Thursday, November 20, 2014

Temecula Chilled: A Magical December Experience

Southern California residents, if you’re looking for a fun shopping or holiday experience this winter season, Temecula will transform itself starting December 1 into a magical Temecula Chilled. The entire village will celebrate the holidays. Old Town will be aglow with twinkling lights, the sparkle of snowflakes, tons of snow, Temecula on Ice- an outdoor ice skating rink, special beverages and desserts to warm your hearts and bellies.

The vineyards and wineries in the Temecula Valley Wine country will Chill also, as will Pechanga Resort and Casino.

“It will be an especially magical December with Temecula Chilled,” says Kimberly Adams, Visit Temecula Valle president and CEO, “The joyful, classic, contemporary, whimsical, old school, new school and eclectic fun will span from Old Town Temecula to Temecula Valley Wine Country and from Promenade Temecula to Pechanga Resort & Casino.”
When you’re ready for a wintery night out on the town the Civic Center will have Snow Bell Rockin’ Nights show with magical snowfall. Or go to the Promenade and see The Magic Snow Flurry show. Of course there will be Santa’s Electric Light Parade and the Holiday Taste of Old Town event.
The Celebration of new Snow Bell Rockin’ Nights with a musical, seemingly magical snowfall show in Southern California Wine Country’s Old Town Temecula historic, pedestrian-friendly, dining-shopping-entertainment
For the kids Pennypickle’s Winter Wonderland will feature tons of snow as well as scientific explorations and experiments. Who knows, even the adults can enjoy this!
Old Town Temecula Community Theater will stage productions of A Christmas Carol and the Nutcracker Ballet. Pechanga Resort and Casino will play host to the Brian Setzer Orchestra, in their 2014 Christmas Rocks Tour.
The celebration will continue through December 31 with a New Year’s Eve Gala Celebration in the Wine Country and at Pechanga Resort and Casino. Or you can go Old Town Temecula and watch the New Year’s Eve Grape Drop.
For the most up-to-date information on all the holiday events happening throughout the valley go to
It genuinely promises to be a wonderful Winterfest holiday season to remember.

Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer

Monday, October 6, 2014

Moravian Wine, Wine from the Czech Republic

Today's wines and their lovely labels

Girls just wanna have fun! Or so the song goes. I know I do. So, why not try wines from Moravia, the 2nd most popular wine region in the Czech Republic. Also called the “fun” part of the country, 60% of Czech wines are produced here.

So it seems time for us to learn about their wines. Thanks to the Czech Tourism and Vino Z Czech, on a sunny afternoon in Southern California I did just that.

The history of wine in Eastern Europe is very intriguing with periods of expansion and contraction. Periods of Muslim Ottoman rule, whose faith forbade wine consumption. Periods of the debilitating disease Phylloxera, World Wars, Communist control and political uncertainty. Gorbachev tried to get rid of vineyards in an effort to curb alcoholism.

Today, however, the wine industry is a strong and thriving industry. Wine laws have been updated as have vineyards and wineries. The majority of the Czech Republic’s production is in white wine. The principal grape is Welschriesling, utilized for its high acid content and spice, almond like flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon has recently been produced. Today there are 18,000 winemakers in the Czech Republic.

Today we were set to taste six wines. 

Gruner Veltliner
Gruner Veltliner Michlovsky, 2011, $16.00

Gruner means green and Michlovsky is the winemaker. This wine is very light, I could not even smell it. No nose, no depth no back flavor. Others in my group said it had a chalky finish. In all fairness, I think the cheese that we paired it with totally overpowered the wine.

Welschriesling Spielberg, 2011, $23.00

We called this a “meadow in a glass”. The grassy nose is intriguing.  It also has a grassy flavor. The pairing that was stellar for this wine was an onion and bacon tart. I was shocked- but it went so well together! One wouldn’t normally think of pairing a Riesling with bacon, but it was perfect. It also paired nicely with a sweet baklava.

Pinot Blanc Vyskocil, 2009, $23.00

This wine has a golden color from being aged in French Oak.  Don’t let the light color fool you, it is very full-bodied and food friendly. Comments on this wine were that it has a strong kumquat and mango nose.  We paired two different cheeses with this wine and they all worked perfectly: Brie cheese and Comté French cheese (from Costco). It also paired nicely with a sweet baklava and a crab salad. Very versatile, for sure.

Pinot Blanc Speilberg, 2009

The nose of this wine is very floral, similar to talcum powder. This wine was our second favorite wine and paired nicely with sushi, green vegetables cheese and salads. The consensus of the group was that this wine will be very popular with Americans when it gets introduced to the public.

