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Nine destinations for food, wine enthusiasts in Temecula Valley

VisitTemecula.org has announced nine spots in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country for food and wine enthusiasts to discover and savor.

They are:

1. Cork|Fire Kitchen at Temecula Creek Inn -- Surrounded by 350 acres/141 hectares of rustic, natural beauty, Cork|Fire Kitchen is nestled within the Temecula Creek Inn full-service destination resort. The new restaurant is the result of a $2.5 million transformation that has elevated the dining experience at TCI. Down-to-earth satisfying cuisine with an artisan's touch describes Cork|Fire Kitchen; it is rustic, yet refined. The culinary team shows a passion for sourcing ingredients from favorite local purveyors and farmers like Temecula Valley Crow's Pass Farms, Sage Mountain Farms, and Temecula Olive Oil Company; and Cook Pigs Ranch in Julian. Made for sharing, the inventive menus highlight the daily bounty of local edibles, foraged fresh and organic whenever possible. The CFK Club sandwich is made with Fallbrook avocado, pork belly strips, roasted chicken, local heirloom tomatoes, boutique romaine, and mustard aioli. The Local Gold and Red Beet Salad is dressed with arugula pesto, pistachio crusted Nikolau Family Farms goat cheese, and a blood orange and bacon vinaigrette. The Cook Pig Ranch Pork Chop is accompanied by local butternut squash puree, sage brown butter sauce, haricot verts, and roasted shiitake mushrooms. For dessert, the TCI Bread Pudding is laced with house-made caramel, vanilla poached apples, and whipped crème fraiche. Dining is indoors or on the new, outdoor deck overlooking the golf course and picturesque setting of the San Jacinto Mountains.

2. Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery -- Growers and producers of fine award-winning Temecula Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) Estate wines, the 93-acre/38-hectare Wilson Creek Winery is also home of the famed almond sparkling wine. Creekside Grille is a wine country alfresco dining experience offering fresh and creative cuisine, and inspiring views of the 30-year-old Cabernet vineyards. Creekside Grille's seasonal menus have always shown a commitment to sustainable produce and seafood, and more recently reflect a greater emphasis on sourcing locally. The Local Squash Risotto incorporates Crow's Pass squash puree, sage, crème fraiche, and Romano cheese. The California Cheese Plate includes Shaft Ellie's vintage bleu cheese, Cowgirl Creamery seasonal cheese, Drake Family Farms honey apricot goat cheese, forelle pears, nuts, and hazelnut cranberry crisps. The Creekside Burger is made with natural California ground chuck; the Salmon Fritter is a Skuna Bay salmon cake with fontina cheese, bacon and brussels slaw, and corn meal bun. One of Creekside Grille's most acclaimed desserts is the handcrafted, seasonally inspired crème brûlee. The menu also includes Wilson Family favorites, and gluten-free fare. Creekside Grille is certified as a GREAT (Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training) Kitchen, a program overseen by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. All Wilson Creek wines including currently released Wilson Creek Temecula Valley AVA Estate vintages are available at Creekside Grille.

3. E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) in Old Town Temecula -- An eternal champion of Slow Food, foraging within a 100-mile radius for 14 years, and a local advocate for farmers, ranchers, and artisans, E.A.T.-Extraordinary Artisan Table loves to cook with fresh, local produce and sustainable meats from small family ranches because the flavors are so bold and so true. Most E.A.T. proteins are pasture-raised with some even eating organic produce clippings from the E.A.T. kitchen year-round. Almost Portlandia with interest and concern for freshness, quality, and healthy food, E.A.T. is insanely diligent to understand current dietary and market trends, and creates dishes that are 90% naturally gluten/grain free. "Paleo and Grain-Free Bowls" are one of E.A.T.'s most popular menu items, built on organic quinoa, layered with local roasted veggies, braised seasonal greens, pooled in an aromatic carrot, ginger and fresh turmeric broth then topped with kale, cauliflower or a black bean burger and a huge scoop of house chermoula sauce. Recently relocated to Old Town Temecula, the new location enables E.A.T. to include a Craft Coffee Bar with fresh, healthy breakfasts or snacks and coffee, or later in the day, Temecula Valley wine or craft beer along with local artisan cheeses from the charcuterie. The casual, friendly, locally grown, handcrafted eatery and marketplace inspires diners to slow down and savor the moment. E.A.T. is popular for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

