For people crazy about wine!

EPCOT Food and Wine Festival 2012


The Food and Wine Festival

I've been going to the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT since 2005.  A lot has changed since then, some for the better and some not so much.

To be sure, it's a lot of fun to attend.  There are wine seminars in the festival center, absolutely scrumptious appetizer-sized servings and wine pairings around the World Showcase, and the events are typical Disney -- they're top billing.







Food and Wine 2012

Food Around the World

The World Showcase, which starts at Canada and finishes up at Mexico, provides the setting for the main part of the Food and Wine festival.  Participating countries sponsor kiosks where appetizer-sized samples are paired with various wines from the region.  You'll also find kiosks for countries that aren't part of the permanent World Showcase countries.  The menu, shown to the right, is an example found at the kiosk for Australia. There are also some states (Hawaii) that have their own kiosk between Mexico and Canada.

Wine is not the only beverage offered at all of the kiosks, because not all countries feature wine.  For example, Germany had beer on the menu.

World Showcase Example Menu


Party for the Senses

One of the main events we like to experience is the Party for the Senses, which is a big foodie and wine fest.  There are kiosks set-up serving appetizer-sized portions of gourmet selections.  On either side of many of them were wine stations sponsored by different wine producers.  Most producers offered wines in the $10 - $20 range. 

Wines being offered (left); Tenderloin over risotto (right)

Ken Forrester of Ken Forrester Vineyards (South Africa)




Prelude to Napa


As I've been writing this blog, I had to think seriously whether I would write about both good and bad experiences.  To help our fellow WineChumps out there, I decided to give our total experience.  That means we'll tell it as it was for us -- both positive and not-so-positive.  After all, this is a blog about a couple of WineChumps stumbling their way through Napa.  Barring natural disasters (the world is supposed to end the Saturday we're in Napa) and other unforeseen (or foreseen) events, we'll keep the experience going.  For now, enjoy.


Before embarking to Napa, my friend and I went to Laguna Beach for dinner as we planned our Napa assault.  While we were slated to have dinner at Sorrento, both kismet and bad directions caught up with us; and we had dinner at a rather rustic, yet atmospheric haute cuisine grille called The Lumberyard.  Even though the kitchen was backed-up, because of an unexpected uptick in reservations for the show at the playhouse, the wait staff was, nonetheless, top-notch.

Disney and Dinner

The obligatory day at DisneyLand must be observed.  After all, why would someone who grew up in Florida, living less than three hours from Disney World, traveling clear across the country to the West coast not visit the place that started it all?  I couldn't come up with a good reason.  Plus, with highs in the 60's and partly sunny skies combined with a weekday visit that promised crowds would be kept to a minimum, it was a foregone conclusion.

So, after a day of Space Mountain, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea revamped to be another darn  Finding Nemo ride (the captain of the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues was, of course, Captain Nemo -- but I digress), the Matterhorn (a million years old ride, and definitely smelling of kerosene and oil on the tracks but quaint nonetheless), $12 moon burger and water, The Grand Prix relabeled something called Autopia, and the monorail (which was not running that day), it becomes an extremely long sentence.

For dinner, I asked my friend to stop by the local grocery store (Ralphs, a Kroger company) to pick up some simple ingredients (don't forget the bottle of wine) for a quick but satisfying dinner at home.  After the chaos of Disney, one needs a comfortable respite.

The wine was a 2009 Byron Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County.  Less than $16, and packing a full nose of cherry.  With a smooth finish, it went perfectly with dinner -- angel hair pasta with a vodka sauce and Trader Joe's chicken sundried tomato and basil meat balls completed with a side of garlic bread.

Night in Morgan Hill

First, although you don't know them, I highly recommend staying with my friend's brother and his wife in Morgan Hill.  What I learned about Napa and the general wine region from folks local to the area was, quite simply, priceless.

