Although Thornton Winery is one of the original vineyard properties to plant roots in Temecula wine country, owners John and Sally Thornton are offering guests a fresh experience while maintaining the old world charm of the French chateau.
On a recent tour, the Thornton’s son and President of the winery, Steve Thornton pointed out improvements throughout the property.
“We completely updated the patio area with new bistro tables and chairs, welcoming columns at the rear entrance and lighting throughout,” said Thornton. “We also added speakers so we could play jazz music on the patio.”
“We host the Champagne Jazz Series each year through summer and fall and often sell out,” commented Thornton. “We wanted our guests to experience that jazz concert vibe all year round.”
Renovations extend to the gift shop and tasting room as well.
“By knocking out the wall between the two rooms, we’ve been able to improve both,” said Thornton. “Guests can move freely between the two and the space is much brighter.”
The crown jewel of the renovation is the newly added stand up bar in the production room.
Thornton explained, “We have found that guests don’t always want to sit and enjoy their Champagne or Petite Sirah, so this gives the ‘stand and sip’ crowd a great home base.”
The production room is cool on a summer day and jazz music floats through the air, bringing an intimate feel to the industrial space.
Cafe Champagne General Manager Christine Lindemann is making changes as well.
“We are focusing on tightening up our service,” Lindemann said. “Our staff is wonderful, but we are going to take things to a whole new level. We want to exceed our guests’ expectations.”
Cafe Champagne Chef Steve Pickell changes the menu seasonally to keep flavors fresh and will debut the summer menu on July 4.
“We lighten things up quite a bit in the summer,” said Pickell. “Instead of a traditional Surf & Turf, we will feature a Pan Seared Diver Scallop with Pancetta Short Rib Ragout. I would recommend paring it with the 2010 Chardonnay.”
“Expect cool soups like Chipotle Vichyssoise with Cilantro Pesto paired with David Vergari’s 2011 Roussane,” Pickell added. “The sweeter wine balances out the smokey, spicy flavors in the soup very nicely.”
David Vergari has been on the Thornton team since fall of 2010 and the wines are reflecting his efforts.
“Steve [Pickell) and I work well together,” said Vergari. “The food and wine have a synergy that our guests are getting a kick out of.”
Winery guests are not the only ones who are impressed with Vergari’s wine. Thornton Winery garnered three medals in the recent Monterey Wine Competition: Silver for the 2010 Cab-Merlot and Gold for the 2010 Estate Petite Sirah and 2010 Tempranillo.
“Our guests seem pleased with the changes around here,” said John Thornton. ”We could not be more proud.”
Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road in Temecula.
To learn more, visit www.thorntonwine.com.
Corie Maue is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.