Wine aficionado’s name returns to greatness

A little more than 40 years ago, a dynamic businessman named Ely Callaway started up a winery in Temecula with his name on the building. Callaway Vineyard and Winery was born. His heart was really in golf and the equipment that makes the sport work, but he also loved premium wines and found in the Temecula area, the perfect spot to start a winery. 
It was a 1,600-foot plateau on what would be the entrance to Temecula Wine Country.  He ignored so-called experts who said the area would never produce premium wine and went about promoting the region. Ely Callaway sold the winery in 1981 and went on to fame and fortune in golf equipment, and a succession of corporate owners ruled Callaway Winery and produced boring wine.
Now in the hands of the Linn Family of San Diego, the passion and quality have come back and the Ely Callaway legacy continues.
Much of the credit is given to the executive chef of the winery’s Meritage Restaurant, Michael Henry; and their winemaker Craig Larson, a Canadian with a passion for old world wines.
Henry, a world traveler, developed an old world style with a farmer’s approach, insisting on the freshest ingredients available. The day I sampled the eclectic menu, Henry was in an Italian mood and the result was a delicious combination of Shaved Prosciutto Flatbread with Zucchini, Fennel, Baby Tomato and Basil for openers. Then we moved into the Pan Roasted Organic Chicken Cutlet, and finished with the Veal, Beef and Ricotta Meatball Parmesan with Rigatoni “Agli Olio,” Capers and Arugula. 
Craig Larson, the newest winemaker for Callaway, got right to the point. “I am a lover of the French Rhone Valley varietal, especially southern Rhone like the Chateau du Pape district that offers Syrah, Grenache and Cincault,” he said. “They do more blending and get more flavors with fruit-forward wine.” Larsen is unique as a winemaker. He earned a master sommelier certification and was wine director at the world-renowned Ritz-Carlton Resort in Laguna Niguel, before resuming wine making in Washington prior to coming to Callaway. “I want all grapes to be estate grapes,” he declared. “We have harvested and bottled Mouvedre and will be planting Grenache, Cincault and Rousanne. We need to get to know what this soil can do. We have produced less, so the quality can be the best.”
In a recent column, I wrote about the beautiful 2008 Viognier coming out of Callaway, with its tropical, sensuous pleasures. It’s what you can expect from the new Callaway.  Learn more at callawaywinery.com.
Sniffing around the Temecula wine scene
An old seafaring phrase is that a higher tide raises all boats; and so it is that Temecula Wine Country is producing much better wine from many wineries these days. 
I first met Marcelo Doffo more than a month ago at the most recent wine country event, the World of Wine Barrel Tasting. I like a lot of things about my job but right up there on top is the private tastings of ultra premium varietals that are “under the table.” Doffo had some real treasures. His Italian-Argentinian heritage oozed Old World. 
 His outdoor courtyard, part of the 15 acres tucked away in wine country, has a wood-burning oven and grill for gatherings, while classical music plays in the vineyard to “soothe the grapes.”
Wines to try at Doffo include 2009 Malbec, 2009 Zinfandel, 2006 Tiarella Blend and a vintage Merlot that goes for $300. if there are any bottles left. See doffowines.com.
The new Europa Village has opened its doors, opening a new era in wineries in Temecula. The owners envision a muti-cultural French, Spanish and Italian setting with buildings for shops, wine tasting, events and gracious service. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located near Callaway. Visit europavillage.com for details.
A guided walking tour of Old Town Temecula Tasting Rooms is now available through an Apple iPhone application. It offers narrated accurate turning directions and insights to wine tasting in Old Town. It’s offered though GPSmyCity.com. For details, contact Linda Kissam at (951) 526-4540
Wine Bytes
— The Wine Rave, scheduled for April 28, has been moved forward to June 23 from 7 to 10 p.m. at FLUXX nightclub downtown San Diego. Call (619) 312-1212 for details.
— Il Fornaio in the Del Mar Plaza has the next Festa Regionale now to Wed. May 15.  This time the region of Abruzzo is saluted. Entrees from this district are presented, along with native wines. For an RSVP, call 1-888-ITALIAN.
— Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido is doing a Mothers Day Champagne and Cupcakes event from 2 to 4 p.m. May 7, including Blanc de Blanc and Rose’ for $10 per person. Call (760) 745-1200 for details.
— Opolo Wines from Paso Robles are the featured varietals at the Wine Encounter in Hillcrest 7 to 9 p.m. May 10. Light appetizers included. Cost is $18. Call (619) 543-WINE.
— SAGE Grill in Encinitas has a Franciscan wine dinner May 16 starting with a reception at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP and get details call (760) 943-7243.
— The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas is the site for Wine Spectator’s Grand Wine Tour 2011 from 7 to 10 p.m. May 14. More than 200 of the world’s finest wines will be poured.  Light buffet and free Riedel glass included.  See grandtour.winespectator.com.

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