There are so many variables in wine and plenty just within the vineyard.
A Vineyards “Terroir” or sense of place come from the weather, the location of the vines on slopes for more or less sun, coastal influences, temperature fluxuations, cover crops, and soil.
After our recent trip to Paso Robles I was curious about the calcareous soil and the differences between the soil types for east side and west side vineyards. So we will explore that here today. The subject is complex and I will only deal with some of the basics, but I will happily provide links for further information.
Paso Robles sits south of San Francisco and North of LA. Well, that’s pretty basic isn’t it? This area is considered California’s Central Coast. Paso’s west side begins just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Lucia Mountains give us the western border. The AVA is about 35 miles east to west and 25 north to south. That encompasses 614,000 acres of land about 26,000 of that planted in vineyards.
There are over 45 different soil types found in this area and they tend to be mixed! You can find vineyard blocks whose soils vary row to row.
So what makes the really good stuff? Well these days in Paso especially on the west side you will hear quite a bit about the Calcareous soils. This soil is limestone based and comes from this land at one time being an ocean floor. Whale bone Winery is named for the actual whale bones that they unearthed when they were planting their vineyard. All of this ancient sea bed was pushed up with the mountain ranges by the geological plates.
On Paso’s westside you find huge chunks of limestone. As the limestone gets wet it becomes softer and chalkier and the roots of the vines can then push through and did deep to get to water. The limestone rock also holds heat from the 100 degree days keeping the vines warm at night when the temperatures drop to 45 degrees. This soil type is similar to that of Chateau-neuf de Pape which is what brought the Perrin Family here with the Haas family to grow Rhone varietals here in California at their Tablas Creek Winery. These Calcareous soils also have soil pH of 7.4 to 8.6 and this is not found in other areas of California. This higher pH is helpful in that it increases the availability of phosphorus and nitrogen. Calcium based soils retain water well but do not become water logged during heavy rains. High pH in calcium rich soils has been shown to help maintain acidity late in the growing season. So you can increase the hang time to get riper fruit without sacrificing acid!
On the east side of Paso you find loamier soils due to the Salinas River that runs between the east and west side. With fewer hills this soil tends to be more fertile and easier to cultivate as the hills roll rather than having steep hills. With less limestone in the soils the pH is lower and as such more hang time can compromise the acidity of a wine.
Okay, so I sound like a commercial for Calcareous soil. Now let me tell you a little about the east side soils.
There is still calcareous soil on the east side, but it is mixed with clay and sandy loam. Gravely and clay loam make for great drainage and cause low vine vigor which intensifies the flavor in the berries. Nacimiento – Los Osos complex soil is found often on the east side. These complex soils are well drained but are relatively poor and have chalky or gravelly components. Due to the heat on this side you find more of the big bold varieties grown here such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Sirah.
So is one soil type better than another? It depends on the grape, the vineyard climate and sun, and the winemaker. Soil is another one of the many components in creating wine.
For more information on the soils of Paso Robles look for the book Paso Robles: An American Terroir or just about anything written by Dr. Thomas Rice who teaches at Cal Poly. Some of his work can be found here http://works.bepress.com/trice/
Michael was working and it was my night off. Now I love a good bottle of wine, but I would feel really guilty about opening a nice bottle without Michael, so… while shopping at Trader Joe’s I picked up a bottle of Espiral Vinho Rose. This wine is $4.99. I also picked up some middle eastern flatbread and some tomato basil hummus. I opened the bottle and got curled up on the coach for some mindless TV and some reading on the iPad. I did some blog reading (about how those of us reading wine blogs appear to all be wine bloggers and a great WS post from Matt Kramer on the variety of types of wine lovers).
This wine is simple and festive, a wine to be easily enjoyed and poured liberally. I actually think this wine is better in a tumbler than a wine glass. This is perfect for hot days, the minerality is refreshing and the effervescence cooling. So go ahead, pour it in a big heavy tumbler and toss some ice in if it’s really hot! This wine is carefree without being silly, pleasant and unpretentious. I’ve read reviews of people who love it and people who hate it. Some call it sweet…I get much more minerality and not much sweetness. You may love it, you may hate it…that’s wine for you. It was perfect for my evening. Come to think of it…I don’t feel guilty after all!