Riesling Michlovsky, 2011, $19.00

This Riesling presents itself with an aroma of petrol, soccer ball, basketball- a very rubbery nose. Don’t panic. This is a typical smell of Riesling.  The flavor is also typical of Riesling: honey, walnuts and spices. The favorite pairing for this was grape leaves with a spicy dill tzatzki sauce. It also paired nicely with baklava.

Rivaner Valtice, 2011, $16.00

The grape of this wine is a Müller-Thurgau. The varietal was created by Hermann Müller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau in 1882. Now it is very prevalent in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. This wine is what I call “Sunday sitting on the patio drinking wine wine”. Easy drinking, juicy, fruity, it is a stand-alone wine, but if you want to pair it with food, try it with sushi.

Rouci Stepleton and Springer, 2007, $40.00

Linda Kissam loved this wine with the spicy Sriracha chicken wings

A very unique wine, it is primarily Pinot Noir with some St. Laurent. The wine us well-constructed in a “New world style” but definitely has an “Old world elegance”.  The surprise food pairing with this wine was Sriracha chicken wings. The spiciness could hold up to the Pinot Noir of this wine.

Our hosts had one more wine up their sleeve. In fact they were giddy with anticipation of sharing this surprise with us.

Modrý  Portugal 2012
Roger Paige shows us the Modry Portugal wine.

The grape varietal Blauer Portugieser, is well-suited as a table grape. But, it turns out that it can’t be sold as a table grape as that is illegal in the European Union. Usually this grape is made into a rosé.

The labels on these wines are spectacular. They are by Alphonse Mucha, a Czech Art Nouveau painter well known for his images of women. To peruse his gallery go to:

This introduction to Czech wines has whet my appetite to explore more European wines. I look forward to tasting many more.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rock Canyon Vineyards

Rock Canyon Vineyards
It’s not just winetasting, it’s an adventure.

Rock Canyon Vineyards Cellar Room

Looking west- many, many rocks!

Driving east through the back roads of San Diego County, through Alpine, hang a right, keep going south and east, then on to a dirt road, way to the end of the road, that’s where you’ll find Tim Petersen and Rock Canyon Vineyards.

Two happy Andalusian horses live here.
There’s a reason is has the name it has. There are rocks everywhere. Miles and miles of rocks. Even the winery is built into a large rock.

Vignette in the Cellar Room
You can tell that creative people live here.  Mona Petersen is an artist. She specializes in animals and designed the winery labels. Many vignettes. Beautiful aesthetics. Art is everywhere. There is nature and beauty and animals and art everywhere you turn.

Roxy the Rescue Burro
 “Many wineries have horses or dogs on their labels. I wanted to set ourselves apart, so I said, ‘How about putting Roxy, the rescue burro on our labels?’” Mona designed a few labels but couldn’t get them from looking sad. “So, she put a clump of grapes in her mouth” and Voila!

Roxy's Mama 


I’m just a city girl, but they DO actually bray. What a crazy sound.

Tim began making wine as a garagiste- out of his garage. In 2000 he planted his first grapes, Zinfandel. Then came the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tempranillo. Now in 2014 Rock Canyon Vineyards is a fully bonded, operating winery. Today they have 2500 plants, just under two acres.Tim produces between 700-1000 cases per year.

Taking advantage of the profuse Southern California sunlight, the ranch is fully solar with a rooftop solar system.  The cellar room stays at an average temperature of 60 degrees.

All of Rock Canyon Vineyard's Wines (with a burro thrown in)
Today's Lineup
Rock Canyon’s Merlot is stellar. Typically a Merlot is a bit lighter than other reds, but in our little paradise of southern Cal, they are bold and intense and extremely flavorful. Many flavors cherry, and leather come to mind. It is definitely how I like a Merlot.

The estate Zinfandel is also stellar. Rich and fruity. It is not like Paso Robles Zinfandels. Not peppery but very fruit forward. The Roxy’s Red Suave Syrah is just that – suave.  
The Suave Syrah
Roxy with the grapes in her mouth

Tim has made some interesting blends, at first I thought he was saying it wrong. Typically you hear GSM Grenache, Syrah Mouvedre, but Tim said GMS. Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah. He calls it his Triple Donkey GMS blend. "You list the grapes in order of volume," he explains.

Locally in San Diego you can find his wines at:
Whole Foods- Hillcrest and Encinitas
Windmill Farms – College Area
Costco- Santee
Stumps Market- Pt Loma
Albertsons- Alpine, Ramona and Rancho San Diego

Tim is a likeable man, very passionate about his wines. Wears a cowboy hat like no other.

