Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Visit to Los Olivos and Santa Barbara

by Don Nunn

Growing up in Santa Barbara in a wonderful, nostalgic decade I won’t specifically identify because of its antiquity, I was going back for the first time in many years to attend my nephew’s wedding.

Having spent my youth growing up on the “American Rivera”, I consider Santa Ynez, Solvang, and Los Olivos to be part of the generic description encompassed within the mention of “Santa Barbara”, both because of their proximity and because they were all part of my childhood home base.  Of course those three towns are actually up and over the Santa Ynez Mountain Range north of Santa Barbara, and are found in the rolling oak covered hills of  the Santa Ynez Valley, and only a thirty to forty minute drive.  Those mountains, and the Pacific Ocean, squeeze Santa Barbara into a ribbon along the coast, thus inviting the comparison, both geographic and lifestyle, to the French Cote d’Azur.

When I left Santa Barbara at the age of 22 after graduating from UC Santa Barbara,  heading for USD law school in San Diego, there was not a single winery in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Forty-five odd years later, there are many dozens of wineries spread around the valley, with the greatest number situated in the vicinity of the village of Los Olivos, but with many spreading out along Foxen Canyon Road towards southern Santa Maria County.

Like a number of wine producing regions of California, vines were originally planted by the Franciscan Friars in the early 1800’s, and a thriving wine industry developed in the latter part of the 19th century.  The wineries were subsequently virtually wiped out by Prohibition, only to rise again in the latter part of the 20th century.

From the moment I hit town for the wedding, I took the opportunity to solicit present day local’s for their advice on tasting rooms located in a picturesque setting, possessing character, and that remained relatively small.  I readily confess to a prejudice in favor of the old style tasting rooms in a barn or rustic building full of ambience, sampling the tastings over a barrel in conversation with the winery owner, who in the old days (twenty years ago), was frequently also the wine maker.  Today, while varying to some extent by viticultural region, the competition amongst winery owners to build the most impressive tasting room is frequently as intense as the competition to make the best wine.

While I may occasionally visit one of the larger establishments for the architecture, design, or some other peculiarity of note, the experience for this writer is most enjoyable when I find a small, unpretentious, old style tasting room or patio, full of charm, atmosphere, and the genuine opportunity to discuss and learn about the wines, as opposed to simply tasting the offerings while reading the chart notes.  To this writer, the ambience enhances the tasting experience, best enjoyed as far away as possible from the crowds who descend upon the mega-winery tasting rooms in their limos.  In general a “limo sighting” is for me, motivation to skip that winery.

Among the opinions proffered were Barbieri, Samsara, Blair Fox, Tensley, Demetria, and Beckmen.  When receiving the recommendation to Demetria, I knew immediately that it would be on the top of my list.  Among the information imparted was that it was small with a very rural setting, and a little difficult to find.  We were also advised to make a picnic of it, to best enjoy the surroundings, and that picnicking was welcomed by the winery (not always the case these days).  On this occasion, the advice turned out to be knowledgeable and spot on.

Inquiring upon arrival at Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos, reception offered to secure for us the following day the reservation that was necessary in order to obtain the gate code to drive two miles through the property of the Zaca Mesa winery estate to reach Demetria.  Arriving at an Italianesque Villa on top of a hill, the setting was precisely the atmosphere I am continually searching for.  The second part of the equation, of course, is wine of a quality to match the ambience.  We found both at Demetria.




Before introducing myself to Mark in the tasting room, we were greeted (sort of – amused by would be more accurate) Murphy, one of the resident cats, who was “sacked out” on a picnic table. Contented cats have a way of looking comfortable when lounging, but I don’t think I have ever seen one looking more comfortable than Murphy.  His only movements were an occasional yawn, followed by a stretch and a rollover to the opposing aspect.   Despite his lethargic persona at noon, I was subsequently assured that when night rolled around, Murphy would be found hard at work patrolling the grounds in search of fresh protein.


