pm in their Grand Ballroom.
The event, which is open to the public, is being hosted and sold exclusively by the TVWA. It will feature some 14 wine growing areas of California, pouring more than 100 different wines in the regal setting of the newly built resort and vineyards.
Rhonda Motil, who represents the Monterey County Vintners and Growers said of the event, “this is an exciting way to partner with fellow wine-making regions to promote quality California wines. It’s also a great way to taste the diversity of California wines in one central spot.” Wines are expected from Amador, Calaveras, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Livermore, San Diego, and Temecula Valley .
Wine lovers know that being able to identify a taste with a sense of place is important in learning what is the essence of a personal wine experience. At this event, the visitor will be able to speak directly with each regional representative to gain an understanding of how award-winning wines are structured. Lovely appetizers will be available to pair up with the wines being served by South Coast’s reputable executive guest chef, Dan Saito.
Since there is a space consideration, only a limited number of tickets can be sold to this truly special wine event. Casual dress is OK, and those in attendance will receive a signature glass. While you are there, be sure to tour South Coast’s exotic grounds and facilities, including the world class Vineyard Rose Restaurant that holds 150 guests.
The spa and nearby villas are intimate and luxurious, and nestled in a natural vineyard setting. For tickets and information to the California Regional Wine Tasting, call 800-801-9463, or log on to www.temeculawines.com . (Sold Out)
-As a native Californian I’m proud to proclaim that our well-crafted wines are truly the equal of any in the World. There is great variety throughout the appellations in the State.
-History is being made on Saturday, March 11th when 14 wine producing regions in California come together to showcase over 100 of their best vintages for the first time in almost 20 years! This grand tasting is being hosted by The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association at the elegant South Coast Winery Resort, Temecula’s first all-suite destination hotel which is surrounded by lush vineyards.
-As a real bonus the resort’s accomplished chef, Dan Saito, who cooked at the most exclusive resorts in Hawaii, will create a variety of sumptuous hors d’oeuvres designed to pair with the featured wines.
-Among the appellations included are: Amador, Calaveras, Lodi, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma County, Livermore Valley, San Diego, Sonoma Valley, Santa Barbara, and host Temecula Valley.
-You don’t need to be a wine authority to enjoy this landmark event. It’s priced at a very reasonable $45.00 per guest with advance reservations. It runs from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 11th.
-The location is the Grand Ballroom of the South Coast Winery Resort in Temecula. Tickets and information can be found at www.temeculawines.org or by calling (800) 801-9463.
January 26, 2006 TEMECULA – If you still think of Temecula as a culinary backwater, you’ve got another think coming. With the advent of Vineyard Rose, the new 12,000-square-foot restaurant at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Temecula can hold its own among the best San Diego County has to offer. (OK, it’s in Riverside County, but you get the connection.) The winery and resort itself is composed of a mammoth conference center, wine production facility and tasting room, with first-class casita lodging and a soon-to-be-completed spa facility. It’s located on Rancho California Road, the main thoroughfare through Temecula’s rapidly growing wine country. The new restaurant is something you ought not to miss. The interior is one cavernous room with blond wooden high-beamed ceilings and a sort of “mountain resort” feel. All that’s missing is a big old fireplace. The inside dining room seats 150, while an outdoor patio can seat an additional 120. (The timbers at Vineyard Rose, by the way, were salvaged from the astating San Diego fires. Not a tree was felled.)
The resort’s executive chef, Dan Saito, began as a business major at UCLA and served as a corporate VP in an international electronics firm for 10 years before he switched tracks to attend culinary school in Paris. He has worked under such noteworthy chefs as Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Towers and Julian Serrano, and at the Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii.
Besides having an impressive kitchen track record, Saito is a darned nice guy. He says he works patiently with his kitchen staff until he has got them trained just the way he likes them. He wants to encourage them to stick around and think of the kitchen as a potential career ground rather than just a place to pick up a few bucks.
Vineyard Rose’s breakfasts include such delectables as Chef Dan’s Banana Creamed Pancake with vanilla bean sauce ($4); a Pineapple Upside Down Pancake ($6); or the Chef’s Personal Breakfast (eggs scrambled with chorizo, accompanied by sliced Portuguese sausage and fried rice, $11). There are also mesquite-grilled pork chops and eggs with sauteed onions and homemade chutney ($13), or an Asian Tofu Scramble ($10).
Lunch’s small-plates menu includes pork tenderloin with Cajun essence topped with ancho chile cream ($12); coconut-crusted crab cake with sweet Thai mustard sauce and Asian coleslaw ($15); or an Ahi Tuna Tower with olives, capers, pickled lemon zest and avocado ($13). A shrimp pita sandwich ($12) is among the sandwich selections.
“Afternoon entrees” include Asparagus and Pancetta Ravioli ($17), a steak kebab ($22), or Pan-Seared Cajun Herbed Chicken ($18).
Dinner’s list of starters features Baby-Back Pork Ribs with Homemade Passion Fruit BBQ Sauce ($12) and Duck Confit Spring Rolls ($12). There’s a Spinach Salad With Garlic Cajun Shrimp ($10) and a House Salad ($8). Among entree choices are New York steak ($24), grilled pork chop with mesquite pork bread pudding ($21), or salmon en croute with mustard cream sauce ($19).
Vineyard Rose Restaurant is at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula; (866) 946379. Breakfast 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. daily, lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it occurred to me that readers might be interested in celebrating the event in Temecula’s Wine Country. Let’s start with Jim Carter’s South Coast Winery Resort & Spa.
I asked executive chef Dan Saito if he planned to offer any special Valentine’s Day breakfast at his exquisite Vineyard Rose Restaurant. “Of course,” he told me. “Chef Dan’s Banana Creamed Pancake is among our most popular offerings, and would be most well suited for that occasion. It consists of heart-shaped pancakes stacked between luscious banana fillings and topped with sliced strawberries and blueberries.”
A flute of South Coast’s NV sparkling wine with a with a crest of crushed fresh strawberries accompanies the pancakes. For those with extra time, South Coast boasts 76 private villas among the grapevines with fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs and terraces near the resort’s GrapeSeed Spa. Call (866) 946379.
Down Rancho California Road, Carol Baily presides over the eponymous Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Winery and has planned a festive Valentine’s Day Luncheon on February 14. Limited seating is still available at the site’s Bacchus Hall. Featured entree of her three-course meal is a choice of either grilled New York steak with a cabernet reduction sauce or macadamia crested mahi mahi. The prix fixe tab is $29,98, and a glass of Baily’s 2002 cabernet franc port would provide an ideal denouement. Reserve to (951) 676-9243.
If a Valentine’s Day Dinner is in the plans, check out any one of the three days of “Romantic Valentine Rendezvous” planned Feb. 10, 11 and 14 at Thornton Winery’s Vineyard View Room. For $75, here's what’s on the menu: a champagne reception featuring Thornton’s blanc de noir; Alaskan Crab Corn Souffle, with Thornton’s 2002 Sauvignon Blanc; Prime Beef Tournedos and Chilean Sea Bass (accompanied by Thornton’s 2002 Cabernet-Merlot); Tuxedo Strawberries and a chocolate sweetheart box; and cappuccino with pot de creme and Thornton’s 2004 Moscato. If that isn’t enough, I’m told there’ll be soft candlelight and dreamy music to set the stage for a memorable Valentine’s evening. Since these dinners are usually sold out early, I’d reserve soonest to (951) 699-0099.
