Taste of Wine: Temecula Valley wines revisited

Taste of Wine: Temecula Valley wines revisited
Michael Rennie operates the premium winery Leoness in Temecula Valley. Photo by Frank Mangio

It’s always been a source of pride for me that I have been on the smart side of planning my week or my month and being where I want to be at any given event.  For the past seven years, I have annually been at the Temecula Valley Winegrowers’ CRUSH event.

But this year I will miss it, due to the dreaded double booking that we, who are in the business of attending events, fear.

CRUSH is the best gathering of wineries in one location you can ever attend, with an almost 100 percent winery attendance record.

This year it’s at Wiens Family Cellars and their expansive lawn, Sept. 19 from 7 to 10 p.m.  It promises 100-plus wines to taste with food samplings provided by local wineries, restaurants and caterers. Tickets are $85 each; with VIP special benefit tickets $110. The number to call for advance RSVP is (800) 801-9463.

If there was a Temecula Valley Vintners Hall of Fame, Michael Rennie of Leoness Cellars might easily be at the top.

A long-time farmer of produce in the valley, Rennie turned to growing wine grapes in the early ‘90s and supplied a lot of the wineries in that decade.  He and partner Gary Winder created Leoness Cellars in 2002.  The name means, “Village of Dreams.”

Rennie’s dream was to create nothing less than world-class wines.

“We were making more grapes than we could sell, so we set up Leoness and eventually hired winemaker Tim Kramer to put more focus on our Rhone Valley wines,” he said.

“Most of our good quality scores in competition have been with the Rhone varietals like Syrah and Viognier. This is a great growing area and can stand up to any in the state.  Leoness has 125,000 visitors come through.

“We keep our wines handcrafted with small, high quality production and the best French oak barrels.  No supermarket sales; only high end restaurants and direct sales at the winery.”

Rennie continued, “I was told I was crazy to place a premium price on our best wines.  Now, we are selling out of vintages and there are no openings in our premium wine club.  It is a huge success.”

Other significant Rennie achievements include the Temecula Valley Collective, a “crush facility” where many wineries in this area got their start and continue to use its vital equipment to get their brands going without huge capital expenses.

Now Rennie is collaborating on the purchase of the Van Roekel Winery also recently known as La Cereza.  It will open in December as Avensole, with emphasis on French wines.  Leoness will hold a Harvest Celebration Aug. 28 from 6 to 10 p.m., with dinner and dancing.  Tickets are $95; less for club members.  Call (951) 302-7601.


Robert Renzoni has Temecula’s Little Italy

The aroma and taste of our beloved Italy is in every corner of Robert Renzoni Winery and Mama Rosa’s Trattoria, on the De Portola Trail in Temecula Wine Country, a six-mile collection of 10 wineries.

Fred Renzoni playfully promotes Robert Renzoni Marinara Sauce and a 2012 Sangiovese at the vineyard in Temecula. Photo by Frank Mangio

Fred Renzoni playfully promotes Robert Renzoni Marinara Sauce and a 2012 Sangiovese at the vineyard in Temecula. Photo by Frank Mangio

You must discover this slice of Italy, for Italian wines and Italian food specialties.  Fred and Robert Renzoni are a rare combination of father and son carrying on the family tradition of wine and food since 1886. Robert examined every square foot of this authentic Italian villa, night and day, while it was built

And he’s the same way with his Mama Rosa’s restaurant.  His bread is delivered daily from New Jersey. The Tre Salami Pizza is a piece of culinary artistry. Three types of salami are shipped from Italy:  Calabrase Picante, Margarita Pepperoni and Soppresata Parmigiano.

Ah, perfetto!  Also, I want you to try the Short Rib Tortelacci al Gorganzola with a Super Tuscan Fiori di Fano wine, 2012.  It’s a Brunello Sangiovese clone and was my TASTE OF WINE Wine of the month for August.  With four kinds of pizza, three salads, five sandwiches and three pastas, figure a week’s worth of eating, at least.  See robertrenzonivineyards.com.


Wine Bytes

Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo is hosting a beer vs. wine event Aug. 24 at 6 p.m.  Check it out at the barrelroomsd.com.

The wines of Australia are at Winesellar and Brasserie Aug. 26 from 4 to 9 p.m. in Sorrento Valley. Cost is $15.  Call (858) 538-5884.

Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley presents its monthly wine dinner; this time it’s Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. with Starmont wines from Napa Valley. Call (858) 538-5884.

Steve Tyrell comes to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Aug. 30 with a concert at 7 p.m.  Smooth Sinatra sounds.  Tickets at granddelmar.com.

Tuscany Italian Restaurant and Piano Lounge in La Costa brings you sultry singer Rebecca Jade Aug. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. Call for details at (760) 929-8111.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.  Follow him on Facebook.


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