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Wine 101: Training Your Palate

Posted on September 29, 2017 in Wine 101, Wine Musings

Dry. Crisp. Acidic. Herbal. Floral. Astringent. Velvety. Balanced. Fruity. Sweet.

These are all common terms (among several others) that we hear when wine tasting. But what does that all mean? Who imagines what velvet feels like in their mouth, and of course its fruity it’s made from grapes. Right?

Well here at Wilson Creek we like to make wine experiences approachable and fun, so read on to see how these flavors and scents come to life within a good glass of wine.


Let’s start with a few of the main components of wine: Acidity, Tannin, Sugar, and Fruit. The more confident you feel about identifying these components, the more enjoyable the wine tasting experience becomes.


For wine, the term “acidity” is used to describe the tart or citrusy taste being recognized on the palate. This component is more common in white wines than it is in reds. Acid is important because it keeps the wine fresh and lively. It has a cleansing effect which makes it great for pairing with food.

Some descriptive words you will run into while tasting are: crisp, citrusy, lively, bright, vitality, tart.

Tip: In wine jargon, “sour” means spoiled or tastes like vinegar. So try to stay away from describing wine as “sour” if what you really mean one of the descriptive words above.

Train your palate : Combine freshly squeezed lemon juice into a tiny glass of water (you want mostly lemon juice to get the desired sensation). Take a sip and focus on where in your mouth you feel the acidity. It should mostly be felt in the back of your mouth at the base of your cheeks. Notice the way your mouth begins to water and tingle? This same sensation is what happens when tasting a wine higher in acidity.

Try it with wine : Our Grenache Blanc has a light golden hue with a vibrant herbaceous, floral and citrus nose. On the palate the acidity is quick to show but cascades into flavors of citrus zest, honeydew melon and peach. The firm acidity makes this a good food pairing wine. Examples of great acidity could also be found in our sparkling wines as well.


This one can be tricky to understand, as it is more something we feel rather than taste. Tannin is a component found in the skins, seeds, and stems of all grapes; as well as the oak barrels the wine is aged in. It’s most noticeable as a drying sensation in your mouth between your cheeks and gums. Tannin is recognized more in red wines, and help to provide structure and power. However, too much tannin can make wine taste bitter and overly astringent.

Some descriptive words include: astringent, dry, grippy, coarse

Tip: Pair wine high in tannin with heavier dishes. The tannin in wine helps break down proteins and fats.

Train your palate : Make yourself some overly-steeped plain black tea. Take a sip and concentrate on the drying sensation around your mouth, mostly between your cheeks and gums. This is the same sensation tannin creates in wine.

Try it with wine Our 2014 WS Syrah would be great for identifying tannin. On the palate you will find earthiness of leather followed by berry highlights of black currant and blackberries. The tannins are well-integrated, giving a full mouth feel and a long finish. Pairs great with anything off the grill, like BBQ Ribs and Rib-eye Steak.


Aromas and tastes of sugar, fruit, herbs, spices, and oak are easier concepts to grasp when wine tasting. We are already so familiar with these flavors.

Sugar : The higher the residual sugar (RS) the sweeter the wine will be. This can be identified by a pleasant, slippery sort of mouth feel.

Fruit : The fruit-like quality of a wine can be recognized by smell and taste. This doesn’t mean you will only detect the actual grapes, but also scents of citrus and berries. Other nature-driven aromas or tastes include floral, herbal, and grassy (specifically in white wines).

Oak : As for oak, this component in wine is caused by it being matured or fermented in oak barrels. Oak from different sources (i.e., French or American) will inflict different characteristics on the wine. In general, oak maturation gives aromas and flavors of butter, toffee, caramel, vanilla, and spice.

Train your palate : Experiment with strawberries, bananas, blackberries, lemons herbs, spices, flowers, and oak chips. Crush the fruit and herbs, then place these ingredients in separate wine glasses with a little bit of water. Sniff each glass to smell its aroma. Similar scents are what you experience when smelling the wine in your glass before sipping.

Try it with wine : Our White Cabernet is great for identifying fruit and sugar in wine, without being overly sweet. To practice identifying oak, our ’14 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is great at giving off these characteristics. Aged in both French and American oak barrels, aromas of oak spice and vanilla prevail nicely.

Now you are ready to wine taste with some confidence! Just remember. As fun as it is to be knowledgeable about wine aromas and tastes, the primary purpose of wine is to be enjoyed!

Visit us in our Tasting Room (open everyday from 10am – 5pm) to enjoy some wine!

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Record Breaking Harvest at Wilson Creek!