So…after our first day of tasting on our trip. Hitting Santa Barbara and then a stop in Los Olivos, we checked into the hotel and headed out for dinner. With my pre-planning we had picked up a Groupon for Avant Tapas and Wine Bar in Buellton, which gave us $40 in wine for $20 as well as 20% off of any Tapas we ordered. When we checked into the Hamlet Inn (which is fabulous!) the person at the desk suggested Avant for dinner and highly recommended the “Yuppie Crack”. So after settling into our room at the extremely adorable Hamlet Inn we set out.
Avant is in Buellton. If you have seen “Sideways” you remember the town with “The Hitching Post”? Yep! Just across the Highway from “The Hitching Post” and down a long drive into a small industrial park you will find the Terravant Wine Company Wine Center. This 40,000 foot Wine Center is a full service wine industry support facility. They have a state of the art analysis lab as well as refrigerated, controlled warehouse storage. They also provide distribution and direct to consumer wine services. As well as office space for wine makers and industry professionals. It has become an incubator to support many Santa Ynez wineries. They provide custom crush and alternating proprietor space.
When you arrive you drive to the back of the facility to the Avant entrance. The two-story entrance leads you upstairs to the Tapas and Wine Bar. The space has a wine wall with a wine dispensing system. You purchase a card and load it up with the amount you would like to spend. Michael and I had our $40 card to share. Each wine is listed by price for a taste, a half glass or a glass and there are 52 wines to choose from. You look out from the second floor through glass windows onto the tank room.
Michael and I were in heaven. We chose several tapas dishes and then went to town each getting a taste of a wine and then sharing to see how they paired with the food. Really I would eat here every day and do this if I could.
We tasted through at least 16 different wines.
- Beginning with roses from Dragonette and Fiddlehead
- Riesling from Code Quest
- Lucas and Llewelyn Gewurztraminer
- Zotovich 2009 Syrah
- Reeves Ranch 2008 Syrah
- Longoria 2010 Albarino that was perfect with the shrimp
- Open Field 2010 Chardonnay
- Brander 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Baehner V3 Cab Blend
- Ground Effect 2010
- Chennin Blanc Blend
- Insomnia White Blend
- Ken Brown 2010 Chardonnay
- Sort This Out Muscat…that’s all I can remember.
To eat we had the,
- Wood Fired Shrimp (which I mentioned was perfect with the Longoria Albarino!)
- The Mac’N’Cheese
- the “Yuppie Crack” which is Apple-wood smoked bacon, dates, goat cheese, balsamic reduction and basil oil drizzle. This stuff is REALLY amazing!
- We did the Rosemary Chicken Skewers
- Seared Scallops with Madeira, dijon, thyme and micro greens.
We finished with the chocolate cinnamon bread pudding which we paired with the Sort Out Cellars Muscat. Turns out the muscat and the bread pudding were great on their own, not so good together. We found the Insomnia White Blend went pretty well with everything! The Ken Brown 2010 Chard was really good (and I’m picky about my Chards) and I really enjoyed it paired with the Mac’N’Cheese. I also really enjoyed the Brander 2009 Cab with the Lamb Meatballs (brown rice, mint, rosemary, lemon zest and white wine). The cab seemed to have a little eucalyptus on the nose and that melded perfectly with the mint in the meatballs. The Yuppie crack was good with the syrahs, but really shone with the Gewurztraminer!
In addition there was music on the night we were there. The Trio was playing and singing from the corner was lovely. Really we could not have asked for a better end to our first day.
They have since change their Restaurant name from Avante to Terravant Winery Restaurant
Wiens Family Cellars was having a Vertical tasting of their Reflections red blends and we couldn’t go…so we put together a vertical of our own. We had the 2008, 2010 and the 2011. These are of course blends, so they are all a little different, so this a little different from a typical vertical. Typically you would have a single variety of grape or a fairly set blend that you would be comparing from year to year. You would get the differences in the climate and season that affect each year’s harvest. You would also be able to see how the wine ages. We were able to do those things, but the field for comparison was a bit more wide open. Let me take a minute to give you the breakdown on these three vintages.
- 2008 Reflection is 30% Sangiovese, 28% Barbera, 28% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot with Alcohol 15.1 and Residual sugar .6%
- 2010 Reflection is 63% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel with 14.5 Alcohol and .5 % residual sugar.
