An ancient process is credited for Mount Palomar Winery’s deliciously decadent Solera Cream Sherry. And it appears this facility in Temecula’s bountiful wine country is the only remaining entity in the United States to preserve the valuable time-tested tradition.
“The Solera Process is a very expensive production method that requires an original five year, and then a generational commitment to aging this exceptional wine in barrels that bake outdoors in the sun,” explained James Rutherford, winemaker for Mount Palomar. Rutherford knows of what he speaks as his was the first family to settle in the Napa Valley and produce wine, dating back to the late 1800s.
The Solera Cream Sherry is exceptional and remarkable in the history contained in each and every bottle.
“Every bottle of Solera Sherry has a portion of the original sherry from the first year it was produced,” said Rutherford. “The process involves five rows of barrels on steps. The first year’s production is placed in the barrels on the bottom step. Each consecutive year, new sherry is placed in barrels on a step above the previous year, for four more steps, which is equal to a total of five years.” Rutherford said after year five, the first barrels may be bottled, but not all of it.
“Only half the sherry is removed for bottling from the original first row of barrels,” he said. “This means half the original wine remains in those first barrels, which are now topped with the sherry from the row of barrels behind them. Each row is topped with sherry from the following row of barrels, so essentially, an amount of the original sherry to be placed in a barrel will always remain in each barrel with the first row of barrels being the oldest. Each year wine is bottled from the first row of barrels with new sherry being placed in the last row.”
“The chain is not, and must not, be broken,” Rutherford said. “Just one taste is enough and you will know and understand exactly how dedicated we are to our amazing Solera Cream Sherry produced from our own vineyards.”
Mount Palomar grows the Palomino grape for its sherry production. Currently, 1.7 acres of the operation are planted in Palomino and the average yield is between four and five tons per acre. The Palomino grade is the one used in the world’s most famous sherry-producing region, Jerez, in Spain’s Andalusia region.
With over 40 year invested in Mount Palomar’s Solera Cream Sherry, this wine is in a distinctive class by itself, as most California sherry is baked at 140 degrees for four weeks and then bottled and sold in less than three months, versus three to five years of baking naturally in the sun.
At Mount Palomar, Rutherford oversees the full range of the operation’s fine wines, which are bottled under two brands: Mount Palomar and Castelletto. The Castelletto name comes from the winery’s founder, John H. Poole, who originated it in 1969. Castelleto was a title awarded to Poole’s wife’s family in 1735 in Italy.
Seven years ago, Mount Palomar Winery was purchased from the Poole family by Fallbrook resident Louis Darwish, who heads his family partnership, Louidar LLC.
Mount Palomar Winery is located on 180 acres of rolling hills and mesa lands. The tasting room, located at 33820 Rancho California Road, is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Solera Cream Sherry is available for purchase at the winery. For more information, visit www.mountpalomar.com.