Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dinner with a side of Salsa at Viva Vino

Originally, I thought it would be nice to have dinner at one of the wineries in Temecula, but while researching, I learned that the wineries usually only serve dinner on the weekends. Given that our wine tour was on a Thursday, I had to investigate other dinner plans. Those plans lead us to Old Town Temeclua, and Viva Vino. 

Viva Vino appeared to be a popular later in the evening hangout, so at 5pm on a random Thursday, we had the place to ourselves.  

Like just about everyone we encountered in California, our waiter was extremely nice and personable. 

The hardest part about Tapas, is making a decision, especially when you are hungry.  It’s hard not to say,

“We’ll take one of everything.”

The bacon wrapped chorizo and roasted beet salad arrived first.

The chorizo was good quality and was spicy without being overwhelmingly so.  The beet salad was fresh, with veggies that were chopped into little pieces, which I particularly like. The salad’s mint dressing was refreshing, and did a great job balancing out the smoky-meaty flavors of the bacon wrapped chorizo.

We almost always order patatas bravas when we see them on a menu. We like to compare. I was particularly intrigued by Viva Vino’s green chili verde sauce.  Usually patatas bravas are served with a spicy red sauce. 

The green sauce really gave the potatoes a kick, in a good way. It was more of a hit you spicy instead of the red sauce’s lingering spicy.  I also appreciated that Viva Vino serves their patatas bravas with a sprinkle of cotija cheese. They were quite good. I’m sad that they aren’t back home so I could eat them whenever I wanted.

The seared scallops that landed on our table had a citrus honey chili ginger sauce, which may sound like too many flavors going on, but it all blended very well together, and the scallops were cooked perfectly (somehow I missed taking a picture).

Of course if there are empanadas, we are eating them. Since we already had a chicken empanada on our trip, and since Shannon isn’t a big fan of crab, we chose the tri-tip beef empanada. Not only was this a serious helping of empanada, it came covered with an idazabal cheese sauce. You really can’t go wrong with cheese sauce. Empanada + Cheese sauce= yumminess.

There were only two dessert choices, and since Shannon wasn’t feeling dessert, I took the opportunity to order the rice pudding since it’s one of his least favorite desserts.
The rice pudding made a nice meal ending.  They didn’t over cinnamon it, and the rice had a great texture.  Not too mushy, but also not underdone.  There’s nothing worse than crunching on your rice pudding like grape nuts.  The dried cherries and homemade lemon infused whipped cream elevated it above your basic restaurant/diner rice pudding. 

We learned that Thursday is Salsa dancing night at Viva Vino.  We were of course a few hours too early for when the real fun began, but there were a few people getting a lesson so they could learn a couple of moves to show off later that night.   It was dinner with an unexpected show. 

I’m sure that the wineries serve some tasty vittles, but I’m glad we got the chance to eat at Viva Vino.  It ended up being a laid back, take your time and savor sort of meal, with delicious tapas, and an unexpected side of Salsa. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sipping Soda in Old Town Temecula

We had some spare time between our wine tour and dinner. Since the restaurant was located in Old Town Temecula, we decided to take a walk around.

Old Town Temecula is a shopping and dinning area.  

It's a mix of old

and new. 

Keeping with the Old Town feel, instead of paved sidewalks, you walk along a boardwalk. Be sure to wear proper footwear when visiting Old Town. 

We visited several shops, but our favorite was the Old Town Rootbeer Company. 

We aren't big soda drinkers, we reserve soda as a treat, and when we do have soda at home, we prefer to have what we call, "fancy soda." The Old Town Rootbeer company is an entire store filled with every possible soda you could imagine. It's fancy soda heaven. 

There were shelves and shelves filled with bottles. Some flavors were... interesting. 

I'm pretty adventurous where food and drinks are concerned, but I think I draw the line at a soda called Kitty Piddle, especially when the bottle advertises it as "totally gross." 