- 2011 Reflection is 42% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 14% Zinfandel, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Primitivo, 2% Montepulciano, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Dolcetto with 12.5 Alcohol! and .2 residual sugar
So as you can see this blend is Sangiovese based, but that’s about where the similarities end. This makes for a brilliantly exciting tasting! At the winery they are doing “Reflections of the Decades” and they are tasting 6 of these wines, 2006-2011. We somehow can’t find the 2009 so I must have already enjoyed it! At the winery they are doing a decade theme starting with the 60’s for the 2006. I perused their pairings and then went back to the suggestions with the wines. We picked up some Spanish meats and cheeses (yes I know, I could have picked up Italian!). We did a tasting upon opening and then let them breathe for a bit and tasted each with the meats and cheeses. For the pairings we went a little out of order and cooked them for each course. I know it sounds tough, but…we have Trader Joes. So here’s the run down for the pairings:
- 2010 Reflection with a goat cheese and basil pizza, to which we added a little sage and thyme.
- 2008 Reflection with Eggplant Parmesan
- 2011 Reflection with meat lasagna and a spinach salad.
Then we had chocolate cake for dessert and tasted it with all 3.
We found that the wines opened up quite a bit over the course of the evening. I had e-mailed the winery to ask decanting recommendations. Bob was kind enough to get back to me and suggested decanting the 2010 and 2011 straight down into a decanter on the counter top to add as much oxygen as possible. For the 2008 he suggested carefully pouring it down the side of a tilted decanter to give it some space to gently open up. Thanks Bob! Unfortunately, I do not yet own a nice decanter. So…we took the advice the best that we could. We opened up the 2008 and gently poured into glasses and let it air. The other two we got the aerator out and poured them through to add oxygen. On to the tasting!
Jim Clendenen is well known in the wine world. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in Pre-Law in 1976 and the world should be very grateful that he found another path. A “junior year abroad” trip to France had him falling in love with wine. He was the Assistant Winemaker at Zaca Mesa for 3 seasons beginning in 1978. (We will get back to Zaca Mesa later!) Mr. Clendenen has been at the forefront of putting Santa Barbara County on the map as a wine region. His restrained manner of making wines has given him plenty of ups and downs with reviews as tastes changed, but he has persisted and continues to make beautiful balanced wines that age well. He looks like a bit of a hippy with his shoulder length hair, beard and typically a Hawaiian style shirt. He founded ABC in 1982.
To get there from “The Funk Zone” I figured we would walk State Street. I was a little nervous about having to get to the other side of the freeway, but there is a gorgeous underpass with bougainvillea to get you there past the Reagan Ranch Center. State Street is a lovely walk with great shops, restaurants, Café’s with sidewalk seating and beautiful older buildings. It was a great walk but we were not prepared for it to be as long as it was! We found the 2nd Starbucks (the one on your right, not your left as the pourer at Municipal directed) and turned left on De la Guerra St. A right on Anacapa put us in front of Au Bon Climate and Margerum. With only time for one tasting room, we went into Au Bon Climat and stepped up to the tasting bar. The tasting room is lovely with two tasting bars and a table with chairs, which when we walked it was strewn with AVA and vineyard maps (got to love that!). We tasted through the regular menu that is far more than Au Bon Climat wines. On this day it included 3 other labels: ICI/ La-Bas, Clendenen Family Vineyards and Il Podere Dell’ Olivos.
- 2011 Clendenen Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc was grown at Mesa Verde in the Santa Ynez valley. After whole cluster fermentation it settled in 500 liter Hungarian oak with racked lees to add a bright clean finish. A really lovely Sav Blanc.
- 2009 Au Bon Climat Hildegard white table wine. This wine is 50% Pinot Beurot (a burgundian clone of Pinot Gris), 30% Pinot Blanc grown at Bien Nacido and 20% Aligote. It was predominantly fermented in new Francois Frères barrels with malolactic fermentation.
- 2010 Au Bon Climat XXX anniversary Chardonnay. They believe that the structured winemaking style behind this wine should make this age until their 50th anniversary. The blend is 44% Chardonnay from Le Bon Climat & 56% from the Bien Nacido K block. It is aged 18 months in new Francois Frères barrels and then is bottled with no filtration.