We were invited to select our desired seating and Mark would serve our tasting menu.  As the midday sun was presenting a magnificent palate of warm summer blue, accentuated by slivers of sunlight thrusting randomly amongst the oaks inhabiting the hilltop, we happily selected an outside table under a mature oak perfectly suited to provide us with the maximum view of the surroundings.

Mark soon arrived with the 2014 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay – medium bodied, crisp citrus, with lime zest and green apple ($39.00).  This was followed with the 2015 Grenache Rosé, having a delicate pink color, aromas of strawberry with floral overtones, watermelon and cranberry on the palate, and very dry ($25.00).  Being old enough to remember when the rosés available in California were mostly sweet, I have been pleased to observe that as the wine makers and drinkers have both become more sophisticated, the clear trend is in favor of the drier style that predominates in France. A subtle, light rosé on the dry side is a perfect picnic lunch accompaniment on a warm summer day.



 Cuvée Constantine (2013), an unusual blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah, topped off with 3% Counoise, was the third tasting ($47.00).  Earthy and full of substance, it had aromas of lavender, blackberry, and herbs, with the mouth flavors developing at the same time a hint of ripe berry coupled with dried stone fruit.  Next followed 2013 Cuvée Matia, a Grenache with raspberry and red licorice on the nose, and tasting of pomegranate and spice.  Demetria likes it with grilled meats and tomato based pasta dishes.  The winery assesses it as aging well through at least 2020 ($60.00).

The fifth and final tasting was a 2013 “North Slope” Syrah (with 7% Viognier).  An earthy wine, tasting of blackberry, coffee, and crème de cassis follows after complex aromas that include truffles and spices.  Mark advised that this wine is Côte Rôtie styled.  The Côte Rôtie AOC is located in the northern Rhône region of France.  Guigal is perhaps one of the best known producers from this region

Having heeded the advice, we came prepared for a leisurely lunch.  After enjoying cheese and crackers with our tasting menu, we then broke out the sandwiches and some heirloom tomatoes from my garden in Poway, to accompany a bottle of Cuvée Constantine which proved to be my tasting favorite.  I purchased two more bottles of the same for home.  I am accustomed to seeing wildlife, including quail, at my home in eastern Poway, but during our most enjoyable half afternoon at Demetria, we were witness to the largest covey of California quail I have ever seen.  I counted at least 30 in a marching line at the edge of the vine rows, including an almost endless supply of chicks.

Demetria Estate is located on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail just outside of Los Olivos.  Also visited on this trip were tasting rooms at Kenneth Volk, Fess Parker, Foxen Vineyard and others, which will be the subject of a future report.

Urban Wineries Expand Led by Adam Carruth

by Frank Mangio

Adam Carruth has re-arranged the landscape in downtown Carlsbad Village with his 2nd North San Diego location. He petitioned successfully with the city of Carlsbad to extend the boundaries of the Village along State Street , and now joins Campfire Restaurant and Baba Coffee for a fascinating group of hospitality service businesses. He has successfully operated Carruth Cellars in Solana Beach for some 6 years offering Carruth Cellars wines exclusively.  Carruth sources North Coast grapes from wine countries like Sonoma , Napa and Santa Maria . They are then crushed, pressed, fermented, barrel aged and bottled at his local urban wineries and tasting rooms. He likes to call it “bringing grapes to the people.”


Adam Carruth has just opened his 2nd Carruth Cellars Urban Winery in downtown Carlsbad Village.

And some very nice grapes they are!  On the white side, you can taste a Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Lake County with a pink grapefruit and apple flavor. A step up is the 2014 Russian River Chardonnay with a creamy cover for a fresh citrus pop.  On the red side, don’t miss the Napa Knight’s Valley Carruth Merlot from the fabulous 2012 vintage, with a note of caramel to blend with the clove and currant flavor. In a recent interview with Carruth, he was ready to roll in the Carlsbad wine scene. “I’m open, and it’s a work in progress.  Improvements are still being made.  Were really excited about our grape sources from Napa and Sonoma , and our Pinots coming from Oregon ’s Willamette Valley. I can tell you that Pinot Noirs and Rose’s are really increasing in popularity here.  My customers love the smooth, easy flavor with a finish that really begs for more.”  I asked him about the layout of the winery. “We have a lot more seating than we do in Solana Beach .  I’m happy about the bistro style outdoor seating that was allowed, plus the lounge for communal seating.

