Harvesting Temecula wines a tasty treat for aficionados

At the recent Temecula Harvest Celebration, when I picked up my program of wineries, the guide to wines being poured and food pairings offered, I couldn’t help but remark to myself what a great leap forward the Temecula Wine Country has taken. There are many more dots populating the winery locations on the route map than there were my first visit as a wine writer some six years ago. 
The newest member of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers is Europa Village near the western edge, next to veteran Callaway Winery. The winery is a prelude to a tri-village of French, Spanish and Italian wines that eventually will surface as C’est La Vie Chateau, Bolero Cellars and Vienza.
The big buzz among the vines are the eye-popping improvements at hillside winery Miramonte. On this day, with a see-forever skyline, our group basked in warm sun and gazed at miles of vineyards from an intimate stone patio veranda. Vanderhoof was pouring his Red Rhone Blend, aged 24 months in premium French, American and Russian Oak ($27.95). It is the creation of recently arrived winemaker Reinhard Schlassa from Argyle, one of Oregon’s most renowned wineries. His approach is clearly in the direction of the Rhone Valley of France, with a Grenache Rose as further evidence.
Schlassa is UC Davis educated and has been making wine for more than 20 years. “We work closely together, enhancing our program in every detail imaginable,” Vanderhoof said. We have some of the finest wines and views in wine country. We are now expressing who we are.”
This man loves to provide entertainment, with a packed venue every Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 10 p.m. The Christmas holiday month will be dark but the last weekend this month of November will be a hot shout-out of incredible music.
Improvements are finished sometime the end of the year. They include a 10-acre expansion with six more acres of premium vineyards, outdoor entertainment area, gardens, veranda, parking, and an all-new production and barrel cellar area. And that’s not all. A full-service kitchen and renovated tasting room is coming soon, doubling its size.
Miramonte still offers Celebration Cellars, the original etched wines, featuring personalized, corporate and celebrity bottles, including the famous Rolling Stones etched wines with the tongue logo collector series. All are custom hand-painted and hand-etched directly on the wine bottle.
Winemaking is very much a creative, personal expression at Miramonte. “It’s my identity,” Vanderhoof says. “We are now expressing who we are with our wines.” See more on the website at miramontewinery.com.
Here and there in the wine world
I recently stopped for a hello and an Italian wine tasting conducted by the personable Moira Gelardo at PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in downtown Carlsbad. The deal is very reasonable: six 1-ounce tastes for $16. for popular themed wine tastings. I thought the 2005 Vecchia Cantina, Chianti Classico Reserva, Montepulciano was the best of a lovely group of Italians. Watch soon for a sister restaurant close to PAON called CATCH, mostly seafood with a unique wine and spirits program.
One of the largest wine chains in the nation reports the average price point for a bottle of wine is now above $11 a bottle. Wine education is more important than ever. Retailers and wineries have to be able to talk up lesser-known directions for wine sales. Hotel restaurants will have the biggest increase in wine sales next year. Frank Family Vineyards has been awarded most popular winery in the Napa Valley by a Bay area publication, and Costco has won a big victory in Washington State as voters approved an initiative ending the state’s 78-year monopoly on wine and liquor sales.  Private sales are set to begin June 1, 2012.  They can also deal direct with the wineries, a set back for distributors and suppliers.
Wine Bytes
The Winter Red Fest comes to the De Portola Trail Wineries, part of Temecula Valley Wine Country, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4. Taste three red wines paired with gourmet food at all nine Trail Wineries and receive a logo glass. Only $45, or $55 after Nov. 28. For more details, call (855) 398-9463 toll-free, or get tickets online at deportolawinetrail.com.
Enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides through the vineyard at Keyways Winery Saturday evenings from Nov. 26 through Dec. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $5. Also enjoy 100,000 twinkling lights throughout the property.  See keywayswine.com.
The WineSellar and Brasserie in Sorrento Valley has a Bordeaux Wine Tasting Dec. 3 starting at 11 a.m. The cost is $40. Call (858) 450-9557 for details.
The California Winter Wine Classic is from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in Santa Barbara.  Nearly 100 ultra-premium world-class wines will be poured. Only Gold Medal, Reserve and 90+ point wines are allowed. The location is the Grand Ballroom of Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort. Tickets are available at californiawinefestival.com.

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