- 2008 Au Bon Climat Los Alamos Pinot Noir. These vines were planted in 1972 and with warmer days and cooler nights the grapes are able to reach incredible concentration and balance.
- 2009 ICI La-Bas Pinot Noir is grown in the Anderson Valley in the Elke Vineyard in northern California near Mendocino. This is aged in 75% Francois Frères new oak barrels.
- 2005 Clendenen Family Vineyards Syrah/Viognier. Grown in the Clendenen organic ranch near Los Alamos. This low alcohol wine is co-fermented.
- 2005 Il Podere Dell’ Olivos Teroldego. This is an extremely rare world-class wine grape that makes a wine that is rich and darkly colored. The grape originated in the grape-growing region of Rotaliano located in northeastern Italy. 2005 vintage is blue black in color dense and well extracted with blackberry and plum notes. It has a full inky texture complimented by silky finesse.
All of the wines were wonderful. Each balanced and with it’s own character. Our pourer was happy to give us details on the wines as we tasted. He also gave us his card for a 2 for 1 tasting at Qupe where we were dashing off to next. Jim Clendenen and Qupe’s Bob Lindquist are old friends both coming out of Zaca Mesa (we had a great Zaca Mesa Chardonnay when we ate at The Poppy Den) and both celebrating 30 years in winemaking this year. Realizing we were running short on time, we made the trek back in cut time! I look forward to coming back to Santa Barbara and spending a few days so we have time to stroll from tasting room to tasting room enjoying the sites.
I have wanted to visit Municipal Winemakers for a while. We stopped in on our last trip through Santa Barbara a year and a half ago only to find that they were sold out and had no wines to taste! Well, if you are going to have a problem in the wine industry, I think that is the one to have. As we planned another trip through the area I did more research on the winery.
They are kitschy, located in The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail’s “Funk Zone”. Their winemaker Dave Potter wants to get the wine to the people. He loves making wine and meeting people who want to drink his wine. Distributors and sales…that creates the distance between the grape and the glass and takes some of the heart out of the process. So…Dave makes his wines and sells them in his tasting room. Small lots, high quality and it’s working if he is selling out before he can release another vintage!
This is not your average wine tasting room. Outside you have to see the sign on the sidewalk to realize that it is a tasting room, otherwise it looks like an old dive shop near the beach in Santa Barbara. There are picnic tables set up in an area out front. When you walk in you first notice the wall of stacked filing cabinets.
As we walked up for our tasting the person pouring pulled one drawer open and pulled out two glasses and oversized index card with a typed list of the tastings!
We tasted through the list, which included a dry, Riesling (Bright White), a Rose (Pale Pink), a Red Blend (Bright Red), a Pinot (Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir), a Cab and a sweeter Riesling (Sweetness). The bottles have great labels and each bottle has a bottle number listed. The rose was Grenache, Cinsault and Counoise and the “Bright Red” which I really enjoyed was the same blend with Syrah. The Bright Red was light on the palate but with big flavor. They do also have a “Wine Fountain” where they serve wine by the glass or in 1 liter refillable bottles.
We walked the neighborhood enjoying some more of the “Funk Zone” before heading up State Street. Next door there is an old red phone box labeled “Book Exchange” and filled with books. I had seen these on Facebook, but this was the first I had seen close up! Need a book, take a book, done with a book, leave it! It is a great concept! Lots of other wineries have tasting rooms in the area. Anacapa Vineyards is not even listed yet, they are so new! They have a beautiful tasting room with big windows and chalkboards on the walls filled with all kinds of interesting information on their grapes and wines. It is a regular wine education classroom!
Oreana Winery up the street has old trucks painted with their logo out front and a juke box in the garage that is part of their barrel room. Pali, which is next to Anacapa, has lots of windows and a patio on the side. Santa Barbara Winery sits in a white washed building covered in vines. In addition to the wineries listed on the Urban Wine Trail site, there are more popping up all the time. We saw a side door on a building that said “Drake”. This new little tasting room evidently recently opened. When we were later at Sculpterra in Paso, the person pouring for us said his friend had just opened that tasting room (the wine world is a small world).