We had the chance to visit two wineries for tastings.  The first, a small winery that had been owned by a Japanese businessman and then later sold to a winemaker who really knew what he was doing, was a surprise.  Sycamore Creek Vineyards, tucked away in Morgan Hill, isn't ostentatious. The oaked and naked Chardonnay was excellent.  So, as I was soon to discover, was the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Then, there was Clos LaChance.

You could ignore the beautiful gardens and vineyard view, the golf course and the mountains if you wanted to concentrate on the wine only.  But, why wouldn't you combine the absolutely wonderful Pinot Noir they bottle with the view?  Unbelievable.  Really.  The Pinot runs just under $50 a bottle, and the view was free (as it should be).  Beats David Bruce any day of the week.

The really disappointing part of this part of the trip is that we didn't have days to spend there.  I mean, look at this map of wineries in the Gilroy area alone (click here to see the map).

And, while that's all good, Rick (my friend's brother) brings out a bottle of something.  You see, there was no label on the bottle.  The explanation?  The vintner hadn't designed a label yet.  I have absolutely no idea what it was.  None.  Might have had some Cabernet Sauvignon.  Don't know what else.  Might have been oaked.  Don't know.  It was red, had a great nose of raspberries and a beautiful finish that was complicated by a rush of vanilla.  Alcohol?  A bit, but you didn't notice it as much as you did the fact that you wanted another sip.  Stupendous.  And, no label!

Another prize was the Talbott Vineyards Pinot Noir.  This was one of the better Pinot's I've had in a long time.  Exclusively available through the winery itself, don't look for it on retail shelves.  Worth every penny!


Trip to Napa

During the latter part of 2010, a friend and I talked about visiting America's Wine Country.  While I researched and planned the trip to California, I discovered that America's Wine Country reached from just north of Los Angeles, through Paso Robles and then branched into Sonoma and Napa valleys.

I zeroed-in on Napa for this trip, and away we went.  First on our list, direct from Morgan Hill was Chappellet.



It started from a discussion about wine with a friend at work.  He was all about golfing and, of course (why wouldn't he be), wine.  Not necessarily at the same time, you understand.

His friend, a wine distributor, recommended a wine from a smaller producer in Napa.  That wine was the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee.  The wine was so impressive, and the story about the vineyard so compelling, I thought I'd make it the first, scheduled stop on the trip.

Chappellet (pronounced sh-apple-lay) has an impressive tasting set-up, but we were underwhelmed by both the overall tasting and the experience.  At $25 each, the tasting consisted of only four wines, ranging from $28 to $135 a bottle.  I expected something like the tasting experience I had in France, where you'd tour the cave, see the bottling facility meet the vintner, and leave with a souvenir glass.  Not at Chappellet.  After 45 minutes of an entirely too happy hostess telling us about the history of the vineyard and the wines, it was over.  We sort-of looked at each other and asked, "is that all there is?"

To be fair, I tried to schedule a tour and tasting ($35 per person), but it didn't appear that they were doing tours anymore.  Just before we left, I asked our hostess about the tour, and she said they'd stopped doing them last year.

We were part of a group totaling eight.  Nobody left with a bottle of wine.  What does that tell you?

Definitely bent on the wine club and membership, many of the producers here push the vineyard exclusive wines.  Chappellet, I'm sure, is the first of many we'll encounter that are doing this.  And, I get it.  Direct to the public cuts out the wine distributors and their 40% discount.  At any rate, we had one more to squeeze in before our Friday was over.

Markham Vineyards

Our next stop was Markham, which has a tasting room just off of the 29 on the way to Calistoga.  For a single $15 tasting fee, we sampled five wines (they threw in a muscat for free).  We actually enjoyed this tasting more than Chappellet.  Wine club aside, it was more in-line with the fee, although we still didn't get a free glass!  We left with two bottles -- a Chardonnay and a Muscat.  Go figure.


We woke to a beautiful, sunny, cool Saturday morning in Calistoga; and we wasted no time getting to the winery experience.