Tim Petersen
Make sure you make an appointment to visit him. You can find him at


Cellar room- there's even art here!

Many barrels

 Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer

Thursday, February 13, 2014

3rd Annual Paso Robles Garagiste Festival

3rd Annual Paso Robles, Garagiste Festival
Enjoying Small lot Wineries from Central California

Hammersky  Vineyards
When I got invited to the Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a huge fan of the region’s wines for years and years. Then, I scratched my head and said “What is a Garagiste?” So, I did what anyone in the 21st century would do, I Googled it. Garagiste, pronounced gar-uh-zhe-stuh, refers to artisan wine producers, originally from the Bordeaux wine region in France. These “garage” winemakers are small lot vintners who produce 1,200 case of wine per year or less.

Originally the term was a derogatory word meant to denigrate renegade winemaking neighbors, who refused to follow the “rules”. Thanks to Robert Parker tasting and rating some of these big and bold wines, many of these winemakers went on to be recognized as making some of the best wine in the world.  America has a growing population of stunning small lot producers and the heart of this renegade group is in Paso Robles.

Paso Robles has emerged as the new star in the constellation of New World wines, with its Tuscany-like hillsides, an ocean-air climate and calcareous shale soil (which California generally lacks). The idea of trying an entirely new batch of wines from the area was enough to get me to make the 8-hour trek from San Diego. Many of these winemakers are incredibly talented and hopefully will be propelled into becoming well-known, gaining enough collateral to open their own winery or tasting room. Talking with different winemakers in the barn was exciting to share their passion and the fruits of their labors.

The Grand Tasting , the a culmination of a weeklong city-wide event focusing on engaging, educational and unique winemaker panels and testing seminars, was held at Windfall Farms, a 724-acre thoroughbred horse farm east of Paso Robles. The farm has a Kentucky- style feel with white walls, red brick and steeples. The tasting festivities were held in the horse barn- which is not a horse barn like I’ve seen before. Each large brick stall with ¾ walls, accommodated four different wineries. These small quarters allowed people to discuss up close and personal with the winemakers about their wines.

Asuncion Ridge Winery
Festival co-founder Douglas Minnick is proud and excited to see his movement take flight. Says he, “More and more consumers are seeking out these extraordinary artisan winemakers and we are proud to provide the best and only place for consumers to experience the heart of this movement.”

The mission of the event visionaries is to promote Paso Robles as one of the friendliest and most innovative winemaking communities in the world. Garagiste is all about celebrating the little guy, discovering, promoting and showcasing the artisan winemaker. The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure is coming up on March 29, 2014 in Solvang CA. They will feature 30 of Santa Ynez Valley’s high-quality, small production winemakers. Register soon as this festival is sure to sell out. Go to to register.

Paolillo Winery
La Filice Winery

Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

10th Annual San Diego Food and Wine Festival: Southern California Wines Shine

10th Annual San Diego Food and Wine Festival: 
Southern California wines shine 

November in San Diego is always gorgeous and we can still enjoy warm weather and clear skies. The tourists for the most part have gone home and we have our city to ourselves… That is until the Food and Wine Festival happens. People come from all over the USA to attend Southern California’s largest and most talked about food and wine festival. This is the chance to experience firsthand the culinary genius of our city’s chefs, as well as the delicious wines that local and regional winemakers are crafting.

With Coronado Island and the Bay Bridge as a back drop, Embarcadero Marina Park, directly behind Seaport Village, is the perfect location for the festival’s finale, the Grand Tasting. Feel the ocean breeze as you walk through the grounds listening to music, tasting food and wine, chatting with winemakers and chefs.

Happy chefs!
The lovely outdoor venue

The Grand Tasting is the finale of a 7–day epicurean delight—a food and wine  (and this year beer) lover’s paradise, that showcases 170 wine and spirit purveyors and 70 of San Diego’s top chefs. Temecula wines were well represented. Callaway Winery, South Coast Winery, Wilson Creek Winery and Danza del Sol Winery and Europa  Village were showcasing some of their latest releases. While you only get a small taste of beer, wines and hard alcohol, many participants follow-up by going out to breweries and wineries and experiencing full tastings.