While we only had time to taste at Municipal, we will happily return to spend a day or two tasting in the area and enjoying the beach. There are around 11 tasting rooms in “The Funk Zone” and another 9 or 10 within the downtown area, including Conway’s Deep Sea Tasting room out on Stearns Wharf.
For now…we were off to take a stroll up State Street and find Au Bon Climat (or ABC as it seems to be known here).
Drawn to the coast we began on the beach in Santa Barbara wandering Stearns wharf and then tasting at Municipal Winemakers on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in “The Funk Zone”. Au Bon Climat called and we strolled up the beautiful State Street with bougainvillea petals blowing on the breeze to taste there. Jim Clendenen’s wines lived up to the hype in my book. Then it was just a beautiful drive up 154 to Los Olivos past Lake Cachuma to taste at Qupe/Verdad/Ethan in Los Olivos see some of the amazing wines Bob Lindquist creates. A relaxing tasting on the back patio at Carhartt slowed our pace and had us waxing poetic on the glorious fragrances of Brooke Carhartt’s wines. Dinner of small plates and a wine wall where I could enjoy tastings or a glass at Avant Tapas and Wine ended a perfect day one.
In the morning we caught the marine layer drifting through as we headed north into Foxen Canyon stopping for a great tasting at Zaca Mesa. The property here is beautiful. This is the winery that turned out both Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as well as numerous other amazing winemakers. After our tasting here, we headed North to Arroyo Grande and enjoyed a tour at Talley. As we toured the winemaker Eric Johnson stopped by on a couple of occasions to say hello and answer questions. Now it was on to our final destination of Paso Robles. We tasted at Booker which is off of 46 West and were greeted by the winery dog who is the spittin’ image of our dear Mojo from Miramonte!
Day 3 began at Bella Luna, a tiny winery south-east of Paso, where Sherman, the winemaker was pouring their Italian style wines. Staying on the East Side we drove on to Sculpterra with their amazing sculpture garden live accordion music and lovely wines. We made our way back to the West side of the 101 to Vines on the Marycrest where they were hosting a “Songwriters at Play” event. The sun filtered through the tasting room windows and the music filtered in from the patio while we enjoyed a great tasting and conversation with Jennifer while Vic the winemaker and a sound engineer busily took care of cables, mic stands and making sure the sound system in the tasting room gave us the best mix. Our day ended strolling downtown where they were having a wine and art event. We were drawn into the Parrish Family Vineyards elegant tasting room where enjoyed tasting the Parrish Family wines with a cheese pairing from Vivant cheeses and I was treated to a wonderful conversation with winemaker David Parrish regarding yeast!
Another beautiful morning saw us enjoying a drive in on Vineyard Drive from the south. Shale Oak is a newer winery in Paso and I had been lucky enough to stumble across them on Cellar Pass. The peacefulness of this spot in the morning with its stunning architecture topped by it’s eco friendly stance made for a beautiful start to the day. We added a little adrenaline to the morning with a drive out Peachy Canyon Road. The twists and turns put this West Virginia girl right at home. We stopped at a small winery called Stacked Stone. Winery owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen saw us pull in and came out to open the tasting room to pour for us. The property is in a lovely wooded area landscaped with “stacked stones”. Back up Peachy Canyon we headed toward one of the highest limestone plateaus on the West side of Paso Robles 1200 feet above the Salina Valley. Here at Lloyd’s Lookout sits the Calcareous Winery and tasting room. The views are amazing. We enjoyed a tasting followed by a lunch pairing with food by Thomas Hill Organics.
Mid day saw us heading North and East to San Miguel and tasting at family owned and run Locatelli. Raynette Gregory the co-proprietor poured for us.
From this small family owned winery, we headed further east to the big new tasting room on this block, Nigel Lithgoe’s Villa San Juliette. The drive out is lovely with expansive views of the East side hills and the property itself is impressive. Photo’s to come! From here we were a little wined out…so time for a little pacific coast palate cleanser. We headed to the coast and dinner at Moonstone beach. We finished dinner and drove partway back to Paso to pull off and wait to watch sunset.
