TEMECULA — How can a new winery attract attention in a state that is already flooded with wine?
For a clever answer, check with the Baily Vineyard and Winery, a serious but small operation that opened in Temecula in December. Production is limited--only 1,300 cases this first season; the wines are bottled, corked and labeled by hand, and there is no marketing or publicity staff to broadcast their merits.
Located half a mile up a dirt road, Baily is a challenge to find. Yet visitors have been pouring in by the hundreds. Why? Because Baily's owners have invoked the irresistible lure of good food at the end of the road.
To celebrate the release of each of their first wines, Carol and Phil Baily have hosted a buffet lunch accompanied by an art show and live music. They have done this five times since December, aided by their teen-age sons, Chris and Pat, and their friends.
Carol Baily does the cooking without benefit of caterer or maid. The food is free and, like the biblical loaves and fishes, it somehow has expanded to accommodate the crowds. "You put a lot of extra rice in there," she said to explain the elastic entrees.
Pasta, not rice, stretched to feed the multitudes at the final event of this season. The menu was designed to set off the just-released 1986 Baily Sauvignon Blanc.
The first step in planning the meal was a tasting in which the Bailys paired various vegetables and fresh herbs with the wine. The best matches were asparagus, green and sweet red peppers, zucchini, thyme and rosemary, all of which wound up in a pasta dish, bound together with cheese sauce.
"Sauvignon Blanc is an herbaceous wine," Phil Baily said. "Sometimes it gets to smell and taste like bell pepper or asparagus or green beans. The actual same flavor compounds are present." Carrots and onions proved too sweet for the wine, which is crisp, clean and dry, and cilantro was too powerful.
Carol Baily rejected spaghetti, then pasta shells and finally settled upon mostaccioli as the pasta that blended best with the vegetables and sauce.
"This wine is so distinctive, and it tastes so different with different things," she said. She added a small quantity of the wine to the dressing for a tossed green salad in place of lemon juice, which she found too tart. She also served rolls and a white cake topped with custard sauce and locally grown strawberries.
The cake was an interloper, for it was sprinkled with a previously released White Riesling. A little of that wine also went into the custard sauce.
On the day of the party, the tasting room offered samples only of the Sauvignon Blanc, although additional Baily wines were on hand out of sight. The other wines are a Cabernet Nouveau, the winery's first release, which was sold out by February; a Chardonnay, which was released the weekend before the Sauvignon Blanc party, and a Cabernet Blanc, which one wine columnist ranked among the best 1986 non-Zinfandel blush wines.
The Bailys made 320 cases of Sauvignon Blanc, purchasing grapes grown in Temecula by Ray Richards because their own fledgling vineyard is not yet able to fill their needs. The grapes were lightly pressed, and the juice was allowed to stand for 24 hours. It was then racked off the solids and fermented in stainless steel five to six weeks at a temperature of 52 degrees. Fermented to total dryness, the wine was racked several times, fined, filtered and bottled Jan. 31.
Because the two small refrigerators that service the kitchen and tasting room were inadequate for the party, the Bailys turned one of their stainless steel tanks into a cooler. The same glycol and water mixture that is pumped through the jacket of the tank to cool fermenting wine also chilled sacks of greens and cases of wine. "It's not the most inexpensive way of refrigerating things, but it works great," Carol Baily said.
The party setting couldn't have been more appropriate. The buffet table stood in front of the Italian-made crusher and the yellow Vaslin press. On one side was the corker and on the other the gleaming tanks. Green and white umbrellas and table coverings gave the illusion of a garden party, and for flower vases, there were 375-milliliter wine bottles bearing the Sauvignon Blanc label. The wine labels, party decorations and the sweat shirts worn by the Bailys all reflected the winery's colors, which are green and white.
Upstairs in the visitor area were paintings and other artworks by guest artist Isabel Bourbeau of Fallbrook. Craig Yerkes of Temecula played a guitar in the picnic area outside.
Located at 36150 Pauba Road, Baily winery is a cheerful, inviting place. The building was designed by the Bailys, who also took part in the construction. Phil built the counter in the tasting room, which opens onto an indoor dining area with a magnificent view of the valley and mountains. Carol laid the hardwood and tile floors, using Italian and Mexican tiles. "We want a place where people can come and enjoy wine and have a nice experience while they're there," she said.