While this has traditionally been solely a wine festival, this year because San Diego has become a craft beer mecca, beer tasting was added to the fest. The first week of November, the city celebrated Beer Week. Brewers continued to educate participants of our burgeoning craft beer industry.
The city’s most talented chefs vie for the Chef of the Fest Competition, during the week. The winner is announced at the Grand Finale. This is a great opportunity for local chefs to compete with their favorite recipes and get their name known around town.
Shrimp and Avocado appetizer

Chef Rich Sweeney, from R-Gang Eatery and the soon-to-be-opened Southpaw Social Club was crowned “Chef of the Fest”. He won the competition with his Duck Fat-Fried Beignets with Burnt Orange Cream, Smoked Duck “Dust” and Crispy Glazed Duck Skin. The cash prize of $50,000 and other prizes will come in handy for him as he starts his new restaurant in downtown San Diego.

The entire week of this event includes cooking demonstrations, a Fit Foodie 5K run, a variety of wine tasting seminars and a sliders “take down”. In total there were 25 culinary and beverage events held throughout San Diego.

Southern California is becoming known for more than just great weather and good surf. Now we have an emerging wine region, talented craft beer brewers and a plethora of talented chefs tempting and satisfying our palates.            


Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jeremy’s on the Hill Food and Wine Pairing

Jeremy’s on the Hill Food and Wine Pairing
An afternoon with Chef de Cuisine, Jeremy Manley
Jeremy's on the Hill

Jeremy Manley is one talented chef. And busy. As the owner of Jeremy’s on the Hill in Wynola, cooking isn’t foreign to him. At the age of ten, Jeremy started working in his mother’s business kitchen at Angels Landing Country Inn, first washing dishes and then around age eleven, he chopped and diced with a family member, Karla Ludtke. Under her tutelage he worked with many different types of food from Italian to African, learned to carve fruits and create beautiful displays. By age thirteen he took over cooking, catering weddings and retreats.

“Sometimes, we would have a wedding in the main area, a retreat going up in the conference room and a rehearsal dinner up in the Lilac Suite.  Very often, days would start at 6:00am and end at 10:00pm. Jeremy has quite the stamina,” says his mother, Teresa Keller.

After graduating from Julian High School, Jeremy headed to San Francisco to study at the world famous Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. After an externship at Mill Fleur in Rancho Santa Fe, he was ready to start his own adventure. In March 2008 he opened Jeremy’s on the Hill, a true family affair, with his sister, Brigida, mother Teresa, grandparents and cousin Karla all part of the restaurant.

Jeremy Manley
After the Julian Union High School District was awarded one of Michelle Obama’s Farm-to-Table grants, Jeremy was selected to offer the lunch program for the schools.  Starting this fall, he will make food at his restaurant and distribute it to the schools in the district.

Recently, in spite of his busy schedule, I was lucky enough to enjoy a food and wine pairing that Jeremy prepared for a group of food and wine writers. This memorable meal was paired with local wines making it all the more special.

Flash Fried Brussel Sprouts

The amuse-bouche, offered to tease and cleanse our palates, was crispy flash-fried Brussels sprouts with Jeremy’s tangy ponzu sauce (a soy sauce infused with citrus) and an orange slice to soften the flavors. This made the usually ordinary greens absolutely luscious. The burst of flavor in my mouth was an excellent starter to the meal. I was told that this recipe was a result of a mistake, and what a wonderful mistake it was.

The first course was a Festival of Radish Salad and homemade blistered jalapeno stuffed with hunter sausage. Jeremy makes his sausages with pork from Cook Pigs Ranch in Julian. The medleys of radishes were delightfully light and fresh and served on a bed of spicy radish leaves. Perfectly matched with a Grenache Blanc from Turtle Rock Ridge Winery in Ramona, this surprisingly rich and full white wine had plenty of crisp acid to hold up to the radishes.

In between courses we were introduced to each entrée and regaled with stories of Jeremy’s life, his friends, what he’s up to and all the fun he’s having with his food truck. This summer he has been out at Turtle Rock Ridge Winery offering foods for guests on the patio.

Next up was an heirloom tomato salad with smoked eggplant, Maytag blue cheese, red onions and sage balsamic vinaigrette. This was paired with a Warner Springs Hawk Watch 2010 Syrah. Jeremy smoked the eggplant because he felt that the Syrah was smoky and the two would complement each other. He was right. Summertime and lush tomatoes go hand in hand. This pairing was the group’s favorite.

Heirloom tomato salad with smoked eggplant

The main course was a house made sage fettuccine with a summer vegetable ratatouille, featuring locally grown vegetables and house cured Pancetta (bacon) from Cook Pigs Ranch and sprinkled with a thinly sliced Manchego cheese. Warner Springs was well-represented with a 2008 La Serenissima Cabernet Franc. Tony, the winemaker, has craft this bold and complex wine that held up nicely with all the flavors of the entrée.

