Thursday, September 10, 2009

I was so great, they wanted another!

This weekend, Thatbrother celebrated another birthday (they're getting to be a habit with him). This year it's been very important to us to spend birthdays together as a family, starting with Thatmom's birthday only 3 weeks after Thatdad's death. Even if it's only a dinner, we make it a point to be together. Since Thatbrother's birthday fell on a holiday weekend, he lucked out and got more than a dinner. The original plan was a family trip to Boston. Then, because Thatbrother has become very interested in wine the past few years, Napa was suggested. When it appeared that work wouldn't really allow him a long weekend, we decided on an overnight trip - to Santa Barbara. Except we decided this about 2 weeks before his birthday, and have you tried to book a hotel in Santa Barbara for 5 people on Labor Day weekend for one night? Let me tell you, it's not a pretty sight.

And so, this weekend we ended up in Temecula, an easy hour drive for both Thatboy and I, as well as Thatbrother, UDubb, and Thatmom.

But there's more to Temecula than old westerny antique stores! There's also this:

Temecula is home to one of Southern California's wine regions! (And the closest one to us). The wineries are lined up for miles on two different rows, one right after another - making it very easy to spend a day winery hopping. And that's exactly what we did.

Thatbrother was equally impressed with the dogs as he was with the wines - he made friends with each and every one we met.

A super quick rundown of the wineries we visited:

South Coast - I had been warned that the wine here wasn't the greatest and it was more of a tourist trap than anything else, but we wanted to get both the "big wine" feel as well as some of the smaller, family based wineries. Despite low expectations, everyone had a fantastic time here. The guy that helped with our tastings - Chris - was fantastic! He was really able to help everyone find their favorite and was so knowledgeable about the wines. Thatbrother even joined the wine club here.

Palumbo - Fantastic reds. This is a suuuuuuuper small place, and you definitely get a "family run" vibe here. The woman who helped us out was great, and when we had an issue with the bottle we purchased leaking in the hot Temecula sun, she even traded us out for a new non-leaky one. Turns out those natural corks are not friends of heated bottles in cars.

Thorton - Another big winery, but we didn't like it as much as South Coast. They're known for their champagne, but Thatboy and I found the champagne tour at Korbel in Sonoma to be WAY better.

Falkner - No one was impressed here. The winery was packed, hot, and the pourers looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. And none of the wines we tried were anything to write home about.

Hart - This was one of our favorite experiences. Bigger than Palumbo, but with that same, small, family vibe. The wines were excellent (at least the ones we tried), and the pourers were helpful, friendly, and informative. They knew their wines and insured we tried "the best."

Our original plan was to have dinner in Temecula, but after eating and drinking all day, none of us were especially hungry so instead we parted ways and each headed home.

The next day, Thatboy and I had our own celebration - in Thatbrother's honor of course. We hit up my favorite Farmer's Market and used the good stuff to make a three course summer meal! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle didn't fail me as it had lately - of the three dishes, two were fantastic. We weren't wholly impressed by the cucumber yogurt soup. The grilled vegetable panini, although not panini-like in the loosest definition of the word was a great light dinner. The "cherry" sorbet quickly became a blackberry sorbet when I found some at the farmer's market. Thatboy declared it one of the best desserts I've ever made - and there isn't even chocolate in it! He ate almost the whole container.

Cucumber Yogurt Soup (recipe found at

Local ingredients used:

Cucumbers (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

Grilled Vegetable Panini (recipe found at

Local Ingredients Used:

Summer Squash (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

Eggplant (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

Rosemary (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

Thyme (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

French Bread (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

Mozzarella (Doesn't get any more local than me making my own right? I've got it down to a science....and 1% milk!)

"Cherry" Sorbet (recipe found at

Local Ingredients Used:

Blackberries (Hillcrest Farmer's Market)

- note: If you're going to use blackberries I HIGHLY recommend straining the seeds after you're done with the blender. I did, and Thatboy kept commenting on how perfect the texture was.


  1. We did Temecula for Blondie's b-day and went to 4 completely different wineries. :) I'm glad you had a good time.

    That sorbet looks heavenly.

  2. Ooooh that sorbet looks so good.

  3. Visiting wineries has to be one of my favourite past times Thatgirl. Love this menu too, so packed full of flavour!!!

  4. Lovely and entertaining to read. The sorbet recipe, pls, friend!!!

  5. Sounds like a fantastic way to celebrate a birthday, and even better that he could drag it out for a little bit extra. :)

  6. I wish you had come to Boston! But it sounds like you had a great trip :)