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16 Midweek, “Made-in-Temecula” Discoveries and More in Temecula Valley

Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:00 PM

In Downtown, Old Town Temecula

1-Temecula Olive Oil Company

Taste and learn at the (complimentary daily) olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tasting bar - actually, intriguing and informative, Temecula Olive Oil Company mini-classes in food ideas. The olive oil is sustainably grown, 100% California, 100% extra virgin - so fresh, pure, and flavorful - and like the balsamic vinegars, is available in variety of signature, varietals, flavors, and blends.

Very popular are Temecula Olive Oil Company's seasonal flavors and limited editions. Look for olive oils like White Truffle, Hickory Smoked, Citrus Reserve (made with fresh blood oranges), Fajita Frenzy (fresh limes), Picante Pepper (jalapeños); and balsamic vinegars like Vanilla & Fig; Honey Balsamic; and Bianco Pomegranate.

The motto here: "may olive your dreams come true" and so it is with Temecula Olive Oil signature items including bath and body products like olive butter for skin, lotion sticks, lotion bars, olive soap and lip balm. Shop also for olive wood giftware and recycled, olive-oil-bottle-glass jewelry. Must-buys to enjoy back at the hotel are a fresh baguette and a bottle of "Just Dip It."

2-Old Town Spice Merchants

Recycled, 100-year-old barn beams support the shelves laden with fine herbs, spices, sea salts, blends, and teas at Old Town Spice Merchants. Among signature, locally created blends are Sicilian (for pasta, pizza), Fiesta (for chile), Fiery Harissa (for meats, rice, soups, sauces), Maharajah Curry, and local, culinary celebrity Chef Dave's Barbecue Rub.

Also look for local-signature soup mixes like Wine Country Fagioli, and Temecula Chile; grinder-blends like Sicilian Sea Salt, and Gourmet Grinder Blend; and signature-teas like Old Town Thin Mint, Spiced Mint, and Spearmint Sunset. Think twice before leaving the shop without purchasing the amazing Vanilla Sugar.

3-Sweet Lumpy's BBQ

Sweet Lumpy's BBQ is Old Town Temecula's famous, authentic, barbecue establishment popular for its flavorful ribs, tri-tip, brisket, and chicken. Sweet Lumpy's savory, proprietary-recipe barbecue sauce with its signature hint-of-citrus is available for purchase only-at-the-restaurant in 16-ounce jars. quot;original" is slightly sweet; quot;spicy," very spicy.

4-Old Town Root Beer Company

Well-loved and much touted as "best-I-ever-had," is the original, family recipe for uniquely good, old-fashioned root beer that is one of the main attractions at Old Town Root Beer Company. The dark-amber soft drink - available in 12-ounce bottles, 4-packs, and 6-packs - boasts distinctive flavor from natural, wildflower honey and has character likened to a sarsaparilla. The quaint and popular shop also stocks a crazy variety of some 300 varieties of pops and sodas including novelty flavors like "bacon" and "peanut-butter-and-jelly."

5-Old Town Sweet Shop

Among Old Town Temecula's revered artisans are Old Town Sweet Shop's chocolatiers and candy-makers. Free samples of the fresh, flavorful fudge made with all-natural ingredients are a delightful temptation. The collection of always-available flavors includes chocolate, chocolate-walnut, rocky-road, butter-finger, snicker-doodle, key-lime, maple-nut, dulce-de-leche, and chewy-praline.

Joining chocolate covered strawberries in the well-appointed display cases are a variety of hand-dipped chocolates. Select from milk- or dark-chocolate almond, pecan, and cashew turtles; milk- or dark-chocolate covered bacon; and milk-chocolate covered pringles.

Fresh caramel apples made by dipping crunchy, golden delicious apples in the finest of caramel are also among the shop's sweet treats. Choose from old-fashioned plain caramel, caramel with peanuts, apple-pie, chewy praline, rocky road, and reeses. Also found within the store: an incredible selection of retro candy.

6-Robin's Nest Desserts

Graciously charming with the specialty of baking memorable, southern-style desserts from scratch, Robin's Nest is "where life is sweet" in Old Town Temecula. Enjoy fresh dessert and coffee, and purchase an armful of pies to take back home. The pecan pie is wonderfully rich; the sweet potato, truly lovely; and the pumpkin, one-of-the-best. More? The lemon bars are zesty and delicious.

7-Temecula Lavender Company

Step into Temecula Lavender Company for handcrafted, pure-ingredient, quality, small-batch products inspired by the herb of peace, purification, sleep, and longevity. The friendly boutique features locally grown and produced, pure, natural, and healthful lavender products for the bath, body, and home.

Temecula Lavender's bath and body products range from bath salts, bubble bath, bar soap, and hand soap, to body scrub, body butter, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, and body veil, as well as aromatic tub tea. Candles, essential oils, and sachets are sensory comforts for the home; and lavender pepper is a wonderful spice blend for culinary use on eggs, meat, salads.

