Casa Tiene Vista Vineyard – growing grapes for award-winning wine
Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Issue 50, Volume 17.
It all started with a bottle of Robert Mondavi wine. When Mick and Susan Gallagher were married over thirty years ago, Robert Mondavi sent the couple a life-changing wedding gift – wine from his own cellar. After they popped the first cork, inhaled the heady scent and partook of the smooth wine, they were transformed – altered.
"That got us hooked on fine wines," said Susan with a smile.
Thus began the journey to Casa Tiene Vista Vineyard (CTV) owned by Mick and Susan, which is a verdant vineyard tucked away in a rugged, picturesque area of De Luz.
Even though they are newcomers, CTV’s wines are already taking home Silver and Bronze medals – nine in two years, including a Silver at the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition for their 2010 BlackBird, which is a full-bodied merlot grape wine that is aged in oak. A dessert-style wine that has already taken a Silver and Bronze medal is simply called "De Luz." There are regulations involved when marketing wine and this bottle could not technically be labeled "wine" because it is a combination of cabernet grape and dragon fruit. The Gallaghers agreed upon the name "De Luz," for two reasons, they wanted a name that would reflect the unique taste of grapes grown in De Luz, as well as the unique quality of the wine. De Luz, translated, means "of light" or "of clarity."
At first sip, I found it full-bodied and smooth, with a slight fruity, berry flavor. Nuances of fig and a hint of vanilla emerged, but it was not too sweet. However, after I bit into a piece of gourmet dark chocolate, I noticed that the fig flavor became more pronounced; and the other flavors became more subtle. The lingering flavor was rich and tasted definitely of fig and berries. "De Luz" is a wine to enjoy after dinner or even drizzled over vanilla ice cream.
The journey to De Luz began when Mick and Susan were in the software business and took their top clients to Napa for wine weekends. While in Napa, they noticed that the people in the wine business were quite congenial. They also thought it was fascinating how unique each bottle of wine is – even with the same grapes, each winemaker could create a different wine.
A seasoned winemaker once told them, "Making wine is like writing your signature, no two people sign anything the same way and no two people process wine the same way. There are parameters, but there is also lot of liberty."
Mick began to visit the vineyards at harvest time and talk to the owners about grape growing – fertilizer, various soils, etc.
The couple then looked at various wine-growing areas and chose De Luz.
"We felt that De Luz was the perfect place to grow – you find a lot of volcanic ash in the soil," Mick explained.
So with the help of staff at UC Davis who told them what root stock to use, their first cabernet vines were planted. That was in 2006; and they had their first harvest in 2008.
CTV’s wines are made in a different location, except for the De Luz label, but in the beginning they made all the wine on site. Their very first wine press, not even five feet in diameter, is now enshrined in their front yard as a planter.
"It would take us three days [to crush the grapes]," said Susan with a laugh.
Now they have their grapes crushed in a Temecula plant. "Fourteen tons of grapes can be crushed in less than a minute and a half," explained Mick.
The vineyard is now surrounded by lovely gardens.
"We wanted to create a homey atmosphere where people can come and feel they are in a park…find a spot to sit, drink a glass of wine and relax," Mick related.
Nine variations of wine are available and the website details them all. All bottles are available online and also at select stores and restaurants locally. CTV’s labels are stunning and would make a perfect addition to any wine cellar. But the labels are not only beautiful - there is a lot of thought that goes into the production. For instance, the Sir Charles Cabernet is named after their golden retriever who was born the first year they bottled it.
Both Mick and Susan enjoy the members of CTV’s Wine Club. Members are dazzled by their latest release and their best wines. They sip and taste and enjoy the ambiance at the wine parties. The wine club spans age groups as well as levels of wine-tasting experience.
"We look at our wine club as an extended family," Mick noted, "the people we have met have been wonderful."
"This is our dream for retirement – to have something fun and to entertain," Susan said.
Find Casa Tiene Vista Vineyard (by appointment only) at 4150 Rock Mountain Road in Fallbrook. Contact them by telephone at (760) 731-2320 or visit www.ctvvineyards.com.
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