Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Temecula Wine Country and Farmer's Market Salad with Roasted Garlic and Sweet Cherry Vinaigrette

Temecula Wine Country, CA
 Every once in a while someone crosses your path and makes an impression.  More often than not, the impressions we remember are not as favorable as we would like... I think that's why when someone actually make you feel good, for no special reason, it's that much more special.  

Last Saturday my husband and I were lucky enough to meet a few special people as we carved out an afternoon together in the Temecula Wine Country.  As I stood at the Oak Mountain Winery Counter wondering which wine to taste, I heard a voice over my shoulder say "Try the Cab Franc".  With the description reading  "a nose of tamarind, black berry, pine needle and allspice", I wasn't quite sure, but took the advice and watched as the gorgeous burgundy liquid filled the bottom of my glass.  A swirl and a sniff led me to believe that I had made the right choice and a sip assured me that I had indeed chosen well! 

As I turned and thanked the voice, my husband and I struck up a conversation with John who ended up helping us plan our day.  John lives in the valley and is a plethora of information on the ins and outs of the many wineries along the trail as well as the main town.  His recommendations were spot on and not only did we enjoy our time with him at Oak Mountain, we ended up bumping into him at his next recommendation, Danza Del Sol, a new winery that is sure to be up and coming.   

But before we left Oak Maountain, following John's advice and that of Debbie, the pourer, I took advantage of the Avocado Oil tasting table set up in the tasting room.  After numerous tastes and mixings of the special oils which included Roasted Garlic, Blood Orange, Chili, Key Lime, and Tuscan Herb, and just as many flavored vinegars, I chose the Roasted Garlic and Sweet Cherry Vinegar combo to take home.  

At our next stop, Danza Del Sol, we had the pleasure of meeting John one more time, and again following his advice, we enjoyed a flavorful flight of reds.  He highly recommended the Cab, which my husband completely agreed with, while I slightly preferred the Merlot.  John and the pourer filled us in on the new ownership of the winery and the improvements that had been done to the beautiful tasting room.  After another quarter hour of easy conversation (which included a lunch spot tip!) John told us that he was going to be on his way.  As we thanked him for a very enjoyable afternoon he gave me a quick hug and with a smile, pressed a bottle of the Merlot I had so enjoyed into my hands saying, "This is for you," and sauntered out the door.  So John... thank you for the Merlot!  I'm am enjoying it in my Danza Del Sol glass as I type and as promised, we are thinking of you!

Scallion dipping sauce with focaccia
On down the road, John's next suggestion for our last tasting of the day as well as an extraordinarily tasty lunch at Ponte Winery brought us to Hilary, a most delightful girl serving us in the restaurant .  The reds again were robust and gratifying, and the meal, beginning with the focaccia and a most amazing Scallion Dipping Sauce followed by a shared Grilled Romaine Salad, delectable Halibut for me and a tasty pulled pork for my husband was beyond delicious.  Hilary (thankfully!) highly recommended the creamy Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee which was topped with fresh berries and we smiled with pleasure at the end of our day.  Hilary's first wedding anniversary is this month, and we would like to send our best wishes her and her husband (we think he made quite a catch!).

Zinfandel grapes with my Zinfandel!

As we headed home with full bellies, relaxed minds, and bags full of wine, oils, vinegars and 3 Scallion Dipping Sauces, we commented on the lovely people who had crossed our path this wonderful day.  I don't know if we will ever see John or Hilary again, but the little things they did on this delightful day will remain with us, and as I am doing right this minute, every time I pull out my Danza Del Sol glass, I will smile and think of John, the man from Temecula with so much valuable information and a wonderful smile.

Farmer's Market Salad with Oak Mountain Roasted Garlic Oil and Sweet Cherry Vinaigrette 

A trip to our local Farmer's Market provided a treasure of early fall (late summer?) vegetables!  Heirloom tomatoes so red they don't look real, sweet onions grown in local fields, avocados fresh from the tree and an amazing red lettuce mixed together to create an fantastic side salad topped with our Temecula Vinaigrette.   These amazing avocado oils and/or flavored vinegars are available on the Oak Mountain Web Site (I have not received any incentive from Oak Mountain or any of the wineries in this post, my opinions are just that, my opinions!).

