This year is shaping up to be a landmark one for Temecula Wine Country in its quest to not only be a recognized destination for excellent wines, but for big time music venues.
Concerts on the green have been stepped up, as well as happy hour entertainment and clubby small groups on the weekends and in the afterhours.
The big granddaddy of the music movement has to be Thornton Winery’s Champagne Jazz Concerts, now in its 25th year of the top smooth jazz entertainment on the planet, through Oct. 20.
John, Sally and Steve Thornton have set the standard when they recently brought four sax greats in for a two-day show that was a complete sell-out both nights. Now seating 800, the audience can order a tableside supper with lots of Thornton wine choices.
The beat continues at Thornton when crooner Bobby Caldwell performs Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $65 for general admission. For ticket and other concert information, contact is thorntonwine.com.
Thornton has just released a 2011 Nebbiolo, the famous Italian style varietal, found in Barolo and Barbaresco wines in Italy’s Piedmont district for far higher prices. Winery price is $46.
Over at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, a festival of Country music wowed the crowds recently. It turned out to be a celebration as news came that South Coast was named the California Winery of the Year at this year’s California State Fair, the third time it has taken the award! Owners Jim and Dawn Carter accepted the award on the capital steps in Sacramento. The winery is also commemorating its 10-year Anniversary with a limited release Cuvee wine from winemaster Jon McPherson ($30.)
Call the online store at (951) 587-9463 ext. 7234.
Monte De Oro Winery is bringing in their biggest act in rock-pop star Macy Gray, in concert Saturday September 7. Prices start at $48.95. See more at montedeoro.com.
Wiens Family Cellars has been giving us some great oldies music for some time now and the winery is about to open the curtain on the English band that in the late ‘70s was a hot as can be. The Fixx lit up the charts with “One Thing Leads To Another” and they will be performing July 20. Doors open at 6 p.m. with pricing starting at $45. Aug. 23, Wiens has Big Bad Voodoo Daddy; call (800) 316-8559 for ticket information.
On the De Portola Trail, some eight or so wineries are constantly improving, none more so than Leoness Cellars. Their entertainment and hospitality is handled by Joel Reese, himself a seasoned musician. This year, he brought in a group of Jazz greats in the maiden year for big-time shows at Leoness. The last of the concerts will be a solo performance by Ronnie Laws, a saxman who was an original member of Earth Wind and Fire, July 20 at 7 p.m. Prices start at $49. For ticket information, call (951) 302-7601 ext. 150.
For the weekend nightlife, try Miramonte Winery with live blues and rock music from 7 to 10 p.m. Cane Vanderhoof has upscaled his winery into a winery/nightclub with huge success. Try Missy Anderson, Queen of the Blues July 20. Details are available by calling (951) 506-5500.
Finally, to get a look and a taste of all the 35 member wineries of Temecula in one location, get a “CRUSH” Sept. 14 at Callaway Winery, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Join the winery owners and winemakers at this fourth annual CRUSH event on the outdoor patio. Enjoy culinary creations of the wineries and nearby restaurants of Temecula. Pre-sale discount tickets are on sale now for $65 through Aug. 16. Go to temeculawines.org.
The Taste of Rancho Santa Fe is July 20 at the RSF Golf Club. It’s produced by the RSF Rotary as a benefit for several nonprofits. This is a fine wine/fine tasting experience including more than 100 tastings, many from Napa Valley. Cost is $75. Call (858) 449-5173 for tickets.
San Diego Wine Company’s weekly tasting July 20 will feature Washington State Wines. Times are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $10. Details at (858) 586-WINE.
Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas presents a Napa Valley Cakebread Cellars Seminar July 25. $20. Check with Meritage for time by calling (760) 479-2500.
San Diego State University announces an Open House for its Business of Wine Opportunities classes, July 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., in the Extended Studies Gateway Centers. Call (619) 594-1138 for an RSVP, directions and a parking permit. Learn about fall courses in the wine industry.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His library can be viewed at tasteofwinetv.com. (Average Google certified 900 visits per day) He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at [email protected].