Mumm Napa

Our first stop was for a bit of morning sparkling wine at Mumm Napa.  Located in Rutherford, just off of Silverado Trail, Mumm Napa has a stunning view of the valley.  Tasting options varied, but what we liked was that we had a sit-down experience on the patio overlooking the valley.

We sampled two of the Prestige sparkling wines, and found that tasting in the morning can be an uplifting experience -- especially if the wine has a bit of carbonation!

This is a tasting I'd recommend for the morning.  The sun is just right, and the breeze keeps you cool enough (at least in May) that you can enjoy the wine and the surroundings.

Our Mumm Napa tasting experience ran just under $20 for the two of us, and that would set the tone for other tastings where we sampled specific wines or an array of offerings.



Frog's Leap

From Mumm Napa, we headed south to Frog's Leap (only about five minutes away).  This was another sit-down tasting.  We were seated on the veranda and presented with four wines to start.  Later, our server brought a Frog's Leap Zinfandel (2007) at my request.

The grounds and tasting house were "country" with a wrap-around porch, gardens, and in the distance, vineyards.  This tasting experience rounded out to about $20 for the two of us.  Alas, again, no glass!



The Hess Collection

After Frog's Leap, we drove down through Yountville.  We stopped for a quick burger at Pacific Blues and then headed to Hess.  Located far down Redwood Road, west of 29, is an early 1900's winery that was purchased by the Christian brothers and is now leased to Hess.

The tour and tasting were top-drawer.  Integrated with the wine tour and tasting experience is the Hess Art Collection, which is comprised of several modern art pieces including sculpture, video art, and oils.  But, we were there to sample the wines that you don't ordinarily find at the grocery store -- something a bit better then "Hess Select" at HT.





Today, we packed six destinations into a seven-hour time slot.  I've decided to put them into a table, below, to keep them straight.  We didn't get crazy with each tasting, but we didn't let up until everything was closed!


Chateau Montelena

This was our first winery of the day, where we sampled five, different wines in the "Library Tasting" experience.  The wines included the following:

  • 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($25)
  • 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($55)
  • 2006 Montelena Estate Zinfandel
  • 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)
  • 2004 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($155)
There is a self-guided tour of the estate grounds, which included the original estate, and a pond with two Asian-themed gazebos.  The chateau had several tasting rooms on the tour as well.  We weren't able to see the bottling room, as that was part of a guided tour.







Frank Family Vineyards

This was the second stop on our list today.  We found the tasting experience to be rushed and a bit crowded in a small area.  The wines included a very nice Chardonnay and a good Syrah, and the people were very friendly.

I asked the folks there to recommend a good place for lunch, and they pointed us to the Silverado Brewery.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Cakebread Cellars

This was a bit of a disappointment.  When we drove up, a greeter told us that we needed reservations for a tasting.  He went on to say that we could see if there had been any cancellations.  That just turned me off.  We'd been asked if we had reservations at other wineries, but were quickly served nonetheless.

To the right is a picture of their tasting room.  It was a cool place with the big, stainless steel drums.  And, sure enough, there were slots open for any tasting we wanted.  But, the tasting fee was a bit high to get a sip of some of their better wines.  We had a short discussion, and then we decided that $15 for what you can get at a grocery store, $30 for the reds, and $40 for the reserve collection -- all per person -- wasn't worth the fee.  We decided to pass, but one of the other greeters caught us and offered a free tasting of any wine we'd like (thanks, William!).  I tried the Syrah ($40) and my friend tried the reserve Cabernet ($106).

Jessup Cellars

This was a nice surprise.  Located in Yountville, Jessup Cellars was a delightful place to drop in and have a taste of some quite competent wines.  We tried the Chardonnay, which was buttery and smooth.  Quite nice.  We also tried their Zinfandel, which I found to be one of the better Zinfandels I'd had (save for the Chateau Montelena).  The prices were average ($30's), and the tasting -- hold on to your wallets -- was free.

Nice job, Jessup!

Silver Oak

Known almost exclusively for their selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, the tasting was $20 to sample three of their finest, and you got the glass to take home along with a $10 coupon toward any wine purchase.

