What more could you ask for in your neighborhood to have the best of both worlds of great wine and cuisine? Well I am lucky enough to live a few blocks from one of the best of the best in our beautiful Temecula wine country. I was recently invited to join Ray Falkner of Falkner Winery to share the taste of the fruit and enjoy a wonderful lunch at their Pinnacle Restaurant. Ray and Loretta Falkner both come from corporate backgrounds, but their passion for wine inspired them to open the winery July1st, 2000. The grand opening debuted with a BANG over the 4th of July weekend.
Of course they could not stop with just the great wine they produce. They wanted to share great food paired with their wines for the ultimate culinary experience. Therefore, the Pinnacle Restaurant debuted in September of 2006. Set on a 1,500 foot hilltop, you have a panoramic view of vineyards in our beautiful Temecula wine country. The Pinncale was recently voted Best Restaurant and Best Chef in 2010 by the readers of Inland Empire Magazine. And I agree.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Chef Gianni Ciciliot. The first thing he asked. “I hope you are hungry”? I thought to myself, well of course! Who could resist a dish that was made just for me and share some vino. Chef Gianni originally comes from Allentown, PA. His parents were from both eastern regions of Veneto and Friuli Italy. I asked the chef the” how and why” of his culinary journey. It all started with being in the kitchen with his mother(Maria Luisa)whom he says was a fabulous cook. He used to go pick from their garden all the fresh vegatables and herbs for their meals. He had in the back of his mind…”Plant a seed, tend to it, and use it”. His concept, “From the Garden to the Table”.
Gianni originally studied at Temple University, majored in Exercise Physiology for 4 years. Yet he had the voice in his head and heart that food was his real passion. He moved to California and began basic courses and applied for apprentice programs. Working his way up from Dishwasher, Prep ,Line cook and Pastry Chef, he did find a home at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA as an apprentice for 3 1/2 years. He soon found culinary travels through the areas of Costa Mesa and La Jolla, CA. But he was seduced by our hidden wine country and planted his roots here with his family.
Chef came to the Falkners and the Pinnacle 2 years ago. His first goal was to get the kitchen to run effecient. That took 9 months. Then of course have the quality of food to make his signature dishes and keep the favorites that the Pinnacle is known for. He supports the local farms by using their produce and knows that everything is picked and fresh that day.
Well, this gal is not one to turn down a great glass of wine and some comfort food. Chef shared with me a beautiful dish of Ossobuco made with Veal, a trio of Porchini, Portobello and White Button Mushrooms. All braised in Falkners 2005 Armante. The Ossobuco rested on top of a Milanese Risotto that just simply was “out of this world”! And to top it off, we shared and toasted with a glass of the 2005 Armante. This was definitley a “sip and savor’ treat. Chef…you made my day.
The Pinnacle strives for excitement. Therefore, they do change their menu twice a year…except for the signature favorites for us (locals) and visitors, they kick it up usually in October and April. Now this chef aims to please and plans on bringing comfort food to our tummies as we warm our tongue with the great selection of Falkner wines for each season.
The Pinnacle is open 7 days a week for lunch. They are also the perfect venue for weddings, private events and wine dinners. Their tasting room is open 7 days from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and offer two options. 4 tastes for $10.00 and 7 tastes for $15.00( inlcudes logo glass)
Contact Falkner Winery by visiting www.falknerwinery.com
or call: 951-676-8231