Winemaker James Rutherford
Winemaker James Rutherford is a transplant from Northern California. A Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo alumni, James gained most of his winemaking experience on the Central Coast before settling down in Temecula. He is experienced in the cultivation and vinting of varietals native to France, Spain, Italy and Germany; many of which are planted at Mount Palomar Winery.
“My family pioneered California, and though I have lived overseas and have had opportunities away from home, I feel my place is here. My family once owned the greater part of Napa Valley, being the first family to settle and the first to produce wine in Napa while California was still part of Mexico. Hence both Yountville and Rutherford, CA are named after the family. The Temecula wine region is not exactly new and offers its own sophistication and style that differs from the larger wine areas to the north, however I feel it still welcomes the pioneering spirit and is flexible to creativity. Mount Palomar’s estate vineyards, with upward of 25 varietals, provides an amazingly broad palate from which to work.
My philosophy regarding wine is simple, I acknowledge the fact that everyone has different tastebuds, so one size does not fit all. Regardless of wine knowledge and experience, one person’s wine preference is as valid as the next, whether that person is new to wine or a wine expert.”
James’s first full vintage at Mount Palomar began with the 2013 harvest. “George Yount probably only had Mission Grapes to plant the first vineyards of Napa. He would have been envious.”
Andrew Curtis Searl, Cellar Hand and Model
A local to the area, born & raised in Hemet, California, Andrew started working at MPW in the Fall of 2019. “I got into wine production because it is an interesting industry and also one of California’s most stable and prolific.” Andrew started at MPW as a bar-back, was promoted to Tasting Room Server, and then Tasting Room Manager before he transferred to Wine Production as a Cellar Hand to begin his winemaking training.
“I spend most of my time between driving the forklift in the barrel room or warehouse to access barrels and pallets of wine, working with the wine in the tank room, or testing it in the lab with our winemaker.” -Andy on all in a day’s work.
The vineyards were planted in 1969, and we began making our own wines in 1975. We were the second winery in the region.
We currently 54 acres of estate vineyards and 17 different wine grape varieties.
Temecula Valley’s soils consist of decomposed granite in origin, which makes it mineral rich and drain well, but nutrient poor. This allows us to stress the vines and have more control over the nutrients they get which in turn, yields more flavorful fruit although in smaller quantities.
Thanks to Temecula Valley’s unique climate, long hot days meet cool night temperatures, we can grow some of the more challenging varietals that have trouble ripening properly in northern climates. The cool evenings help the fruit maintain appropriate acid levels to achieve quality wine. We recently planted a large block of Aglianico and Nero d’Avola, varietals best known to Sicily. To note, our climate is more like North Africa than France.
Often, we get asked the question, “What is your best/favorite wine?” As the winemaker, I approach each wine we produce as it is my favorite as each is unique to itself.
The one honorable mention is our Cream Sherry. Our Cream Sherry is aged in an outdoor, 50-year-old solera. Bottling a 50-year-old bottle of sherry is definitely “a big deal”. This sherry transcends cultures and taste preferences. To those who say, “but I don’t like sherry”, I guess you haven’t tried ours.
NTERESTING GRAPE VARIETIES THAT ARE GROWN AND USED AT MPW
Cortese: We have our own clone of this varietal and use it to make our White Port.
Charbono: Came to California when Savoy was part of the Kingdom of Piedmont, so at once it was Italian, but now it’s French. Charbono is a difficult grape to get ripe. It’s not grown much in Savoy for this reason. It is a difficult grape in both the vineyard and the cellar, but worth it. It’s currently on the bar.
Cinsault: An ancient varietal, it’s believed to have been introduced to Europe by the Phoenicians. It is one of the most drought tolerant grape vines you can plant and is widely grown in North Africa which is like our climate. We make Solstice and a Blanc de Noire out of it.
Petite Verdot: Not grown much in Bordeaux anymore as it is difficult to get ripe. We use it for Cloudbreak.
Carmenere: Rare in California and was thought to have gone extinct but was rediscovered in South America. South American Carmenere is basically jug wine, however it has an exceptional flavor profile when produced here. Our small planting is used in Meritage and sometimes as a stand-alone varietal. This varietal performs very well in Temecula. You will find this grape planted near our ceremony site.
Dolcetto: Little sweet one. It’s not sweet, but the acid drops out early making the grape taste sweeter. It is picked earlier to maintain normal acid level. We do a superior style (heavy), rather than the more common nouveau style mostly done in California. Our Dolcetto is in barrels.
Aglianico: Currently the small amount we have is blended into Travato but is our largest new planting at MPW. An ancient grape of the Romans with chocolate elements. Best known for growing on the volcanic soils on the sides of Mount Etna in Sicily. Very late harvest but grows well here as we can get it ripe.