Falkner Winery and Pinnacle Restaurant

Falkner Winery

Driving down Rancho California Road in Temecula Wine Country, there is lots to look at.  Beautiful vineyards, wineries on all sides, but you won’t be able to miss Pinnacle restaurant.  The rounded building sits on the hill top on just past Calle Contento Road.  The windows and patio will have you wanting to turn in and take in the view from the other side!  So make the turn and take the steep drive up to this stunning building.  Before you get there, you will find the winery and tasting room tucked into the trees behind the restaurant and I encourage you to stop in here and do a tasting before treating yourself to lunch and the view from Pinnacle.

Falkner Pinnacle

Falkner Pinnacle

The tasting room is open daily from 10-5 and the restaurant is open from 11:30- 3:30 for lunch.  If you get there after 3:30, never fear the gift shop at the tasting room offers food items to purchase and create a picnic to enjoy out on the picnic tables in the tree lined area outside.

You will find great lends such as their Amante which is a Super Tuscan style red with Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also do a Bordeaux style Meritage with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

The winery was founded in 2000 by Ray and Loretta Falkner. They opened the restaurant in September of 2006 and that gorgeous view is 1,500 feet up on the hilltop.  New to me as I researched was the “Wine Cave” below the restaurant.  This VIP room is a barrel shaped room with windows all around to see the barrels and case good that the winery has.  This space seats up to 20 people and is available for special events.

Pinnacle Lunch

Pinnacle Lunch

Michael and I tasted here on our very first trip to Temecula and then returned to have a stunning lunch paired with their wines on a later trip and the restaurant was busy!  When the weather is nice the patio is lovely for lunch.

They offer a monthly Wine Appreciation class with their assistant Winemaker and in-house sommelier.  This is a four hour class that includes lunch and is great for both novices and experts.  You should plan ahead and register in advance for these classes that happen on the second Saturday of each month.  They do have Public Tours available each weekend at 11 and 2 that are $10 per person.

Until you have a chance to get out to the winery and restaurant, you can enjoy a little at home by viewing their MAC and ME cooking classes online with Chef Mike.  Learn how to make Prosciutto wrapped asparagus at home or a wide range of other delicious things.

King Family Vineyards, Crozet Virginia

From Pippin Hill Farm we headed to King Family Vineyards in Crozet.  As we headed out our driver pointed out that our last vineyard was actually closer, but…we had checked the times and the last vineyard was open the latest, so off to King Family Vineyards we went.

This vineyard is family owned and a smaller and more intimate winery.  After the fact I saw that they have a gallery with art showings!  We were so busy with the wine that I missed that while we were there.  The are also known for their Polo matches

Kings-Family-Polo

which begin each year on Memorial Day weekend.The tasting room has a 3 sided bar. The girl who was pouring for us was very knowledgable and was getting ready to graduate with a nursing degree.  When we asked how she came to work here, she said she loved their Chardonnay and would come here, get a glass and study on the porch.  They saw her so often they finally offered her a job.  She really loves the wine and the winery and was passionate about sharing information on the grapes, the vineyards and the vintages.  She began with trying to speak to all of us around the bar who began the tasting together, so as to not leave anyone waiting and give us all great information.  Of course as we began tasting we were all at a different pace, so she broke off to give attention to the individual groups.  She was indeed working the entire bar by herself, but never left us waiting too long and was always happy to provide information.

 

My friend Kathy had recommended this vineyard from a previous trip and she loves their Chardonnay.  Evidently lots of people do because they were sold out and the next vintage doesn’t come out until July!  They did however have a lovely white blend that we tried called Roseland.  Roseland is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Viognier.  40% of the volume is aged in oak so you get a butteriness that is not overpowering mixed with the peach and honeysuckle from the Viognier and a little lemongrass.  Even with the oak it has a clean finish.

Next we tasted the Crose.  This is a 100% Merlot Dry rose and a play on the name of their city.  Lots of tart grapefruit on this one with red fruits coming through.  It is bright crisp and fun.

Their 2010 Merlot was lovely with mocha, deep cherry and wet stone.  Very enjoyable and this one will just get better.

The 2010 Meritage is 43% Merlot, 27% Petit Verdot, 22% Cab Franc and 8% Malbec.  This wine is bright and young.  It had just recently been bottled.  You could see it’s potential, but I think it needs a little more time before drinking.

The 2009 Seven is a fortified wine in the port style.  It is 100% Merlot.  While it sits at 18% alcohol it does not feel hot on the palate.  It does however evaporate faster than almost anything I have ever put in my mouth.  With a bit of dark chocolate this could be lovely for after dinner.

 

King-Family-patio

The final wine we tasted was the 2010 Loreley which is 50% each Viognier and Petit Manseng.  This late harvest wine is fermented and aged in the barrel.  Sweet without being cloying it would again be nice after dinner.   We looked at our watches and knew we had to head out to our final stop of the day at Veritas.

