Wine is, to a lot of folks, is a superb beverage that is enjoyed at just about any occasion. A good wine is especially delightful with exotic and flavorful cheeses, bread or a scrumptious meal. A great wine is also a perfect gift that doesn’t have to break the bank. If you don’t know much about wine or how to best choose or enjoy the many varieties then perhaps after reading the following you might feel a bit more assured about wines.
Have you ever wondered how or who decides which wine gets labeled “award winner” and preferred over another bottle of wine. The answer is not easy to explain. The truth about wine flavors can depend on the wine’s aroma or personal preferences, the vintner’s skill, the weather or soil in which the wine grape is grown. Making great wine requires horticultural science but also a lot of artistic expression.
In the fall of the year, the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association hosts several events for locals and visitors to sample their finest wine offerings (www.temeculawines.org/). One of the coolest of these is the ‘People’s Choice Blind Tasting’ (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/articles/post/temecula-valley-reveals-winners-of-second-annual-peoples-choice-blind-tasting-and-awards/) event held in November. Our host extended a gracious invitation to us to share in the wine judging and a six course gourmet dinner prepared by Chef Daragh Matheson, held at Leoness Cellars (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/leoness-cellars/58/). It’s a fantastic experience!
Doffo Winery’s Zinfandel 2015 bottle was awarded first place in the ‘People’s Choice’ competition (2017). This award winning bottle is available starting February 2018 (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/doffo-winery/49/). Second place was awarded to Lorimar Winery’s Syrah 2014 bottle (https://www.lorimarwinery.com/). Judged in third place was the 2014 Estate Syrah by Thornton Winery. (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/thornton-winery/68/)
How is a blind tasting competition done?
29 wines, 23 reds and 6 whites, are sampled by more than 200 invited guests. The guests of course and not told the identity of the wine. The sampled wine is judged on a 1 to 5 scale for overall flavor. The top 12 scoring samples are than sampled at a wine seminar. Master of Wine, Roger Bohmrich instructs guests on what to look for and how to best taste the varieties. The wines range in price from $24 – $100.
A few basics for wine tasting;
What does the wine look like in the glass. How does it smell. A wine’s bouquet is made known by swirling it in a glass. This helps generate more oxygen in the glass and reveals the aromas. Also, what does the wine taste like. What is the after taste flavor – sweet, fruity, smooth or acidity, slightly bitter and so on. The anonymous tasting score cards are tallied to determine the top three wines judged as ‘the best.’
At the end of the evening’s event a very humble Damian Doffo, CEO and Winemaker for Doffo Zinfandel, thanked his fellow area growers and visitors for such a prestigious honor. Doffo says that “his family and team push themselves always to grow the very best quality grapes for developing the finest tasting wine.”
One time grass covered rolling hills and open meadows of Temecula have been transformed into one of the finest wine growing areas in the country over the past decade. Temecula wine growers say they’re just getting started. There is a lot to enjoy with more to come.
Where to Stay
While visiting and touring the community we enjoyed an extraordinary room at the Temecula Creek Inn. Our space overlooked the beautiful and peaceful golf course. (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/temecula-creek-inn/21/)
Where to Eat
A couple of restaurant favorites in old downtown Temecula are the ‘1909.’ A great place for casual dinning, cocktails and even breakfast specialties (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/1909/1070/). There is often a line waiting for a table. For a different meal experience that includes a gluten free, and totally locally sources food menu, the E.A.T. Restaurant is a wonderful treat (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/e-a-t-marketplace/918/).
Also, Baily’s Restaurant and Nightclub serves extraordinary cuisine and wine (http://www.baily.com/).
Don’t neglect strolling through old town shops and discover one of a kind Olive Oils and blends, unique spices and specialties breads. Local restaurants use these products. (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/temecula-olive-oil-company/143/), (https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/old-town-spice-%26-tea-merchants/647/)
More Wine? Yes Please
Over the past few years, Teresa and I have attended many dinner parties and tasted wines from a variety of areas of California and other parts of the world.
We’ve learned that when serving wine at a party, it’s wise to have at least one variety of red wine and one variety of white wine on hand. While most folks aren’t choosy about any particular wine region or a winery, most simply prefer that it tastes really good- red or white. Having both on hand you are sure to have something that pleases everyone’s taste.
You can make amazing pairings with your favorite wine for the dinner party.
For example, you can pair a Chardonnay with either Smoked Gouda or even Provolone. For stronger cheeses, such as Cheddar, opt for a Shiraz/Syrah or a Cabernet such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc works well. Zinfandel wines also goes beautifully with the more distinct tasting cheeses such as Feta or Brie.
Developing a good understanding of wines means you must sample a lot of different kinds of wine along the way. When we say sample, that means having just enough to discover the taste – savor each sip that you take. Do NOT guzzle the wine! Sometimes, you may be drinking a wine bottle that costs a lot of money so you might feel as though you want to get your money’s worth. Avoid doing that please.
Some Wine Masters suggest having white whines when they’re young, particularly in its first or second year. Chardonnay is a wine that has a little more longevity. That’s because oak wood barrels usually are not used when producing white wine. Other types of wines on the other hand, the exact opposite is usually true. Once again making great wine is both horticultural science and artistic expression.
Choose your food and wine pairings wisely to your tastes. Tradition suggest that white wine is suitable for light dishes, salads or fish. Red wine goes well with heavier dishes and dark meats. The rule of thumb is the heavier or darker the dish, the darker the wine that you choose. If you’re having a multi-course dinner, start with white wine and progress to red wine. Most wine makers will tell you to ‘drink what YOU like’ but also have understanding of what you are drinking.’
Winemakers say to us that it’s not a written law that reds only taste good with meats and whites only with fish. There are wines on both sides that pair up well with such dishes. Some Wine Masters now also suggest that you open up your mind to experimenting with wine and food variations. You may be limiting your creativity with wine and if you don’t engage your artistic tasting palate!
Over the years we’ve learned one of the quickest ways to chill a bottle of wine is to place it into a container that is filled with water and ice. You will be able to chill it to drinking standards within 30 minutes.
When serving a red wine it’s wise to give the wine a chance to breathe after opening. This gives the wine more time to interact with the oxygen in the air. If you are pushed for time, pour the wine through an aerator and into a decanter so that it breathes properly first. Enjoy!