Stuart Cellars Cabernet Franc barrelMark Strand once said “The future is always beginning now.” Marshall Stuart would likely agree. On Saturday July 30th from 6:30 – 10:00 pm, Stuart Cellars will host its 7th Annual Futures Barrel Tasting. Marshall says there will be 10 barrels lined up, each containing an as yet unreleased vintage. One of the wines I tasted when we visited was the 2010 Viognier which would normally be offered, but since it’s already in bottle, there will be other wines to sample, each paired with food prepared by Chef Michael Cragg from Temecula Catering.

The futures event gives people the chance to taste the wines before they’re bottled and to purchase them in advance at a discounted price. Those familiar with Stuart Cellars’ wines will see how the individual components of their flagship Tatria blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) are shaping up as well as the two other varietals in Long Valley Red, Petit Verdot and Malbec. If you’ve never done a barrel tasting before, you’ll discover what a wine tastes like before it’s deemed ready to bottle by the winemaker. After bottling, it will rest a bit longer before being released to the public.

I have attended several events catered by Chef Michael Cragg and he clearly knows what he’s doing in the kitchen. The menu for this event reads like a gourmand’s dream: sous vide skirt steak with chimicurri sauce and mushroom risotto, pork tenderloin marinated in Stuart Cellars Merlot with au jus and roasted potatoes, sundried tomato and mozzarella filled chicken legs marinated in orange juice and Stuart Cellars Chardonnay roasted to perfection with lemon and orange zest, roasted sweet beet salad, assorted truffles – toasted coconut, walnuts, powdered sugar and finally Stuart Cellars White Port and orange sorbet with fresh citrus segments and strawberry coulis. To top it all off, the Mark Sage Band will be performing throughout the evening.

Marshall Stuart

Marshall Stuart

Things are busy at the winery. They’re wrapping up “Shakespeare In The Vines”, with Hamlet being presented Friday and Saturday evenings. Beginning July 29th, Sip Into Sunset resumes every Friday through September. $20 covers live music, a gourmet Italian meal and two glasses of wine.

I tasted several wines during my visit and it’s clear to me Marshall hasn’t lost his touch. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and reminiscent of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. The 2010 White Merlot surprised me because I didn’t expect to like it. Instead I was rewarded with a big nose and a wine that was fruit forward but not overly sweet. Only 125 acres of Lagrein grapes are planted in California and Marshall has claim to 10 of those acres. The ’07 Lagrein displays what a special grape this is. The ’08 Lopez Ranch Zinfandel has been entered into the California Zinfandel Championship Competiton. It’s a nuanced Zin, not overly jammy, but well balanced and displayed great fruit.

Stuart CellarsThe Futures Barrel Tasting is $60 per person for wine club members and $70 for non-members. Attendees will get a 50% discount on futures purchased. Reservations are required. Call (951) 676-6414 or visit Stuart Cellars at 33515 Rancho California Road in Temecula.