Our final day started with tour at Tablas Creek. We are loyal members here and took a tour before our tasting. The place has grown so much since our last trip here. We saw Bob Haas arriving for the day, and while we did not see winemaker Neil Collins, we did get to hang with his dog Millie! From here we had a little time before our tour at neighboring Halter Ranch and made a stop at Adelaida to taste the wines, the almonds, see the sheep and alpacas and meet Addy the vineyard cat. We headed back to Halter Ranch to do our tour and tasting, and fell in love with the place. The new winery here is state of the art and stunning. We ended our trip here on a high note.
So that is the quick view, watch for detailed posts and pictures from these amazing wineries over the next few weeks.
On our recent trip to Santa Barbara we picked up a bottle of Carhartt’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. On the tasting menu it suggested a pairing of scallops or mango salsa, sooo last Thursday night we combined both.
The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is from the Santa Ynez Valley with 47% of the fruit coming from the Carhartt vineyard, 17% from the Faith Vineyard, 18% from La Pressa and 18% from Curtis. (This is the geeky stuff I love that Carhartt kindly puts on the back of their labels! Ready to geek out some
more?) The wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock grown on a vertical trellis system. This was whole cluster pressed and fermented in 50% stainless steel and 50% neutral oak for 6 months. Only 750 cases were produced.
The mango salsa I created was a simple recipe with mango, green onions, lime juice, cilantro and olive oil. My mango was not fully ripe, so it had a little tartness to it. Michael cooked the scallops in butter and olive oil with just salt and pepper. We did a fresh herb salad from the garden with a sesame dressing, quinoa with herbs and some avocado/cucumber rolls from Whole Foods.
Michael remembered that we had 2 other whites open (we have a vacuum sealer and they had only been opened the day before! Don’t worry!). One was a Field Blend from Stuart Cellars. This wine was 45% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 5% Muscat. The Muscat definitely adds a sweetness to this wine. Stuart Cellars was a winery in Temecula California, they were bought out by a company an are now named Bel Vino. We had a bottle of Bel Vino 2012 Viognier also open, so…we thought we would give them all a shot! The Viognier I had really enjoyed the day before and the Field Blend is Michael’s go to.
Carhartt Savignion Blanc 2012-17% from the Faith Vineyard, 18% from La Pressa and 18% from Curtis.
- This wine was lovely on it’s own. When we opened it I got lots of tropical fruit on the nose. A little citrus, not overly grapefruit. Later on as it opened up I got more apple, and a softer apple like a Fuji apple or a macintosh.
- Scallops/ Mango-The Sauvignon Blanc held up to the mango salsa, and slightly tempered the brightness of the flavors. It would be interesting to see how it would taste with a riper mango. The flavors were nice with the quinoa and salad (I think it played nicely off of the sesame dressing) but with the avocado/cucumber rolls it was really nice!
- Avocado Cucumber Rolls– …by far the Sav Blanc was the best pairing here. It enhanced the cucumber causing the flavor to burst in cool refreshment in the back of my palate!
Bel Vino Viognier 2012
- Scallops/ Mango– With the scallops and mango salsa the Viognier was very nice bringing out the sweetness in the scallops, it held its own here.
- Avocado Cucumber Rolls- the Viognier was better with the roll as it had a little less sweetness and held it’s own.
Stuart Cellars Field Blend-45% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 5% Muscat.
- Scallops/ Mango- The Field Blend was the overall winner with the scallops and mango. It brightened the mango and pulled out the sweetness in the scallop and while not an over the top OMG pairing, it was very nice.
- Avocado Cucumber Rolls-The Field Blend was just a little sweet with the roll. It picked up on the rice wine vinegar but it was a little sweet and heavy to pair with the cucumber/avocado. Had this been a roll with a little crab, the Field Blend would have probably been better, pairing with the sweetness of the crab meat.
This could become a Thursday event! Look forward to some Pizza pairings and then possibly a take off on “The Taste” with spoon full tastings to pair. This promises to make Thursdays my favorite night of the week!
We had stopped by Keyways in December and found it full and busy in the midst of their Victorian Christmas Faire. We enjoyed walking into the tasting room decorated for the holidays with Santa reciting “The Night Before Christmas” before the fireplace. It was truly enchanting…. and full. So we didn’t stop to taste, we soaked in the ambience and went on our way with plans to return to taste on our next trip.