I'm pretty particular about Cabernet, and I was surprised to find that as the price of the wine ascended, the wine descended in the degree to which I liked it.  My friend agreed.  Perhaps those pricier wines needed decanting, but overall they were all quite good.

And, the glass looks like a Riedel.  Good job!

Castello di Amorosa

This is the only winery we visited and didn't sample the wines.  The fact of the matter is that by the time you get to the sixth winery you might find yourself "tasted out."

Temecula Valley


First, where the heck is "Temecula"?  Well, Temecula Valley is located about an hour north east of San Diego.  Some have called it "Napa South" and others have called it a "gem" to find.  For me, I loved it. 

Temecula is one of the most historic communities in Southern California. ... The name Temecula comes from the Luiseño Indian word “Temecunga” – “temet” meaning “sun” and “-ngna” which means “place of.” The Spanish interpreted and spelled the word as “Temecula” translated to mean “Where the sun breaks through the mist.”


I do want those reading this to understand that I'm not pulling any punches.  Whereas we (WineChump) don't talk down wines (we never rate a wine badly, we just don't talk about it if we don't like it), I feel it's important to give you my impression of this region -- both good and bad.  I did that with my Napa trip.  So, you'll read about what I liked, and some of the things I didn't like.

As you read, if you see asterisks aside of a wine, it's a 4-point scale:

* I liked it.
** I liked it enough to consider buying it.
*** I liked it, and it's going on the list.
**** I liked it, and it's going on the short list.

My plan was to find 12 outstanding wines to bring home.  In the end, I found 16!

One last thing.  I've removed the prices.  Except for prices you might find at the local retailers in the market -- Barons, Total Wine, Vons (Safeway), Albertsons (again, Safeway) -- I've left them out intentionally. 


I arrived on a Wednesday and spent the evening in Old Town after getting my SIP coupon books.  I recommend you look at getting these -- they are a great value.  Find them at the SIP Temecula Wine Tasting Passport.


First day of tasting.  Early breakfast and out by 9.

Hart WineryHart Winery's Chalkboard

Arrived just after 9, and tasted six wines:

  • 2017 Reserve Zinfandel **
  • 2016 Tempranillo
  • 2015 Mouvedre **
  • 2016 Barbera **
  • 2017 Aneis (white)
  • 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

Rosalie, who had been working for Hart for over 20 years, knew the family and the vineyard, history of Temecula, and was a great resource for getting started, was at the desk.  She was also doing punch-down in several vats. She took me into the winery to show me the punch-down and talked about how they were making the wine.


All the wines were, quite frankly, very good.  Although the Sauvignon Blanc was good, the Chateau Ridge Springs New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Hauora, Bronze medalist, 2017) compares well with it.


Europa VillageEuropa Village

I had considered this one to be a miss, but when I got there and started tasting, I found it was really quite good.  Serving was Whitney, a single mother who’s also a financial consultant.  Tasting to my right were Josie and Michael, two SAS sales support consultants who were visiting for the day.  I showed them SIP, and they got very interested in it.  We talked quite a bit, and Whitney got interested in me and my winemaking (I’m letting them all know I make wine, and it seems to go a long way with some wineries taking me on mini-tours, as Hart and Monte De Oro did).  Whitney had several suggestions about the SIP wineries.  Recommended were:

  • Bel Vino but only to get an ’08 Cab Franc
  • Chapin
  • Leoness Cellars
  • Monte De Oro
  • Doffo
  • Lorenzi Estate
  • Palumbo Family
  • Robert Renzoni
  • Wiens



 Wines tasted at Europa Village were reds only.The "Kevin Bacon Burger" at Carol's

  • 2014 Primitivo
  • 2013 Pinot
  • 2015 En Vie
  • 2015 Winemaker’s Reserve Pinot
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stevie's recommendation, and a good one!)