Carruth’s reds go for a premium and that’s fine with him.  His 2012 Cabernet from Napa Valley is $50. ($40. for club members)  Here’s the nice thing about urban wineries.  They’re like wineries, but they’re so convenient to the cities where they operate, without the big expense of a vineyard.  You can try a glass to assess its flavor before you commit to a bottle.  There are now 20 urban wineries in San Diego county. A special Annual Reserve Sale is planned for Carruth Cellars for one day only, Sat. Nov. 12.  Check on the details at  carruthcellars.com. or call 760-207-5324.

Newport Beach Crushes it, at its Wine & Food Festival
 It’s hard to imagine that the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival is only in its 3rd year.  The level of sophistication is something to behold.  Every one of the over 200 boutique, cult and world-renowned wines are some of the most sought-after brands in the world.  The set up alone is dazzling, something out of grand resort setting.  Antique and contemporary lounges and couches dot the green belt areas in relaxing settings between the grand tasting pavilions.


Tyler Painter of Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma offers an elegant Merlot 2013
at the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival.

 A total of 20  restaurants prepare and serve cuisine from the executive chefs that are always on-scene chatting and demonstrating their menu secrets for the foodies that eagerly try new flavors.  Some of Orange County ’s finest were there.  I singled out Mastro’s Steakhouse, Andrea’s Restaurant at Pelican Hill Resort and Filomena’s Italian Kitchen as worthy of an evening of fine dining.  Silver Oak, Duckhorn, Matanzas Creek and Chappellet were the wines to taste.  The stage had chef luminaries such as Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller doing cooking demos. Some 3,000 guests came during the 2 day daytime Grand Festival events. You can go to newportwineandfood.com for update information or call 1-888-511-FEST for the next date.

Wine Bytes
West Steak and Seafood in Carlsbad is planning a Chateau Montelena Wine Dinner Mon. Nov. 14 from 6 to 8:30pm.  The iconic Napa Valley wines are considered among the best.  Cost is $150. each and includes a 6 course dinner with pairings. RSVP at 760-930-9100.

Vittorio’s Trattoria in Carmel Valley presents a Bubbles dinner Thurs. Nov. 17 at 6pm.  From Prosecco to Brut Champagne, you’ll taste all the bubbly with a 4 course dinner + dessert.  $49.50 per person.  Call 858-538-5884 for a place at the event.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas invites you to a Hiatus Cellars Napa Valley wine event Fri. Nov. 19 from 6 to 8pm.  Cost is $40. each.  Call 760-479-2500 for details.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Premier San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Nov. 14 – 20

by Frank Mangio

It’s the west coast’s largest luxury wine and food event, a week-long extravaganza of wine, food, beer, spirits and numerous classes and demonstrations, planned for many locations in San Diego.
The Grand Tasting with star-studded wines and chef personalities returns Saturday November 18th from 12 to 3pm at the Embarcadero, behind Seaport Village. It includes 150 wineries, breweries and spirits from around the world.


The one and only 13th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is coming Nov. 14 to 20.  

That’s only one of over 50 events at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.  Included in the festive Saturday event is the “Chef of the Fest” competition, where San Diego ’s leading chefs battle head to head in a fierce culinary showdown.

Friday the 18th is the Trade Tasting at SommCon, from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the Marriott Marquis & Marina on Harbor Drive. Beginners, Master  Sommeliers and everyone in between will have something to taste and love at this largest event of the SommCon conference, tasting over  100 wine, brewery and spirit producers, while meeting and greeting wine producers.

