Friday, February 25, 2011

GROUP THERAPY IN TEMECULA


South Coast Winery

A support group is a welcome friend when you feel you aren't getting the attention you deserve.  South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, in the Southern California wine country of the Temecula Valley, held the first of what appears to be a series of events called Group Therapy on February 23, 2011.  Fans of Temecula wines certainly know how to support one another.  They also know how it feels to be an afterthought when the conversation turns to the grape-growing regions of California.

The region lies about as far away from Los Angeles as Santa Barbara, but in the other direction.  Located a couple of hours southeast of L.A., Temecula is tucked away south of what's known as the Inland Empire.  Thanks to the eastward curve of the California coastline, however, Temecula is less than 20 miles away from the Pacific Ocean.  They get enough of that good ocean breeze to make grapes a viable commodity.

Though they are still "bubbling under" as a wine region, South Coast is one of the leaders in bringing a Napa-style elegance to the valley.  The sprawling resort is easily one of the showcases of Temecula, if not the pinnacle.  Private villas, music features, wine dinners, the Grapeseed Spa and a tasting room environment that places fun above all else make South Coast one of the most popular stops on the Temecula Wine Trail.  If you've ever been to a wine country wedding, you get the idea of the mix between fancy and fun which the folks at South Coast maintain.  It is, no doubt, a big reason so many weddings are held at the resort.

At Group Therapy, though, it was the wine they wanted to focus on.  The event was presented live at the winery and streamed online for those who couldn't make it.  A Group Therapy package of the wines to be discussed was offered for sale through the winery's online store.

Winemakers Jon McPherson and Javier Flores proved to be a nice team heading up the show.  They served as "play-by-play" and "color commentator" for the evening, with McPherson providing a solid background for the wines on the table and Flores interjecting some whimsical banter along the way.  McPherson opened with a lesson on how to grade wine by numerically scoring its different facets.  He seemed to catch some in the audience off guard when he revealed that Pinot Grigio is actually a red grape, and the reason it has no color is because the juice sees limited contact with the skins.

Owner/vintner Jim Carter was also along, and he touched briefly on the struggle Temecula has had getting what he feels is proper recognition of the product.  "We're right there with Napa," is how he summed up his feelings on the quality of the wines being made in the valley, and at South Coast in particular.

I couldn't make it to Temecula for the live Group Therapy session, so South Coast provided me with two of the wines that were the topic of discussion, and I followed along online.

Pinot Grigio Temecula Valley Sparkling Wine

This bubbly is the 2010 vintage and is comprised of 63% fruit from the Temecula Springs Resort Estate Vineyards, 23% Schuler Vineyards grapes and 14% from Huis Vineyards.  Pinot Grigio may be an offbeat choice for a grape from which to make a sparkling wine, but it works well.  The grape is known for fruity flavors and crisp acidity.  South Coast uses vinification methods similar to those used in Italy's Alto Adige, so it's not too surprising that it comes across with an Italian Prosecco-like flair.

Prodigious medium-sized bubbles produce a frothy, white head and the nose is full of fruit.  Apples are prominent, with an aroma that reminds me apple cider, or Apple Beer, a soft drink I used to enjoy as a kid.  Peaches also make an appearance, as does a slight grassy note.  On the palate it's apples and pears.  The sparkler is nice and dry, with good acidity that remains after the bubbles quiet down a bit.  It's a really lovely taste with fruit for days.  It's also very drinkable at only 11.8% abv.

Il Temporale 2007

The fruit for this Super Tuscan-meets-Bordeaux blend comes from Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards.  The red is made up of 58% Sangiovese, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot.  On the nose, oak is apparent.  Cherry and earth notes are discernible, too.  The palate shows the effect of 14 months in French oak, with vanilla accents and a cherry cola flavor.  Although I find the oakiness just a bit distracting, there is depth and complexity there.  I like the way the spicy character of the Petit Verdot shines through.  The tannins are strong enough for pairing with roast beef.  Il Temporale logs a 14.1% alcohol number.