 

PippinHill Farms, Tasting in Virginia

The countryside in the Charlottesville area is stunning with rolling hills, lots of trees and charming homes. From the Boar’s Head our driver headed south on 29 to Plank Road.

I had read about Pippin Hill Farm online while doing research on the area and discovered that they serve a small plate menu. This seemed to be a good start to the day as it was lunch time and we were all hungry.

The view as you arrive at the vineyard is stunning. This is Charlottesville’s newest vineyard and is part of the Monticello AVA. They have created a stunning atmosphere that reflects the history and culture of the area. You approach the large barn like building which is their events center. There is a wrap around porch with outside seating for tastings and lunch. We went in to the tasting bar and persuaded them to let us order from the small plates menu and sit outside and then come back in for each of our tastings.

Pippin Hills Field

I chose the Reserve tasting at $8. Which included a sparkling wine, a reserve chardonnay, a reserve Merlot and a reserve Meritage. They have also have a White wine tasting or a Red wine tasting each with 4 selections available at $5 each.

My tasting began at the beautiful hand-carved bar inside.

The windows behind the bar allow for stunning views of the vineyard and hillsides. I started with the 2010 Summer Hill Sparkler. This sparkling wine is 100% Cabernet Franc. It has a very yeasty nose but is light bright and immediately put me in a good mood. It spends 8 months in stainless steel sur lees to build the depth of flavor.

After pouring me the 2010 Chardonnay Reserve and taking our order for small plates, we headed outside to enjoy the air and the view from the covered stoned terrace, which quite honestly as a great open veradana. We found a corner close by with couches on 3 sides and a low table. There was an old water pump fountain trickling peacefully nearby and the view…did I mention the view? The 2010 Chardonnay Reserve was fruit forward with light to medium oak and was very pleasant.

On to the food. The Daily Cheese Board had 3 artisan cheeses, I remember a gouda, which was very good a goat cheese and forgive me I don’t remember the last (I was drinking and chatting) but it was good. It came with home made bread that they do in their wood burning oven as well as apricot marmalade, fig mostarda and spiced nuts. Really delicious. We also split a croque monsieur and the local beef sliders with house made parmesan fries. The fries were addictive.

By now we were onto the 2010 Merlot Reserve. This was my favorite here. Aged in new French oak for 13 months this is big and bold with lots of depth. While I enjoyed it now I can only see this wine growing better with age.

Pippin Hills Side Yard View

Our last wine was the Meritage Reserve. I enjoyed this but my friend Kathy really loved it. She loves the Meritage Blends, enjoying the lighter varietals more than the deep smoky ones. It was fascinating to see the difference in our tastes and palates. We could all appreciate all the wines, but our preferences run in different directions. We enjoyed the view and didn’t want to leave, but other wineries beckoned. So we headed onward, our plates not even empty with the generous portions.

Santa Barbara and Los Olivos part 2

Carhartt Vineyard and Winery

We headed up the street again to Saarloos and Sons, only to find them closed on this weekday just before the holidays.  So…we took a leisurely walk around the town to see what else might be open.  We ended up coming full circle and stopping into Carhartt which is directly across the street from Saarloos and Sons.  Known as the “worlds smallest tasting room” they weren’t kidding!  This tiny tasting room had a couple at the counter, a big group on the back patio and us at the end of the bar squeezing in.  None the less Robin welcomed us immediately to the tasting room and got us set up.  The group on the back patio Robin told us were local kids back from College and Afganistan. They came in looking for Chase which is the owner’s son, and then she realized they were really looking for her son, whose name is also Chase.  He was not yet home from college.  They asked us to take a photo of them with Robin in front of the tasting room.  When they were gone Robin invited us to head into the back patio and be comfortable in the barrel chairs and she would bring us our tastings.