Several other nearby wineries also offer dining, though not the med for Valentine’s Day. Mount Palomar Winery has a well-stocked Italian deli, gift shop and attractive artwork, with a mission-style guest center and spacious patio nearby.
The Smokehouse Cafe at Ponte Winery is a popular destination for casual dining, as is the Inn at Churon Winery’s French-style chateau with deli, gift shop and guest accommodations. The area’s initial on-site restaurant was Allie’s at Callaway, with award-winning California-Mediterranean cuisine served overlooking the winery’s vineyards. The newest restaurant in the Wine Country is the Plantation House on the premises of the Maurice Car’rie Winery.
Stay tuned: Temecula’s Wine Country is spotlighted in a new TV series that is “a mouth-watering journey around the wine regions and vineyards of California.” Farm manager Ben Drake, Hart Winery, Thornton Winery, Mount Palomar Winery and South Coast Winery Resort & Spa are featured in “A Taste of California,” which explores different wine regions and provides plenty of useful wine tips. Each of the 13 half-hour episodes will be broadcast on Great Chefs TV and wine lovers can also learn about Temecula in-flight. In addition, the segment will be translated into eight languages and is expected to reach viewers throughout Western Europe, the UK, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Mexico and the United States. The series also explores Temecula’s culinary offerings, great places to see and stay and some of the most breath-taking scenery on the planet. “A Taste of California” is hosted by Simon Kane, produced by the California Travel and Tourism Commission and underwritten by The Travel Channel in Europe.
For the past 10 years winemakers Jon McPherson and Javier Flores have produced small batches of a special fortified Muscat port wine for family and friends. The pair took Muscat to the next level by producing this port in a solera system made famous by Spain’s sherry producers. This year, for the first time, the award winning winemakers at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa have made this uniquely special wine available to the public. A limited number of 500 ml bottles of “Sweet Maggie, Antique Muscat” are now available for sale at South Coast Winery. "Sweet Maggie” is priced at $48.
Two more California wine-making regions have agreed to participate in an historic wine tasting to be held at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa in Temecula on March 11. Fourteen wineries will be pouring more than 100 different wines at the first California Regional Wine Tasting to be held in nearly two decades. “This is an exciting way to partner with fellow wine-making regions to promote quality California wines,” said Rhonda Motil, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, which represents 50 wineries. “It’s also a great way to taste the diversity of California wines in one central spot.” Hosted by the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and sponsored in part by the Wine Institute, the event will include wines from Amador, Calaveras, Lodi, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma County, Livermore Valley, San Diego, Sonoma Valley, Santa Barbara and Temecula Valley. Tickets are $45 per person and include the tasting, a souvenir glass and hors d’oeuvres prepared by guest chef Dan Saito. Tickets sold exclusively through the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and LocalWineEvents.com. For additional information call 800-801-9463 or purchase tickets at temeculawines.org.
The food and dining experience at the new South Coast Winery Resort & Spa in Temecula are everything you’d expect from its celebrity executive chef, Dan Saito.
Chef Dan Saito displays a grilled pork chop entrée with a plum wine poached apple compote sauce at the Vineyard Rose Restaurant in Temecula.
Trained in Paris, Saito earned his chops under the tutelage of Wolfgang Puck of Spagos in Hollywood and Jeremiah Towers of Stars Restaurant in San Francisco.
Eleven years ago, Microsoft magnate Bill Gates summoned Saito from the exclusive Masa’s Restaurant in San Francisco to help cater the billionaire’s wedding reception at the Manele Bay Hotel Resort and Spa on the Hawaiian island of Lanai.
When the winery’s Vineyard Rose Restaurant opened five months ago, Saito introduced his cuisine, Euro Pacific with Midwest and Cajun touches.
He combines international dishes and cooking techniques, especially mesquite grilling. The results yield the likes of pan-seared halibut with tropical fruit salsa and coconut jasmine rice ($21), and baby-back pork ribs starter ($12) grilled on open mesquite, glazed with passion-fruit barbecue sauce.
In the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa rests on 38 acres of lush vineyards. Although the attire leans toward the casual, the restaurant is elegant.
Stained-glass windows, intimate booths, stone walls, linens and dim lighting belie a warm, cozy atmosphere. The staff is friendly and attentive.
Unfortunately, the cathedral ceilings play havoc with the acoustics. As the evening wore on and the restaurant filled up, dining was dinful.
Considering the chef’s reputation and the upscale property, menu prices are fairly reasonable. Every detail of Chef Saito’s dishes is perfect, from seasoning to plating. Appetizers average $12; dinner entrées range from pan-seared chicken ($15) to top-of-the-line petite filet mignon ($28); desserts are $6.
My husband, Ezra, and I started with spinach ravioli ($10), pillowy puffs stuffed with cheese and sautéed asparagus in a hot roasted red chili tomato sauce. Our friends Roger and Dianne shared the tomato and mozzarella salad ($9).
I polished off one of Saito’s signature dishes, fresh taro crusted Hawaiian mahi mahi with rock shrimp escabesche (a spicy tomato, garlic and vinegar marinade) and coconut jasmine rice ($26.95).
Ezra found the prime rib ($24.95) melt-in-you-mouth fantastic. Saito said the meat is subjected to a seven-hour slow-roasting process.
The New York steak ($24) is offered in two versions: mesquite grilled with sautéed wild mushroom Madeira wine sauce and creamed horseradish potato or sliced with teriyaki sauce and served with stir-fried vegetables. Roger chose the teriyaki, which was tender, richly seasoned and well prepared.
Dianne said her fresh salmon encroute ($19), cooked in wine with a mushroom purée and baked in a shell, was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures.
We detonated a rich dessert, the macadamia nut bomb. Picture a nutty chocolate mousse atop a truffle cake, frozen and then dipped in chocolate.
Review meals are paid for by The Press-Enterprise.
TEMECULA, Calif., Dec. 19, 2005 — Two more California wine-making regions have agreed to participate in an historic wine tasting to be held at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa in Temecula, Calif., on March 11.
Fourteen wineries will be pouring more than 100 different wines at the first California Regional Wine Tasting to be held in nearly two decades.
“This is an exciting way to partner with fellow wine-making regions to promote quality California wines," said Rhonda Motil, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, which represents 50 wineries. “It's also a great way to taste the diversity of California wines in one central spot."
Hosted by the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and sponsored in part by the Wine Institute, the event will include wines from Amador, Calaveras, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma County, Livermore Valley, Lodi, San Diego, Sonoma Valley, Santa Barbara and Temecula Valley.
“It was the vision of our president to re-establish this program and promote wines from the regions on up," said Tom LaFaille with the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based wine industry lobbying and promotional group.
The event also gives each region a chance to learn about the other and see how their wines stack up.
