A walk in the clouds of South Coast Winery

A lush, romantic movie drama about a beautiful Napa Valley Vineyard, its trials and successes in making great wine, came on screen in the 1995 film “A Walk in the Clouds,” starring Anthony Quinn and a very young Keanu Reeves.  At the same time I, and many others, were enjoying the film, Jim Carter, the owner of South Coast Winery in Temecula since 2003, was promising himself he would live out the inspiring message of a “Walk in the Clouds” and take 400 acres of family purchased land near the peak of Mount Palomar and make it a classic vineyard.
It was there that the origins of South Coast Winery really began with its legendary Wild Horse Peak and some of the finest grapes in California. At a recent tour of the property, a private jeep vehicle spirited us up the winding, bumpy 20-minute drive through canyons and rock formations.  The vineyard shocks and delights as it suddenly appears; a cloud of green stretches almost as far as the eye can see.
It’s a tribute to the care of the environment that Carter and his team have implemented at South Coast, that most of Wild Horse Peak lies within the Cleveland National Forest, a beautiful, pristine public preserve.  The 800 vines per acre are mostly in a vast meadow, in harmony with the natural brush and tree formations of the canyons.
At 2,200 feet and higher, the red wines (they also have a small block of Chardonnay grapes) are intense and flavorful; Master Winemaker Jon McPherson and Winemaker Javier Flores carefully test each block for flavor and juice quality.  McPherson, who hails from Texas and is from a pioneer wine family, and Flores, who learned his craft at Mexico’s leading LaCetto Winery, demand that kind of constant attention to what the grapes are telling them. 
“It’s about letting the grapes speak,” they said.  “We listen and then carefully nurture the process.”
Varietals that I would recommend when you look for the Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyard label include:  the 2006 100 percent Sangiovese, a recent Best of Class Gold ($34); 2006 Cabernet 4-Block Blend Best of Class Gold ($28); 2008 Tempranillo, which is new and is tasting beautifully ($18). Wine club prices are approximately 25 percent less.
South Coast has run up an excellent record of awards for their wines, including the “Golden Bear” California Winery of the Year, two years in a row in 2008 and 2009. 
It’s not just about the winery.  Its Vineyard Rose Restaurant claimed its first “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator Magazine and the Grape Seed Spa has 11 treatment rooms and complete spa services.  Private villas in the vineyard feature terraces, fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs.
A walk around the winery and resort with founder and dream builder Carter reveals that he … “wanted to share the complete wine country experience.” Guests enjoy the finest wines paired with the finest food and stay in a private villa in the middle of a vineyard. Learn more by visiting WineResort.com or by calling (951) 587-9463.
Set sail on wine cruises
In October I will have the pleasure of hosting a special 10 day Taste of the Vineyards Celebrity Cruise Lines wine cruise around Italy and the Greek Islands.
The cruise will be packed with wine opportunities to “Swirl, Sip and Savor,” and learn more about wine than you ever have before.  This ship has been outfitted with a one-of-a-kind two-story wine tower that needs a tour to see it all.  Enomatic wine tasting and preservation systems are another exclusive feature.  When you dine you have over 500 wine selections with a cellar of 10,000 bottles.  Twenty-three certified sommeliers are on hand in a wide variety of restaurants. 
As if that weren’t enough to book now, the cabin price includes a welcome aboard bottle of wine, Wine Appreciation seminar, Art of Food & Wine Pairing Seminar, tour of the ship’s culinary operations, and two special wine classes by the host…that’s me!
Celebrity has many wine cruises for destinations around the world, and no better than Italy and the Mediterranean at harvest time in the vineyards. That’s the one I chose and I hope to meet you all on board. For booking information, visit vineyardtravel.net.  Or call Rosemary Nigro at (760) 741-6667, or toll free at (800) 359-3772.

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