8-Amari

Specializing in bath and body products, Amari is one of Old Town Temecula's newest artisan boutiques. The locally crafted, vegetable soaps include scents like sandalwood, orange blossom, lemon, rose, "razzmatazz" (black raspberry), and "misty" (with tuber rose and musk). Amari also features foaming milk bubble bath (gardenia, lavender, kiwi, eucalyptus-mint, and others); body butters made with sunflowers; as well as mineral mud products, bath salts, and salt scrubs.

9-Old California Lavender

Seek out organically grown, locally made Old California Lavender at Harmony, an emporium of items for home and life. Hand lotions and oils are made and scented with soothing lavender. There are also lavender pet products: pet-refresher spray, shampoo, and hot-spot cream.

In Uptown Temecula

10-Black Market Brewing Company

Acclaimed for high quality, handcrafted, national and international award-winning beers, Black Market Brewing Company is a small-production brewery with a tasting room popular for its variety of ales. The golden-amber Rye IPA showcases bold American hops with the extra flavor-dimension of rye malt. The Bavarian-style Dunkelweizen is a moderately dark, unfiltered, wheat beer that is fruity and spicy, with yeast character and a malty richness. Seasonal brews include beers like summer's Contraband (hoppy, toasty, refreshingly malty yet hearty) and autumn's Black Hole Sun (a Russian-style Imperial Stout).

11-E.A.T. Marketplace

Champions of the local artisan food movement, E.A.T. Café is a farm-to-plate eatery featuring locally foraged and handcrafted breakfast items, lunch and dinners to-go. Also on-site is E.A.T. Marketplace offering locally artisan-created foods.

E.A.T. Markeplace features its own signature, jarred, pickled green beans, waxed beans, squash, carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini. Also showcased are items like Terra Bella Ranch walnuts and dried apricots; beekeepers, Miklovich Family raw honey; Simply Salsa fresh salsas (like mango, chile verde, extreme heat, Sicilian) and tortilla chips; Maureen's gourmet pepper jam; Lil' Miss cupcakes in eclectic flavors like lemonade, root beer float, and s'mores; and Monica's true Parisian-artisan macarons.

In Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country

Temecula Valley is considered to be the only major American Viticulture Area (AVA) in Southern California, with the first vineyards planted by mission padres in 1820. Over the last decade, the number of wineries in Temecula Valley Southern California Wine County has doubled. Improvements in viticultural practices, winemaking techniques, and understanding of Temecula's unique terroir have elevated the overall quality of wines produced in the region. Most of the approximately 40 wineries are open daily and many have received top honors at more than a dozen major wine competitions - including hundreds of Gold, Double-Gold, and Best-in-Class awards in 2012 alone. As a result, Temecula Valley has become widely known as Southern California's premiere winemaking region. Popular varietals include Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Viognier, Zinfandel, and others.

12-Familiar Favorites

There's always something new - even at Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country established wineries. These long-time favorites provide a taste of Temecula Valley history along with great wines: Briar Rose, Callaway, Keyways, Maurice Car'rie, Mount Palomar, Thornton, Van Roekel.

13-Red, Red Wine

When interests are more about red, less about white, some or all of these wineries merit a visit and wine tasting. While white wines are on the menu, it's all about big reds at these Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country wineries: Bel Vino, Doffo, Foot Path, Lumiere, Palumbo, Wiens.

14-Something for Everyone

If the search is for a grand selection of varietals, head to these Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country wineries. Each offers a large selection of both red and white wines - sure to yield a favorite at each winery: Falkner, Gershon Bachus, Leoness, Lorimar, Miramonte, Monte de Oro, Oak Mountain, South Coast, Wilson Creek.

15-Mediterranean, Temecula-Style

These Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country wineries tend to favor the varietals and flavors of French, Italian, and Spanish wines. That influence prevails almost solely at Churon, Cougar, Danza del Sol, Europa Village, Ponte, Robert Renzoni.

16-Sparkling

Sparkling wines are always a hit for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July) and make any occasion celebratory (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, as well as Sunday brunch, picnics, midweek dinners). South Coast, Thornton, and Wilson Creek are the most popular Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country sparkling producers. Oak Mountain has just started to produce a sparkler in-house and Danza del Sol makes a delicious Blanc de Blanc.

All information believed accurate but subject to change.

Visit Temecula Valley, the region's official tourism marketing organization and resource for visitors is online at VisitTemcula.org; on Facebook, "Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country"; and on Twitter @Visit_Temecula. Temecula Valley Visitors Center in Downtown, Old Town Temecula (Third Street and Mercedes, adjacent Temecula Civic Center) is open 7 days. For visitor information and assistance, call 888/363-2852 or 951/491-6085.

Comprising 35 wineries and more than 60 wine growers, Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association is a nonprofit regional organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the quality wines and wine grapes grown in Temecula Valley and South Coast appellations. Officially established in 1984, Temecula AVA consists of 33,000 acres, of which approximately 1,300 acres are currently planted to commercial vineyards. Temecula Valley is known as Southern California's Wine Country.

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