“Southern California is an important consumer market for growers and vintners from Sonoma," said Nick Frey, executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association. “We see this event as an attractive opportunity to showcase our wines."
For Temecula, hosting the regional tasting is recognition that Wine Country is an important wine making region.
“We are excited that other wine regions have agreed to come to Temecula," said Peggy Evans with Callaway Vineyard & Winery and who helped organize the event. “This just adds more weight to fact that Temecula is a premier wine-making region."
Tickets are $45 per person and include the tasting, a souvenir glass and hors d'oeuvres prepared by guest chef Dan Saito of South Coast. Tickets sold exclusively through the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association and www.LocalWineEvents.com. For additional information or media passes call 800-801-9463.
WINE COUNTRY—Associations representing wine-grape growers in Sonoma County and vintners and growers in Monterey County have agreed to participate in a local wine-tasting event in March, the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association said in a release.
The Temecula Valley vintners and growers will host the event using a $25,000 grant from the Wine Institute, a statewide association.
According to the Temecula Valley group, the event will feature wines from 14 areas—including Amador, Calaveras, Mendocino, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley, Lodi, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Sonoma County, including Sonoma Valley.
The event will be held March 11 at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, 34843 Rancho California Road.
Plans for the tasting follow the beginning of the Temecula Valley association’s new marketing campaign, with its “Taste the Place” theme. Each region can submit four cases of wine, theoretically as many as 48 bottles, an association representative. That could mean about 700 bottles of wine available for tasting.
A visit to South Coast Winery Resort & Spa takes wine touring to a new level of elegance. Located in the heart of Temecula’s wine country and surrounded by vineyards this Resort offers luxury accommodations, an award winning restaurant and the opportunity to enjoy the wines made on the premises.
Located on 38 acres that command vistas in every direction the Resort has 76 rooms, all situated in the midst of the vineyards. Early next year a Spa will be added to the Resort, it was nearing completion at this writing.
This Writer had a tour of the resort with Mark Zovic, general manager. This required a golf cart since the resort is spacious with each four villas located in its own building. Luxurious is the only word that can describe the ambiance and furnishings of each room and its private patio overlooking the vineyards and surrounding countryside.
Next stop was The Vineyard Rose for luncheon with Proprietor Jim Carter and Winemaker Jon McPherson. Like everything else at the Resort the restaurant is big, with seating for over 100 inside and outside patio seating for 100 plus. We also met with Executive Chef Dan Saito who heads the culinary team.
Chef Saito came to South Coast Resort with impressive credentials. He took his training at La Serre Culinary Academy in Paris. He came to South Coast from Hawaii where he was executive chef at Manele Bay Hotel Resort.
At Vineyard Rose he shows a menu that offers contemporary cuisine with hints and influences of the Pacific Rim. We ordered the fried Calamari and Shrimp, which is listed as a starter on the menu along with items like baby back pork ribs, crab cake, sliced Ahi tuna or Confit duck spring rolls. We also had the opportunity to taste the coconut shrimp and Chinese styled pork.
The Calamari was listed as a ‘starter’ but it arrived on big platter and we could not, regretfully, clean our plate. Evening entrées include steaks, pork chops, chicken and seafood, most showing a hint of Asia like the pan seared halibut with tropical fruit salsa and coconut Jasmine rice or the New York steak that can be ordered with Teriyaki sauce and Asian style stir fried vegetables.
As restaurant for the resort it serves full menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. On weekends it is also gathering place for many locals since the word is out on the culinary skills of Chef Saito.
After lunch we adjourned to the handsomely furnished Tasting Room to taste and discuss the handiwork of Winemaker Jon McPherson. He has been making wine in Temecula Valley since 1985 and joined Jim Carter at South Coast in 2003.
The pride of both Jim Carter and Jon McPherson is the Wild Horse Peak vineyards located at the base of Mount Palomar. This vineyard has achieved fame for its red wines: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah.
Under the South Coast label one finds Viognier, chardonnay, zinfandel and muscat canelli. For this Writer Jon pulled a bottle of a meritage that will not be released for another several months. From Wild Horse Peak vineyard’s cabernet sauvignon and merlot the vintage promises an outstanding future. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is located at 34843 Rancho California Road in Temecula. Call 951 587-9463 or on the web at www.WineResort.com.
Next issue Vittles will explore Temecula’s newest wineries and tasting rooms and what will become another wine road.
Much More Than Grapes
South Coast Winery Resort & Spa in Temecula has a restaurant, added a 76-villa hotel this summer, and is building a day spa. Temecula’s Wine Country offers much more than wine to attract visitors. Northern California’s wine country became famous with its austere, rural image.
Temecula Valley’s Wine Country is taking a different route. While other wine regions try to keep commerce out of agricultural areas by prohibiting most elopment, local wineries have created their own identity, focused as much on tourism as agriculture.
“Temecula realizes that they’re not just in the wine business, they’re in the entertainment business,” said Kim Kelliher, owner of The Grape Line, a Temecula-based tourist shuttle that offers tours of the wine country in Temecula Valley and Paso Robles on the central coast, where business activity is strictly limited.
“Saturday in Temecula is crazy,” Kelliher said. “It’s 20 (people) deep at the (wine-tasting) bar. Paso Robles is nothing like that.” Tourists there are drawn more for the history and nature, she said.
An ordinance expected to be approved by the Riverside County Planning Commission today places some restrictions on elopment -- such as prohibiting drive-through restaurants and hotels on small parcels of land -- but gives business activity in Wine Country wide latitude. The commission staff has recommended approval of the ordinance.
The county ordinance would allow a potpourri of businesses in Wine Country, including coffee and doughnut shops, day spas, restaurants, and antique or art-supply stores.
Push to Limit Homes. Some residents of Wine Country have asked supervisors to make it more difficult to build future homes in the area, but there has been no organized movement to add more restrictions. In public comments to the supervisors and the Planning Commission, most objections have come from wineries and land owners who want fewer limits on businesses in Wine Country, such as a requirement to make wine from local grapes.
The county Board of Supervisors must approve the ordinance before it can take effect. The supervisors have said that they expect a vote in January.
In 1984, the Board of Supervisors decided that the growing Wine Country needed protection if it was going to remain an agricultural area and not become overrun with housing and other elopment. The board created the 5,000-acre citrus/vineyard zone in the Temecula Valley, which houses most of the wineries.
Thornton Winery opened the first restaurant, Café Champagne, in 1988. The first lodging in Wine Country, the Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast, opened later that year.
There are now 24 wineries in the Temecula Valley Wine Country, double the number five years ago. Each has a tasting room.
About another dozen are in various stages of planning. Some of the new ones are putting up temporary tasting rooms before the main winery is built.
Wine Country has six restaurants, with more on the way. Two wineries have hotels and one is building a spa. There are three stand-alone hotels, not attached to wineries. Two more hotels and a spa are being planned.
South Coast Winery has a restaurant, added a 76-villa hotel this summer, and is building a day spa. Maurice Car’rie hosts crafts vendors in front of the winery on weekends, and opened a new restaurant on its property last month.
