The Temecula Valley encompasses over 35,000 acres of rolling hills and vineyards. I learned of the area due to its many beautiful golf courses. The area is quite rural, with pockets of housing developments, many surrounding golf courses or Indian casinos. Best of all, most of the wineries are family owned, compared to other wine regions of California (hint: Napa, and Sonoma).
For most of us, it is a day trip out of San Diego, or even the OC. But resorts and bed and breakfast inns are popping up all over the Valley. And what a great place to ride a bike or play golf. But as I recall, they had some devastating fires a few years back.
For me, of course, the sparkling wines take center stage. The top three are Thornton, Wilson Creek, and La Cereza. Thornton Winery also has a Cafe Champagne, which I intend to visit. They are also famous for their Champagne Jazz Series having featured such greats as Dave Koz, George Benson, Bobby Caldwell, Spiro Gyra, Earl Klugh, and Chris Botti. They are well known for their infused sparklings, like peach, raspberry, pomegranate, and pineapple.
Here are some of their guidelines for pairings:
Acidic wines, such as the Thornton NV Brut and 2001 Sauvignon Blanc are exceptional with sour, acidic, or salty food. Thornton sparkling wines generally pair with salty foods because the acidity cuts the saltiness.
Sweet wines, such as the 2002 Muscat Canelli and Cuvée de Frontignan, go well with sweet foods. The sweetness of the wine and the sweetness of the food will cancel each other out. However, be careful not to pair a wine with food that is sweeter than the wine.
Dry wines, such as the Thornton 2000 Reserve Merlot, 2000 Nebbiolo, 2000 Côte Red, have a high level of tannins and will make bitter foods taste less bitter. Tannic wines are also calmed by protein, making rare beef an excellent choice for pairing.
Light-body and Full-body Wines
There are many other aspects of wine pairing to take into consideration. Try pairing light-bodied wines with lighter food and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, more flavorful, richer and fattier dishes. Also, consider how the food is prepared. Is there a sauce, seasoning or dominant flavor of the dish? How is the food cooked? If poached or steamed, a delicate wine would pair appropriately. If grilled, braised, roasted or sautéed, a more flavorful wine would pair well.
Match the flavors of the food with the wine. It is important to read the wine notes or the back of the label for information on what flavors are dominant in a wine. For example, the cranberry taste of Thornton Cuvée Rouge goes with holiday turkey for the same reason that cranberry relish does.
Over in another favorite category are the ports. The two best here are Falkner (not Billy), and Mount Palomar. Falkner’s super Tuscan style Amante consists of 60% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Cabernet Franc. Their 2006 Port has been aged 5 years in oak barrels and consists of a blend of Cabernet and Zinfandel. Their 2008 red table wine is called Luscious Lips!!
So, wherever you go, taste a little, play some golf, drive safely (on the roads and the fairways), watch three games worth of Giants and Padres baseball. That sounds like a good way to visit San Diego, without even setting foot on white sand, or attending an amusement park!