We finished with a Strawberry Shortcake Jeremy Style. Peach preserves, oregano and mint garnished with shaved chocolate. Aah! Paired with 2012 Menghini Winery Julian Gold Muscat Canelli, this dessert melted in our mouths.

This fall when you’re headed to Julian for Apple Days or Pumpkin picking, make sure that you stop in Wynola for a spectacular meal. You can thank me later.

Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three San Diego Urban Wineries: Abnormal Wine, Witch Creek Winery and San Pasqual Winery

One of the exciting things happening the San Diego wine scene is the phenomenon of “urban” wineries. Urban Wineries are popping up all over the county, as well as many city settings around the United States. An urban winery purchases its grapes from the countryside and produces the wines in the city. An urban winery doesn’t require a drive to the countryside (although we all love a drive out in the countryside), and urban wineries usually have a tasting room with facilities to sit and have a glass of wine after you’ve found your favorite wine. Urban wineries usually offer all of the amenities of estate wineries including wine clubs, wine events.

We will explore three urban wineries in San Diego:

Abnormal Wine Company/ Rancho Bernardo:
Located in a commercial building complex in Rancho Bernardo this winery strives to push the boundaries of what people think about wine and how it is presented. They label their wines by number (as opposed to varietals), therefore making their wines more approachable to people who can’t pronounce or don’t know about a particular varietal or who might be scared to try a new or different wine. Owners James Malone and Matt DeLoach say the core of their drive is the knowledge of creating something new. They want to change the way people think about the current wine culture.
Abnormal's Wines

Co-Owner Matt

“We’re not doing things the traditional way,” Matt says. “We’re working on using essences. We have a Chocolate berry port and Chocolate citrus port and we’re working on a coffee port.” Tip: Try the #18. Matt says there are #18 fan clubs.

No. 19

Also a strong focus for these two men is education. They call themselves novice winemakers and feel that the time is now to get into the wine industry in San Diego.
Enjoy their lovely tasting room/lounge Wednesday through Sunday 2-6pm (9pm on Thursdays and Fridays). For more information go to:

Witch Creek Winery/ Carlsbad:

Tasting Room in Julian, CA.

The first urban winery in San Diego, Witch Creek has expanded to two tasting room locations. Founded in 1993 they have a tasting room on Main Street in Julian and on Highway 101 in Carlsbad in 1996, just two blocks from the beach. Owner Dave Wodehouse, was the winemaker until he fired himself.  Now the winemaker is Ryan Baker assisted by Ryan Scott.

Their Carlsbad tasting room is a working winery and tasting room combined. It is a walk-up tasting room. There are no chairs and tables to sit at and sip wine. When you taste there you are among their barrels, making you feel like you’re a part of the production process. The barrels are all covered with fun trivia, like it takes 75-100 grapes to make a glass of wine or one acre of land averages 797 gallons of wine.
Fun trivia at Witch Creek Winery

Carlsbad Winetasting room
This winery currently sources their grapes from Clarksburg, by the Sacramento River in Northern California, and Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley. This summer they have been tasting seven red wines,  two whites and two sweet wines. For those big, bold red wine lovers, definitely try their Montepulciano, Primitivo and Kathy’s Cuvee, a Meritage blend of Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Tasting hours in Carlsbad for the Fall are 11AM-5:30PM Sunday-Thursday. They stay open a half hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. The tasting room on Main Street in Julian is open 11AM-5PM daily.

San Pasqual Winery/La Mesa

San Pasqual Winery
La Mesa's own Winery

San Pasqual Winery has been on the move in 2013. In June owners Mike and Linda McWilliams augmented their Pacific Beach production facility and La Mesa storefront tasting room and added another much larger facility and tasting room on Center Street, just a few blocks away. The industrial neighborhood in La Mesa is very approachable with plenty of parking. A new 4,500 square-foot facility has room to process grapes, tanks for storage and a tasting room. The winery still offers music on weekend nights, come sip wine and listen to local musicians. They will also continue promoting local artists as well as their different arts programs where people create art projects in the winery. Watch for them to grow even more. This winery has quite a reputation for their quirky Passion Fruit/habanero wine. You must try it! Sure it’s just for fun; you can find other serious wines with grapes from Northern California: Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are plenty of sparkling, white and rose wines also. Currently the tasting room is open 12PM-8PM Monday through Thursday, 12PM-10PM Friday and Saturday and 12PM-5PM on Sunday. For current events go to:

If you’re researching urban wineries, San Diego has a newly formed urban winery alliance. Currently eight urban wineries are part of the alliance.

Robin Dohrn-Simpson Freelance Writer