“Tourist Destination.” Add in the jazz concerts, balloon rides, gift shops and tours, and Wine Country has plenty for even a teetotaler to do.
“This is a tourist destination,” said Buddy Linn, owner of Maurice Car’rie and VR/La Cereza Vineyard and Winery. “We’ve got to treat it like that. All (the extras are) a part of that.”
Even in December, wineries lured tourists on a recent sunny weekday afternoon. Of half-a-dozen interviewed, none expressed any interest in a more rural, Napa-style Temecula Valley without the frills.
“If you’re really a wine connoisseur, maybe you go to Napa and just drink wine,” said Teresa Lockrey, of Temecula, who had just finished eating lunch at South Coast’s Vineyard Rose Restaurant. “I don’t just want wine, I want the whole experience -- the spa, the restaurant.”
Temecula Valley’s elopment is a sharp contrast to other California wine regions. In order to preserve open space and prevent agricultural areas from being eloped, most winemaking counties put stricter limits on winery activities than Riverside County.
Napa and Sonoma counties prohibit restaurants, hotels and almost all other non-agricultural businesses in their wine areas. These businesses are allowed in towns surrounded by wine country, but not at the wineries themselves.
Sonoma allows bed and breakfasts at wineries, but limits them to five rooms and forbids them from serving any food except breakfast to guests. Napa bans them altogether, and doesn’t allow wineries to open gift shops or sell anything but wine. A few older wineries are allowed tasting rooms, but not all.
Santa Barbara County wine country forbids all restaurants, retail businesses and hotels, and requires that tasting rooms not be the main focus of wineries.
Tougher Rules Elsewhere. “We’ve found a niche that works for us and makes us economically viable and ecologically sustainable,” said Sandy Elles, executive director of the Napa County Farm Bureau. The bureau supports the county’s business restrictions on agricultural land and has campaigned to tighten them.
A Napa County supervisor this year proposed allowing weddings at wineries, an idea that the farm bureau and the local wineries association quickly quashed. "There are plenty of places to get married around here -- in town,” Elles said.
About half the Temecula Valley wineries host weddings.
Temecula Valley's different attitude toward Wine Country elopment is on display in other ways as well.
Napa County passed an ordinance last year banning commercial flights at heliports, in a bid to control noise from airborne wine-country tourists. At least four Temecula Valley wineries now have landing sites for helicopters to bring in tourists.
Vik Keuylian, an Orange County Lamborghini dealer, has plans to build a winery and 120-room hotel and spa in the Temecula Valley, potentially creating the largest resort in the area. But the new ordinance might force him to scale back the project.
“The economics of it just don’t allow us to operate like Napa,” said Peter Poole, owner of Mount Palomar Winery. “It’s a different situation.”
Temecula Valley produces far less wine than other parts of California, he said, making it almost impossible to sell wine only to restaurants or grocery stores.
Last year, Riverside County grew 1,700 acres of wine grapes, mostly in the Temecula Valley. That figure was up almost 50 percent from 2003, but it pales compared with other wine regions -- 17,000 acres in Santa Barbara County, 40,000 in Napa County and 50,000 in Sonoma County.
Another difference with the other wine counties is location. While other wine regions are far from population centers, Temecula Valley is within an hour’s drive from Orange County and San Diego, making tourism more lucrative.
While Temecula Valley Wine Country is more permissive toward elopment, it’s not “anything goes” either.
The Planning Commission ordinance tries to prevent bars disguised as tasting rooms in Wine Country by requiring wineries to make and sell their own wine, using mostly local grapes.
And new houses must sit on 10 acres, or 5 acres if several houses are clustered together, to maximize open space.
Sonoma’s agricultural areas also have a 10-acre minimum for new houses, though in some areas that increases to as much as 60 acres. In Napa wine country, the minimum lot is 40 acres.
Tish Beltranena, chair of the Central Coast Winegrowers Association’s Wine Industry Task Force, said that while Temecula Valley has one of the more relaxed approaches to regulation of its Wine Country, others are moving in that direction.
Wineries that her group represents in Santa Barbara wine country have proposed zoning changes that would allow bed and breakfasts to open in the area. “Winemaking is important,” she said. “But tourism is important, too.”
Starting next month, wine lovers will get a chance to sample the fare at two new tasting rooms in Temecula Wine Country. With the addition of tasting rooms at Wiens Family Cellars and Oak Mountain Vineyard and Winery the amount of wineries totals 22, and each will welcome you to sample their wines and experience each of their own special hospitality. Five years ago there were 15 tasting rooms in Temecula. Oak Mountain, which is located on DePortola Road across from Leonesse Cellars, will open a temporary tasting room in December. At the same time, Jeff Wiens said, “the Wiens Family Cellars, just east of Ponte Family Estate Winery on Rancho California Road, plans to open a temporary 750-square-foot tasting room with an oak bar by mid-month.” He expects the winery to be completed in six months.
Wineries and restaurants in Wine Country are making it easy on your pocketbook to leisurely enjoy award-winning wine and great food during non-peak periods. Special coupons at the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association Web site are available for discounts on both food and wine at five Wine Country estates from November 14 to December 16. Take advantage of 10-percent-off coupons for weekday meals at the Smokehouse Café at Ponte Winery, the Vineyard Rose restaurant at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Carol’s Restaurant at Baily Winery and Allie’s at Callaway. Also enjoy 2-for-1 coupons for wine tasting at Callaway, South Coast and Baily wineries. Simply download the coupon from temeculawines.org/show/coupon.asp.
What do winemakers do with a near-record grape harvest and overflowing fermentation tanks? If they are Temecula winemakers they create special wines that allow us to enjoy a broader palate of wines. Jon McPherson, winemaker at South Coast Winery, Resort & Spa got creative when he ended up with 75 tons more of Merlot grapes than he had a year ago. The solution: He bled off some of the juice and made a Merlot Rosé, a light, slightly sweet, very drinkable wine that matches up well with nearly all food. The new wine will debut in January and retail for about $12 to $14 a bottle. When Jay Weseloh, assistant winemaker at Thornton Winery, lost his source of Grenache grapes used in the winery’s rosé, he turned to a plentiful grape---Sangiovese. Although the grape that makes up Chianti is not typically used in a rosé Weseloh liked its flavor and color in the tank. “It tasted like it would make a good rosé,” he said. Thornton plans to release about 550 cases of the special rose this spring. It will be priced at $14 to $16 a bottle.
Several weeks ago I began setting the stage for a “SURPRISE” family gathering for my husband which later would unfold into a romantic wedding anniversary getaway for just the two of us. I worked closely with Charise McLaughlin, the assistant to Jim Carter, owner of the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa located on Rancho California Road right here in Temecula.
The plan was to have lunch with the family in the private dinning room. Thereafter, the family would be transported to our luxurious 1150-square-foot suite with the intention that this was a promotional tour. After a short tour of the suite, a staff member would present my husband with keys to the suite and wishes for a pleasant stay.