After Europa Village, I drove across the driveway to Bailey’s to have lunch at Carol’s restaurant at the winery.  I had a “Kevin Bacon Burger” with their homemade chips ($16).  It was very good.  Good enough that it commanded a nap.  So, after I ate, detoxed a bit, I went back to the hotel and napped for about an hour.





View of Monte De Oro's tasting room from the patio

Monte De Oro

Monte De Oro is a beautiful winery with a large outdoor patio and a very nice wine selection.  I met Mary, who guided me through their offerings. 

I told her that I'm an amateur winemaker, and she asked me if I knew the grape in Petite Sirah – Durif – I win!  Actually, I really did win, because Mary took me on an impromptu cellar tour, where I met the winemaker (David Albright) and three folks helping him pull some of the wine off of a primary to make rosé. 

Winemaking Room Looking Over Primary Fermentation Vats

 Wines tasted were:

  • 2014 Petite Sirah **
  • 2014 Zinfandel
  • 2014 Congruity (Zinfandel/Syrah) **
  • 2014 Cabernet Franc
  • 2014 Vigna Vicini (Cabernet/Syrah blend)
  • 2014 Synergy (blend) **





Avensole Winery GroundsAvensole

I arrived around 4.15, so it was late in the day.  Scott, who looked like Jake Gyllenhaal’s brother, was one of the kids serving.  Frenchie finished my tasting for me (I tend to take a while tasting). 

Wines tasted were:

  • 2014 Syrah (100%, the only full varietal they have)
  • 2014 Heritage (46% Mouvedre, 30% Zinfandel, 24% Malbec) was good; but not worth what they wanted. Go back to Hart for better value.
  • 2014 Merlot (again, a blend of 75/17/10 Merlot/Cab/Malbec). Not bad, but not worth what they wanted.
  • 2017 Susan Sauvignon Blanc. Honestly, I've had kit wines that were better.
  • 2014 Solea (again a blend, forget it)
  • 2015 Barbera (yadda)

Yawn.  The grounds were nice, but I felt rushed and not at all catered to as in the other wineries.  I did like meeting “Frenchie” (Scott) who Rosalie (Hart) recommended talking to.




Evening EntertainmentShakespeare in the Vines

I went back to Baily Vineyard to experience “Shakespeare in the Vines.”  The play, All’s Well that Ends Well, was put on by a local group of actors, and it was really very good.  I think there were twenty people in the audience, so the turnout was small (but it was a Thursday).







Since none of the wineries I wanted to visit opened at 11AM, I decided to drive De Portola and see what wineries were there before my first visit.  That’s the road where Frangipani and the Baily facility are located.  The drive was perfect and very cool.

Oak Mountain WineryOak Mountain Winery

Oak Mountain was another beautiful winery with a long tasting room with bars on both sides.  My server, Stefanie, had a similar story to the others I’ve been meeting.  We talked about wine, and I did tell her I made wine; but no ad-hoc cellar tour was offered. 

 Now, to the wines.

  • Caveman Red (NV) was a blend that I liked enough to buy. ***
  • Kotas Kisses, another (NV) blend, I saw at Total Wine and wasn’t bad. (profits go to the animals).
  • 2014 Malbec, wasn’t any better than a $10 from the HT.
  • 2014 Petite Sirah, was light and not very representative of the varietal.
  • 2014 Pinotage, was not bad, but not worth the price.
  • 2013 Zinfandel, was just okay.


Overall, the winery was all right, but I desperately looked for something I’d write home about.

Callaway Vineyard and WineryCallaway Winery and Restaurant

Well, I was excited about this place.  Well-known in the area, high producer, stellar restaurant.  I found it to be commercialized.  The tasting was $20 for 6 pours, but that’s deceiving when you find out that each pour requires a ticket; and some of the wines (e.g. the 2016 Winemaker’s Reserve Petite Sirah) required two tickets.  That turned me off a bit.  What also turned me off was the lack of personality with the servers, who worked the tasting bar like it was, well, a bar.  No real interest in my likes/dislikes, and no memory of what I had said just a few minutes ago.  Impersonal, overpriced, and not return-trip worthy.







