Despite overcast skies and storms bringing rain, the crowds flocked to Old Town Temecula for the fifth annual Taste of Temecula Valley, hosted by the Temecula Education Foundation.
Thousands braved the chilly, wet weather not just sample local beer, wine, and restaurants but to offer support for the TEF in their mission to provide curriculum support for area teachers.
“It’s the foundation four, Mother Nature one,” said Barbara Burkett, Media Coordinator for the TEF. “Supporters of our cause came out for the VIP dinner and concert on Friday night, and all day Saturday.”
The rain-or-shine event may have been put to the test this weekend, but clouds parted for the Friday night opener. White-peaked tents surrounded the fountain area at town square filled with vendors offering bite sized portions for a mere $2 per ticket, and larger, full meal sized ticket items from $6 to $8.
Visitors were afforded glow-in-the-dark martini glasses or cups to add to the Friday night festivities. The beer and wine tents packed early with tastings available from Black Market Brewery, Refuge Brewery, and other microbrews while Wilson Creek Winery and Majorca Vineyards both offered samples of select vintages. A boutique family winery, Majorca poured their 2012 Cabernet Franc, a velvet, complex wine with long, lingering dark fruit finish. This Cab Franc was as described, drinkable now, and tannins to hold it ready in the bottle for several years. Look for exciting things from Majorca Vineyards in months and years to come.
With Friday night’s opening act by Darren Pritchard and Friends, classic rock played from the main stage, showcasing the fenced VIP seating, and a buffet set up Pechanga Style, brought by Executive Chef Duane Owen and a team of chefs.
For the non-VIPs, the choice was yours. Around the tasting circle, Bluewater Grill served up ceviche delectable enough to draw a line, it was Earth Bistro who had it right for the non-VIPs looking for dinner. Their Classic Margarita Pizza was a perfect bite-sized portion enough to have diners forking over more tickets for another taste. Fresh Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, on a garlic oil base made this a perfect treat for any palate, vegetarian or not. Earth Bistro also offered appetizer portions of vegan stuffed mushrooms, laden with veggies and a flavor explosion. Our highlight was the Dixie cup-sized sample of soup. Hitting the cold night just right, this peppery root veggie soup was the perfect complement for the evening as the wind began to blow.
For our next taste, the Backyard Bottle Shop partnered with Temecula Valley Cheese Company for a professional beer and cheese pairing. With two types of Mason Jar Brewing Company on draft and complimenting cheeses, our hosts discussed the finer points of the German Alt Diese Bier and the Black Rye Swamp Water. Swamp Water won, and was paired with Muslin Wrapped Cheddar from Newton St. Cyres, England. The dark yet nutty beer together with the sharpness of the cheddar was a savory delight to the senses as the concert wound down and Islanders Polynesian Luau Dancers took the stage.
VIP diners plated heavy portions of crab legs while DJ Nate Scott and Timmy D. Daniels emceed the night. As promised, VIP ticket holders enjoyed guaranteed front row seat for the concert, as well as a catered buffet style dinner exclusively from Pechanga’s Executive Chef Duane Owen, while awaiting the main performing act of Temecula’s own Lee Koch.
“Lee Koch is Temecula’s famous ‘singing baker’ and the crowd was lined up waiting for him,” Burkett said.
Koch, who auditioned for “The Voice” and made it to the semi-finals, was the lead entertainment for the evening.
The outdoor dining tables with displays of roses from the Temecula Rose Society’s rose garden graced tables at the VIP dining area, while cocktails were served by Wilson Creek Winery and Refuge Brewery. The VIP dining was a huge hit, according to Burkett.
“Pechanga truly pulled out all of the stops for our Taste of Temecula Valley event,” Burkett said.
Bountiful portions giant king crab legs, shrimp, tables of cheeses and vegetables, fruit, and more, allowed visitors to select their own dinner for the evening.
Heat lamps kept everyone warm in the table area, but visitors who came for the
“festival seating” arrived suitably bundled up for the night that hovered in the mid-50s.
Saturday’s crowd was light but consistent as the weather soured, raining solid for the final three hours of the event. Children enjoyed the Jolly Jumpers, as well as the pony rides, petting zoo, and trackless train. Popular stops for Saturday included Rustico’s, Broken Yolk with their decadent fruit-topped waffles, and Papasan’s mini donuts. Ryan Brothers also drew lines with their flavored coffees, according to Burkett.
Musical acts included the alternative indie rock band INK, Guilty Conscience, and Gary Seiler and the Coast Riders to end the night.
“We saw lots of adults riding the train as well,” she said. “All in all, we had a decent crowd, lines at the popular tents, and our exit reviews showed all had a fun time for a good cause.”
The TEF disseminates funds to Temecula Valley Unified School District teachers to promote fine arts, sciences, and other areas where cutbacks have led the education experience into decline.
“We were happy to be able to help local Temecula school, Abby Reinke Elementary, with their Odyssey of the Mind team that is headed to the World competition this summer,” Burkett said.
Founding member Mark Katan has watched this event grow from an idea that helped build the Temecula Community Recreation Center to providing regularly for teachers and school groups who need a helping hand. “We wouldn’t be here without Mark’s ongoing vision,” Burkett stated.
Watch for other ways to support the Temecula Educator’s Foundation, at www.tvfee.org