Carhart Winery

Carhart Winery

The barrel chairs were VERY comfortable and the wines..sublime.  The garden patio is beautiful.  The tiny tasting room filled up and another couple joined us on the patio.  All of the wines here were extremely nuanced and layered and many were surprising.  The 2010 Savignon Blanc from the Faith Vineyard at Carhartt has the expected bright grapefruit on the nose, but then is much smoother on the palate and slightly sweeter than you would expect.  The 2010 Pinot Noir from River Bench Vineyard….okay, we tasted several styles of Pinot Noir on this trip and I love the Bien Nacido Pinots that we tasted in Paso, but this, this is a completely different animal.  I am in love.  Elegant, sophisticated  it has lavender and forest floor on the nose, the mouth is butter and oak and lavender.  It is light in the mouth but sooooo complex!  This is a stunner.  The 2009 Estate Merlot from Rancho Santa Ynez was deep with licorice & tobacco.  The mouth feel was big at the top and then ends clean making it the perfect food wine.  Finally the 2009 Fourplay is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot (a Meritage minus 1).  With a nose of dark berries, cedar and toasty oak this is balanced and beautiful.  I will admit that we had fallen in love with the place the people and the wines, and without a second thought we joined the wine club here.  Before leaving Robin told me that Pete would call me the next day to welcome me to the wine club.  He handles all the wine club stuff.  She also gave me a Carhartt business card, which has Mike Carhartt’s cell phone number on it in case we need anything.  This is truly a family run business.  Mike grew up raising cattle here and then turned the cattle farm into a vineyard.  Bill from Foxen encouraged them to make their own wine.  He had been buying their Merlot grapes for that great Merlot that I mentioned yesterday.  Mike’s wife Brook does the lab work creating the wines and their son Chase is currently going to Cal Poly studying Vinticulture and Enology, is home in the summer to assist in the vineyard.  All the grapes are manually basket pressed in small batches.  I look forward to finding a way to get out one of their pick up parties or the annual dinner that is held for members at the Ranch.

Okay, so that would be a pretty perfect end to the day, but…Matty’s Tavern was suggested to us for dinner and it was just up the street.  When we get there I find that this is actually Brothers Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern.  The building was originally built as a stagecoach stop then turned into a restaurant and hotel.  But the hotel always came first.  Inside it is warm and welcome with lit fireplaces everywhere.  We had a stunning dinner that was finished with a Gingerbread bread pudding that was spectacular.  No trip to this area should miss dinner here.  It was a perfect end to our last day of vacation.

 

Santa Barbara and Los Olivos Part 1

Los Olivos Central Coast Wine Country

When we got to this point in our trip we woke up feeling wined out.  So…we began the day with breakfast and Aebleskivers from the Solvang Restaurant.  Great service and we even ended up with an extra order of aebelskivers as the cook made one too many and our waiter didn’t want them to go to waste.  The aebelskivers are like a pancake donut served with powdered sugar and a house made raspberry jam.  So we filled our tummies and then decided to head to Santa Barbara and the ocean.  I think after so many days driving down the coast, we were experiencing withdrawal!

The drive to Santa Barbara is relatively short, about 45 mins.  It’s only about 15 min from Buellton (right next to Solvang) to Gaviota State Park and from then on you have a view of the coast for most of the drive.  We parked by the beach and went for a stroll, just soaking in the ocean on the final full day of vacation.  I will say that after enjoying the pristine coastline and whale watching at Big Sur, this part of the coast was disappointing.  Not because of the coastline, while it is different it is still beautiful, but because of the unsightly oil rigs.  The sight of them actually made me slightly nauseated.  I was longing to look for whale sign, but here, I want the whales to stay far away from the coast.  The thought of a spill in these waters where the grey whales migrate annually made me worry.

After our walk, we were ready for wine again.  We could have tasted in Santa Barbara but on a whim decided to head to Los Olivos and the tasting rooms there.  This little town has become a hub for tasting rooms interspersed with galleries and cafes.  We have never actually done a group downtown tastings, typically we head to the vineyards, so this was new.  The town is charming and welcoming.  We headed first to Consilience who now shares a tasting room with Tre Anelli.   Consilience produces Rhone Varietals and since we had tasted so many Rhones in Paso, we decided to taste at Tre Anelli who does Spanish and Italian grape varietals.  The wines here were all good.  From the 2010 Albarino with my favorite descriptor “languid” to the 2007 Langrein which had a deep deep nose but was surprisingly light on the palate, these were enjoyable wines with great layers.  Jim in the tasting room was terrific on sharing information on the vineyards and the wines and also on the growth of  Los Olivos.  Consilience was the 7th tasting room in town, when Tre Anelli opened they were the 15th.  Now there are over 30 tasting rooms in town.  Truly you could spend several weekends just here tasting in town.  Consilience and Tre Anelli are also Dog friendly, so feel free to come with your four legged friends!

From Tre Anelli we wondered up the street to Epiphany.  Michael had read about them, so we stopped in.  It’s a lovely tasting room and was getting busy as we arrived.  It was the type of place where conversations with other tasters was open and welcomed and we enjoyed chatting with the other guests in the tasting room while we all enjoyed the wines.  It’s interesting to discuss the wines and different interpretations when tasting.  Again, all the wines were good!  We felt like we were on a real roll for the day!  The owner and winemaker here is Eli Parker yes….his family does some other wines over at Fess Parker which can be tasted at their tasting room and hotel down the street.  I very much enjoyed their 2010 Grenache Blanc and 2009 Rousanne here and I loved the 2008 Santa Rita Hills Syrah.  We were lucky enough to have a taste of the 2004 Hampton Syrah which is one of their library wines that had been pulled out for a tasting for a wine club member.  Michael really enjoyed the 2007 Petite Sirah whose fruit is sourced from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa.