Visiting Our Vineyards
Ponte Vineyard Innâ€™s Bouquet Restaurant Serves Seasons in a Dish #.$',+.(+&()*# Imagine a perfect night out in the Temecula Valley Wine Country. Maybe itâ€™s an anniversary celebration or a birthday or just a lovely evening spent with good friends. Here is our suggestion: Consider starting with a leisurely late afternoon wine tasting in the Ponte Wineryâ€™s tasting room (open until 5 p.m.) and then stroll next door to Ponteâ€™s cozy Cellar Lounge for cocktails and appetizers enjoyed to a background of live music. Next amble upstairs to the exquisite Bouquet Restaurant at the Ponte Vineyard Inn, where you will be treated to a fresh, creative dining experience while viewing the hotelâ€™s beautiful gardens and the wineryâ€™s expansive vineyards. We recently met with Ponteâ€™s talented Executive Chef, Christy Moore, who has been at the winery for seven years. Chef Christyâ€™s love of cooking was nurtured when she was a child learning at the side of her grandmother, a wonderful baker who emphasized the importance of cooking from your heart with the freshest of ingredients. As the youngest of ten children, Chef Christy helped cook for her family at an early age and actually embarked on her culinary career when she was 14 and worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Chef Christy has carried her early passion for cooking into her career as a (+&)'.)%$&-).")."*-'&#.((*)' chef. However, first she earned a busi)-&)**,+),+., -(*+-,.$'-(+.$-'-+) ness degree from California State Univer,!!*(,%".-'.(*,+-%.-&".,.(%$'.(+. (%, '),'(+, .!*($%) sity in Long Beach and then worked on the distribution side of the food industry. She feels this business background has been invaluable to her in her role as an executive chef, although she admits that her great love is the creative side of the food industry. She also received a degree in Culinary Arts from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu. She worked as a chef at several high-end restaurants before coming to Ponte. -+)#,*. ++.,+.%($*&#,*
Chef Christy points out that as Executive Chef it is important to understand both the front and back of the house. She is responsible for hiring and training approximately 50 restaurant employees at Ponte and also ordering ingredients and handling the budget of the restaurants and catering. However, Chef Christy, who calls herself a â€œhands-on chef,â€? often works on the front line in the kitchen, which she enjoys and feels is important for the training of staff and consistency of dishes. She says every day is different with some days beginning at 5 a.m. and lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Chef Christyâ€™s passion for creative
, -$&.,.,.-+,*( ,.'!*-+.-+.,.-'" cuisine is evident in the imaginative !,-*'.!)*)%& #.-&".(+&)'. .*+)-' -&".-&'.%*-'!.*$-&#.()*&(+)'. dishes she and her staff create for the four restaurants she oversees at Ponte, including the Bouquet Restaurant at Ponte Vineyard Inn, the Cellar Lounge on the lower level of the Inn, the Restaurant at Ponte outside of the wineryâ€™s tasting room, and the Poolside Bar & CafĂŠ. She also consults on cuisine for the many weddings and other special events that take place at Ponte. Christy emphasizes that her approach to what she describes as â€œMediterranean California Fusion Cuisineâ€? is organic and sustainable, with a strong focus on using local seasonal produce. Most of the Ponte restaurantsâ€™ produce comes from within a fifty-mile radius and their menus change with the seasons as produce becomes available. Ponte also serves dishes reflecting a range of dietary requests from vegetarian and vegan to gluten free. We learned that all breads, sauces, and desserts are made from scratch in Ponteâ€™s kitchen. Many of the dishes are prepared with Ponteâ€™s Black Mission and Arbequina olive oils, produced from the wineryâ€™s own olive trees. These superb olive oils are also available in the wineryâ€™s gift shop.
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Visiting Our Vineyards
Third Annual Rotary
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As we talked with Chef Christy, we sat on the Bouquet Restaurantâ€™s enchanting outdoor patio looking over a tumbling fountain in a courtyard surrounded by beautiful flowers. Gazing at the thriving, verdant vineyards expanding into the distance, we wondered how a dining setting could be more serene and romantic than this. Indoor dining is also an option in an intimate, inviting dining room. We savored a dish on Bouquetâ€™s current spring menu â€” Halibut a La Vignarola, which Chef Christy calls â€œspring in a dish.â€? This very green, Italian-styled dish was just that. The moist, flavorful Halibut had been poached sous vide, a process where food is steamed at a low temperature (usually in a plastic bag) for a long period of time. The resulting delectable halibut was surrounded by a vibrant, savory combination of spring peas, fava beans, pea shoots and poached baby artichokes. We also enjoyed the popular Mezze Platter, a creative, beautifully presented charcuterie platter with such delicacies as grilled artichoke hearts, lemon garlic hummus, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, roasted â€œconfitâ€? tomatoes, various cheeses, mixed olives and salami served with pita bread. I especially loved dipping the pita in a tasty, bright green rapini pesto. This delicious, imaginative platter could be a meal in itself. Bouquetâ€™s menu includes a wide variety of other enticing dishes such as Burrata and Tomato Caprese salad; panseared Beef Filet with potato gnocchi; and Seafood Bucatini with braised shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari in a white wine and fennel broth served with pasta. Chef Christy believes Bouquetâ€™s diversity of menu items and focus on sustainability distinguishes it from other area restaurants. The changing daily specials are also appealing to customers who dine regularly at Bouquet and are interested in trying new, creative dishes. The spring menu will be served through June with a new summer menu launching in July. Of course, since we were dining at a winery, the wine pairings were also of paramount importance. Chef Christy, who also studied wine at the Culinary Institute in Napa, works with her staff to
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suggest wine pairings that enhance the dishes on the menu. Of the 23 wines currently produced by Ponte Winery, about ninety-percent are produced from grapes grown on its 310-acre vineyard estate. We tried a crispy, light 2017 Arneis with fruity overtones, which was a perfect match for the fresh spring fish dish. And a rich, bright 2014 Montepulciano with tastes of black currant enhanced the tasty Mezze Platter with its flavorful meat and cheeses. We will be back to the Bouquet Restaurant soon to try some of Chef Christyâ€™s other scrumptious creations paired with exceptional Ponte wines. We are so fortunate to have this exquisite dining option in the Temecula Valley Wine Country. The Bouquet Restaurant at the Ponte Vineyard Inn is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m., for breakfast Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Reservations are highly recommended. and can be made by calling 951-676-7898. Photos by Todd Montgomery.