Local wines rule steakhouse selections

The Temecula wine stars dominate a galaxy of wine selections at one of the really flavorful steakhouses in Southern California, Vail Ranch Steakhouse in Temecula.  Only prime wines would be able to match up with a beef dining room like Vail Ranch, one of the very few locations that offer dry aged prime beef that is processed at the restaurant.
“We have thousands of steaks in a temperature controlled locker just inside the main entrance,” owner Ron Walton told me. 
 “Customers come through the front door and immediately they are attracted by the big bay window showing Angus USDA Prime steaks in a 28-day aging before being served.  It dates back to the traditional preparation of top quality beef, that brings out the concentrated flavor of the steak,” he said. Temperatures usually range from 36 degrees to freezing, with humidity at 85 degrees to reduce water loss. Maximum juices are locked in place to make sure that flavor is enhanced and the steak is tenderized.  The dry aging process takes special care and supervision by someone who is part butcher and part menu chef. At Vail Ranch that responsibility is on the broad shoulders of George Kapetsonis.  He recommends the Bone-in Filet Mignon, a rare menu item of unusual flavor. 
I chose the T-Bone Steak, another menu selection not normally seen on most steakhouse menus. It was set in Au Gratin potatoes, seasonal vegetables and horseradish butter. A delicious appetizer, the Beef Bruschetta, consisted of sautéed beef tenderloin, herb and garlic, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese. Walton reminded me that “the economy told us to diversify with not just high-end steaks. We have 20 items on the menu for under $20. These are complete meals.”
Back to the wines, which are predominately Temecula Valley and are equally whites and reds. “We are a big supporter of Temecula Wines,” he said. “In addition to 15 wines by the glass, we offer 19 choices of local wines.”
I had the ’05 Palumbo Family Vineyards Cab Franc, a nice pairing to the dry aged steaks on the menu.Vail Ranch also offers live music in the casual lounge, lunch and a Sunday Brunch.  For more information, call (951) 694-1475. See more at www.vailranchsteakhouse.com.
Plan a Super Bowl wine party
I know tradition holds that Super Bowl parties should be long-neck beer, plenty of chips and salsa and burgers on the barbecue. Try something different, contemporary and more appealing with  wine, cheese, rustic cold cuts and fresh-baked breads.
A crisp Sauvignon Blanc, an Argentine Malbec, a regal California Cabernet, a Washington Syrah and a traditional Chianti Classico from Tuscany would be sure to attract a “super” guest list. Top it off with a Portuguese Port with desserts and you have scored more than the winning team.
Here’s a rule-of-thumb on how many bottles to have on hand. One normal size 750 ml bottle contains 25.4 ounces of wine.  This should be enough to serve five glasses of wine. Calculate three glasses of wine average per guest for two to three hours of partying. Multiply the number of guests by the number of glasses per person and divide by five, and you will come up with the number of bottles needed. Say you’re having 20 guests, you will then need 12 bottles.
Always provide plenty of nonalcoholic drinks as optional choices.
Wine Bytes
— Pechanga Casino in Temecula presents a chocolate and wine event from 7 to 10 p.m. Jan. 29. More than 30 wineries will participate, including many from Temecula Wine Country. Call (877) 711-2946 for details.
“Exploring Wine” is the first class in the current series certificate programs at San Diego State. It starts from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 9 on campus. Contact Rhonda Beard at (619) 594-6924 or e-mail her at rbeard@mail.sdsu.edu.
—The Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park San Diego is staging a Fine and Rare Wine Tasting at a private residence from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20. These are the world’s highest rated wines and they are at their prime. Contact Sue George to RSVP at (619) 238-7559, ext. 202.
— A premier Southern California winery, the new Lorimar Winery, has just opened a trendy tasting room in Old Town Temecula, prior to its Tuscan-style winery location. Well-known winemaker Mike Tingley will make the wines. Learn more at (951) 270-5177.

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