Mount Palomar’s Annata: great food, wine and cocktails
by Susan Montgomery
Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula Valley’s Wine Country offers guests a gourmet restaurant called Annata Bistro/Bar. (“Annata” means “vintage” in Italian.) Last fall, a group of writers from the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association visited Annata to sample its handcrafted cocktails and delicious, Mediterranean-focused menu items. It was a lovely day enhanced by the beautifully landscaped patio outside of the restaurant. The weather was cool so we ate inside; however, on a warmer day outside dining would have been heavenly.
The restaurant is spacious, stylish and inviting with floor length windows allowing guests picturesque views of the surrounding vineyards. We knew right away that this is a place to relax and enjoy a nice meal and good drinks with friends.
We were also impressed with the quality of the food we were served. We first enjoyed appetizers of very delicious homemade hummus, lamb and beef kabobs served with a tangy tzatziki sauce, and marinated olives.
We then ordered lunch entrees. Several of our members enjoyed steak and fries. They raved about the steak, which was perfectly cooked to order and topped with a savory mushroom and alfredo sauce. A flavorful truffle aioli was delectable for dipping French fries. Other guests ordered White Flatbread made with chicken, mozzarella, alfredo sauce, crispy onions and parmesan or a Green Flatbread accented with creamy pesto, spinach and mozzarella. I thoroughly enjoyed a crispy Caesar Salad with a light, zesty dressing. All these items are on the regular menu, plus many other appealing entrees, including vegetarian items.
Annata also has an enticing list of creative cocktails. On this particular day we savored a Pomegranate Martini (vodka, triple sec, housemade sweet and sour, fresh orange juice, and pomegranate puree), which had lovely fresh fruit flavors, and a luscious Ginger Crush Cocktail (muddled ginger, orange, gin, vanilla bean simple syrup, blood orange soda), which was refreshing and beautifully presented. All the fruit used in these delightful cocktails were grown right on the Mount Palomar estate.
How many wineries serve cocktails? Not many — and this makes Annata very special in the wine country. Annata serves lunch throughout the week and dinner Fridays through Sundays.
We couldn’t leave this winery without meeting the personable winemaker, James Rutherford, who gave us some wonderful tastings in the barrel room. Rutherford brings extensive experience and a family history of winemaking to his position at Mount Palomar where he oversees 25 grape varietals grown on the Mount Palomar estate.
A highlight of the winery’s wine production is its much celebrated Cream Sherry, a fortified sweet wine aged in whiskey barrels using the traditional outdoor Solera process—a methodical approach to mixing vintages over many years so that no barrel is ever drained and some of the earlier vintages always stay in the barrel. The developing sherry is baked and aged for at least five years. This unique process results in a dessert wine that is rich in caramel and hazelnut flavors. We have had some of this exquisite sherry aging in our wine cellar for several years and we just popped open a bottle for after dinner siipping. The result was outstanding.
About 10,000 cases of wine are produced annually at Mount Palomar and many of the 20 varietals can be enjoyed by visitors in the winery’s inviting tasting room, part of the original structure of the winery which opened its doors in 1969.
Mount Palomar has it all: a relaxing, charming setting; delicious lunch and dinner options with innovative cocktails; and, of course, splendid wine. For more information, visit the winery’s website at http://www.mountpalomarwinery.com/.
Photos with this article taken by Todd Montgomery.