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Happenings in California's Temecula Valley Wine Country

Members of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) gathered in the Temecula Valley for their SoCal regional area meeting to showcase two area wineries.  We had lunch and a winery tour at Mount Palomar Winery and we visited Europa Village to learn about the progress of the future Europa Village Wineries, Resort and Spa.

Annata Bistro/Bar, Mount Palomar’s full-service bar and restaurant, opened in 2015.  Italian for vintage, Annata has lovely views of the valley; serves lunch during the week, and dinner Friday through Sunday; and offers live music and dinner special events.  We were treated to fabulous starters of hummus, marinated olives, and lamb and beef kabobs served with a marvelous flavorful tzatziki sauce.  That certainly could have been a meal for us, but we joyfully continued with our choice of entrees.  I selected the steak and fries.  My perfectly cooked medium rare steak was topped with fresh sautéed mushrooms and Alfredo sauce, perched on a lake of demi-glace.  The fries were served with a tasty truffle aioli. A pomegranate martini and ginger crush cocktail complemented our delicious meal.

James Rutherford, Mount Palomar’s winemaker, gave us a tour of the barrel room.  He reminded us of the complexity of the differences between red and white wines.  More than the color, it’s the process of the winemaking that brings out their individual characteristics.   Rutherford comes from a distinguished pedigree of vintners and winemakers.  His family roots are from the first settlers and winemakers in the Napa Valley, and the town names of Rutherford and Yountville pay homage to this legacy.  There are 25 wine grape varietals grown on the Mount Palomar estate, and in their tasting room you will find 20 of these varietals available for your enjoyment.  For cream sherry aficionados, Mount Palomar makes the fortified dessert wine in whiskey barrels using the traditional Solara process, whereby the longer aged wine is continually blended with newer aged wine.  This “fractional blending” in an outdoor setting creates the sherry’s creamy butterscotch and rich nutty flavors. 

Visit to receive a two-for-one wine-tasting coupon good Monday through Thursday.


Europa Village has a remarkable cultural concept and imaginative vision to create three separate Old World-Style wineries, based on the romantic wine regions of France (C’est La Vie Winery), Spain (Bolero Cellars), and Italy (Vienza Winery).  General manager John Goldsmith along with Dean Thomas, Europa Inn chef; Ben Drake, vineyard manager; and Gregg English agent du vin, reported to our group on the progress of the resorts and spa reality while we sampled some of Europa’s exceptional wine.

Construction has begun to prepare the land for the three winery resorts, which will include an Italian hotel villa and European spa.  Chef Dean has been busy creating extraordinary farm-to-table fare for the Inn at Europa and gourmet dinners for Europa Village special events from the bounty harvested from the garden at Peltzer Farms.  Along with planning cooking classes and technique courses, Chef Dean is excited about Europa’s future culinary plans for several professional kitchens and European deli. 

Among the wines we tasted:  Annabel Brut sparkling wine, which is named after the mother of owner Dan Stephenson.  Knowing this lively, bubbly, floral effervescent wine is a loving memorial makes it all the sweeter to drink.  C’est La Vie Viognier has that lovely floral nose and herbal peach flavor. Vienza Vendetta, a Super Tuscan blend of 70-percent Sangiovese and 30-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, is a rich, spicy, berry wine and would be perfect to serve at a barbeque.  Bolero Cellars Tempranillo has a rich cherry flavor that makes it the supreme accompaniment to Spanish tapas.

Check out Europa Village’s website for more information:

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