The finishing touch was to find a classical singer to perform selected pieces of music. I contacted the Musicians Workshop (951) 678-2517. Jon and Jane Laskin promote American cultural awareness through music. Jon and Jane immediately suggested that I contact Nichole Lohre, a senior at Temecula Valley High School. Nichole’s immediate goals are to receive a Bachelor of Arts in vocal performance, and her long-term goal is to become a recording artist. As we were to discover, Nichole is a very refined young lady with amazing talent.
The day had arrived and all plans were set in place. It was one of those gorgeous warm Southern California autumn days as my husband whisked me off on a beautiful drive to enjoy our few hours together over a celebration lunch. Or so he thought! Upon arrival, we viewed the Bell Tower rising behind the multi-tiered courtyard. There was an intoxicating fragrance from the terraced rose gardens and shade from lush palm trees, with fountains and the sound of water spilling over the cascading stone waterfall creating a colorful and soothing ambiance.
The family was gathered in the well-appointed private dining room, proudly awaiting our arrival. The expression on my husband’s face was worth all the planning and special arrangements we had to make. We dined in style as executive chef Dan Saito waved his baton, creating a melody of dining excellence.
Our next step was to proceed to our suite, where the family had an opportunity to view the luxurious setting with glowing fireplaces, Jacuzzis, a separate living room with double doors, a dining/conference table, marble baths and much more. The champagne was poured, we clinked our glasses and then slowly meandered to the terrace, enjoying the spectacular wine country view nestled against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains. We laughed, we talked and we enjoyed the perfect setting for such an occasion.
The family had departed and it was 7 p.m. when a staff member arrived, escorting Nichole to our living room. As arranged, two glasses of champagne were poured for my husband and myself, as we settled back to enjoy our own anniversary concert. Nichole performed three selected pieces entitled “Apres Un Reve” sung in French, “Lachen und Weinen” in German and “Unusual Way” in English.
My special thank you to Nichole for a splendid performance. A sincere thank you to the staff of the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa for a most attentive and professional five-star experience. For more detailed information please do contact (951) 587-9463.
Women of the Wineries and Women Associates held their second annual fund-raising luncheon at South Coast Winery, Resort & Spa on Oct. 25. The group, which attracted more than 150 women from Wine Country and Temecula and Murrieta, with help from Brighton Collectibles store helped raise $800 for Michelle’s Place, a women’s breast cancer resource center that serves Southwest Riverside County (www.michellesplace.org). The gathering this year expanded to include women from surrounding communities as well. It was nice to get together with many of the people we work with and at the same time help support a good cause she said.
Author’s Product Rating
The South Coast Winery Resort & Spa
The entrance to the South Coast Winery is on the right side of the road and is easy to spot if you’re arriving during daylight hours. At night it can be a little harder to see because there are no streetlights. Just inside the entrance a driveway to the right leads to the check-in desk, tasting room, and restaurant. Just look for the fountain and bell tower, park and head toward the building. The check-in lobby is on the left at the top of the steps and ahead is the entrance to the tasting room and gift shop.
All villas are in single-story buildings, with four villas grouped together. None of the villas share any common walls. The best description I can offer is that the villas are arranged like the leaves of a four-leaf clover. A walkway leads to the buildings then splits into two pathways with two villas to the left and two to the right. I noticed that “villa suites” have double entry doors and understand that they occupy the space of two villa rooms. Brochures state that the suites feature two fireplaces and a separate bedroom and living, and are 1100 square feet in size. I saw that the patios were larger than our villa room and that the suites had three sets of French doors, which opened to the patio. According to the winery’s website (www.wineresort.com) villa suites run $359 on the weekends.
Our villa room was around 560 sq. ft., had high ceilings and was luxuriously appointed. On the walls over the door and bed were hand-painted grape vines and the theme was, not surprisingly, grapes and wine. The furnishings were dark wood, as were the doors and fireplace mantle. The room was configured in an “L” shape with a bedroom area, a retreat area, and a sitting/dining area. The room had a wet bar, refrigerator, sofa, coffee table, armoire, and one of the plushest beds I have slept on. The bathroom is huge with marble everywhere and had a Jacuzzi tub, double sinks, and a separate shower with two shower heads (one is stationary and the other hand-held). Although I did not try it I believe that both shower heads will work at the same time if you want a fast soaking. Luxury soaps, lotions and shampoos are provided.
The fireplace burns natural gas and operates with an easy turn of a timer knob. A warm fire is had in seconds. A ceiling fan is also included as is an air conditioner/heater that is operated by a thermostat. In the closet was an iron, ironing board, room safe, robe, complimentary terry slippers (good for the marble floor in the bathroom) and extra pillows. In the refrigerator were two bottles of drinking water and one complimentary bottle of South Coast Chardonnay, which was smooth and easy to drink. Wine glasses are on the table as is a book on California wineries. A coffee maker with regular and decaf coffee is also provided. I don’t know if a corkscrew is provided as we had our own.
When you check in you will be provided with written instructions on how to operate all that is in your villa. It is good to read the instructions to know how to operate the air conditioner/heater thermostat, and how to properly lock the French doors (lift the handle while turning the lock knob). Both are easy to operate, but without the instructions it can be hard to know how.
A few spiders were found in the bathroom and a couple of slugs near the French doors. It was a reminder that the villa is in a vineyard. Outside the French doors is a patio with a table and two chairs and immediately beyond the patio are grape vines and flowers.
We were provided with white complimentary wine tasting tickets upon check in. The tickets must be presented to the tasting room attendant who will then give you yellow tickets. Each yellow ticket permits the holder to taste five wines and to keep the logo wine glass. I’m not sure, but believe that tasting tickets cost $7.50 or more. The tasting room is large, but on a Saturday at 3:30 p.m. the counter was two or three deep. We waited until about 5:30 and were able to get a spot at the wine bar. I was told that the winery pours its last tastings at about 5:50 p.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. On Sunday at 11:00 a.m. there was no waiting for wine tasting. A large table with a generous assortment of cheese, crackers, and various spreads is provided. Purchases can be made at a central cashier’s station, and there is also a small gift shop opposite the tasting room and down a hallway.
We did not make it to the restaurant because we did not want to disturb other diners with our toddler, but did see a posted menu. The selections look good and the prices reasonable for a resort restaurant. The building housing the restaurant was very inviting and there are tables and chairs on outside decks overlooking the wedding area and vineyards. I understand the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The grounds of the main building are as nice as one would find at a winery in Napa or Sonoma. The walkways are covered with a trellis-like covering and blooming flowers. It’s nice to walk the grounds or sit in the lawn area out front and sip wine.
Other Area Wineries
Further west down the road are many other wineries. We stopped at Stuart Cellars, which boasts unique premium red wines. We also stopped at Callaway, which sits on a hill and features a nice tasting room. For $7.50 you get 5 wine tastings or if you prefer reserve wines the cost is $12.50. The logo wine glass is yours to keep. There is a restaurant on site called Allie’s located across the parking lot next to the vineyard. It has a large tent roof and plastic windows, which can be rolled up for alfresco dining. The wait staff was nice, but the food and drink a little pricey ($50 not including tip, for a wrap, a pasta dish, two sodas, one juice and one glass of wine).