The Wines.

  • 2015 Special Selection Grenache.
  • 2015 Winemaker’s Reserve Calliope (Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, P. Sirah). **
  • 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah.**
  • 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Wild Yeast Syrah. **
  • 2016 Winemaker’s Reserve Petite Sirah. ***
  • 2014 Winemaker’s Reserve Profonde (Cab/Syrah/Petit Verdot) (too much Cabernet)

The complaint.

Overall, Callaway was too commercial.  Also, it really put me off when I saw that some of the wines required "two" tickets.  Really?  Either I'm tasting, or I'm not, but for $20 for 6 tickets with less than 2oz pours... ...Really, two tickets?

Callaway's Meritage Restaurant


I planned to have lunch at Callaway's restaurant, Meritage; and I had a 10% coupon to use.  Well, I ordered their version of a grilled cheese and ham sandwich ($17) with a full pour of the Petite Sirah ($17). 

A nose of the wine showed it immediately to be  oxidized.  My server quickly replaced it from a fresh bottle, and it was lovely (and the highlight of the meal).  I think this shows the level of quality you should come to expect here in Temecula (or maybe everywhere).  While my server was polite, I think she should have known the wine was oxidized.  Her reaction was proper – to replace it; but then she said that she didn’t know how long the bottle from which she gave me a pour had been open.

The sandwich, however, had been fried/toasted in rancid oil.  It was terrible.  Apologetically, I mentioned it really wasn’t good; and with no fuss the manager removed it from the check.

I$17 Petite Sirah at Meritage wanted to point this out, frankly because I expected a stellar experience at Callaway.  I'm talking about this, here, so you'll be ready not to accept the mediocre in Temecula.  Overall, this was an exception.  In fact, it was the only questionable dining experience I had the whole week. 



While you might not expect it, after reading this, I recommend you go to Callaway.  Their wines are very good; but demand better.  And if you think you're not getting the value you expect (from anywhere in Temecula Valley), point it out and don't be afraid to complain. 



Thompson & Twain Speakeasy at Crush & BrewEvening in Old Town

I had a nap after Callaway, a dip in the pool and then thought I’d head to Old Town and go to Crush and Brew.  There’s a Speakeasy in the back (Thompson & Twain), and I thought it would be cool to try it out.  Parking at Old Town is not a problem, as there are spots along the road everywhere.  There’s also a parking garage. 

My original schedule was to go to the theater in Old Town and watch a show.  It started at 7.30, and I figured I’d buy tickets once I got there.  Ahead of that, I wanted to have a glass of wine (Hawk Watch 2013 Petite Sirah – not Temecula) and an appetizer (which is what seems to work well for dinner). 

My schedule was preempted by Cindy, a tall blonde 54-year-old, divorced travel agent who sat next to me and asked me what wine I was drinking.  She was really fun to talk with and after her friends arrived, we had our appetizers, I had another glass of wine (Woodworth 2014 Pinot Noir – again, not Temecula) and then visited the Speakeasy.  I introduced my new friend, Cindy, to Eagle Rare Kentucky Bourbon.    What a fun night we had!





I siTemecula Valley Jeep & Wine Toursgned-up for a “Jeep Tour” that starts at 11AM and goes to 4PM.  Our driver, Marco, arrived at my hotel at 10.45, and was immediately a great person to hang with.  We went to the Barons parking lot, where we picked up a Norwegian family of three and an older couple who were recently married.  I took shotgun, since I was alone.


The tour started at Chapin winery, where I’ve been before.  But, I hadn’t tried their regular tasting menu the last time when Steve Chapin took us through a premium tasting on the tour I took when I went to the Winemaker Magazine conference.

The wines I tasted follow:

  • 2013 Estate Syrah **
  • 2016 Aglianico *
  • 2016 Petite Sirah ***
  • 2015 Estate Syrah ****


Danza Del Sol

The next winery we tried was Danza Del Sol, which is a fun place to take a date.  It had a very active tasting room with live music outside on the patio.