You can mix and match the sodas to build your own four pack, six pack, or case, or you can choose a bottle to open right then and there. 

There  are tables and chairs outside on the porch, so after choosing our sodas,

we pulled up a couple of seats and slowly sipped, watching the world go by until it was time for dinner. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Temecula-The Other Wine Tour-Part 2

There are plenty of wine tours available in Temecula, and some less expensive than Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tours, but I chose this specific tour for  two reasons. First, the intimate tour size seemed to emphasize appreciation for the wine.  Some of the larger group, less expensive tours, appeared to encourage a more party atmosphere. I read more than one story from couples who became unexpected guests at a boisterous, drunken, bachelorette party during their tour with other tour providers.  Now a boisterous party might be the type of tour you're seeking, I'm not dissing those tours at all, it's just not our scene.   

The second reason I chose Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tours, was for the jeep.  Along with wine tasting, the tour advertised a beautiful sweeping view of the valley.  I think I've mentioned before that we are fans of a good view.  

After lunch we piled into the jeep and set off through the valley, wind in our hair (well actually, per the tour's website/suggestion we wore hats, but you get the picture). 
Apparently Bob and Mary were unaware of the off-roading part of the tour, so it came as quite a surprise.  

The road to the view was definitely bumpy, 

and we did get to traverse some super fun hills that encouraged stomach butterflies, 

but I have a feeling that Julie might have toned down the usual thrill for Bob and Mary's sake.  We didn't mind, it was fun, and the view was what we were after.   

Our Jeep for the day
Though Julie said the view of the valley is even more spectacular on days when it isn't overcast, we still loved it in spite of the May grey weather. 

It was a little chilly at the top

We stopped at one last winery, Danza Del Sol, before our tour came to an end. 

The tasting room was the largest of the three, and they got points for providing snacks.  

Okay, I'm sure the oyster crackers were meant as palate cleansers between wines, but it didn't mean I was any less excited about a snack. 

Determined to come home with at least one white wine, we chose Danza Del Sol's Riesling. 

We were a little sad when our wine tour finally came to an end. The tour was fabulous, and has most likely ruined wine tastings back home for good, but even better than the scenery and the wonderful wines, were the great people, Julie, Bob, and Mary, that we had the pleasure of spending the day with. 

I can't really compare wine tours in Temecula as this was the only one we took, and I am sure that it wouldn't be that difficult to drive around to the wineries on your own if you wanted, but for us, I could not imagine experiencing Temecula Valley wineries any other way. Temecula Jeep and Wine Toursh was exciting, relaxing, and beautiful, and best of all, close to San Diego.

We're saving our California wines for a special occasion, and although we don't know when we will drink them, we will be sure to sip them out of our complimentary Temecula Jeep and Wine Tour glasses. 

Extra Note: The wine tour's website instructs you to bring a jacket and a hat.  You might think, I don't need those things, this is sunny California, but heed the warning. The open air jeep is a lot of fun, but it is breezy, and the extra altitude, especially during the May grey weather, made things a tad chilly. We were perfectly comfortable however in our  hats and jackets. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Temecula-The Other Wine Tour-Part 1

When people think California + Wine, they instantly think Napa Valley. Napa Valley however is an eight and a half hour drive from San Diego.  Still, we couldn't leave California without experiencing a wine tour, thus we discovered Temecula Valley. 

 Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tours'  red jeep arrived at Baron's Market at exactly 10 am.  Our tour guide Julie introduced herself. We liked her instantly. She was friendly, fashionable, filled with interesting information, and originally from the East Coast.  

Another couple soon arrived to join the wine tour.  Sometimes even better than the activities you do while traveling are the people you meet.  Bob and Mary were physically older, but extremely young at heart.  Usually wine tour guests take turns riding in the very back of the open air jeep. Being the younger couple on this trip, we had no problems climbing into and riding in the very back of the jeep for the whole tour, leaving Bob and Mary to sit in the easier to get into first set of back seats.

