Don’t Forget Temecula!


With almost all of California’s vineyards up in the northern end of the state, it’s easy to forget what’s happening wine-wise in Southern California.  It’s easy to forget Temecula.

This vibrant wine region is just an hour north of San Diego, and it has the balmy Mediterranean climate so perfect for Rhone varietals.  You might think it would be too hot for decent grape growing, but there are several factors that make its climate moderate.  Two gaps in the coastal mountains allow cool, moist marine air to drift in.   Also, situated at 1,500 to 2,500 feet above sea level, Temecula is surrounded by mountains ranging from 2,000 to 11,000 feet high. Cold air collects between the peaks and flows down into the valley at night, setting the stage for great acidity in Temecula’s wines.

If you’re thinking of visiting, don’t worry about time of year — with just 14 annual inches of rain, it’s unlikely you’ll get rained out.  Sunshine prevails.

Just as attractive as its climate is Temecula’s laid-back

Southern California ambiance.  And we’re not talking L.A.  How to describe it?  To us, it seems very South of the Border — the air has that softness you find in Baja, and the cacti you see on the hillsides, combined with birds like roadrunners, give that feeling of being 500 miles south of San Francisco, which you are.

Wherever wine country is, people tend to be in a party mode, but in Temecula, the party is combined with a special kind of warmth and relaxation that really seems to us to be unique to this wine region. It’s just incredibly easy to have fun at a lot of these Temecula wineries.

We’ve visited hundreds of winery tasting rooms throughout the Golden State, and have to say the most fun we’ve ever had was at Temeucla’s South Coast Winery and Resort.  It was one big party.  Not to mention great wine.  This winery has really led the way as far as offering a true resort wine country experience. Their guest cottages overlook the vineyards (and are very private) and their pool and spa are world-class.

A few miles away, Thornton Winery is another trend-setter in Temecula. It was one of the first to offer premium dining with its Café Champagne and has also been a pioneer among California wineries for its outdoor smooth jazz concert series.  They put on quite a show at Thornton where two generations proudly serve their own sparklers and roll out the red carpet for a never-ending stream of wine lovers.

During the past 10 to 15 years, there has been significant development in Temecula.  Many wineries are now much grander than they were (such as Mount Palomar).  Yet, most of Temecula’s 30 or so wineries remain family owned, where you might meet the  founder over a glass of Syrah or Cab or chat up the winemaker. Didn’t meet the winemaker today? Perhaps mañana, my friend.  Meanwhile, have another taste of wines like Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Tempranillo, or a Rhone Blend.  Welcome to Temecula.

IT Happened Again…


We were in a restaurant recently, a nice Italian place, not real pricey, and we chose a glass of Italian Montepulciano (made from the Montepulciano grape, from Italy’s Abruzzo region – not Tuscany).  Price: $7.50 per glass. Waiting for our dinner, we took a sip or two.  We weren’t impressed.

Then the Ravioli with Butternut squash and Pine Nuts arrived.  And over the next half hour, that Montepulciano came into its own. It became soft and velvety, and merged with the ravioli flavors so beautifully.

So, IT happened again…that we started with a wine we didn’t care for, but when we tried it with food, during a leisurely meal, different story.

If you’ve never had this experience … well, you need to! Because it’s one of the most fun things about wine.  Given the right food match, some wimpy little wine with no character will stand up and be noticed.

Often, this extra wine pizzazz has to do with both the food and allowing the wine to “breathe” in the glass.  During your meal, it starts to open up and show its true self, just like a person who might be a bit shy.  If you’re considerate and give that person some time, they might start to share who they really are.

Did you know marketers estimate that a whopping 70% of wine today is consumed without food?   Too bad!

Has this ever happened to you? What was the wine? What was the food that brought it out of its shell?

To Breathe or Not to Breathe

We’re talking wine of course.  When do you need to let it breathe, or decant before pouring?


Here are a few tips:

1.  Decanting an old wine (15-20 years old) for too long can ruin it. Old wines are quite delicate and should be opened just before the meal.  Otherwise, oxidation spurs rapid changes in the wine leaving it “dead” by the time you drink it.

2.  Young wines often need to breathe—with gusto!  Most often, this would be the case with big, tannic reds.  Pouring such a wine back and forth several times from decanter to decanter will aerate it and give it a chance to open up and reveal its complex flavors and aromas.

3.  Typically, a red wine 7-8 years old is a good candidate for breathing.

4.  A wonderful way to allow a wine to open up is during a leisurely dinner.  How many big, brash reds have we disliked on first sip, only to have them become our favorite wine by the end of the meal.  The changes in the wine can be fascinating and fantastic.

How Much Do You Pour?

Wine Splash Painting from Etsy

Painting by ViktoriaMajesticArt on Etsy

The publication Substance Use & Misuse published a study by Doug Walker and Laura Smarandescu of Iowa State University and Brian Wansink of Cornell University, showing that people often don’t know how much wine they are pouring.

They evaluated more than 500 pours from 73 wine drinkers. Among their discoveries was that the shape of the glass has a lot to do with how much people pour – wider glasses tend to lead to more wine poured.

It seems like most people don’t know what a “standard” moderate pour is or how to gauge it (the government lists 5 oz. as a single serving); they simply monitor their intake by “number of glasses”.

Do you pour a 5 oz. serving or a glassful?

Whatever you’re pouring, you can order it in our wine store.

The Best Wine Birthday Present?

What is the best wine birthday present?

For us, it’s a bottle of birth year wine.

You can give it to the parents of a newborn, to cellar until

Baby’s 21st birthday…

Or, give a birth year wine to a friend. (The older the friend, the trickier and more expensive that can be!)

 Which wines are best birth year wines?

Definitely, wines that age well.  Most people think of Cabernet Sauvignon, since big Cabs can age for decades.

But don’t’ pass up sparkling wine.  A really well-made sparkler will hold up beautifully for many years.  Our favorites include California Wine Club-featured Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Handley and Roederer.

What’s YOUR favorite wine gift? 




birth wine blog photo

“$5 Bottle Beats $100 Bottle!” Really? Look a little closer…

We’ve all seen videos of wine lovers tasting a VERY expensive, snooty wine, right beside a VERY cheap wine … and we’ve seen wine lovers choose the cheapo hands down.

What’s up with that?

     A few things could be going on – take your pick—

1.   The cheap wine could be very good and the expensive wine could be way over priced.

2.  The expensive wine might need a lot of time to “breathe” – so you can actually smell and taste it, especially being stuck in a bottle for years.  Compare a costly wine like that (and don’t give it time to breathe) with a simple, fruit forward wine and voilá Chateau Stuckuppity!  You lose!

3.  The wine lover may have never tasted a complex white or red wine.  And he or she may just like a nice, simple, fruity wine better.

It’s that simple.  We think.  What do you think?

Uncork Happy, or Screw It!

Have you ever battled with a cork?  Tried to pull, prod, drag, or squeeze it out of a wine bottle when it had other ideas?

The ideas corks have are generally bad, like, let’s pop back into the wine, or crumble and then fall into the wine, or, let’s just get stuck halfway up the bottle neck.

Buy a really good opener. Make uncorking a pleasure.

And if all else fails, buy a wine with a screw cap.