Thursday November 17th you may want to join in a dinner and live auction with culinary greats, from 6 to 10pm at the Marriott.  Gather your friends and reserve a table.  It’s a once in a lifetime dining experience. The auction will benefit tomorrow’s culinary stars with scholarships for deserving students.

Skipping to Sun. Nov. 20th, join the Battle of the Bartenders combined with a Pizzapalooza, the best pizzas in the known world, from New York, Naples, Sicily, SoCal and other pizza capitals.. The fun goes from 11am to 2pm.  The smartest way to go is to combine the week’s events into prepared packages.  For instance, the Grand Cru VIP is: the Pizzapalooza on Sunday, wine or culinary classes, the Friday tasting at SommCon, the Lexus Grand Tasting on Saturday and a Party after Dark by Stella Artois beer.  All the event details are in front of you, along with pricing, at  sandiegowineclassic.com.

Rotary Carlsbad Brewfest draws big crowd

Over a thousand visitors partied with area craft brewers recently at the 3rd annual Carlsbad Brewfest,  held at Holiday Park  off the Interstate 5 freeway. There was a wonderful mix of beers to choose from, testimony to the rage of interest in craft beers. Forget about your father’s favorites like Coors and Bud. All the current best selling craft beer sellers were there, like Ballast Point, Stone, Karl Strauss and Green Flash.



The beer king of the Encinitas Oktoberfest, Edgar Engert with his wife Renate, are shown admiring Alpine Beer, a German style brew from Alpine, in East San Diego County.

There was a lot of interest in New Belgium, Belching Beaver, Firestone, Lost Abbey, Stumblefoot, Booze Brothers; 30 in all, with over 70 types of beer to taste. Music and games kept the fun at a high level. The Carlsbad High-Noon Rotary hosted the event with proceeds to benefit North County teens and Marines through scholarships. Details at carlsbadbrewfest.org.

Meet Peachy Canyon and Benziger from the Wine & Roses Tasting

For 33 years, the venerable Wine and Roses event has graced the wine events calendars in San Diego.  It’s the longest running event of its kind here and it has benefited Camp Oliver , a disadvantaged youth summer camp in nearby Descanso, where over 2 million dollars has been donated.

This year it was held in a luxurious intimate atmosphere, the elegant Darlington House in downtown La Jolla , now open for meetings and events. The Egyptian and Andalusian patios, surrounded by blooming gardens, fit some 25 wineries that were carefully selected. Selections poured ranged from nearby Temecula to the legendary Napa Valley , and most wine countries in between.

Paso Robles and Sonoma are high on my list of excellent wine appellations. Large and rangy, they have hundreds of wineries. We’ll spotlight two, from Wine and Roses.

Peachy Canyon winery was born in 1988, founded by Doug and Nancy Beckett. These dedicated owners make nothing but low production sustainable wines.  One of the best known wineries in Paso Robles, it’s just off Highway 46 west, a blessed terrain with the right amount of heat spikes and foggy cool-downs, and where Cabernets can thrive right alongside Zinfandels.

Zin has for a long time been Peachy Canyon ’s go-to wine varietal.  Their 2014’s are out now and are showing a wild vibrancy with deep plum and mushroom flavors leading to a long textured finish. Visit peachycanyon.com for brands and prices.

Another winery at the event was Benziger and its limited production sister, Imagery.  Both are minutes away from each other near the city of Sonoma .  Benziger is well known for its Bordeaux style wines on 85 terraced acres.  Imagery produces rare and small production varietals from far-away places, and only purchased at the winery.  Wines like the 2013 Lagrein and the 2013 Teroldego from northern Italy , 2015 Alberino from northwest Spain and my favorite, a 2013 Petit Verdot from France , all produced in Sonoma .  This robust Petit Verdot  is cellar-worthy for several years, with 18 months of oak aging  ($42.).  For Benziger, visit benziger.com….for Imagery, visit imagerywinery.com.

Cape Rey Resort rocks on with a new season of fun.

