Tis the season to be jolly! And there are many ways to be jolly this holiday season at Thornton Winery in the Temecula Valley Wine Country where you can savor the bounty and joy of the season in so many ways. Now is the time to celebrate the season with good friends as you enjoy Café Champagne’s special seasonal menu items and wonderful wines. The winery is only about an hour from San Diego or many places in Orange County.
Recently, a group of food and wine tasting aficionados had the opportunity to sample some of the holiday specialties that were on Café Champagne’s Thanksgiving menu and that reflect the creative and delectable items that are on the Café’s menu in December. Each of these dishes was presented by Thornton’s extraordinary Executive Chef, Steve Pickell, who has spearheaded the innovative and delicious cuisine at Thornton for more than 18 years.
Recently, Chef Pickell and Café Champagne were recognized by Inland Empire Magazine in their “Best of” contest as “Best Restaurant” and “Best Splurge Restaurant” in the Inland Empire. The Chef and restaurant have won numerous awards over the years and this most recent recognition emphasizes that Chef Pickell continues to build on his reputation as a topnotch chef. The Chef says he is always looking for new ways to create dishes that will please his guests. It’s no wonder that many of Thornton’s guests are regulars who have made visiting Thornton Winery an ongoing holiday tradition with family and friends.
At the recent sampling, guests enjoyed crusty dungeness crab cakes drizzled with meyer lemon aioli and a tomato orange confit. This was a unique and delicious combination, which was ideally paired with a very popular Thornton wine—the crispy Rhone-style 2011 Viognier. The second course was a refreshing honey pear and arugula salad that was paired with 2010 Thorny’s Coat White, a full-bodied, well-balanced blend of Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and other whites that was a perfect match for the lovely salad.
Next the group savored flavorful barbecued salmon topped with an orange marmalade. The Chef matched this dish with Thornton’s 2010 Suite, a rich red blend that enhanced this spicy-sweet dish. Finally the highlight of the samplings was a salted caramel butterscotch bread pudding, which many tasters actually described as the best bread pudding they have ever tasted. The salty sweet combination was heavenly. This was paired with a luscious caramel and cherry kiss red wine that was truly delightful with the pudding.
Café Champagne will be open on Christmas Day from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with another wonderful menu of mouth-watering choices. Starters on that day include:
• Butternut squash bisque
• Crab cakes
• Café Champagne salad
• Smoked Caesar salad
• Smoked trout and endive salad
The tempting entrée choices include:
• Lobster cioppino with scallops and shrimp simmered in a spicy tomato broth
• Duck two ways—leg confit and pan roasted breast, finished with Swiss chard, wild mushrooms, wild rice and a cherry balsamic reduction
• Holiday smoked ham with caramelized brussel sprouts, sweet potato pecan gratin, honey mustard glaze and roasted pearl onion
• Prime rib of beef with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, French beans, and honey roasted carrots
• Grilled filet mignon, creamed baby spinach, roasted leeks and shallots, crisp potatoes and bernaise sauce
There’s no need to slave over the stove on Christmas Day when you can let Chef Pickell do the cooking for you. The only challenge will be which dishes to choose. And to enhance the spirit of Christmas Day even further, there will be free flowing champagne for $10 per person.
As if great food were not enough, guests luxuriate in the joyful holiday atmosphere at Thornton Winery. Festive decorations festoon the tasting lounge, Café Champagne and the gift shop, which is full of whimsical wine-themed ornaments and other unique gifts for holiday decorating and gift-giving. Of course, at Thornton there are also extensive wine and champagne choices to enrich your holiday meals and celebrations.
As an added bonus beyond the food and wine, the Thornton Winery staff is outstanding, always friendly and accommodating to whatever questions you may have or whatever your dietary needs may be. Whether staff members are in the gift shop, the tasting lounge, or Café Champagne, it is obvious that their first and foremost goal is to please their guests. This graciousness reflects the hospitable culture created by the Thornton family over the many years they have owned this special winery.
So why not launch the holiday season with a champagne or wine tasting in Thornton’s tasting lounge while you listen to happy Christmas tunes and contemplate what you are going to purchase in the adjoining gift shop. Then adjourn to Café Champagne for a wonderful meal. Thornton Winery is open every day of the year. For reservations, please call 951-699-0099 or visit the winery’s website for more information.