2 Tbs of your favorite oil (I used the Roasted Garlic)
1 1/2 Tbs of your favorite vinegar (I used Sweet Cherry)
1 small dollop of spicy mustard
small clove of garlic, minced (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Greens, torn
Heirloom tomatoes, chopped
sweet onions, chopped or sliced into rounds
avocado, diced
Sprinkle of toasted, salted peppitas 
Sprinkle of Crumbled Feta or Blue cheese

Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic together in small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Tear the lettuce into a large bowl and layer with tomatoes, onions, avocado and any other of your favorite salad ingredients.  Pour desired amount of the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss lightly to coat.  Top with a sprinkle of peppitas and your favorite cheese, crumbled feta or gorgonzola and serve. 


  1. Kim, this sounds like such a lovely way to spend the day :o) Your salad looks fantastic and the oil and vinegar are making my mouth water! I thoroughly enjoyed this post :o)

  2. Sounds like a wonderful, wonderful day! The wines and the oils all sound amazing.

  3. We've toured the Temecula wine region several times but missed a couple that you mentioned, I will add them to the list for next time! I definitely need to find that oil tasting!

  4. The vinaigrette sounds incredible! I need to try that out!

  5. This recipe looks great, and I also love love love going up to Temecula. I am actually a wine club member at Ponte, so I already know how wonderful their wine (and their food!) is. Looks like you had an amazing day!!! :)

  6. Look at those beautiful grapes, very nice pictures. Sounds like a wonderful time.

  7. How wonderful it is when people are so friendly. What a great day you must have had. That salad looks lovely...I haven't ever had sweet cherry vinegar. It sounds mighty tasty.

  8. Kim, what a great day! You seem like you had such a great time! Everything looks so tasty! Love the grape pictures!

  9. Sounds like a great wine country day. We were exploring in Sonoma this weekend and found some treasures as well.

  10. Getting recommendations from locals is the best way to find some truly hidden gems. My girlfriends and I go up north to Santa Ynez every year and always find something new from talking to someone that lives there.

    That cherry vinegar sounds divine btw!

  11. Sounds like you had a lovely time wine tasting! We really need to make a trip to wine country sometime in the near future! :) Your salad looks like a wonderful dish as well!

  12. I am sure you had a great time there. Your salad is so vivid and fresh.

  13. I would cherish a day like that too! I do hope my love Elisabeth is doing well! This is the perfect time of year for a trip to the wineries. Thank you for giving me an idea, I must try some of those oils!

  14. I have found that "wine" people are a concentration of the nicest things we hope for in the world. I don't know if it is the alcohol (not really) or an heightened appreciation of tasting, pairing and places that make then more tuned in, but I love it. I try to emulate that openess, caring and friendship in my own wine adventures.

    You had fun, met cool new people and have an awesome story to share. Mission accomplished!


  15. Wow. First of all your photos are stunning. I always love coming to your blog. The day you described, sounds like you had a wonderful time. Oh, and so I don't forget... LOVE the vinaigrette recipe!

  16. Susi, thanks! We did indeed have a wonderful, stress free day!

    Carolyn, My husband laughed as we took home more oils than we did wine!

    Tiffany, can't wait to see your reviews from Temecula!

    Coley, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

    Cilantro, we haven't gone over to Temecula spur of the moment before, but it was really a quick drive and easy to get to. We will definitely be doing it more often!

    Gitte, thanks!

    Kristen, I was concerned that the cherry vinegar would be too sweet (I'm not a real sweet fan...), but it wasn't. Amazingly flavorful!

    Ravie, thanks! It was a really nice day.

    Judy, I miss my Sonoma exploration days...

    My Man... Yep, we love talking to someone local. We really got some wonderful tips this time!

    Evan, thank you! I hope you get your weekend soon too!

    Katerina, thank you! We most certainly did!

    Gina, Elizabeth is doing wonderfully! She is becoming a bit of a handful, but is so cute it can't be an issue! I'm loving different oils right now, this place was so fun to try!

    Jason, I couldn't have said it better myself and fully agree with you. Mission accomplished!

    BusyMom, Thank you so much! Your lovely compliments have absolutely made my day! This has become our "go to" vinaigrette. Love the different flavors with the different oils and vinegars. Thanks!

  17. Your salad looks so inviting and wonderful. There's just something about the freshness of a vinegar and oil vinaigrette that beat out even lemon juice ones. Thank you for sharing it.


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