My Auntie Sue is getting married to her longtime boyfriend next weekend. To celebrate, her best friend arranged a small gathering and invited me and my mom along. The venue they chose was The Restaurant at Ponte Winery in Temecula.
I've known that Temecula Valley Wine Country exists for a long time (I know that people love the place with the almond champagne), but somehow I've never made it out there. This was my maiden voyage. It was a very atmospheric day for this, as Southern California was being "pummeled" by a rare August thunderstorm.
(Pummeled is in quotes above because it was just a SoCal-level pummeling. Not a full-on pummeling.)
Immediately, the setting was quite lovely. The vines directly abut the restaurant and they were glimmering a bit in the rain. The restaurant is entirely made up of outdoor patio seating, and when we arrived (late, because Temecula is FAR!) the rest of our party was scrambling to get undercover. However, they were then able to move us to a more covered part of the patio. With the rain coming down around us, cooling off the usually sweltering August weather, it was very atmospheric. It was my favorite thing about the meal (besides the copious amounts of wine and the company of family, natch).
Does that sound foreboding? Maybe it should. Stay tuned.
Ponte Family Estate Pinot Grigio 2013
I'm a sucker for Pinot Grigio. I don't care that it's the official varietal of Ramona Singer; it's so drinkable and perfect for a patio on a summer day, The Ponte version was the cheapest wine on their menu, so I was pleasantly surprised that it was so good. I thought I was gonna be stuck drinking vulgar CHARDONNAY!
House Bread with Scallion Dip
This was complementary with the meal. The bread was light and fluffy and pulled apart nicely for sharing. The dipping sauce was a nice complement. Very tasty.
Flat Bread: caramelized pears, radicchio + gorgonzola, candied walnuts, watercress, olive oil + lemon
This, our shared appetizer, is where things started to go South for me. On face value, this has so many things that I love (pears! gorgonzola! caramelized onions!). However, the radicchio and watercress are just the wrong greens to accompany it. I can understand the logic behind adding an element with a bit of snap, but these made the whole thing bitter and sour.
Sanddab: pan seared filets, green + yellow squash, asparagus, red bell peppers, carrots, grape tomatoes, lemon herb + brown butter sauce, linguini
And this, my entree, was when things went so far South that they fell off the Earth. I love Sanddabs. It's a delightfully tasty little fish and I find myself ordering it semi-often. This one was terrible. Just straight-up one of the most under-flavored things I've eaten in weeks. It was a big mess of sad, watery mush. There was quite a bit of black pepper on it, something that usually brings out flavors nicely when used in moderation. This just tasted like mush with black pepper thrown on top. Womp wommmmmmp.
However, I believe that this might be a "your mileage may vary" situation in terms of what you order. Other people had better luck with their choices. For example, Sue tried the sanddab in sandwich form...
The lettuce here added the bit of snap that they were going for on the flatbread, only successfully. The roll and the sauce added a bit of nuance.
Summer Blossom: baked pasta ribbon, layered mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta cheeses, roasted bell peppers, carrots, red onions, shitake mushrooms + zucchini, pistachio cream sauce
This was attractively-presented and it was reportedly quite good,
Same here. She said it was quite flavorful.
Calamari: chick pea breaded + fried, arugula + frisee salad, blood orange vinaigrette, fried garbanzo beans, marinara + green goddess
I tried a few of these and they were nice and crispy and light, not too oily or soggy. The chickpea breading was an interesting twist and so was the Green Goddess dressing. Plus there were lots of leggy ones, and I LOOOOOVE the leggy ones.
Verdict: Lovely setting, but be careful what you order.
The Restaurant at Ponte Winery
35053 Rancho California Road
Temecula, CA 92591
We brought in our own cake from Heaven Sent Desserts back home.
And Sue got to whoop it up with all the Bachelorette trimmings (OK, no penises, but there were shirtless men!)
The wedding is this Saturday. Congratulations Sue and Jeff!