Cape Rey Resort in Carlsbad is becoming the fun capital of North San Diego with well placed party themes including live bands, small bite gourmet food, beer and wine and beach town fashion, all done around a playful pool and an ocean view fire lounge. Their End of Summer Celebration lit up the night, with a partnership by Stone Brewing Company, in a beer garden atmosphere.


Lane Thompson, Stone Brewing sales rep and Jillian Holmes,
Chandler’s Restaurant Bartender,  at the Cape Rey End of Summer Celebration.

Next up is a fun Halloween trick or treat party Monday October 31st from 5 to 8pm.  Come in costume and little ones if you have one or more. All night happy hour at Chandler ’s with discounts on wine and beer.  Details at 1-760-602-0800.

On the Road Again Tasting Northwest Wines

My all-time favorite County music singer is Willie Nelson, especially when he sings “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again…”I’ve got a couple of close friends that I want  to introduce you to, Nancine and Scott Hagner.  Willie’s song could have been written for them.

After twin careers in the San Diego Unified School District, they have both retired to pursue twin loves, traveling in their motor home and visiting wineries. They just recently returned from their latest adventure, a 2 month journey including tasting and experiencing the great wine countries of Oregon and Washington .  It was their 93rd road trip, and like Willie sings, they can’t wait to get on the road again.




Frequent wine travelers Scott and Nancine Hagner,
in the Appplegate Valley of southern Oregon,  at the Wooldridge Creek Winery.


 “We are now retired and we have had an RV motor home that can pull a small vehicle,” said Hagner.  “Nancine and I have been planning to see the countryside of the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla in Eastern Washington for a long time. We combined it with the beauty of Oregon and set our sights for our longest trip yet, with a no-reservation adventure. We depended on the network of RV parks, traveled for 3 to 4 hours, then parked and explored. It is a great feeling of freedom for us on the open road.”

On their way up, the Hagners went through Napa Valley, tasting and touring through some of the wineries on their short list.  They got to know Beaulieu, Provenance, Sterling and a favorite of mine, Castello di Amorosa.

Interstate 5 provided access to Oregon and on to State 238 and the powerful Rogue River near the city of Grants Pass.  This is rugged fir and rapids country and the 18 wineries follow suit: powerful, flavorful and rugged. Two names to know in this Applegate Valley wine country in the south of Oregon: Troon Vineyard and Woolridge Creek Winery. Troon was the earliest of the wineries to plant Zinfandel. They have expanded their wine menu to 10 more on 25+ acres, including the Italian heavyweight varietal, Vermentino. Visit  troonvineyard.com. It gets an emphatic thumbs up from the Hagners.

Close behind is Woolridge Creek, 56 acres of Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and 9 other mostly French style wines. Check out wcwinery.com.

After a detour to the Oregon coast and the city of Florence , the Hagners set out on Interstate 84 to get to the state of Washington and the Yakima Valley. The first people to inhabit this fertile valley were the Indian tribes of the Yakima nation. The wild sagebrush and  sloping foothills still mould the culture and living of the wineries and other farms of this vast area of central Washington. The Hagners camped in this area for 3 days and it was here they discovered Kana Winery in the historic downtown of Yakima, one of the few in-town tasting rooms.


Kana winemaker Tony Lombardo checks next year’s vintage in Yakima Washington,
one of over 900 wineries in the state.

Up until the Kana Winery experience, Yakima was a disappointment  with the best comment being “decent and drinkable.”

Kana is a native word for the spirit or the fire within a volcano.  Volcanic influences abound in the soil of central and eastern Washington. The winemaker is Tony Lombardo who joined Kana in 2012 bringing his philosophy that “90% of winemaking is done in the vineyard.” Recent vintages from 2008 to the most recently bottled 2014 have all been above average.  The best varietal was brought back to me by the Hagners, a Kana Old Vine Blaufrankisch Lemberger 2011, a recent award winner at a Seattle tasting, with dark, spicy, balanced tannins.  This grape is well known and grown in Austria , the Czech Republic and Croatia. The Yakima Valley is one of the few places in the U.S. where this grape is grown. Kana sells this bottle for $18. Visit kanawinery.com.

