It seems that every year around this time the craziness of life ramps up to a whole new level. Our barely manageable “to-do” lists become downright overwhelmed with added tasks of decorating the house inside and out, mailing holiday greetings to everyone (hopefully we thought of everyone – yikes!) and buying presents for loved ones near and far. The holidays quickly begin to feel like just another item to check off our list and we lose sight of the spirit of Christmas. I submit that a perfect antidote to the parking lots, shops, lines, etc. does indeed exist: take time to gather with the ones you love. Eat, drink, reflect on the past and carry forward the holiday traditions that carry meaning for you.
Thanks to a wonderful evening out at Keyways Winery with some media friends, I am blessed to report that our tradition of drinking Temecula Valley wines with our holiday meals has expanded to include some new favorites.
We gathered early in the afternoon at Terri Pebley Delhamer’s lovely home above the winery. Terri holds the distinction of being Temecula Valley’s only female winery owner, and her gracious touches are evident throughout the property, tasting room and her warm and welcoming private home. We began the afternoon by greeting our peers and sipping on the newly released 2010 Riesling. This wonderful white is the first Keyways wine to be completely overseen by winemaker David Raffaele. Using warm fermentation, he was able to produce a lovely, light wine with elements of baked apple, cinnamon and pear. Priced at just $19.00 per bottle, this wine is a steal and paired beautifully with our first bite of the evening: Petit Chicken Alfredo in a pasta shell. The slightly sweet wine balanced with acidity was just the right note to counter the richness of the Alfredo: a delicious pairing.
Chef Volker Lutz designed the menu for our evening and Chef John Paul executed the dishes perfectly. Our next course was a Mini Lobster Roll with Citrus Aioli. I love lobster, but usually find a traditional lobster roll to be a bit rich. Our Chefs solved this problem by adding a good amount of lemon zest to the aioli along with a little scallion which gave it a nice bright flavor. David offered us the 2009 Roussanne with this bite and the fuller-bodied white was just perfect with the lobster. With a silky-mouth feel and notes of honey, fig and citrus peel, I could see serving this with something like Sweet Potato Soup or Crab Cakes as well. A wonderful choice for a holiday hors d’oeuvres party.
While we ate and enjoyed our wine, Terri shared with us a little of the winery’s history. Founded in 1989 by Carl Key, Keyways was one of the original wineries to establish Temecula Valley Wine Country. Terri bought the property in 2006 and, as a successful business woman, surrounded herself with experts and got down to the business of renovating the property. The result is wonderful wine, an inviting tasting room and a gorgeous event pavilion. The property is an ideal location for events and parties with indoor room for up to 150 and outdoor room for up to 400. Always a sold out event, the Valentine’s dinner will be over the top this year. With an “It’s Amore” theme and a huge surprise for the entertainment, Keyways promises an evening that has never been experienced before in the Temecula Valley.
Our next course was a Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Wild Rice and was accompanied by the 2009 Traditions. My favorite wine of the evening, the Traditions is perfectly suited for the holiday table and is available in the tasting room or online for $31.00. Made from 100% Merlot grapes grown in De Luz, this wine is rich with flavors of cherry and plum. The marine layer in De Luz allowed David to produce a wine that is slightly sweet without being excessively jammy, and as such it is very approachable. I personally had no appreciation for wine until I tried Merlot, and since then my palate has expanded considerably. Since Merlot was my “gateway” wine, I have a fondness for it and will be serving the 2009 Traditions a great deal in the days to come. Raffaele is particularly proud of this vintage and sees it as a rare opportunity to not only wow veteran wine drinkers, but educate new comers as well.
Our evening continued with a Greater Omaha Prime Rib Satay paired with the 2008 Territage. A fusion of Terri and Meritage, the name of this wine gives you a hint into the creative process at Keyways. Terri is heavily involved with the details of running a winery and loves the opportunity to be creative. The 2008 Territage is a lovely Bordeaux style wine with a bright ruby color, aromas of black fruit and tobacco, and delicious flavors of blackberry and mocha.
Our final course was a bite of Dulce de Leche Cheesecake served along side NV Creme Sherry. The carmel flavors of the cheesecake were perfectly enhanced by the warm, nutty elements, and surprising notes of tropical fruit, in the sherry. It is a perfect way to wrap up a cold winter evening by a warm fire.
Both Terri and David are wonderful storytellers, so the evening flew by. With tales of years past and visions of the future, they captured our attention and imagination. They gave us a hint of things to come, and we cannot wait to try the wines that David is working on now. We are also looking forward to the riding in the horse-drawn wagon through the vineyards blanketed with twinkling lights. Rides are available from 5 – 8 pm every Friday and Saturday through the 18th and I encourage you to add this and Keyways wine to your list of holiday traditions.