About a year or so ago, a new winery emerged at an out-of-the-way location in Temecula Wine Country, operated by a husband and wife team Dorian and Les Linkogle. They called their winery Briar Rose. Since opening its doors, this fascinating winery has made great strides in leaping forward with lovely, quality wines in small batches that command respect in the premium market.
I asked Les if he was comfortable with the description of Briar Rose as a cult winery, with a different, contrarian approach to making and presenting his wines.
“Oh yes,” he responded. “We are very different and like to feel we are like those smaller, premium boutique wineries in Napa. We follow our palate! Sure, in areas like PH and alcohol level we follow the rules, but in all the other dynamics of winemaking, we want wines with their own personality and characteristics. I’ve been making wine 12 years now and have found that great wines take a lot of work. They have to be handcrafted with the highest quality grapes and the best barrels. I use my own methods which can be contrary to anyone else in the valley,” he said confidently.
“I do straight varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot, which no one else around here touches, Cab Franc, some Malbec and Sangiovese,” Les said. His small batch, barrel-enhanced Cabs are what are turning heads in the wine world. Les and Dorian brought their wines by invitation to a White House Library of Congress dinner for world leaders, where they got to meet President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, including a 1997 Cab that sells for $350 a bottle. They have poured wines at their European cottage-style tasting room for Jay Leno and other wine-wise celebrities who have caught on to the special qualities of Briar Rose wines.
Not one to rest, Les is constantly creating. “I’m working on a wine lager made with beer yeast that actually has a head on it, with 12 percent alcohol. It’s possibly going into sports stadiums.” He also has a white wine that combines Viognier grapes with lemon skins that he calls Citronier. It’s an estate wine harvested in 2007, and he advises drinking it with ice. It’s available for $20. His cabs start at $46 for a 2004.
The winery is on 23 acres with 18 acres of vineyards and is open for tasting by appointment only with 14 varietals. As Dorian says, “It’s not just a wine tasting at Briar Rose, it’s a wine experience.” Call (951) 308-1098 or visit www.briarrosewinery.com for details.
Salerno Winery of Ramona now selling in COSTCO
Cheers for Salerno Winery in Ramona, run by Herman and Rose Salerno and their General Manager Angelo Abril as they have their wines in most Costco locations in San Diego County. Herman, a trained opera singer from Italy and a winemaker of many years, is now appearing at Costco on selected dates, signing bottles and promoting his lovely Petite Sirah, Barbera, blends and ports.
Salerno Winery also has a closeout special on the beautiful 2004 Inspiration, a gold medal winner of petite sirah and ruby cab that is being deeply discounted at 50 percent off the retail price for a limited time only. Call Angelo at (760) 504-1274 for orders of six bottles or more. Visit www.salernowinery.com for details.
— North County Wine Company in San Marcos is pouring “Nothing But Racy Blends” on Nov. 15, including five hearty wines from Napa, Lake County, Chile, Sonoma and Argentina. Six wines for $10. Call (760) 744-2119 for details.
— Falkner Winery in Temecula is holding a Wine Appreciation class from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15. George Myers, the in-house sommelier, is doing the teaching. Cost is $45 per person. Call (951) 676-8231 for details.
— The Wine Loft in Carlsbad is serving Wines for Thanksgiving at its Nov. 16 tasting. From 3 to 6 p.m., enjoy a 10 percent discount on wines you’ve tasted that you wish to purchase. The fee is $20. Call (760) 944-1412 for details.
— Wine Street in Carlsbad is planning an adventure in Spanish wines from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 with new releases and special guest Rory McMahon of Adventures in Wine. There is a $15 fee. Call (760) 431-8455 for details.
— Eli’s Wine & Food in the Del Mar Highlands Center opens premium champagnes for tasting from 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 15. The lineup includes Dom Perignon 2000, Krug Cuvee, Veuve Cliquot and more. The fee is $20. Call Eli’s at (858) 481-2323 for details.
— Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido has a Cakebread Cellars tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cab and Merlot. The cost it $25 per person in advance and $30 at the door. Call (760) 745-1200, ext. 228 for details.
— Meet Delia Peju of Peju Wines in Napa at Vino 100 in San Marcos on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 from 5 to 9 p.m. Her great wines will be tasted for a $15 fee. Call (760) 591-9113 for details.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His columns can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com. He is one of the top five wine commentators on the web. Reach him at email@example.com.