Monday, July 16, 2012

dining in a vineyard

Have you ever seen Chef Michael Chiarello's show on The Food Network called Easy Entertaining?  
Michael Chiarello is an award-winning chef and owner of critically acclaimed Bottega restaurant in the Napa Valley. He made his mark by combining his Southern Italian roots with the distinctive hallmarks of Napa Valley living.  If there is such a thing as Napa Style dining and entertaining, he is it!  

I enjoy watching Easy Entertaining because of Chef Chiarello's easy-going nature and fresh, family style recipes. My favorite episodes are the ones where he's entertaining guests in his patio and vineyard.  

There's just something magical about it . . . a long vintage farmhouse table covered in natural linen, paired with mis-match chairs . . . and surrounded by ever-running trellises draped in gorgeous green foliage and clusters of grapes. And the best part . . . the food! Large, gorgeous stoneware bowls filled with fresh and vibrant dishes, passed guest to guest . . . and enjoyed in a unique and beautiful setting.  (Ok, so when's the next train to Napa!?!)
Dining at a Winery & Vineyard doesn't just have to be about the wine. Restaurants found at Winery's are also known for their incredibly fresh menus. Their mission is to support seasonal, sustainable, and most importantly, local growers and food purveyors.  And the product . . . beautiful, fresh, and exceptional-tasting food.  

So when my husband asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted to do for my birthday, it took me all of 15 seconds to say, "I want to dine in a vineyard!" He was surprised since we don't drink wine (or alcohol), but after explaining my desire to experience Napa Style dining, he said "Well, ok then!"  
We decided to stay somewhat close to home, and ventured south to Temecula Valley.  

Nestled between rolling hills of vineyards in the heart of Temecula Valley's Wine Country, we spent the afternoon dining at Callaway Vineyard & Winery's Meritage Restaurant.  Perched atop one of the hills, Meritage offers terrace dining with stunning views. We dined on the lowest terrace, which was great, because we sat ground level with the vineyard.  

~ Meritage at Callaway ~

~ view of Meritage from adjacent hilltop ~

~ entrance to Meritage at Callaway ~

~ located at the entrance of the restaurant ~
~ beautiful ~

 ~ the view from our table ~

Meritage's Executive Chef Michael Henry released a new Spring inspired menu in April. He uses local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to produce the tapas, salads and entreés with a true artisan style and Mediterranean flair.  
I don't know about you, but I like to select NEW dishes that I've never had before when dining out with family and friends, especially when it's a special occasion. It makes the occasion that much more memorable.  So . . . for our afternoon at Meritage, we chose . . .  

Prime Natural Angus Hangar Steak 
with a peppercorn aioli sauce, Chimichurri, Market Vegetable & Steak Fries 

~ and ~
Pan-seared, then oven-baked sea bass, 
with a smoked paprika aioli sauce, market vegetables and steak fries  

We also enjoyed a unique beverage . . . ginger lemonade. It was a wonderful compliment to our meals, as it offered a light, fresh taste with a little bite.

And for dessert . . . Pistachio Cannolis and fresh berries!  


Our trip to Callaway Winery and Vineyard wouldn't have been complete without a leisurely stroll around the estate.  Here are a few of my favorite photos . . . 

~ yellow rose bushes lined many walkways ~

~ bright & beautiful flowers everywhere ~

~ hilltop adjacent to Meritage with 360 degree view ~ 

~ looking down towards the entrance of Callaway Winery & Vineyard ~

  ~ clusters of grapes ~

~ vineyard view from hilltop ~

We also visited their Shop . . . so many pretties!   
             I love this idea . . .
~ grapevine wreaths serve as plate chargers ~

This piece of art was seen on the wall behind the reception/cashier desk. The employees of Callaway made their logo using wine corks. It was large and quite stunning . . .  

I loved our afternoon get-away, and highly recommend grabbing your spouse, or a few friends, and visiting a Vineyard for its beautiful surroundings and inspired menus.  
For a little extra fun, we drove though Old Historic Downtown Temecula on our way home . . . and stopped into Old Town Root Beer Company. My husband is a huge fan of root beer, so this stop was great! Hundreds of bottles of root beer to choose from, as well as other nostalgia. We wrapped up our venture with a Root Beer Float made with Old Town Root Beer Company's very own brewed root beer!    

Thanks honey, for a delightful afternoon! 

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