I love being outdoors on a summer night. I love the warm mugginess after a hot July day, a day where the world seems to come to a standstill because of the excessive heat, but relents and encourages us to come out and play in the evening. The trees and flowers give off their musky scents, the westerly breeze sends the mercury dipping, but not too low – it’s still quite warm enough to wear shorts or a sundress. Add some fine wine, tasty food pairings, a smooth band providing cool Latin rhythms, and a cozy courtyard filled with good friends, and you have what I would call a perfect summer night.
Stuart Cellars Winery provided such a party this past weekend on a gorgeous, warm evening, as they hosted their Futures Barrel Tasting Bash. Guests were privy to sampling 11 new, yet-to-be-released wines straight out of their respective barrels. All of them, save for the 2008 Zinfandel and the 2007 Port, are 2009 vintages. Young grapes, yes, but that’s the point of wine “futures” – the opportunity to buy Marshall Stuart’s newest wines at an amazing discount (50% off each case) before they’re bottled and ready to be sold to the general public at their normal price. Tonight’s event was a bit like insider stock trading – the main difference being that one could sample the product before buying.
The barrel tastings ranged from the Viognier (well-balanced, slightly grape-fruity finish) to the Estate Chardonnay (oaky, round, smooth) to the Cabernet Franc (bolder than the other reds) to the Zinfandel (fruit-forward, enticing, rich – a real crowd pleaser) to the 2009 Field Blend (a great patio wine – semi-sweet, refreshing). These were perhaps my favorite wines of the evening, but I (and others) also enjoyed the Merlot, White Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Malbec, and the Port.
We also enjoyed a delicious menu of foods paired with the individual wines. The Viognier, for example, paired quite nicely with the Shrimp & Noodle Salad as did the Malbec & Merlot with the Cheese Meat Loaf. And the Zinfandel tasted especially nice next to the Slow Cooked Baby Back Ribs. For dessert, the Port and the Field Blend were complimented by the Red Wine Chocolate Cake and the Summer Lemon & Thyme Sorbet.
Throughout the evening, L.A. Acoustic provided mellow, jazzy, Latin-influenced music as the guests made their way from barrel to their table back to another barrel. So many wines to sample! It was a constant stream of happy wine enthusiasts and foodies walking from station to station, stopping only to discuss the newest wines with each other in between bites of Grilled Fennel Garlic Chicken and Roasted Roast Beef. But once everyone was satisfied, they took to the dance floor and cool evening began to heat up.
Sitting at my table, talking with new friends about our favorite wines of the evening, I couldn’t help but take a moment to stop and look around – at those laughing and sipping by the barrels, the couples dancing, the candescent stars, and the glowing moon. I was struck by the friendly vibe, the staff’s excellent service, and how everyone was, well, smiling. It simply added up another perfect summer night in Temecula’s Wine Country.