Savoring the Flavors of a Wine County Autumn

Enjoy this delicious article on the flavors and activities of Temecula wine country – including a killer recipe for Curried Cauliflower Soup by guest writer Linda Milks.

Linda Milks

Linda Milks

Linda Milks, a former English teacher, is a food, wine and travel writer living in Southern California.

Linda has been involved in the culinary arts throughout the years. She publishes on a variety of sites including  and and has a passion for sharing her experiences with her readers.


SquashSoup[1]Thoughts of the autumn harvest conjure up images of butternut squash, sage, maple flavoring, beets, Applewood smoked pork, and root vegetables. The perfect wine pairings to enhance these autumnal cravings bring a warm, spicy vibe to these comfort foods.

The M Group, headed by Chef Martin Corso and wine guru, Jim Lilly, as well as Mr. Temecula Night Out, Ken Barnes, recently hosted “Good Times in the Vines”, a cocktail-style party, at the home of Al and Jean Glaser. While Temecula is noted for its fine wines, The M Group and Temecula Night Out (TNO) hope to encourage awareness of not just food and wine but the pairing of the two. This encore event of pairing did just that.

AlandJean'satSunset_500While dining near the Glasers’ beautiful pool at sunset, guests started the evening with a Sur Lie cocktail by Middleridge Winery, a boutique winery in Idyllwild, CA. We were treated to either The Mule, a sparkling cocktail of muscatel wine infused with fresh ginger or The Promiscuous, a sparkling wine made from Barbera and pomegranate juice. What a way to kick off the evening!

Our first tapas and wine pairing defied the chilly air with a curried and smoked Gouda cauliflower soup. The robust flavor called for the commanding wine from Newport Beach’s Orange Coast Winery of their Lodi Syrah. Simply delicious.

CapresewithBeets_600A stack of roasted golden beets, mozzarella and basil topped with a Szechuan and peppercorn glaze in a balsamic reduction captured our taste buds when it was paired with a 2009 Rodolfo Red from the newly opened Estate d’Iacobelli Winery in Fallbrook.


PorkBelly_600What could provide more of that fall comfort flavor than the pork highlighting our next tapas course. A plate of 28-hour Applewood roasted pork belly with an agave maple glaze served over roasted garlic Yukon gold mashed potatoes provided the perfect warm comfort food. The elegant and fruit-forward Pinot Noir from Casa Tiena Vista in Fallbrook complemented the tapas by balancing the intense flavor of the Pinot Noir with the richness of the pork.

The fourth tapas consisted of a fall favorite of butternut squash ravioli covered in prosciutto, garlic, olives, and sage. The richness of the squash and the gaminess of the prosciutto were balanced by the crispness of Middleridge Winery’s 2013 “Blues Creek” Pinot Grigio.

“Ahs” accompanied the dessert of a pillar of bleu cheese-infused cheesecake atop a cherrywood-smoked raspberry chipotle coulis paired with Casa Tiena Vista’s “Dragonfruit” Port and a Port from the Texas-based winery, Missina Hof. The sweet Ports perfectly balanced the rich but savory cheesecake.

Ken,Marty,andGuests_500As we embraced the fall flavors, Jason Lohrke captured the sounds of Neil Diamond as well as other classic rock performers of the 50’s and 60’s. The magical night encouraged all to relish with anticipation the upcoming food and wine pairings that TNO and The M Group have planned. Information on these events can be found at The next “Good Times in the Vines,” will be held on November 22. At a price of $40 per person, you can’t find a better buy for the quality of the experience anywhere in wine country.

Enjoy preparing the Curried Cauliflower Soup graciously shared by Chef Marty:

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Compliments of  Chef Marty

The M Group, Temecula, CA

1 leek, including 2 inches of green, roots trimmed
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 head cauliflower, cored and broken into florets
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (more if necessary)
1 cup half-and-half
½ pound Smoked Gouda, medium shred, skin left on the cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place shredded Smoked Gouda in refrigerator to keep chilled. Cut leek in half lengthwise. Wash to remove dirt. Pat dry and thinly slice crosswise.

Place a heavy pot over medium to medium high, add pancetta. Sauté until rendered, but not crispy. Reduce heat to low and add butter. When the butter has melted, sauté the leeks and onions until softened, approximately 8 – 10 minutes; add cauliflower and garlic during the last 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook approximately 5 more minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t worry if the mixture sticks to the bottom of the pan a little bit, we will scrape those flavor nuggets into the soup. Stir in the curry powder and crushed red pepper, and cook over low heat for approximately 5 minutes to complete the cooking of the roux mixture.

Gradually add the broth, one cup at a time, stirring or whisking it into the roux mixture. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cauliflower is very tender, approximately 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

Purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add half-and-half and blend. Return to heavy pot on stove over low heat, whisk in shredded Smoked Gouda until completely melted. Add more broth if desired. Simmer and season with Worcestershire, salt and pepper.

Serve with cheese crisp or shredded cheese garnish.

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