If you haven’t been wine tasting in Ventura County West lately, you should. This coastal town is trending big, offering some great wines and some unique restaurants. If you’re looking for a “winecation” kind of moment, this is it.
The tourism folks got smart and figured out that marketing three different cities – Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura- stretching 22 miles under the moniker “Ventura County West” as its own destination. The dynamic trio offers everything from vintage shopping, to beach time, to wine time, to whale watching, to exploring the Channel Islands National Park and championship golf (as well as foot golf). Add in the Camarillo Premium Outlets, a great year-round climate, a burgeoning culinary scene plus a very busy regional airport … and spending a night or two in the Ventura County West area seems to be the smart traveler’s choice.
One of my favorite and most highly recommended places to visit in this newly formed tourism district is Herzog Wine Cellar and their upscale restaurant Tierra Sur. The winery, tasting room, and restaurant are located in an industrial park, which in no way diminishes the trendy look and feel of the Herzog experience. Herzog may best be known for its stylish four-levels of kosher wines (every day to library selections) but if you miss having lunch at the yummy kosher Tierra Sur restaurant, you’ve missed the point of the extraordinarily delicious experience.
Herzog Wine Cellar is a spacious welcoming place that could easily take up a couple of hours of your time. Ask for a tour, or take a self-tour, to learn about the fascinating history of the family and its winemaking efforts. Under the direction of head winemaker Joe Hurliman, the winery combines the first-rate California winemaking with the Herzog family’s solid commitment to excellence.
Select grapes produced specifically for Herzog wines are chosen from vineyards in California’s most prestigious appellations. Exceptional vineyard practices produce exceptional wines. Yes, it is as simple as that. The group has been in the area long enough to have scouted out the best vineyards. The wine grapes harvested and brought to the winery allow Joe Hurliman to produce inspiring single varietal wines and blends that define the term “signature wines “ that are literally enjoyed across the globe.
My wine pick for this property is the totally affordable Baron Herzog Central Coast Merlot. This $13 beauty is soft and approachable, fruit-forward and nicely showcases notes of red cherries, blackberry. Aging in French oak barrels provides some lovely notes of spice and vanilla. The Merlot is medium-bodied finishing with moderate tannins. Pairs well with grilled lamb chops or roasted poultry.
After touring the winery enjoy lunch at Tierra Sur, Herzog’s open-kitchen restaurant where Chef Gabe Garcia prepares unforgettable lunches and dinners in a rustic, Mediterranean-Tuscan style. For the past six years, Chef Gabe has worked at Tierra Sur under the mentorship of the notable Chef Todd Aarons. Now as head chef, Gabe seeks to continue the foundation of Mediterranean fused with American flavors, using ingredients sourced fresh from local farmers putting a 5-star quality touch to every dish that leaves his kitchen.
The restaurant is usually busy, and for good reason, so if you can call ahead for a reservation. Chef Gabe’s food is smartly presented and seasoned perfectly. His cuisine reflects simplicity built upon fresh ingredients from local sources and farms. Some of his dishes have a decidedly Mexican flair to them. In my opinion, these are some of the best on the menu. His use of a wood-burning oven is also a plus. In addition, anything with pasta as a base is also going to be a winner (see recipe below).
If you are celebrating something special this place would be my recommendation. It has just enough cache (without the big price tag) to announce you did your research on great dining options in the Central Coast wine country. Your guests will be thinking you’re a master at restaurant choice. You have a choice of indoor or outdoor dining. If the weather is good, try the patio.
I’ve been to Herzog Wine Cellar and Tierra Sur several times. Some of my favorite dishes include the White Bean Hummus (6), and the chili rellenos stuffed with potato and taramasalata (6) for your appetizer. For the salad course indulge your taste buds with the Ensalada de la Casa (watercress, romaine, jicama and avocado salad with caramelized orange vinaigrette) (9). Your entrée will knock your socks off if you order either the Tostada Estilo de Ensenada (Fried Home Made Organic Corn Tortillas Filled with Achiote Marinated Fish Of The Day, Avocado, Cabbage and Jicama Slaw With Cilantro Lime Aioli) or the big favorite—the Burger de la Casa (14) (Pickled Vegetables, Lettuce, Tomato, Chipotle Mayonnaise, Potato Fries and a House Made Bun). Portions are generous and the menu changes seasonally.
Until you explore this property for yourself, enjoy this yummy pasta dish compliments of Herzog Wine
Cellars and Tierra Sur restaurant.
Herzog Wine Cellars Veal Meatballs with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
Tierra Sur Restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars
Head Chef Gabe Garcia
Meatballs 2oz each
2lb Ground Veal
3 Tsp Ground Funnel Seed
2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Pepper
4 Cloves Garlic – Minced
2 TBS Margarine- Chopped
Poached in ½ Bottle of Baron Herzog Sauvignon Blanc – Clarksburg
with equal amount Water
3 Sprigs Thyme
1 Qt Cherry Tomato
1 Tbs Minced Garlic
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 pinch Salt & Pepper
1 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
¼ Tsp Sugar
Toss Cherry Tomato with all ingredients above. Roast in convection oven @375 for 15 Minutes
Toss with your Favorite Linguini and Enjoy
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Herzog Wine Cellar
Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars
3201 Camino Del Sol
Oxnard, California 93030