One of my favorite things about living in the Temecula Valley is that moment when I realize that I am, yet again, experiencing the perfect fusion of exceptional wine, delicious food, and great company. Even more special is when that moment is met with live music and perfect weather.
The Stuart Cellars Annual Harvest Clam bake was just such a night. After a week long prayer session/battle with the weather, they decided to forgo the tent and we were rewarded with a sunning fall sky, vast beyond the strings of white lights glowing above us. A slight chill in the air was tempered by heat lamps, wine and laughter.
The Shawn Jones Band filled the crisp night air with their signature “roots music.” Shawn’s gravely voice and indie guitar brought cool to the stage and the dance floor stayed full through out the night. Moving easily from blazing rock, slow burning blues and soul melting alt-country, his style was perfect for an outdoor eat-with-your-hands experience.
We eased into the night by sipping a glass of Stuart Cellars Chardonnay. With subtle flavors of green apple and pineapple and a soft, smooth vanilla finish, it put us in the mood to relax and dig into some fresh seafood. We chatted easily with the folks at our table and laughed a lot – easy to do in such a relaxed atmosphere. My hubby Patrick and Andrew Marshall from Black Market Brewing Co. bonded over cigars and talk of brewing beer while Taste of Temecula photographer and Faulkner Winery Wine Club manager, Juanita Juarez, and I caught up on the latest.
Ever the gracious hostess, Susan Stuart stopped by to give us a hug and say hi and moved on to make sure the rest of her guests were having a good time. That is one of my favorite things about events at Stuart Cellars – I always feel like I am at a friend’s backyard barbecue – totally fun, totally relaxed.
With our wine, we enjoyed a bread bowl filled with creamy clam chowder. With a hint of rosemary and a kick of cracked red pepper, it was a great start to the meal. The chowder was accompanied by a fresh mixed green salad with roasted beets and red onion tossed in an herb vinaigrette. Our next course was smokey barbecued chicken with sweet corn on the cob and grilled vegetables followed by an abundance of steamed clams and mussels. The simple, fresh flavors were perfectly complimented by Stuart Cellars Tatria, a beautiful ruby red Meritage with berry aromas and notes of tobacco and clove. Lobster was offered as well for those that wanted to splurge and we were completely entertained by watching the chefs cook and prepare the crustacean treasures.
We wrapped up the night with a warm apple cobbler a la mode and another quick trip to the dance floor. Shawn Jones’ sound was all blues rock by this time and we made the most of it before winding back down the hill towards home. We are charmed by the laid back feel of Stuart Cellars and welcome the opportunity to visit anytime. Happily for us and the Temecula Valley, Stuart Cellars will be participating in the Annual Harvest Celebration on November 6 & 7, so visit the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association to purchase tickets.