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Winemaker Olivia Bue with Fred Renzoni of Robert Renzoni Vineyards on the De Portola Trail in Temecula.
Winemaker Olivia Bue with Fred Renzoni of Robert Renzoni Vineyards on the De Portola Trail in Temecula. Courtesy photo
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

In Temecula, follow De Portola Road for tasty vino

Author’s Note: Frank and Rico are pleased to announce that this column will now be co-produced and presented by both of these lovers of fine wine and food. Together they are committed to bringing only the best possible information to your table.

On the south side of Temecula, or you could say the countryside of Temecula, sits 10 beautiful wineries, each with its own wine style. The views are awesome, equaling some of the grandest hills and valleys of Europe.

Rico and I always look forward to the De Portola Wine Trail’s annual Harvest Celebration, when the owners themselves pour the wines and the winemakers chat about the year’s harvest.

Next time you’ll want to visit them all with their special focus on a Mediterranean style of winemaking: Cougar Vineyards, Danza Del Sol, Fazelli Cellars, Frangipani Estate, Gershun Bachus Vintners, Leoness Cellars, Masia de la Vinya, Oak Mountain, Robert Renzoni Vineyards and Somerset Vineyards & Winery.

Each winery had a barrel sample, one of their bottles of the future, along with a couple of current releases. Accompanying these new tastes were small bites of big-tasting appetizers.

When you visit Robert Renzoni Vineyards, I hope you are fortunate enough to visit with Fred Renzoni, the elder statesman of the winery. Fred’s done it all in the wine business.

Previous generations of the Renzoni family began life with wine in 1886 in a little Italian village called Fano. In the ensuing years, the family set down roots in Buffalo, New York, where in the ’70s, Fred ran a hugely successful Italian import business including some of the top wines from that country and France.

Fred’s son Robert saw success with wine in Los Angeles, then in Temecula’s budding wine country. He reunited with Fred in 2006 and they purchased the property, now standing as a tribute to their Renzoni ancestors.

They now make award-winning wines with the expert help of Olivia Bue, who joined the Renzoni family some seven years ago. Bue, an Encinitas native and UC Davis graduate, gained notoriety in Australia, and wound up in Napa Valley’s famed Cakebread winery before the Renzonis coaxed her to “return home.”

The results have been spectacular with major wine industry awards. More at

A few miles up the road from Renzoni, we recommend you visit Rick and Jennifer Buffington’s Cougar Vineyard & Winery. They specialize in 100% estate Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Aglianico and my and Rico’s favorite, the Cougar Estate Cask Montepulciano 2017 ($50), also known as “The Full Monte.”

This red originated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. It’s aged in American oak barrels for 12 months, then finished aging in their large French oak cask. Enjoy this tasty red with red meats, and for a special treat, with dark chocolate-covered strawberries.

Wine Bytes

• The Palm Springs Pinot Noir Fest, a “Passion for Pinot,” is Saturday, Jan. 8, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert.

Come mix and mingle with winemakers and taste and discover new wines from pinot producers in California. This 2nd annual festival promises to be a high-class, high-end event and a sure sellout. Cost is $125-$150. Get the full story at

• Now is not too soon to mark your January calendar to start the year with a magnificent wine dinner from Sal Ercolano’s Flora Bar & Kitchen in Carmel Valley. Mighty DAOU winery of Paso Robles will be at Flora on Wednesday-Thursday, Jan. 26-27, at 6 p.m.

DAOU will present five of its most popular wines including everyone’s favorite,  The Soul of a Lion Bordeaux red blend, served with Wild Boar Ossobuco.

The cost is $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To reserve your seat, please call 858-461-0622.

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