Two hours from Yakima, Nancine and Scott Hagner settled into Walla Walla and  it was here they hit the mother lode of wines, as downtown Walla Walla has over 22 tasting rooms and over 60 wineries in the district.  Long Shadows, Amavi and LeEcole are 3 well known wineries in the Walla Walla district, but Nancine and Scott are seekers of small, more handcrafted wineries, wineries less traveled.  The top of the list was Spring Valley Vineyard, home of big red wines. Their 115 acres produce Merlot, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec and Petit Verdot. Spring Valley’s brand names reach out and grab like Muleskinner, Derby and a 3,000 case Uriah 2013 blend that has all of the above varietals, for $50. a bottle. Visit at springvalleyvineyard.com. Other discoveries in Walla Walla were: Kontos, Seven Hills, Henry Earl, TERO, Saviah and Northstar.

The Hagners ( a.k.a. Willie and Willamina) are taking short trips to keep in shape for a possible big one in 2017, a river trip through the Rhone Valley of France.  I guess they will have to keep the RV home for that one.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Taste of Wine Finds: August/September 2016

by Frank Mangio

Here and there during California’s Wine Month
The past month or so have been a merry-go-round, with the emphasis on merry. Both pre-events celebrating Wine Month in California in September, and merry-making in September  and its final days have been stuffed with tributes to this great state and its elegant wine industry, twenty one events to be exact. I wrote a column on the unique history of California wines presented by Coasterra Restaurant on San Diego ’s Harbor Island with the knowledgeable experience of Maurice DiMarino at work.

September took me to San Luis Obispo with its heritage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with many of the wineries just a few  miles from the brisk fog of the Central Coast , something that Pinot lovers know is the living breathing life- giving nutrition for this quirky grape. I will get into the details of these two events in a later column.

Two standouts for the wine celebration were the Pala Casino Food & Wine Festival and the Palomar College Starlit Gala featuring Lorimar wines. Just goes to again prove that there is a market for wine events in just about any venue.

Pala is a short run from San Diego County and they have recently worked very hard to establish their wine program as a leading one for resorts and casino in the district. Their CAVE underground wine bar and restaurant has caused and increase in interest for wine.  Their first annual Food & Wine Festival drew 50 big names, mostly in California to nearly dovetail with the California wine month theme. They staged it along with a feast of food sampling from their many restaurants, at a time frame of 4 to 8pm on a Sunday, next to their big-time concert Starlight theatre. Wines included: Banfi and Santa Margherita from Italy, Oyster Bay from New Zealand , Daou, Justin and Wild Horse from Paso Robles, Dry Creek, J Vneyards and Ferrari Carano from Sonoma and many Napa Valley brands like Beaulieu, Beringer, Robert Mondavi and Trinitas.  An creative idea I applauded was the spacious tables and comfy chairs placed so that all of the large guests attandees could sit and spread out their food and wine to their comfort.  Bravo! Check out more at PalaCasino.com

Palomar College Starlit Gala chooses Lorimar Wines
Palomar College in my days when I struggled with 2 jobs and a night education, provided me with a 2 year college degree that I took to San Diego State University to acquire a 4 year Journalism and Advertising degree with honors.  So it was with great pleasure that  accepted an invitation to their 25th annual Gala With the added pleasure of wines from Lorimar Vineyards and winery in Temecula.

The full-house guest list included Congressman Darrel Issa from the 49th District that includes Palomar College . His wife Kathy Issa was honored with the Comet Award for her philanthropic
Work with education. Lorimar gifted the school several cases of their 2015 Viognier and the 2012 Cabernet Franc. I was high bidder on several of their Lorimar Medley 2012 Meritage blends.

At Lorimar, they craft wines that are approachable with a fruit forward style that showcases the Temecula Valley . This one is 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, along with Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Learn  more at LorimarWinery.com.