The wines I tasted follow:

  • 2014 Grenache
  • 2013 GSM
  • 2014 Tempranillo
  • 2014 Syrah
  • 2013 Merlot
  • 2017 Chenin Blanc


None of these wines were stand-outs.  The Chateau Ridge Springs Suid Afrika  (South African Chenin Blanc, 2018 WineMaker Magazine Bronze winner) is better.



2017 Sauvignon Blanc

2016 Petite Sirah



This was the last on our Jeep tour, and it was an excellent find.  Owned by two brothers (last name Patel -- a very common South-Asian Indian name), it was in its "soft launch" (sounds like an e-Commerce website, but what would I know of that sort of thing?).  And, judging from the quality of the wines I tasted (and bought), these brothers are well on their way to making it this a great winery.

The winery tasting room is no-frills, and the patio outside was nice, but not overdone.  They still have portable toilets outside.  But with wines this good, who cares?


Marco left us go way past 4PM.  I think we ended up leaving around 4.45.


The wines I tasted and bought follow:

  • 2016 Zinfandel ****
  • 2016 Petite Sirah ****
  • 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ****
  • 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ****

And, I bought two white wines from them.  What was I thinking?  Well, that they are EXCELLENT!






At Marco’s recommendation, I texted Saddle-Up Wine Tours to see if they had a slot or cancellation, since I was interested in going today.  TJ texted back, and I met her, another guide and three horses next to Leoness Cellars, where I would finish with a wine tasting.  I chose to do one wine tasting, since I’ve been having a lot of wine this week.  The trail ride was good, the horse was fun, and the pictures were fantastic.  TJ was very chatty, asking all sorts of questions, and generally being a lot of fun to hang around with. 

The ride ended, and we went to Leoness Cellars where TJ got me started on the tasting before heading out. 

The wines tasted were:

  • 2017 Viognier
  • 2015 Grenache (no)
  • 2015 Melange de Reves (GSM with Cinsault – S/C/G/M 58/25/10/7) **
  • Meritage (Merlot/Cab Franc – 66/29)
  • 2015 Syrah *
  • 2015 Petite Syrah **
  • 2015 CS Zinfandel **
  • 2016 VS Zinfandel Hui Vineyard ***

The only ones I’d consider are the Petite Syrah and the 2016 VS Zin.


I’d planned on visiting 4 wineries today, but did tastings only at three. 

Mount Palomar

Today, I arrived at Mount Palomar winery at about 10.30.  The place was empty, and they were still cleaning, leaf blowing and power washing.  They power wash a lot around here.

My tasting was uneventful.  The first tasting hostess was bubbly, but less than helpful.  I’d come to taste the Petite Sirah, which I was told wasn’t available to non-members.  However, Zack hooked me up when she wasn’t looking!




Wines tasted:

  • 2012 Zinfandel  (Lioness is better, but more expensive)
  • 2013 Artist Series Quartet
  • Shorty’s Bistro Red (NV) at the winery; $14.95 @ Barons
  • 2012 BOV Merlot (good, but not worth the price they wanted)
  • 2012 Petite Sirah ***


The grounds at Mount Palomar were stunning.  It was as if Disney had designed them, and it was clear they had this as a venue for weddings and large get-togethers.





Doffo Winery's Barrel RoomDoffo

Doffo, which is located directly across from Chapin, was quite nice.  My tasting server was Rebecca (Assistant Manager), whom I later learned had been a model in Italy (I believe it), moved to the States and got looped into Doffo.  She was pretty (yes!) as well as pretty helpful, and she listened to me about what I wanted (which is important to me).  At each winery I’ve been up-front that I’m an amateur winemaker.  Sometimes it gets me a free tour.