As we set out on our way with Julie at the wheel, Bob and Mary spoke about their travels, including some of the Temecula wineries they had already visited on past trips.  Julie remarked that their travels sounded exciting and Bob responded,

"At my age, watching a leaf fall off of a tree is exciting."  

I knew then, we were going to have fun with Bob and Mary. I also knew they were kindred spirits, because Mary and I both purposefully wore purple to theme our outfits with the wine tour.   

The Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tour included tastings at three wineries, lunch, and a little off roading in the jeep.

Now we have been to wineries before and have had wine tastings in New Jersey. California opened up a new world, showing us what wine tastings could be.  

Winery #1 Europa Village

Europa Village was our favorite of the three wineries we visited.

It had a vintage, casual, slightly hipster vibe.  The staff doing the pouring was funny and had a lot character.

I often like adding new jobs to the list of careers I think I could do. At each of the wineries we were given wine menus that included detailed, creative, clever descriptions of the wines available for sampling.  Think the J.Peterman catalog from Seinfeld but for wines. I'd take a sip of a wine and wonder, does this really taste like a blonde headed girl dancing in the rain in galoshes?

At each of the wineries we were able to sample six wines. Each winery gave us a little card to help keep track. One stamp for each wine.

In addition to having our favorite atmosphere, Europa Village also had our favorite wines of the day. They were the brightest, crispest, and the most vibrant. We decided that we would buy one wine from each winery to take home. At Europa Village we chose their, Sangiovesse, a kind of wine we had never had before, but have since become fans of. We loved Europa's wines so much, we still lament living in a state with stupid liquor laws that don't allow us to order wine through the mail. 

Julie told us that in Temecula Valley, instead of going to bars on the weekends, people hang out at wineries. They sample wines, perhaps purchase a full glass of their favorite, grab a really good cheese or other food, and enjoy the outdoor atmosphere the wineries provide.  

Yummy looking cheeses 
Europa Village Patio

 After sampling our wines, Julie took us on a little tour of the vineyard. She talked about the grapes and the wine making process. I loved how she was able to explain things in a very down to earth and concise way.

Perhaps one of the other things that made Europa Village our favorite, was Chloe the Vineyard Cat.  Chloe seemed quite content living on the vineyard.

One of our favorite parts of any tour is having someone to take pictures. Julie was a great photographer who wanted to make sure we came away with good shots.

Winery #2 Lorimar

We were so impressed by how much effort the wineries in California put into designing a place where you want to linger.  Lorimar's stone building was a beautiful piece of architecture both inside and out.

Being a little later in the day now, Lorimar was more jumping than Europa had been.  It's just as much fun watching other people take the first sip of wine as it is sipping it yourself.  Wineries can be good people watching.

The ladies pouring wine at Lorimar really hustle. 

Though we prefer white wines, we surprised ourselves by purchasing our second red wine of the day, a Cabernet Franc. 

While we sampled our wines, and racked up more stamps,

Julie gathered our lunch. We ate al fresco on Lorimar's patio while enjoying the vineyard's lovely views.

Fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella on fresh baked bread. 

In addition to the delicious sandwiches, the tour provided bottles of water, greatly welcomed after all of the wine we had thus far, and pop chips, which I did not know I loved until that day. 

During lunch, Bob and Mary regaled us with the story of their meeting. If I didn't already adore them, their story would have sealed the deal.  Both widowed, they met in a writing class. Mary wrote a piece about her love for wine, something that Bob also had an affinity for and thus a friendship began.  They have been companions, traveling and having adventures together ever since. 

Later during the tour, Julie joked that Bob had a radio voice. Low and behold, Bob had in fact been a broadcaster in California.  He was even at the opening day of Disneyland where he met Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan. Mary equally had some interesting stories, I'd happily watch documentaries on both of their lives. They certainly made up for the mostly silent, somewhat anti-social couple we were paired with during our Chichen Itza tour in Mexico.  

After stories, twelve wine samples, and with lunch consumed, it was time for a little off roading.