Culbertson, Farnbach teaming up to write Temecula winery food pairing book


Last updated 9/20/2018 at 11:17pm

Jeff Pack

Rebecca Farnbach and Martha Culbertson work on a wine and food pairing book featuring Temecula wineries called "Flavors of the Temecula Wineries," to be published by Pechanga's Great Oak Press, sometime in late 2019.

There's likely no better person to write a book about pairing food with Temecula wines than Martha Culbertson. And there's nobody more qualified to write about the history of the wineries than Rebecca Farnbach.

Fortunately, Culbertson and Farnbach are teaming up to do just that.

The duo is currently working on "Flavors of the Temecula Wineries," to be published by Pechanga's Great Oak Press, sometime in late 2019.

"The Temecula Valley Wine Society came to me and asked if I would be interested in doing a book," Culbertson said. "But I was in the process of moving, and I said after I am done moving I will let them know. But by the time I came back to them, they just lost interest, I guess.

"And one day I said to Rebecca, 'How would you like to write a book with me, because she's got all the publishing knowledge and I know all about food and wine. So, we're a great team."

Culbertson is a name well-known in the Temecula Valley as well as Fallbrook. She and her husband John, who died in 2014, started in the wine business in 1981, operating Fallbrook Winery out of their home, specializing in sparkling wine made in the methode champenoise style.

Even before they opened Culbertson Winery in Temecula some time later, their sparkling wines had won major awards and had been served at two White House state dinners.

Martha Culbertson, at the same time, was becoming something of a cooking expert in her own right, she said, and while she never studied to become a chef, she learned from some of the best.

"I studied with every cooking teacher in the 80s and 90s I could find," Culbertson said. "I went to France; I went to Italy. So, I am not self-taught, but, because John and I used to go to France a couple of times a year with our Michelin guide and go to all the restaurants, you learn a lot just by eating and drinking."

Her extensive knowledge became well-known back in the states, and it wasn't long until she was invited to join the national board of the American Institute of Wine & Food founded by Richard Graff, Robert Mondavi and Julia Child, whom Culbertson considered a dear friend until her passing, she said.

In fact, Child stayed with the Culbertons at their ranch in Fallbrook, whenever Child had an event in the area. Culbertson did most of the cooking for her when she stayed, she said.

"She wasn't hard ... except that one dish I did wrong," Culbertson laughed. "You took some good ingredients and messed them up, that was just intolerable."

Farnbach is the co-author of five books in the Arcadia's Images of America series, an award-winning poet; she was awarded the Sherwood Wirt Writer of the Year award 2007 by the San Diego Christian Writers Guild and leads the Temecula Writers Critique Group.

She is also a founding member of the Vail Ranch Restoration Association and of the Temecula Valley Historical Society.

If someone wants to know if anything might have ever happened in the Temecula Valley, Farnbach is the person to ask.

"We are excited about the book," Farnbach said. "Martha wanted to do this wine pairing book; she wanted to do it honor our history and our wines here."

The book is a gigantic undertaking, they said. Farnbach and Culbertson have asked 44 wineries to select four bottles of wine – two red and two white – to be included in the book and suggested they could provide their own food-pairing recipes to go with each wine.

If they don't respond to the request, Farnbach and Culbertson said they will make the selections for winery and Culbertson will go about pairing each bottle with food in recipe form.

The pair said they are expecting to have about 140 dishes in the book.

"We might change our mind," Culbertson said, laughing. "But right now, that's what we're doing."

The book will be a hardback edition with full-color photos of each dish, the wine label and some history of each winery provided by Farnbach. The pair said Great Oak Press would like to follow up with the portraits in a coffee table-style book about wine country.

"I don't know if (Great Oak Press) has done any other books on non-Native American subjects," Farnbach said. "But they love the Temecula Valley and want to be good neighbors and participate in what's going on in the valley."

As for the finished product, Culbertson has some big goals, she said.

"I am hoping for a book that we can win awards with," she said. "I'm just doing what I have been doing since 1981, matching wine and food together. I think I am pretty good at it."

Briar Rose Paella paired with Tempranillo

Start to finish: 1 hour

Serves: 6 to 8

- 1/4 cup olive oil

- 3 cloves garlic, cut in halves

- 1 medium onion

- 3 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled or chopped

- 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and sliced

- 3 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces

- 4 ounces chorizo cut into 1-inch pieces

- 1 teaspoon paprika

- 2 cups rice

- 1/2 teaspoon saffron

- 4 cups chicken stock

- 1 cup frozen peas

- 1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

- 1 pound mussels or clams

In a large deep saute pan or a paella pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes to flavor the oil. Remove the garlic and discard.

Salt and pepper the chicken and cook until golden brown. Remove from pan. Brown the chorizo and remove from the pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the tomatoes, red pepper and paprika. Spread the rice in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the saffron to the chicken stock and pour over the rice mixture. Bring to a boil.

Taste for seasoning.

Place the browned chicken and chorizo back into the pan. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Add the shrimp and mussels. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Add the peas, cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve from the paella pan.

Lumiere Salmon Strudel paired with White Merlot

Start to finish: 6 1/2 hours (30 minutes active time)

Serves: 6


- 12 ounces salmon cut into 2-ounce portions

- 1/2 cup olive oil

- 1 orange, zest only

- 1 lemon, zest only

- 1 tablespoon chopped dill

Mix olive oil, dill and zests together. Marinate salmon pieces for 6 hours.

- 6 grape leaves

- 6 sheets filo dough

- 1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap each piece of fish tightly in grape leaves. Lay out 1 piece of the filo and butter lightly with pastry brush.

Place fish at a long end of the filo and fold outer edges over the salmon. Begin rolling the salmon in the filo, buttering between each roll.

Brush tops of salmon rolls with remaining butter.

Bake until golden brown about 6 to 8 minutes.

(Recipe from Martha Culbertson.)

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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