For dinner we went to the Chili’s restaurant in town and ordered food to go. Again, because we have a toddler, we like take out to avoid disturbing other diners. The Chili’s is ideal because there is a separate entrance for take out orders and reserved parking directly out front. For breakfasts there are 4-5 McDonalds in the area. A tourist brochure we picked up at Callaway winery had the McDonalds locations mapped out as well as other businesses.
Napa and Sonoma are terrific, but require an 8-hour drive or a plane flight to reach. Driving the two hours from Los Angeles to Temecula is far easier, less expensive, and the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa delivers a perfectly nice wine tasting weekend. We will return soon.
As the last century wound down, Temecula, the Southern Californian wine region 60 miles north of San Diego, suffered a calamity. With one notable exception, Temecula’s wineries picked themselves up and moved on.
The calamity was a outbreak of Pierce’s Disease, caused by a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa, that destroys vines in about a year. The bacterium is carried by various hosts, but the one that struck Temecula was the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which showed up in 1998 or 1999. This one is larger and more energetic than the blue-green sharpshooter, which was blamed for extensive damage earlier in Santa Cruz and other areas. The glassy-winged bug (hereafter GWSS), when feeding on the juices of grapevines, can consume 10 times its own weight within an hour. (Don’t try this at home.)
By 2003, between 30 and 60 percent of Temecula’s vines had been destroyed - the extent of the damage depending on who made the estimate. But the astation speeded up a trend that had already begun: planting grape varieties that are more suited to Temecula’s Region III, i.e., relatively warm climate. Those varieties, mostly from southern France and Italy, happen to be more in vogue with consumers today, and judging from those I tasted in a very brief visit to Temecula last year, the results are extremely promising.
Also flourishing is what I call eno-tourism (a term I’m sure others have coined). All of the 24 wineries in Temecula have tasting rooms, where they can sell at retail, so much more profitable than selling at the bottom of the three-tier market. Some also sell food items, as well provide picnic areas and often sites for events like weddings. Four of the wineries have full restaurants (with restaurant markups for their wines). South Coast Winery goes a step further, and has a resort where people can not only taste and eat but stay overnight and engage in various sports.
All this benefits from the proximity to San Diego and Los Angeles. Those guys from Sideways could have driven fewer miles and gone to Temecula, but they wouldn’t have found much Pinot Noir; it’s one of the varieties most susceptible to Pierce’s Disease.
Viticulture in California, as we know, started in the south, at San Diego, and worked its way north. Los Angeles had commercial wineries in the mid-19th century in places that are now paved or covered with buildings. Temecula’s origins, however, are much more recent. It started with the 87,500 acre cattle ranch, the Vail Ranch, that in 1965 was sold to a real estate conglomerate, Kaiser Aetna Corporation. Rancho California, as they named it, was eloped for housing, light industry and agriculture, including avocados.
A demonstration vineyard was planted that year, too. Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo planted the first commercial vineyard in 1968. Their original vineyard was quickly sold, and the Cilurzos later planted another elsewhere. In 2004, they sold the winery, which is now called Bella Vista Cilurzo Vineyard and Winery.
The winery most identified with Temecula, however, is Callaway, named for its founder, Eli Callaway, a Georgian who bought 71o acres and planted 134 acres of grapevines in 1969, in anticipation of his retirement in 1973. He had taken note of the gap between the Santa Rosa and Santa Margarita Mountains, which brought in cool air from the Pacific ocean, 24 miles away. (Callaway chose to call it “Rainbow Gap” after the Rainbow Pass, which was just south of the actual, larger Santa Margarita Gap.) Whatever you call it, the gap is important; the cool climates of western Santa Barbara show that it’s not so much how far north or south you are in California, but how exposed you are to the cold, deep waters of the Pacific. Temecula’s elevation is 1200 to 1400 feet. In the morning there is mist over the vineyards; in fact, the region derives from the Indian word Temeku, meaning “land where the sun shines through the white mist”.
“In the late summer and early fall, when the grapes are coming into peak maturity,” said Don Reha, winemaker at Thornton Winery, “the temperatures here can change as much as 50 degrees from daytime high to nighttime low, although I would say the average is probably closer to 40 degrees difference. We get this effect from the coastal fog that blows over the Santa Rosa Mountains and into the valley most evenings during this time. We have the valley heat in the day and coastal effect cooling at night. This allows the fruit to become much more evenly mature, and experience a substantially longer hang time.”
One of the features of Temecula is that its granitic soils are not hospitable to the root louse that causes phylloxera. Growers have been able to plant grapes on their own roots.
Callaway planted Chardonnay, of course, as well as Chenin Blanc and Riesling. His 1975 Riesling was served to Queen Elizabeth, who loved it. The winery was among the first to embrace unoaked Chardonnay, “Calla-lees”, so named because it got its complexity from stirring the lees instead of wood, and it also pioneered with the Rhone variety, Viognier.
In 1981, Eli Callaway sold the property to Hiram Walker, and it was purchased by Allied Domecq. Callaway Coastal, as it’s called now, is by far the biggest winery in Temecula - selling a quarter-million cases a year - but as a grower it hardly exists. In the early ’90s, Allied Domecq sold the vineyards but then leased and managed them. Callaway had been heavily committed to Chardonnay, which is one of the varieties most susceptible to Pierce’s Disease. So when the vines were decimated, Callaway’s parent declined to replant. There are six “sister wineries” around California that provide juice or finished wine to Callaway to bottle under its label. The winery also has been making tiny amounts of Viognier, Roussanne and Dolcetto from Temecula fruit. I managed to taste those wines when I was in California, and they are very good, especially the whites.
The two owners of the original Callaway vineyards recently sold the properties, and the new owners tore out the old vines (including the Dolcetto, which Callaway won’t be able to make anymore). Because zoning requires the land be used for vines or citrus, at least part will probably be replanted to vines, but they won’t be in production for a long time. Callaway got its small amounts of Viognier and Roussanne from other growers.
Except for Callaway, Temecula’s wineries are generally committed to either raising their own grapes or purchasing from other growers within the 33,000 acre AVA (American Viticultural Area). Among the exceptions is Zinfandel, which is often purchased from Cucamonga Valley not far away in Southern California (though slowly succumbing to elopment). As Joe Hart, of Hart Winery, put it, you can’t replicate those 100-year-old vines.
When Temecula was first planted, it seemed that American consumers couldn’t get enough Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, so those were the dominant plantings in their respective colors, but there was also considerable Sauvignon Blanc, plus Chenin Blanc and Riesling.
Peter Poole, the President and General Manager of Mount Palomar Winery, credits his father, John, who founded the winery in 1969, with planting Temecula’s first Rhone grape, three acres of Syrah, in 1974. That was before Mediterranean varietals became chic. (Before that, they were planted in older wine regions, including Cucamonga, and were the basis of everyday wines. I am old enough to remember buying Grenache Rose by the gallon.) Peter Poole says the next move was in 1989, when he grafted some vines to Sangiovese.