Posted on September 21, 2017 in Wine Musings

66 tons harvested in one day • 260 tons harvested so far • 320 tons expected left to harvest

This blog post is brought to you through the generous support of the sleep depriving, physically challenging, and delirium inducing 2017 harvest. I am pleased to report that we are experiencing a bumper crop with most varietals, like Muscat, having both record yields and superior quality (the origin of the term “Bumper Crop” originates from an overfilled glass of wine called a “Bumper” – how appropriate!). This Yield vs. Quality debate is one of the hot topics of discussion currently raging in viticulture symposia and journals. My personal observation is that we are oversimplifying this issue looking for a silver bullet ratio of yield to quality rather than recognize the complex interrelationship between the plant and it’s environment. This increased yield with commensurate high quality was undoubtedly induced by the adequate rainfall of this past winter. However, it was not observed in all blocks, and not to brag, but most often not observed in blocks outside the Wilson Creek estate. So what is the difference? I postulate that the soil and nutrient building activities of our Biologically-Based Soil Fertility Program has been building a reservoir of available nutrients. These nutrients became mobile through the action of bacteria, micro-fauna, and fungi with the soil-soaking rains which allowed the nutrients to become mobile. Synthetic fertilizers are water soluble so are generally washed away with the rain.

When we harvest a block of grapes the first thing we do is give that block a celebratory long drink (water) to help it recover from the shock of suddenly becoming empty nesters. Then I start what I consider to be the most important fertilization program of the year, post-harvest fertility. Grapes produce the cells of the next year’s harvest right after the fruit set of this year, so next year’s harvest potential is already set. Once the children have left the house, the two major goals are to support the immediate upcoming generation and to set robust roots with a healthy fungal symbiotic relationship for future generations.

In my last blog post in August, “The Problem Child“,  I discussed the analogy of Block 14, Mourvèdre, my personal problem child, and the continuing analogy here is obvious. Once the children have left the vine (nest), have a good long drink and get down to the business of providing for future generations. This is our work in the vineyard, beyond producing quality wines, to further a system of agriculture that doesn’t steal from future generations but rather leaves this bountiful earth richer than we found it and knowing this makes my glass of Mourvèdre taste all the richer.

From all of us in the winemaking team we wish you a bountiful autumn and
success and prosperity to all of our children.

~ Greg Pennyroyal (Vineyard Manager)

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Butternut Squash & Italian Sausage Soup

Posted on September 14, 2017 in Recipes

Fall is basically here! I mean, the kids are in school and football has finally started! And even though it doesn’t feel like it yet, pretty soon we will be pulling out our fall boots, flannel shirts, and indulging in pumpkin spiced flavored everything! This also means it’s about time for another Fall favorite: Creamy delicious SOUP!

“Fall” in love with our Executive Chef Steve’s recipe below!

Want to make it even more delicious? Pair it with our Yes Dear Chardonnay if you want white wine, or our Winemaker’s Select Syrah if you’re feeling red! #WineNot?!


1 medium butternut squash
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup yellow onion, quarter inch dice
½ lb. ground sweet Italian sausage
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground sage
Chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon (more or less depending on how much spice you prefer) crushed red pepper
2 cups manufacturing or heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper
1 oz. canola oil


Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on the cut side of the butternut. Place the butternut, cut side up, on a sheet pan and roast in a 350 degree convection oven, or a 400 degree conventional oven until a fork stuck into the center of the squash can be easily removed. Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the butternut with a spoon and set aside.

Heat a 3-4 quart pot. Place the sausage in the pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally to evenly brown and to crumble the sausage as it cooks. When it is cooked remove the sausage from the pot. Add canola oil, onions and garlic to the pot. Turn the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent the garlic from browning. Return the sausage to the pot along with the roasted butternut squash, sage, crushed red pepper and enough broth or stock to cover the sausage and butternut by about an inch. Simmer until the liquid is low enough to just cover the sausage and butternut. Add cream. Bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to slowly simmer until the soup thickens, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

Bon Appétit!

If you want to try more of Chef Steve’s delicious Fall Recipes, keep an eye out for our new Fall Menu at the Creekside Grille, coming late October 2017!

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Wilson Creek Takes Wine Tasting to a New Level

Posted on September 7, 2017 in About


Open 12 noon – 5 pm, seven days a week!

For an elevated wine tasting experience, join us on the second floor overlooking the courtyard and vineyards in our NEW Upper Room! Tasting are $50 per person ($25 for wine club members) and will include a guided tasting of our most exclusive reserve wines with small food pairings exclusively designed by our Executive Chef. Bottle service is also available on the outside patio for more secluded atmosphere to enjoy the beautiful view of the winery grounds and vineyards!

To make a reservation today, click here!

