Grapevines burst into life over the past two weeks in Temecula’s Wine Country, and one vineyard celebrated the start of the winemaking season in a unique way.
South Coast Winery kicked off the spring with their 12th annual “Blessing of the Vines” event, which consisted of food, wine and a blessing. It took place from 4 to 7 p.m. on March 30 in the courtyard beneath the winery’s bell tower.
Father Tom Burdick of the San Bernardino Catholic Dioceses blessed the vines during a short precession that started at the beginning of the event. Then people enjoyed a buffet-style meal accompanied by the sounds of jazz musician Louie Cruz Beltran.
The event is one of two that happens on a yearly basis, according to marketing director Crystal Magon. She said the first of the two events is the blessing of the vines before they make fruit; that blessing takes place once every spring.
The second of the two blessings occurs in the fall, when grapes are harvested and utilized to make wine. Magon said that the grapes themselves are blessed and that the event is marked by a wine stomp, where guests crush some of the wine grapes with their feet.
“This is an event that is very important; it was part of our owner’s very beginning,” Magon said. “We’ve been open for 10 years yet this is our 12th blessing, so even before South Coast came to be we were blessing our grapes well in advance.”
Guests could participate in a number of different games at the event such as a wine bottle ring toss, ladder ball or giant jenga. The events were designed to appeal to the younger individuals in attendance, according to Magon.
But there was plenty of adult fun to be had at the event as well, with a wine bar and various vender booths set up. Guests could try a selection of different olive oils at the Temecula Olive Oil Company’s booth or food from the Extraordinary Artisan’s Table (E.A.T.) restaurant.
Guests had the choice of a number of different vintages such as South Coast’s 2010 Chardonnay Sans Chêne, a wine aged in stainless steel rather than traditional oak barrels. The stainless steel was utilized because it was supposed to give the wine a fresher, drier finish, according to winery officials.
Other wines available were a 2011 Riesling, a dessert wine; a 2012 Tempranillo, a fruity rosé; a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, a velvety dark red wine; and a 2009 Merlot, a light and fruity red wine.
The two men responsible for those wines were also there. John McPherson and Javier Flores have been working with each other since South Coast’s earliest days in late 2002.
The two have been the driving force behind multiple award-winning wines. Their 2009 Carter Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was the only American wine to win a gold medal in a French competition and their wines have kept South Coast the California State Winery of the Year for three years in a row.
The men said the secret to their success lies in how seriously they take the wine-making process. They haven’t missed a single bottling since they started working at the winery because they want to make sure the end-product they’ve worked on is of optimal quality before attaching their name to it, according to Flores.
McPherson agreed. He said that South Coast has a commitment to quality and that he and Flores observe that commitment by taking all the wines – even lighter, fruitier renditions like Merlot – seriously.
But the biggest part of creating quality wines is starting with good fruit and that’s something McPherson said South Coast Winery Owner Jim Carter has provided.
“He’s taken it as a personal goal to give Javier and I the very best fruit that he can grow, and from there it’s downhill,” McPherson said. “If you’ve got great fruit, you’ve got great wine.”
McPherson and Flores will make wines once again this fall once the growing season of grapes has concluded, but that season is just now starting and has commenced with the “Blessing of the Vines.”