I was impressed by Mount Palomar’s Sangiovese in the tasting room, and even more by the bottle I brought back with me and opened a few months later. I have never tasted a California Sangiovese that reminded me so much of Tuscany. I suppose that in a blind tasting with Chiantis, Mount Palomar’s Sangiovese could be picked out, but at least it doesn’t taste like weak Zinfandel. It’s not merely close to the obvious benchmark, it has a fruity quality that makes it superior to many Chiantis.
After the release of the first Sangiovese, Poole relates, interest in the Mediterranean varieties picked up. Most of the plantings today are in Syrah, Sangiovese and Viognier, but there is also Nebbiolo, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Roussanne. Mount Palomar makes an excellent Cortese, the grape from which Gavi is made. In Temecula, Cortese ripens more fully than in the cooler Piedmont.
Thornton Winery, one of those with a fancy restaurant, makes a wide range of sparkling wines, as well as a lot of still wines. There I tasted a massive Nebbiolo, even more concentrated than Barolo, that should take years to mature. Thornton’s Roussanne was also particularly memorable.
Despite the interest in Mediterranean grapes, especially as part of the replanting after Pierce’s Disease, Poole said that traditional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, “which truth be told, also like warmer climates,” still represent more than half of the grapes growing in Temecula.
Possibly the most striking wine I tasted in Temecula, however, came from just outside the AVA. At South Coast Winery, where a full resort is under construction, winemaker Jon McPherson let me taste from barrel a Syrah from grapes grown on Wild Horse Peak Vineyard, which is in the larger South Coast appellation. South Coast’s owner, Jim Carter bought the 400 acre property in the early 1990s and has 160 acres under vine, with Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Syrah.
Carter started out as a grower, selling his grapes to Temecula wineries. He saw his Wild Horse Peak grapes mixed in with the others, without any recognition of their special qualities. That irked him, and when he also lost a contract, he decided to start his own winery. Work began in 2001, and the first crush was in 2003. In addition to Wild Horse Peak, South Coast now has three sites in the Temecula AVA: a 1oo acre plot, of which 30 is planted; 26 acres all planted; and 40 acres around the winery, of which 15 is planted.
Right now, McPherson said, they buy all their white grapes, which represents 30 percent of what they crush. All comes from Temecula growers. By five years, South Coast expects to use estate grapes for nearly all their needs.
All this commitment to growing grapes in Temecula flies in the face of predictions that the arrival of the glassy-winged sharpshooter meant the region was finished. The owners of the Callaway vineyards may have felt that way, but others did not.
Pierce’s Disease has a long history in California. It was named after a researcher who discovered it in Southern California in 1892. It was known for a while as Anaheim Disease, because of the damage it did to vineyards there. It also affects citrus trees, so it’s not surprising that it’s found in Florida, as well as other states including Texas and Virginia.
But growers are not defenseless. They watch the vines carefully and prune out sections that are affected. They can inject a pesticide called Admire into the vines, which makes the sharpshooter lose interest in them. There are also biological controls: tiny wasps that prey on the sharpshooters.
Growers received federal assistance to pull out diseased vines, and government researchers continue to work on better controls.
If you’re in San Diego or Los Angeles, visit Temecula. It’s still there.
Temecula wineries and growers helped raised more than $160,000 in two separate fundraisers for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Jim Carter, owner of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, hosted Unite2Nite4Katrina Relief on Sept. 23, which attracted several thousand do-gooders who got a chance to sample quality wine and food and enjoy Las Vegas quality entertainment for a worthy cause. Separately, many Temecula wineries set aside a portion of their tasting room revenue on Sept. 24 for the relief effort. What started out as a small group of wineries looking to help out quickly grew into a valley-wide effort that included dozens of local businesses ranging from hotels and television stations to banks and graphics firms. “Clearly this is a major, major disaster,” said Carter. “We are just trying to help out and alleviate the pain and suffering of these unfortunate folks.”
On my recent media tour with Linda Kissam, executive director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, we visited the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. Located on Rancho California Road, the winery has risen up from an expansive open field to what is now a luxurious village of sophistication. Upon arrival one is taken away by the beauty of fountains, columns, sculptures and color while appreciating the architecture of the main building. We were greeted by Mark Zovic, the general manager, who suggested I take a golf cart tour. Stopping to view one of the many private villas, Mark explained, “Each guest is made to feel special from the moment they arrive.” The comfort and style in the villas is immediately apparent in the rich fabrics, custom dark wood and the spacious and beautifully appointed bathrooms. Needless to say, the view from the villas is a sight to behold and this oasis of creativity and color is only minutes away from the city center of Temecula. Mark pointed out a large building in the background that houses all the specialized facilities for the spa experience and, of course, the pool, which I’m told will be magnificent! The spa, which is soon to have its grand opening, will be the crowning jewel in this Shangri-La.
Next, Linda and I were invited to join owner Jim Carter for lunch at the Vineyard Rose Deck and Restaurant. There were numerous baskets of bougainvillea profuse with color hanging above the rail along the expanse of the deck, and as we settled down at our table the eye was drawn to a magnificent waterfall and the beauty of the grounds to beyond, the expanse of vineyards with distant mountain peaks touching a clear blue sky. It was another perfect day in Temecula. Jim explained how he steadfastly kept his focus on his dream and goal for the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, and today Linda and I had the privilege to experience this dream come true. While making our selections from a very detailed menu, the executive chef, Dan Saito, joined us at our table. My first choice was the crab cake, coconut-crusted with sweet Thai mustard sauce, cilantro oil and Asian coleslaw. My second choice was a peppered duck salad. Both choices I highly recommend. During our discussion over lunch, I discovered that Chef Dan’s world-class european culinary training from La Serre Culinary Academy (Paris, France) includes an internship and apprenticeship at the world-renowned Maxim’s of Paris and is recognized as one of the highest culinary achievements in the industry. Dan explained that he is creating a new flavor that is for the Temeculan taste with a Europacific technique and a Midwest twist. The Temecula Winegrowers Association has a new logo statement, “Taste the Place;” how very appropriate!
Next, we visited the well stocked gift shop and then proceeded to the tasting room. What first catches the eye is a very realistic and detailed mural of a vineyard scene, encompassing the entire valley and the surrounding San Bernardino Mountains. When you visit the winery, please do ask about the “true” bobcat story incorporated into the mural. Winemaker Jon McPherson is enthusiastic about his present wines and awards and looks forward to an exciting future. One of the wines tasted was a 2003 Reserve Chardonnay, a toasty oak with hints of sweet vanilla rounding out the tropical aromas, and the fresh apple flavors take on a spicy, baked apple pie character. Jon stated, “The versatility of Chardonnay has predetermined its world-wide success. It is grown from Lebanon to the Loire Valley and South Africa to Southern Australia.”
The time had come when we had to bid farewell. I would need much more time and writing space to describe the fantasy and beauty that has been created in the many pockets of discovery situated on the 38-acre South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. For more detailed information, call (951) 587-9463 or visit www.wineresort.com.
Until next week, when I shall be visiting the east coast and Washington, DC, take care and enjoy life. CHEERS!
WINE COUNTRY ---- The green vines are laden with fruit and stretch out toward the rocky hills. A white truck and yellow tractor loomed over them Wednesday, as did the half-covered frame of a new spa building.