4. Meritage at Callaway Vineyard & Winery -- The valley's first winery helped put Temecula Valley Southern California wines on the map in 1976 when an Estate bottled Callaway premium varietal wine was served to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at New York City's Waldorf Astoria. Her majesty, not known to be a wine drinker, requested a second glass. Then as now, carefully crafted Callaway Temecula Valley AVA and Estate wines are well balanced with fresh fruit flavor, round body, and crisp character. The Meritage menu reflects use of the freshest, local, sustainable, and organic ingredients available to create tapas, salads, and entrées that accentuate Callaway wines' character. Sourcing is from local farms and small family ranches. Grown on-property are pomegranates, figs, citrus, peaches, tomatoes, tomatillos, chilies, arugula, chard, cabbage, zucchini, rosemary, oregano, and mint. The inventive, fresh seasonal cuisine is deliciously big with flavor and variety; and menus include Callaway wine-pairing suggestions (available by the glass and as a taste). With panoramic views of the 20-acre/8-hectare Callaway vineyard estate, guests savor menu items like Organic Spinach Salad with Roast Pork Belly, shaved fennel, roasted carrots, and pomegranate vinaigrette paired with Callaway Special Selection Mourvedre. Or the Very Local Grass Fed Knife & Fork Burger on house toast with mushrooms, onions, fontina, and Dijon mustard paired with the Callaway Winemaker's Reserve Calliope.

5. Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery in Temecula Valley Wine Country -- A certified member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery commitment is to small lot, handcrafted wines from grape varieties grown on the estate vineyards along with a select few other properties that adhere to strict farming practices to ensure only the best grapes. Often described as "boutique," the family-run winery favors the term "artisinal" to describe the involvement and passion that goes into daily operations. Specializing in full-bodied reds, the estate-grown and produced offerings include single-varietal wines and a few special blends. The Syrah is "clone 877" (cuttings taken from historic vineyards in the South of France, planted, and grown in the Temecula Valley AVA). Extremely popular are the elegant Tre Fratelli "Meritage" (a traditional blend; 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc); and Viognier (the only white wine offering). Palumbo Winery garners a reputation for exceptional quality and the wine club is continually at capacity. Exclusively by advance appointment (4 to 18 guests), the Barrel Tasting, Tour, and Lunch provides the opportunity to discover owner/winemaker Nicholas Palumbo's stylistic influences, the natural influences of "terroir," and wine production aspects from sustainable farming practices to hands-on small-lot winemaking. Following an estate tour and private, barrel tasting, a gourmet, seasonal picnic lunch with the winemaker is served on the Palumbo Patio overlooking the 13-acre/5-hectare vineyard.

6. Palumbo's Ristorante in Old Town Temecula -- The landmark Old Town Italian restaurant with indoor and outdoor, front patio dining is nestled in the middle of the block on Fifth Street. The cuisine is authentic, honest, and meticulously prepared using family recipes and techniques with modern twists and the freshest, quality ingredients. If there is traditional, contemporary, artisinal Italian cuisine, this is one delicious version. The sauces, soups, sausage, meatballs, ravioli, gnocchi, focaccia, and bread for the bruschetta, are freshly house made; as are the tiramisu and the cannoli; and all meals are made-to-order. Using organic practices, the Palumbos also tend a seasonal, 1-acre restaurant garden on their 5-acre property near Temecula Valley Wine Country. Herbs, vegetables, and greens are grown, as well as a variety of fruit trees (pear, plum, fig, orange, and lemon) that are the source for special restaurant fresh-fruit desserts. On the restaurant menu, starters feature Steamed Clams and Mussels, and Calamari Fritti. A variety of salads and thin-crust pizzas are offered and the pastas and baked specialties include Gnocchi, Spaghetti Carbonara, Classic Lasagna, Manicotti Florentine, and Eggplant Parmigiana. Meat-fowl-and-seafood ranges from Chicken Parmigiana, Marsala, and Piccata; to Grilled Lamb Chops and Linguine with Clams. A nice variety of local Temecula Valley wines includes Bel Vino, Palumbo Family Vineyards, Robert Renzoni Vineyards, and Wiens Cellars; the local craft beer is Wiens Brewing Company.

