On a late sun- drenched Saturday afternoon inside a breathtaking Temecula Wine County estate, a tall handsome man gave the Occasional Wine Council a white and rose-colored gift from the Ramona Valley AVA … a chance to taste eight Eagles Nest Winery wines. The man was Roger Paige (Roger), the operations manager for the winery. The gift was two whites (2010 Sav Blanc 2010 Viognier), four reds (2099 Tempranillo, 2007 Cab,2007 Syrah, 2009 Zinfandel) and two dessert style wines (Picpoul Blanc, Cabernet) . The recipients were six members of a Temecula based wine council eager to learn more about San Diego area wines.
Located approximately 35 miles NE of San Diego, the Ramona Valley American Viticultural Area was approved in January 2006 based on its unique microclimate, terroir, and history for grape. The 89,000 acre area covers 139 square miles of primarily rural area surrounding the unincorporated town of Ramona, California, located in north central San Diego County. The area is home to more than 50 commercial vineyards covering over 60 acres, and 16 bonded wineries. The area is growing with new vineyards and wineries popping up each year. The Ramona Valley is the country’s 162nd area to be granted a designation. Ramona Valley is only the second AVA to be designated in San Diego County and the third in Southern California It is within the large South Coast AVA which covers all of Southern California south of the Santa Barbara area. The other two existing AVAs in the South Coast region are the San Pasqual Valley (San Diego County – designated in 1981) and the better known Temecula Valley (Riverside County – designated in 1986).
Eagles Nest Winery is family owned and operated by Dennis and Julie Grimes. It is a small-lot winery situated on 10 acres of land with an annual production of around 1,400 cases. Dennis and Julie Grimes are the owners. Denis is the winemaker and Julie is the vineyard manager. Roger guided the council through the eight-bottle, two- hour tasting, sharing his insights into the “field to bottle” process. Each course was paired with a complementary dish, as this Council feels wine showcases its finer points best with food. At the end of the tasting the group ranks the wines.
Overall the group was impressed with all of the wines, finding the whites featured light fruit and smooth mouthfeel. The reds presented with a distinctly raspberry earthy nose. The desert wines were elegant, not overly sweet, and nicely crafted. I liked the wines well enough to ask Roger to bring back some different varietals in the fall for an additional tasting review.
I urge you to make a trip to the winery to taste for yourself. Reservations are required.
Here are some of the group’s top favorites. You’ll notice that there was a winner in each of three categories: red, white and dessert.
First Place: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – $22, 13% Alcohol. Light citrus fruit and some herbal notes. A nice food friendly wine. Perfect with artichoke pizza and orzo pasta salad with breaded chicken tenders. This was also my favorite wines of the night.
Second Place: 2008 Picpoul Blanc Dessert Wine – $32, 17.4% alcohol. A medal winner, this one enticed us with its lovely honeysuckle, clover and tropical fruits notes. We loved it with Stilton cheese infused with apricot pieces, as well as walnuts and macaroon cookies.
Third Place: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Dessert Wine – $34, 21.2% Alcohol. Lovely notes of chocolate, dark ripe fruit and plum. Excellent with chocolate anything.
Fourth Place: 2010 South Coast Viognier – $22, 13.6% Alcohol. This is an unique Viognier that goes well with both main dishes and desserts. The peach, honey and buttery notes melted in our mouth. Gratifyingly smooth and juicy it paired well with a spicy shrimp and pineapple kabob and some dainty put powerful Barons Market chocolate turtles.
Firth Place: 2009 South Coast Zinfandel – $26, 14.5% alcohol. Spicy raspberry, pinch of pepper, lavender, honey and some light tannins showed us this winery is capable of making some admirable red wines. Pair it with roast beef for a memorable match.