And so we did. I was fascinated reading about their Brazilian Onyx bar, which is really beautiful. Founded in 1989 by Carl Key, Keyways was one of the original wineries in the Temecula Valley. The winery used to be known as the only woman-owned winery in Temecula. Terri Delayer, the female owner, sold the winery to Silverton Partners in late 2011.
The grounds here are beautiful and the tasting room feels like a wonderful small hotel lobby, with a seating area with a fireplace and the beautiful bar.
Our Wine Tasting started with the 2012 Fume Blanc, which had grapefruit of course on the nose there was a little mineral and chalk on the back of this with spice on the finish and a little heat. The 2010 Riesling was very nice with citrus on the nose and green apple on the palate. This wine was clear, minimally sweet, and really tasty in an unexpected way. The 2010 Valley Cuvee Du Sud was my favorite. It is a Rhone Blend with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre as well as Petite Sirah, Cinsault and Viognier. It had a wonderful cigar box nose with lovely tannins and warmth. Think red berries with earth and spice. There was a little peppery heat on the end. Really beautiful. The 2010 Valley Cuvee Du Nord is in a Northern Rhone style and is Syrah based with the same varietals as the Du Sud but in different proportions. You get more fruit on this one and it is darker and chewier. The 2008 Charbono had a sweet nose. On the first taste it was sweet on the palate and then mellowed with additional tastes. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve had a sweet nose with dark chocolate. The tannins here were more aggressive and the wine had a medium to long finish.
If you have a chance I definitely recommend getting here around the holidays with time to spend at the Victorian Christmas Faire. There are vendors set up in the grassy area out front, Carriage rides in horse drawn carriages and the whole atmosphere is just amazing. And don’t miss sidling up to that beautiful Brazilian Onyx bar and grab a glass of The Du Sud to enjoy while listening to Santa in front of the fire.
For more Pictures check out our Keyways Photo Page.
We had relaxed at the Inn at Europa Village with white sangria on the balcony overlooking the Winery and Vineyards, then had a nap and now were dressed (to the nines) and heading down the to Musical Wine Pairing Dinner at Europa Village. All afternoon the scent of smoked pork wafted up to our room from the smoker outside that Chef Dean was using.
We strolled into the courtyard with some other guests, commenting on the red windmill lit up and tacked to the end of the winery. There was some confusion as to why it was there. This dinner was Moulin Rouge themed!
Europa Village has 3 labels for their wines Vienza is their Italian varieties and blends, Bolero for the Spanish and C’est la Vie for their French wines. Tonight was to be a celebration of their French Style wines with hors d’oeuvres, dinner as well as a musical performance with singers and Can Can girls!
We headed into the tasting room and checked in. The first pour of the night was their 2011 Viognier. We grabbed a glass and headed back out to the courtyard to enjoy the beautiful early evening. We had a seat at one of the café tables outside the tasting room and enjoyed the view of the gardens and the Inn. You could see the fire pit going on the patio up at the Inn. The Passé course came by to pair with the Viognier. It was a Tarte Flambée with Crème Fraiche, Onion & Lardons. A perfect bite to start the evening. People gathered, many here were “Societe” Members (members of the wine club) and knew each other. We met a few people and were introduced to a few more, and then we were all directed to “The Cave” for dinner.
This is a simulated Italian Wine Cave built next to the tasting room where they hold events. Tables were set for 8 and the Cave was dim and candlelit. We found a table and met some more new people. Dinner began with a word or two from the presenters followed by Chef Dean Thomas coming to explain each of the courses we would be enjoying. The sommelier then spoke about the wines and we finished things off with a song, “Come What May” from Baz Lurman’s film “Moulin Rouge” along with the Debut course of Mushroom Bisque with a Chevre Gourgere and chive oil, paired with the C’est La Vie 2011 Chardonnay. Michael hates mushrooms, so I snuck a look at him out of the corner of my eye as he tested the soup. I felt sure that he would take a taste and then politely put it to the side. Nope, after one taste, he went back for a second and third and finished the cup. Chef Dean you have converted him!
The third course was our “Prima” and finally I got to taste that smoked pork! This was smoked pork tenderloin & roast belly, duck confit “Kronenbourg” choucroute, De Puy lentils and legumes paired with the C’est La Vie En Vie. This is a Rhone Style blend of Grenache, Syrah Counoise, Cinsault and Mourvedre. En Vie means “In Life”. This dish was delicious and aromatic and rich.
