We’re conjuring up some summer to get us through January. Are you with us? (See more about the January Dreaming series at the bottom of the post.)
Today, we’re reminiscing about one of the wineries we visited on our ‘Wine for No Reason’ trip in June of 2017 to California’s Temecula Valley, which sports over 50 vineyards. Frangipani Estate Winery is quiet, verdant and lush – and the wine is good, too! “Just off the beaten path,” says the Frangipani web site, encouraging visitors to “drop on in today”. I’d love to, especially on this chilly, blustery mid-January day! But for now, the memories will suffice.
As you can see, Temecula is beautiful, probably almost as nice in January as it is in June. We’ll be back.
January Dreaming: The Background
If you read this post, January Dreaming, you know that the inspiration for this series is my Mom’s longstanding loathing of the pitiful month of January. Like her, we’re dreaming of good times in warmer months, and celebrating those good times in this series.
I laughed out loud this morning when I walked into the kitchen. There was an empty Beringer White Zinfandel bottle on the counter next to the stove. Horrors!
But actually, it was there for a reason. While we don’t imbibe the super-sweet pink stuff that swept the U.S. in the 80s and became THE wine for non-wine drinkers, the Grill-Meister uses it for his smoked salmon marinade. (That’s right, we’re getting the gift of Tom’s Smoked Salmonhere at Glover Gardens today for our “Christmas 2017, Observed” – yay!)
The marinade doesn’t use a whole bottle of “pink”, as the Grill-Meister calls it, and we never drink the rest (perish the thought!), so I asked him to pour the rest of it into the soup pot where I was making stock overnight.
While much too sweet for us to drink, the “pink” is just fine for stock, even though Julia Child famously declared that one should never cook with a wine one wouldn’t drink. That rule has been debunked or was just completely misunderstood – the great Julia probably meant that we shouldn’t use so-called “cooking wine,” which has added salt and zero-added value. Check out what Food & Wine magazine had to say about using mediocre wine for cooking here.
And in case I offended anyone with my obvious distaste for white zinfandel, you’re not alone! Follow this early conversation between the Grill-Meister and me, when we were just starting to date years ago:
Grill-Meister: “What kind of wine do you like?”
Me: “Anything but pink! What do you like?”
All is well now, though, as the Grill-Meister’s palate has expanded nicely, and his wine of choice these days is always what’s right for the meal. He calls the white zinfandel “cloyingly sweet” but for marinating salmon before smoking it, he says, “Think pink!” See his recipe here.
A recent trip to Temecula, CA as part of our Wine for No Reason travels with several other couples provided wonderful content for this blog, although I’ve been too busy to share most of it. Today’s focus is on lunch at the Wilson Creek Winery, and reflections on how the setting adds to the enjoyment of a shared meal.
We met our fellow Wine for No Reason travelers at Wilson Creek on the first full day of our Temecula trek. One of the couples in our group had been there before and knew it would be just right. This place is more than just a winery: it is a sprawling compound that offers a full experience that includes whimsical outdoor art, a large tasting room and gift shop, landscaped grounds and vineyards that allow you to enjoy the California sunshine, and an excellent restaurant.
Arriving early, the Grill-Meister and I took a stroll through the vineyard and admired the grapes and the scenery.
Creekside Grille is nestled between the vineyard and the beautiful grounds, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing lunch with friends.
Still early when we ambled over to the restaurant, the Grill-Meister and I sipped chardonnay in the perfect, 72-degree, dry mountain climate while waiting for our friends. It felt like the world had slowed down a little, which is exactly how I want to feel on vacation. Don’t you?
Our friends arrived and we had a lovely, lively, laughter-filled lunch. The menu at Creekside Grille is what I would call eclectic / American / locavore / foodie, with choices ranging from a Reuben sandwich to an octupus salad to a bison burger.
It was a glorious afternoon of conversation, excellent food with much sharing of bites and wine-tasting. We were perfectly carefree and our time there felt like a gift; everything, including the weather, was over-the-top good. One of our friends summed it up, earnestly declaring:
I’m not sure if it’s the ambience, the company or the wine, but this is about the best Reuben I’ve ever had.
He went on to wax poetic about the Reuben, the company, the wine and the ambience, and we all dove into a discussion about how the place you’re in and the people you’re with have a huge impact on your enjoyment of a meal. We reveled in our current place (Temecula, Wilson Creek) and peeps, and then went on to describe some of our other “most memorable meals” throughout our lives. Looking back, every one of our stories about fabulous meals included vivid descriptions of the setting and the companion(s).
It’s never just about the food. The setting and the people matter just as much.
I could go on about this topic, and perhaps I will, on another day. But for now, here are a few more photos of the lovely Wilson Creek Winery. Check it out if you ever get to Temecula. And look for us – we are definitely going to go back.
Back home at Glover Gardens and sorting through pictures, I realized that we had had one of the wines before.
The Almond Champagne was the bubbly component for an Empty Nest New Year’s party a few years ago (just the two of us, at home). We really liked this champagne ~ at Glover Gardens or in Temecula ~ and will have it again. It is slightly sweet without being cloying and compliments fruit and chocolate desserts. It paired extraordinarily well with my friend Katherine’s homemade baclava, a holiday tradition. (Side note to Katherine: this is one of the reasons we need our allotment increased – so we’ll have some left for New Year’s!)
The Grill-Meister and I have spent an enjoyable few days with friends in the Temecula Valley, which sports over 50 wineries. There is much to share from this “Wine for No Reason” outing, but this post is just a few photos emphasizing the special relationship between wine and roses.
Many of the vineyards feature healthy, mature, blossom-covered rose bushes, some scattered across the property, and some smack-dab at the ends of the rows of vines. The “why” behind this, we learned, is that roses and grape vines are susceptible to the same types of fungal diseases. The roses function as an early warning system for the vines when they display signs of illness, sort of like the canary in the coal mine. They also attract beneficial insects that attack bugs that prey on vines.
Finally, they’re just beautiful, providing a riot of color amongst the greenery that is both vine and grape.
…San Diego? Yup. Got to tour the Navy Seal Base, which was amazing, and snagged a photo of the actual sign of their motto: “The only easy day was yesterday.” (I’m not sure it’s ok to share that photo.)
…Los Angeles?Yup. Man, that city is BIG. Overwhelming starts when you land at the airport, and continues as soon as you hit the freeways. Great dining and entertainment scene, though.
…Malibu? Yup. Drove along Highway 1 to go see where the Rockford Files (TV show) was filmed; it was so cool to see the locale of the series we watched almost religiously every Friday night growing up, and in reruns long afterward.
What about Temecula?Say whaaaat?
I had never heard of Temecula before a wise man told us that it was the “wine country road less travelled”, as compared to Napa Valley. Research revealed that Temecula sports several dozen wineries scattered tightly across beautiful, arid country with a quirky, fun culture and markedly less tourists (and thus less traffic) – let’s go!
We are. Tomorrow morning. Woohoo!
We’re meeting several other couples for the California version of the Grill-Meister’s “Wine for No Reason” series (more on that later). One of the couples got started earlier in the week and texted these photos. Anticipation!!!
Watch this space for more about Temecula and “Wine for No Reason”.