Although I live in the Temecula Valley, I was still excited to see it as a visitor. The group of writers from IFWTWA came from across the country to take in many of the magnificent opportunities afforded by this magnificent area. Monday morning I woke up at the Temecula Creek Inn, got out of bed and looked out the window to the golf course. The rooms at TCI are spacious and comfortable and renovations have already begun to provide a more rustic look and feel as well as new furnishings and flat screen TVs in each room. Our group gathered in the lobby and we walked along the golf course to the historic 180 year old Stone House for breakfast.
I learned that the Luiseño Indians called the area Temecula, meaning “sun shining through the sea mist.” It was a misty morning as we walked towards our breakfast destination. Indeed the sun did shine through the mist later. The Stonehouse is breathtaking. Two tables laden with fresh food awaited us. So did a roaring fire. There were fresh fruits and pastries, juices, coffee, two kinds of quiche and more. The Stonehouse is home to weddings, business meetings and private events throughout the year and is an idyllic and unforgettable setting.
After spending the mid-morning getting caught up on odds and ends, we boarded the shuttle and took off for Old Town Temecula and Bailys Fine Dining. Chris Baily was there to greet us and lead us upstairs where he gave us an overview of wine tasting and prepared us for our next task: Iron Chef – Temecula! We were divided into two teams and given the task of preparing an appetizer and an entrée. My team was given shrimp to use as the focal point of an appetizer. The other team was tasked with creating a chicken entrée. We also had to make certain our dish paired well with the wine we were given. Our team had the Baily Montage, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon while our competitors were given a Chardonnay to pair with our chicken. Each team did all the prep work, slicing, chopping, selecting ingredients and handing it off to the chefs with a clear explanation of our vision. We came up with shrimp sautéed in olive oil, butter, garlic and white wine served with a trio of dipping sauces; Jalapeño Lime Cilantro, Soy Ginger and a Dijon Mustard Mayonnaise sauce. Our opponents created “Chicken Ali Baba”. I was impressed by the dishes both teams created and the teamwork that went into preparing each dish. Bailys is an Old Town fixture and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.
Back we headed to our home away from home at the Temecula Creek Inn to meet Chef Sal Giuliano and then enjoy a “Winemaker Dinner” prepared by Chef with wines selected by Robert Renzoni of Robert Renzoni Vineyards. Sal is quick witted, affable and has a clear passion for food. He has been Executive Chef at the Temet Grill at TCI for the past five years. He changes his menu according to season, shops at the Farmers Market weekly and has seen the amount of fish ordered increase by leaps and bounds over the years. He considers himself a great conductor of a great orchestra.
Having eaten at Bailys not all that long ago, we needed to brace ourselves for another onslaught of food. Sal didn’t disappoint. Shrimp Fra Diavlo. Braciole. Panna Cotta. A sip of aged Limoncello. While plate after plate of delicious treats appeared in front of us, Robert Renzoni told us stories of his family’s amazing history in the wine industry. His wines are crafted in the Mediterranean style, with lower alcohol than most California wines and a lovely smoothness. After a leisurely three hour dinner, it was time for “Glow Ball”, night time golf with glow in the dark balls.
Our first full day had come to an end. Tuesday’s agenda included visits to the Temecula Valley Olive Oil Company Ranch, lunch and wine tasting at Ponte Winery topped off with a tour of the vineyards, barbeque dinner and wine tasting at Hart Family Winery.