The year 1969 is on the barrels as you enter Mount Palomar Winery, making it one of Temecula’s oldest wineries. It’s not easy to pass the test of time, but Mount Palomar has done so gracefully. Late last year, Annata (the word for vintage in Italian) Bistro and Bar opened to the public. Mount Palomar occupies 315 acres on Rancho California Road. Its tasting room is located in one of the original barrel rooms.With all of its history, change is afoot.
The biggest change you’ll notice is Annata. This lovely bistro features floor to ceiling windows that take advantage of the property’s sweeping vistas. Art from local artists is displayed on the walls and tables are adorned with centerpieces crafted by Erica, who was my server for lunch. Chef Joseph Luna developed the menu, and even though he thinks the term is cliché, its roots are farm to table. Everything is made from scratch, sauces are made with Mt. Palomar wines and local produce is used extensively, much of it grown on property. Lead bartender Erik Alvarez developed Annata’s signature cocktails and uses fresh-squeezed juices made with citrus from the property. The tomato juice in the bloody Marys is organic.
Open for lunch and dinner, small plates include Adobo pork belly with jicama peanut slaw, wild mushroom risotto and focaccia with tomato basil puree. Lunch entrees include the Palomar burger topped with horseradish cheddar, bacon, arugula and caramelized red onions. I enjoyed the Gyro on pita with fries and it was delicious. There are also house made soups, salads and flatbreads. The dinner menu is more extensive with items like miso glazed salmon, braised short ribs and pan-seared chicken breast. Signature cocktails include a Mount Palomar Rita, Sage Sation and a Blood Orange Mule. Annata is open seven days a week until at least 5:30 and offers dinner Friday and Saturday nights.
Wine pairings are suggested for each menu item. Winemaker James Rutherford is crafting the wines and among them are a few varietals unique in the valley, like Cinsaut Blanc, Casteletto Cortese and Charbono. He’s working on an Angelica sherry which he let me taste and I’m excited to see it when it’s released. His wines won 14 medals last year and have already received five more this year. The Cream Sherry is made in the winery’s outdoor solera, the only one in California and one of few, if any others, in the nation.
Mount Palomar is known for its spectacular weddings on its hilltop venue and weekend weddings are already booked through the end of this year. With the weather warming up, you can enjoy the spacious patio and enjoy live music Fridays beginning again in the spring. They also offer paint nights in the barrel room, with all painting supplies and a glass of wine included. Future plans are ambitious and include a resort. If you haven’t been to Mount Palomar lately, it’s time for you to pay them another visit. 33820 Rancho California Road in Temecula.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.