The next course was the Fromage Amuse. A little cheese course (we are dong the French thing here!) to round up the savory flavors of dinner
The Finale Course our dessert was a Grand Marnier Soufflé Glace (frozen) with Raspberry Coulis & Citrus Supremes paired with the Vienza Grenache Rose. We stepped away from France with this wine and this Rose was definitely on the sweet side. It made a unique pairing with the Glace.
Throughout the evening we had been entertained by Can Can girls and vocals some from the movie and others from other Moulin Rouge and French inspired movies and musicals.
We strolled out very full into the moonlight through the gardens and then back to our Inn on the hill. The fire pit on the patio was enticing, but we were sated and sleepy so we collapsed into the comfortable bed and waited to be awoken by the sounds of hot air balloons.
On our last trip to Temecula Wine Country, we spoiled ourselves a little and spent one night at The INN at Europa Village. I highly recommend doing this. We were in town to taste and go to a wine dinner at Europa Village and figured it would be a convenient time to treat ourselves to a stay at the Inn. It was an amazing experience.
The Inn was built in the 80’s by Dick and Betty Ryan and at that time was called Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast. The Inn offered 10 guest rooms, a 10 person Jacuzzi tub and full gourmet breakfast. In 2006 Karl and Connie Sweigart bought the Inn and decorated each of the room with a wine theme. Now owned by the Rancon Group who owns Europa Village it has been beautifully redecorated and is now run by Innkeepers Chef Dean and Nicole.
Chef Dean has an extensive culinary resume and has taught at several culinary institutes. When we drove up to the Inn, which is situated, on a hill overlooking Europa Village and it’s vineyards, we were greeted by the aromas of a smoker that was cooking up dinner for the evening’s event at Europa Village. I am very glad we were attending or I would not have been able to keep myself from going downstairs and begging for a bite! It smelled fantastic. We entered the Inn and Nicole greeted us and took us on a brief tour of the Inn and then to our room. We were staying in the Viognier room, which has a balcony and unobstructed views of winery and vineyards. She started to ask if we would like a white sangria to enjoy on the balcony, when Chef Dean walked in with two for us! We took their advice to just relax and unwind and sat on the balcony to enjoy the view the sangria and the smell of dinner cooking.
The idea here is peace and serenity. There is a TV in the Main sitting room that is typically turned to a music station. The rooms themselves are TV free. The rooms, still named after wine grape varieties range from the Cabernet Sauvignon which is spacious with a private entrance a brick fireplace, Jacuzzi tub for 2 and French doors that open up onto the patio to the Sangiovese which is cozy with a window view of the front courtyard. Treat yourself to a room with a view here and you can wake up to the sounds of hot air balloons landing behind nearby Callaway. The rooms are beautiful and serene with beautiful artwork and clean lines all with a European feel. You will find comfy robes in the closet, which will come in handy for a trip to the 8-person hot tub on the patio. They also have a fire pit to gather around and watch sunset with a glass of wine.
After an amazing dinner at Europa Village prepared by Chef Dean we had a restful night of sleep and awoke in the morning in time to see several balloons landing nearby. We got up and headed down for breakfast. There is a community table in the dinning room as well as places set out on the patio. We grabbed a cup of tea and coffee and found a table with a view on the patio. As we sipped our beverages and started to wake up, two more hot air balloons flew into view and landed over the hill.
Chef Dean arrived with our first course of breakfast, which included a bruleed banana over a citrus custard with melon with bee pollen and strawberries in a mojito sugar glaze. The citrus came from the citrus orchards right on the property. The rest of the ingredients are sourced locally. Chef Dean frequents the local family farms.
The main course was a Briton style crepe with mushrooms & Gruyere a sunny side up egg with chive oil, a fresh salad arugula and crisp green apples. There was also a crème sauce for the crepe with fennel pollen. I’m sure I’m leaving something out. It was really delicious. We stayed loitering not wanting to leave. The roses were in bloom the morning was beautiful…I really could have stayed forever.
As we left, they said to come back. We will… I have this tucked away now as my rejuvenation center. Thanks Nicole and Chef Dean for an amazing stay.
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