Keep reading for some FAQs answered by one of our owners, Mick Wilson:

As a Sommelier, when I visit other wineries I really enjoy those times where I could sit down and learn about the winery and the wine in a quiet, more personal setting. So, as you can imagine, I am excited that we will be offering an “elevated” wine experience in our new Upper Room, the area on the second floor above the Tasting Room. I know many are wondering, “what is it?”. Here are some answers that may help.

How will this be different from the tasting experience now?

Right now our tasting room offers a “stand up at bar” experience, which is fun and informative. I love tasting at a bar at wineries, but there is something magical about sitting down, relaxing, and really focusing on the wine. So, in addition to the tasting we currently offer downstairs, we are offering a separate “sit-down” experience on the second floor. In the Upper Room, you will be guided through a flight of four to five Library Wines, Reserve Wines, and Special Selection Wines. These wines will be paired with bite-sized foods, prepared by our Executive Chef. Our trained wine servers will be present to answer any questions and guide you along the experience. These wines will be served in Riedel Stemware, which is the most prestigious, crystal wine stemware in the world. Seating will be inside or outside on the balcony overlooking the grounds. A sit-down wine and food pairing experience will last about 60-80 minutes.

What about wine classes?

Later in the year we will be launching some new wine classes for you to enjoy. Some classes to look forward to are dessert and wine pairings, holiday food pairings, Temecula wines vs. other appellations, and more! If you are interested in a certain type of class or have a fun idea, we would love to hear from you! E-mail your ideas to info@wilsoncreekwinery.com. If we choose your idea, you will receive four free passes to a wine class of your choice, maybe the one you e-mailed in!

This place looks amazing, can I book an event here?

Yes, it will be available for wedding receptions and private parties. We can also tailor a wine tasting for a larger group or business. Keep an eye out for more details to come.

When will it be open?

NOW! Make your reservation today! Follow us on our social media accounts to stay in the loop as well.

Mick Wilson (Owner, COO, Sommelier)

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Labor Day Activity Wine Pairings

Posted on September 1, 2017 in Wine Musings

Congratulations! You made it to the end of another work week, and with Labor Day approaching this Monday you are now rewarded with a 3-day weekend! Go on, celebrate!

Labor Day weekend is the ultimate End-of-Summer celebration. Whether you will be spending the weekend on the water, at the park, at a BBQ, camping, or just chilling out at home, Wilson Creek has you covered! Pairing wine with food is great and all, but been there – done that, am I right? Let’s switch it up this year and keep things interesting. Here are some wine recommendations to pair with your Labor Day activities instead!

On the water:
Let’s be honest, it’s hot! So spending your time on the water this Labor Day is probably ideal. Whether it’s at the pool, on the lake, at the beach, you name it… we have the perfect wine for you. Our special Water Project Riesling is perfect for lounging waterside or engaging in some exciting water sports! With mouth-watering acidity, it’s not only fun and refreshing to drink but helpful as well. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle will go to The Water Project to support their efforts in providing clean drinking water to communities in need around the globe. Basically, this Labor Day should be all about H2O. Be in the water, drink plenty of water, and help others receive water by enjoying this refreshing Riesling!

Backyard BBQ:
Not one for the water? That’s okay. Maybe you enjoy a nice backyard BBQ or a picnic at the park? Either way, we’re sure you’ll have a competitive game of corn hole going on, and we have the wine for you! While you’re tossin’ those bean bags around for the win, why don’t you toss up your wine game as well? Our Variant Series White Cabernet is the epitome of tossin’ things up. It takes a traditionally rich tannic dark red wine and turns it into a white wine booming with fresh fruit and sweetness. The perfect vibe for a summer BBQ! It’s also your last day of the year to get away with wearing white, so why not enjoy a glass of white as well.

Camping is always a great way to celebrate the long weekend with loved ones. But this year, while the kiddos are making s’mores, indulge in your own version of the famous sweet treat! Our famous Chocolate Almond-tini is the way to go! Just mix our Almond Sparkling with a splash of our chocolatey Decadencia dessert wine and enjoy! Get extra fancy and garnish the rim with some crushed graham crackers. Perfect for cozying up fireside.

Early Risers:
For some, maybe a long weekend doesn’t mean you get to slack off on all the hard work you did during the week? And we admire you for that. But you still deserve a little fun. So when you return home from your early morning jog or yoga class, reward yourself with a Sparkling Sunrise (a delicious combination of Sparkling Wine with a dash of orange and cranberry juice). Honestly, any of our Sparkling Wines will taste great with this, but don’t forget the Brut is currently on sale this month for $10 a bottle so stock up now!

The possibilities are endless! But no matter what you decide to do this Labor Day Weekend, be sure to stay safe and have a great time!

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