Living in California and drinking locally, alcohol-wise, is by no means difficult. From the world-famous wine regions in Northern California to the craft beer Mecca of San Diego County and a few other noteworthy sources of wine, beer and booze (SF's Anchor Distilling makes thoroughly interesting and much-lauded historic rye whiskeys and gin) scattered along the state's length, there's plenty to choose from. Its anyone's guess where the various grains and hops that go into the beer and booze come from, but the grapes which are crushed, fermented and aged for California wines are nearly always homegrown. But our closest wine producing region, Temecula, just over the Riverside County line--versus about 150 or more miles to reach Santa Barbara County wine country and other points north--doesn't rank among the greats with Napa and Sonoma counties or those places so often referred to as being just like Napa in the '70s (pre-Sideways Santa Barbara, Paso Robles). Not to be swayed by the hype, Stick a Fork in It picked up a few bottles of Temecula wines, both whites, from BevMo to try out for this week's Dueling Dishes . . . or Dueling Bottles, if you'd prefer.
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BevMo carries a number of Temecula wines--a handful of whites, a sparkling wine, a red or two--with price points ranging from under $10 to the $20-$25 range for the champagne and reds. We picked up a Chenin Blac from Maurice Carrie Winery and a Chardonnay from Calloway Cellar Selections, both hovering around $8. The Chenin Blanc smelled good, even tasted OK--all those nice, crisp and fruity notes and flavors of apple and citrus and whatnot, dry on the finish--but with a strong hit of booze to it and some generally off tastes to it, it was just like . . . well, just like what you would expect for six bucks. The handy tasting notes card at BevMo suggested it would make the perfect pairing for a turkey sandwich. A turkey sandwich? How often are wines recommended as pairing sandwiches? Maybe its just a warning to not get too excited about your bottom dollar Chenin Blanc. Granted, the wine wasn't tasted alongside a turkey sandwich, but it's hard to imagine that some deli meat, mayo and bread could elevate it all that much.
The Calloway Cellar Chardonnay was, by far, the superior wine: crisp acidity on the nose, the more tropical and oaky tastes of a typical California Chardonnay on the back end. Why are these dueling dishes such blowouts? Its not planned, I promise--we aren't playing favorites. Calloway has a wine here that shows you can have an interesting, well-balanced bottle of booze for less than $10. From Temecula.
Is this Temecula's decade? Will they be saying by 2020, its just like Paso Robles was in the '90s? Will an Alexander Payne contemporary base a film there? Brooklyn-based indie rock band The Dirty Projectors have written a song about the town--which I'm quite certain is the only such song about a town in Riverside County--so who knows? It could happen.