Wine & Dine Gluten-Free at Wilson Creek Winery’s Creekside Grille.
Whether you are celiac, gluten intolerant, or gluten-free (GF) by choice, we understand your need for a strict gluten-free diet as well as your desire to eat tasty and healthy GF food. My wife, Deanna, and I have celiac disease. In our own attempts to dine out and eat GF, we have been mistakenly “glutened”, like many of you, I’m sure. We understrand, and we want to provide a place for you to experience SAFE and DELICIOUS GF options (usually it’s one or the other).
It all started in 2008 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I had symptoms for over 15 years, but like many others, I was misdiagnosed during that time. So when I learned I had to eat GF the rest of my life, I started to research and read as much as I could on the subject. During this research process my wife decided to get tested and she found out she also had celiac disease. What are the chances of that? We are now referred to as the “celiac poster couple”.
We quickly became frustrated in our search for good GF food and healthy/tasty dining options. We dined at restaurants that had claimed to offer GF dishes, but more often than not we would eventually get sick. As our dining-out options shrunk, we resigned to cooking all of our meals at home. At that time, we started brainstorming with our Creekside Grille Executive Chef on how we could serve good GF selections. Together, we researched cross contamination, GF storage, wait staff protocol, places where gluten can hide (sauces, rubs, dressings, certain cheeses, etc.) purchasing separate GF utensils (pans, knives, colanders, toasters, cutting boards, squeeze bottles for condiments, and GF staff training). We wanted to do it well or not at all.
In 2009 we decided to go for it and we launched our first GF menu. We came up with the idea to have black plates for all GF dishes to help all the wait staff (and guests) know that those items are GF. We also got rid of all soy sauce and replaced it with GF tamari sauce. We trained the staff in GF preparation and the needs of the GF guest. The word traveled fast (the GF community is pretty network and tech savvy), and many visitors now come to enjoy the expanded menu with a variety of delicious options.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, as an employee of Wilson Creek winery is that you will not find a surplus of corks floating around the Creek; Wilson Creek that is. Have you ever wondered what we do with all that popped cork?
On any given day bottles of wine and champagne are opened and shared among visiting guests looking for the ultimate tasting experience. Many of the wine corks are taken by the next future Mrs., to be transformed into a creative centerpiece for their wine country themed wedding reception. Wondering what else do we do with leftover corks, just ask Event Manager, Jeff Littrell. Every year in the spring, the wineries in Temecula Valley compete in a cork sculpture contest, during the “World of Wine” tasting event. And every year Jeff wows us with his cork masterpieces! This year he created a giant, cork wine glass that continuously pours red wine. Last year Jeff created the winning cork sculpture, a fierce lion coming out of the top of a wine barrel with paws and claws ready to pounce. The year before that he constructed the leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s amazing what you can do with a little cork, glue and imagination.
We’ve had our fair share of fun with the used corks but by far the most authentic idea was fashioned by the matriarch of the winery herself, Rosie Wilson. The story as Rosie tells it was in the summer of 2000 at the Balloon and Wine Festival, at Lake Skinner, in Temecula CA. It was the first year the Wilson family was able to share their newly vintage wine. The popped corks from these bottles had not yet served a purpose until the Wilson kids came across some yarn, had decided to make cork necklaces to give to anyone who tasted their wine that day. This gesture sparked conversation about their life changing decision to quit their day jobs, move to Temecula, make wine and the opening of their new winery. The guests were told that if they stopped by the winery wearing their cork necklaces they would get a free wine tasting.
To this day Rosie Wilson makes hundreds of cork necklaces for guests who are celebrating a special occasion. The next time you find yourself at the winery and are celebrating your birthday or anniversary, let the Wilson Creek staff and family help you celebrate. After all, Rosie Wilson thinks everyone deserves to get corked on their special day! -by Barb Hilde, Wine Club Mgr
The creator of our cork necklaces wearing a few on her birthday. Rosie still makes all of our cork necklaces by hand.
What would go through your mind if you were told that in five years from now
you would be running your own winery and living in Wine Country?
Here lies the story of one South Pasadena couple and their adult kids who made a dramatic change.
In 1995, retired Gerry and Rosie Wilson were planning a move to Solvang to be closer to their daughter Libby and her husband Craig. Their son Bill called Rosie & Gerry one day to ask them if they wanted to buy a winery, and they told him he was crazy but it sounded like fun! Bill reminded them that they made dandelion and rhubarb wine in Minnesota. Rosie’s reply was, “I don’t think that qualifies us.” Bill found out about a small affordable winery for sale and thought it would be ideal for the Wilson family. The family visited and emotions quickly took over. They absolutely fell in love with the concept and decided to figure out a way to make it work. They sold their homes, quit their jobs and moved to Temecula to pursue a business in which they had no previous experience. Many of their friends thought they were crazy! After Rosie & Gerry re-located, the owner of the small winery decided not to sell. Not wanting to give up their vision, it forced the family to frantically look for another winery or existing vineyard. They found and purchased an existing vineyard and “planted” a building. They moved into “Operation Bootstraps” mode. Gerry says, “All of us rolled up our sleeves and did whatever it took to make it happen. Our saying was, if you are a Wilson, you only have to work half days and you can decide which 12 hours you want!”
With no real background in vineyard management or winemaking and no winery built at the time, they relied on local experts in Temecula Valley to guide them. They hired a winemaker and vineyard consultant while Gerry and Bill enrolled in some winemaking classes at UC Davis. Bill drove the tractor and oversaw wine production and maintenance of the vineyard. It was quite a different lifestyle than the suit and tie lifestyle Bill and Gerry were used to, but they LOVED it!
Through hard work, perseverance & determination, they opened for business in 2000. What the Wilson family brought to Temecula was a warm family environment and a history of throwing great parties. They built a winery which today is known as the “fun winery.”
Wilson Creek Winery has come a long way…
Their experience shows in the success of their numerous events: weddings, concerts and charity functions that runs right alongside of their award-winning wines. “Home of the famous Almond Champagne,” the winery has garnered numerous prestigious international wine awards, and their production has increased to approximately 50,000 cases per year. Gerry is proud that Wilson Creek is unofficially the winery of many Navy ships, including eight aircraft carriers. Wilson Creek has received several humanitarian awards and has even sparked the attention of the Hollywood film industry. Wilson Creek has been featured on the show “Radical Sabbatical” which aired on the Fine Living Network, the syndicated show “Blind Date”, as well as the MTV show “Dismissed” just to name a few.
The entire family is still involved. You can feel the energy and personal touch when you visit the large tasting room. Visit with the family members who are always on the property. The ambiance of Wilson Creek continues to be very warm and welcoming. Among the many guest favorites, the award-winning Chocolate Port is served in an edible chocolate shot glass for an extra special touch.
Wilson Creek is nestled seven miles East of Interstate 15 on Rancho California Road in Temecula Valley Wine Country. A mere 75-minute drive from Los Angeles and 50 minutes from San Diego make it a destination to be fully enjoyed.
Gerry’s response when asked if he would move from South Pasadena and start a winery again: “Sure, I do miss South Pasadena. We lived there for 30 wonderful years. Yet, I love wine country. We are still learning and growing. The main thing is that we all work together, and I love the fact that all my children and grandchildren are here. My commute to work is about 200 feet, walking through a vineyard, with a cup of coffee in my hand. I am very blessed!”