7. The Restaurant at Ponte and Bouquet Restaurant at Ponte Family Estate Winery -- Located on a 310-acre/125-hectare, vineyard ranch, Ponte Family Estate Winery is a certified member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Guests dine amongst the vines at the estate's two restaurants, The Restaurant at Ponte and Bouquet at Ponte Vineyard Inn. From farm to plate to vineyard, Ponte is committed to a sustainable and environmentally friendly restaurant experience. Ponte wine country cuisine is prepared with quality, local, fresh, seasonal, and regional ingredients sourced from sustainable growers, farmers, and ranchers. Seafood is wild-caught or sustainably farmed (consistent with Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium); meat and game are all-natural, hormone free; and chicken is free range, vegetarian-raised, and organic. The Ponte garden provides heirloom tomatoes in summer, lettuces in cooler seasons. The creatively crafted, seasonal menus include items like Mussels made with Carlsbad black mussels, red curry, coconut cilantro, and Isabel white wine broth. The marinated and char-grilled Flat Iron Steak is served with pan jus, farm vegetables, and roasted fingerling potatoes. The Meatloaf is made with beef and lamb, and served with wild mushroom demi, broccolini, Yukon potato and celery root mash. Handmade pizzas like Chicken Pesto Pizza with garlic, herbs, red onions, mozzarella, and provolone are fired in a wood-burning oven using reclaimed estate grapevines from Ponte vineyards. Ponte boutique, single-varietal wines and proprietary blends complement the cuisine.

8. Temecula Olive Oil Company and Olive View Ranch -- Temecula Olive Oil Company garners an exceptional following for their sustainable practices, and quality, fresh, pure, and flavorful, 100% California, 100% extra virgin olive oil. Founded in 2001, the company's original retail shop and tasting room is located in Old Town Temecula at the corner of Old Town Front Street and Main Street. At the complementary tasting bar, guests taste fresh olive oil the way nature intended. Savoring the purity illustrates that sustainable growing practices and the old world process make all the difference. Exclusively by advance reservation (on second and fourth Saturdays), visitors may tour the TOO Olive View Ranch east of Old Town Temecula. The learning experience highlights sustainable planting, growing, and harvesting practices; the unique mill and press; and cold pressing to extract oil from the fruit. After the tour, participants experience a tasting of TOO olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Throughout the year, TOO offers a variety of limited edition, hand-blended olive oils like Le Caprice de Nature, White Truffle, Hickory Smoked, Fajita Frenzy, Picante Pepper, Fresh Basil (made by crushing fresh, organic, California basil with the olives), Luscious Lemon (made with fresh, California lemons), and Citrus Reserve (premier olive oil with the flavor of fresh blood oranges). The TOO vinegars include blends like Pomegranate, Hatch Chili, Vanilla and Fig (made with the sweet essence of California ripe figs), and Honey Balsamic (made with honey from the bees at the Olive View Ranch).

9. The Vineyard Rose at South Coast Winery -- A certified member of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the 39-acre/16-hectare South Coast Winery has three times earned "best of the best" as California State Golden Bear Winery of the Year (2008/09, 2009/10, and 2013/14). With views of the estate vineyards and surrounding hills, South Coast Winery's Tuscan-inspired Vineyard Rose restaurant serves California-contemporary wine-country cuisine. Selections are prepared using natural California beef, fresh seafood, locally and regionally sourced products including artisan foods like Temecula Olive Oil, and farm to fork from the estate garden. Beginnings include Golden Bear Charcuterie with artisan salami, prosciutto, grilled and roasted vegetables, and Purple Moon and Humboldt Fog cheeses. In tribute to local, natural treasures, specialty pizzas include the Margarita (the nearby river is one of the last free-flowing rivers in Southern California) pizza with fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil; and the Santa Rosa (the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve protects some of California's rarest landscapes) pizza with goat and mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, caramelized pears, mushrooms, and onions. On the dinner menu, entrees include winemaker recommended pairings like Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon with the California All Natural Angus Beef Filet Mignon (accompanied by roasted mushroom sauce and cabernet reduction, herbed mashed potatoes and house made bacon-asparagus sauté). The winemaker also recommends Temecula Valley AVA South Coast Chardonnay Sans Chene with the Roasted Scallops (accompanied by confetti quinoa and shallot beurre blanc). By advance reservation, the Vineyard Rose offers the ultimate in a fine dining experience, a Private Chef's Table Dinner. The five-course menu is paired with award-winning South Coast wines and the chef visits the table to describe how each course is prepared.

Three of Temecula Valley's winery estates are certified sustainable under the strict standards of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance program created by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. Less than 60 of the wineries in the entire state of California have achieved membership in the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance. Temecula Valley's three certified members are Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery, Ponte Family Estate Winery, and South Coast Winery.

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