Diners on the back porch of South Coast Winery had that view and a cool breeze. Just inside, brand new booths and carpet were in place across the room from a half-finished foyer and a plywood ramp.
Construction of all sorts was moving ahead, and so were cooks at a new restaurant, which has begun a quiet, gradual opening. Vineyard Rose began serving lunch Tuesday, its first step as it moves toward a full schedule over the course of the month.
The new restaurant is serving up complimentary dishes to diners who it hopes will offer feedback for last-minute adjustments to the menu before they open to paying customers Friday.
“We’re not there yet,” said Jim Carter, the restaurant’s owner. “When somebody comes here, I want them to say, ’Hey, I had the greatest experience.”
Vineyard Rose, at the corner of Anza and Rancho California Roads, becomes the fifth restaurant in Wine Country, and one of its largest. The last to open was Smokehouse Restaurant, in 2003.
Many of the dozen diners who lingered past 1 p.m. Wednesday were South Coast employees. Carter and general manager Mark Zovic said they won’t begin advertising the restaurant for several weeks.
The widespread construction and phased opening of the restaurant point toward a goal set by Carter more than two years ago, when he opened the winery and named it South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. For months now, vacation villas have been opening two and four at a time. A new tasting room and banquet room opened in recent weeks.
The restaurant is the latest and a key elopment at the 38-acre complex.
Phil Baily, owner of Baily Winery, said the restaurant run by his wife, Carol, has helped his wine sales ---- and vice versa. Carter and managers also foresee villa guests coming in for the cuisine, and dining guests recommending the spa to their friends.
Managers at South Coast plan to begin serving breakfast and dinner in a week or two. For now, a lunch menu offers appetizers such as coconut shrimp and sandwiches ranging from seared eggplant on focaccia to Chinese-inspired barbecue pork. “Afternoon entrees” include ravioli filled with asparagus and pancetta, an Italian bacon.
The theme? Managers say they don’t like labels, but the phrases “Pacific Rim” and “fusion” came up repeatedly.
Though Saito originally trained in continental cooking in France, he arrives from Manele Bay hotel on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. He described his new menu as “European techniques with Pacific Rim ingredients.”
“And a Midwestern twist,” he quickly added, in a reference to several dishes grilled over mesquite wood.
As an example, Saito pointed to the restaurant’s baby bok choy, a Chinese green similar in texture to celery. Saito grills it and serves it with garlic butter. Another he cites is a “New York Striploin” sandwich with arugula, daikon and a wasabi-garlic mayonnaise.
“His menu coming into the valley is a perfect fit,” said Steve Hamlin, the owner of Allie’s at Callaway, whose own cuisine tends toward California-Mediterranean “We need people who have a niche and a style. That’s healthy competition.”
Chances are that when one thinks of California wineries, two areas in particular come to mind: the Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley in Northern California.
Which is okay, but the Golden State is home to an impressive nine wine-producing regions, including an area in Southern California named The Inland Empire that’s home to the Temecula Valley, which has become known for producing a number of award-winning wines. Temecula, in the Luiseno Indian language, means where the sun shines through the mist” which is what perhaps inspired the Spanish priests back in 1820 to become the areas first known winemakers. The region’s morning fog, hot sunny days and cool nights have created an ideal viticulture for the 20 closely nestled wineries dotted along Rancho California Road like pieces on a checkerboard. From both San Diego and Los Angeles, a weekend trip to the area will only take you approximately 50 minutes on I-15.As a dues-paying member of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), I’m very conscientious of not drinking and driving, which is why my friends and I hired a 10-passenger limousine (which actually holds only eight people comfortably) so we could taste and taste without worrying about driving. It also allowed us to have a picnic on the ride up so we had plenty of food in our stomachs by the time we got to our first stop, The Hart Winery. The owner, Joe Travis Hart, has produced a host of atypical wines such as the Cabernet Franc or the Tempranillo, from the Spanish Rioja grape. The estate-produced Viognier ($18), grown from the Rhone Valley grape, has intensely tropical flavors of pineapple and grapefruit, while the Barbera ($16) has an acidic balance of cherry and oak flavors. Hart also purchases grapes from the old-vine vineyards of nearby Cucamonga Valley, which has a more Mediterranean-like climate. With less than 200 cases bottled yearly, the 2002 Grenache at $20.00 seemed like a great buy. Its burst of berry and peppery flavors was a favorite with my friends. My favorite winery, however, proved to be Mount Palomar, which introduced Temecula Valley’s first Sangiovese back in 1989. Winemaker Etienne Cowper, an 18-year veteran enologist who trained under Robert Mondovi mentor Andre Techelistcheff, has found a way to make the ordinary extraordinary. The 2001 Castelletto Sangiovese ($18)—which would go well with a grilled steak—was quite complex with the full flavor of dried fruits and berries. My favorite at this winery was a 2001 Meritage ($22), a blend of peppery and anise-flavored Bordeaux varieties, with the Shorty’s Bistro Red, a bold Mediterranean varietal, finishing a close second. We also purchased the Solera Cream Sherry, a rich, fortified wine with hints of caramel and nuts, and aged a minimum of three years outside, which is how it got its name, which means “from the sun” in Spanish.To compliment the wine (or vice-versa) we had a small lunch on the patio with food from the onsite deli. There are also several picnic areas throughout the grounds with views of the Temecula Valley below. The Maurice Car’rie Winery is also worthy of a stop. The tastings are complimentary and the gift shop is extensive. (Some of the wineries charge $5 for a six-glass tasting, which also includes a souvenir wine glass). Here, I sampled my first White Merlot, the 2002 Sara Bella ($11), which won several medals in various competitions including a Silver Medal at the 2003 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition, which is the largest competition of this sort in the country. Though I was initially turned off by the blush coloring (achieved by a partial crush technique that minimizes the extraction of color from the skins) the big juicy, berry flavor quickly changed my mind. This wine would be a great accompaniment to picnic foods, seafood, or even a ham and cheese sandwich. The new owners, Buddy and Cherie Linn plan to continue the estate’s 18-year-old, wine-making traditions, and proudly boast of producing Temecula Valley’s only estate-grown Pinot Noir. I also enjoyed their uniquely different Chardonnay Reserve. I love Chardonnay wines but grow tired of sampling forgettable vintages. However, my first impr ession of this wine was that, thankfully, it lacked the heavy, oak flavor so typical of the majority of California Chardonnays, which in my opinion, makes many of them so run-of-the-mill. This light, yet buttery wine would make a perfect aperitif to an afternoon meal on a warm, summer day. Our final stop was the South Coast Winery Resort & (full-service) Spa that’s scheduled to open this summer. In the meantime, you can picnic on the beautiful grounds with one of their sweet Rieslings, floral Sauvignon Blancs or aromatic Cabernet Rosés. Designated drivers are given complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. The vintners of Southern Californian are used to being considered the bald-headed, freckle-faced stepchildren of the state, but to those wine lovers willing to sample off the beaten path, Temecula offers a wonderful afternoon of stimulating and often unique treats for your pallet.
For additional information on wineries, lodging or transportation, visit The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association website at www.temeculawines.org.