Wines tasted:

  • 2015 MotoDoffo Super Tinto (60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Zinfandel **
  • 2015 MotoDoffo Gran Tinto (85% Zinfandel 15% Petite Sirah) ****
  • 2015 Salute (Petite Sirah and Malbec) ****
  • 2014 Syrah (100% Syrah, 30% of the barrels are heavy toast; the rest are NO toast!) ****


I guess the best part of the whole thing was that Rebecca offered me an “Inter-Winery” discount of 10%.  So, 10% is an easily-given discount for just about anything, but I was both impressed and honored that she’d mention it.  I’m to see Alex tomorrow, if I buy.  I just might!



I drove to Briar Rose, but it wasn't what I expected.  The YouTube video made it look a lot more storybook.  I didn’t try the wines, because their selection didn’t lean toward my likes, and their prices were a bit high.  One point I did like was that their wines are “unfiltered.”  I would have asked about that, but they had a crowd from a retirement home there; and that was monopolizing their time.  To be fair, they do ask for reservations; but with all the wineries in Temecula you can simply walk into, it wasn't a priority for me.


Lorimar was the last winery visited today.  My tasting gal didn’t listen to me, and started pouring what she wanted me to have – a Sangiovese (main Chianti grape) – before I told her I didn’t like Sangiovese.  She kept trying to decide for me, finally I just told her what I wanted.  That seemed to work.  I found this sort of behavior on occasion, and I assume it's because many folks who visit these wineries really don't have a set agenda.  I tried to let each one I visited know, but I wasn't successful at Lorimar. 


The patio in front of the winery was beautiful, and I chose to sit out there with the wines – one at a time – to taste them in the great outdoors.  About 20m in, a couple (members) came over and asked if they could join me, and we chatted about Temecula, wine, my wife’s nose (ability), and some more about wine.  Nice folks.


Wines tasted were:

  • 2015 Mourvèdre Petite Verdot
  • 2015 GSM
  • 2014 Tempranillo-Barbera
  • 2013 Petite Sirah


None of these wines were standouts to me.  While good, not worth the price.



Bella Vista

One of the first wineries in Temecula was Cilurzo.  It was purchased later by Bella Vista.  I visited Bella Vista, however I was unable to find any wines to add to this blog.

Masia de la Vinya Winery

This is a relatively new winery in the area, and their first vintages have just recently become available.

The wines I tried were:

  • 2013 Syrah
  • 2013 Orquestra
  • 2013 Granache
  • 2013 Barbera

Overall, I was not impressed.



Fazeli Cellars

I visited Fazeli cellars on a lark.  It was one of several wineries I had on my list, but I wasn't able to make it to all of them.  So, as I was driving down De Portola road, I saw Fazeli and decided to stop.  Wow, am I glad I did!

First, the wines were impressive.  I didn't expect much.  My server, Kara, was up-front in telling me that the wines were created by a Persian family, and that some of them had a bite or a bit of spice to them.  That didn't concern me, as I've made plenty of wine that exhibited similar characteristics.  However, I forged on.  And on, I went!  I tasted more than what's listed below; but I'll tell you that I was impressed beyond expectation.  These wines are tremendous; and they impressed me to the extent that I left with three -- pushing them to the top of my short list immediately!

Also, and worth noting, their restaurant (Baba Joon's Kitchen) served up a scrumptious Steak & Bleu Cheese Flatbread, with Bacon Béchamel, prime rib, red onions, Gorgonzola, pomegranate reduction!  Worth every dime and went EXTREMELY well with Mayhem!



The wines I tasted included:

  • 2014 Hafez (Shiraz 73%, Cabernet 27%) ****
  • 2014 Shiraz (100% Shiraz) ****
  • 2014 Mayhem (30% Cinsault, 25% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 7% Mourvèdre) ****


The Final Wine List!

It didn't take long to figure out that even the short list was too long.  After the surprise of Fazeli, I really had to do some thinking.

I had reserved Tuesday for the day to go and buy the wines from my short list.  I failed.  I wanted about twice as many as I could carry.  I "settled" for only 16 bottles (12 in my new wine luggage, 6 bottles shown below with another six on the other side; and 4 in my main luggage).

Here's the list. 






VinGardeValise Grande

VinGardeValise Grande