Perfect Score: Indelible Inflection for a Modern Winery in Napa Valley
Finally, a book about a modern winery of this century, authored by the individuals that lived it, is published for all to read.  The book, a Perfect Score, The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st-Century Winery, is written in an honest and straight-forward way by Craig and Kathryn Hall.

The Halls open their minds and hearts to the powerful passion for what can be described as true millenial wineries, Hall and Walt, constructed and operated after the year 2000, in Rutherford and St. Helena, Napa Valley . They open the book with a real, pixy-like symbol of the Halls success, “Bunny Foo Foo,” a 35 foot long stainless steel sculpture seemingly jumping over the Hall vineyards in St. Helena . “Bunny Foo Foo really represents our wine experience at the intersection of of art, nature, globalization and technology,” exclaimed Kathryn Hall.  “Our personalities and passions have dictated our decisions and shaped everything, from the design of our wineries to the taste of the wine.”

Proof of that winning taste is evident in the book title A Perfect Score.  That came on October 31, 2013 when, in a personal letter to the Halls, Robert Parker, the wine world’s most renowned wine critic, awarded their 2010 HALL Exzelenz Cabernet Sauvingon a perfect 100 points. How the Halls got to that point in their wine careers, is full of flash points and they aren’t all rainbows.

There was the year in the late 90’s when they didn’t yet have their own winery but had wine made for them by the famed Rombauer winery. Late one night, the Rombauer warehouse burned down and took with it, 2,200 cases of Hall wine leaving the Halls with no wine to sell for 2 years and no insurance on the disaster.  It took a hero’s resolve to get going again.

The style of this book had me wanting more with each of the 22 chapters. Like “Bunny Foo Foo,” it bounces through a number of fascinating topics on the winding road to success. Most chapters have both Kathryn and Craig pausing in their story to be interviewed 20/20 style, commenting on the
poignant moments in their lives that relate to each chapter’s subject.

This book is really a love story on many levels, and it’s an American story of great passions and personalities.  Whether you are thinking about owning a vineyard and winery, or just enjoy an award-winning glass of wine, there I something rich and lively in A Perfect Score to inspire readers to follow their dreams.

Today, the Halls operate 500 acres of estate vineyards. They will be traveling across the country and signing books, and plan to stop at La Gran Terraza on the Campus of the University of San Diego on Tuesday November 15th.  The book is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Books-A-Million. See their website at hallwines.com.

Hall Winery’s latest 2013 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon will be served along with other lovely wines at a Hall and Walt Wine Diiner at SEASALT DEL MAR Seafood Bistro, Thursday September 29th starting at 6pm.  These  wines will be paired with the magnificent five course dinner planned by Seasalt owner Sal Ercolano.  The cost is only $54.95 per person. Call 858-755-7100 to reserve your place and an opportunity to savor Hall and Walt wines.

Carcofi with Full Bodied Reds are Sure to Please
Looking for a patio party pleaser with a distinctly Italian flavor to it? Look no further than Carcofi Ripieni for a desirable headliner, paired with a bevy of monster red wines with an Italian/California pedigree.

Artichokes are a fascinating bowl-like green vegetable with lots of nutritional value.  They are a very delicious treat when each leaf or bract of the Carcofi is stuffed with Italian delights such as grated
aged Pecorino cheese, Italian breadcrumbs with seasonings and sweet basil and crushed garlic, all drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and white wine.

You have to have time and patience to consume artichokes of any kind but especially stuffed Italian style.  The edible portion is the leaf pulp (also called flower buds) before the flowers come into bloom.  The base or heart of the plant is also edible and is the most delicious of this eat-by-hand meal.

Artichokes are healthy choices.  They contain the highest antioxidant ingredient reported for a vegetable and were first cultivated for eating by the Sicilians and popularized as a delicacy by the Greeks, Spanish, Italians and French.  In America , California produces 42,000 tons, with nearly 100% of the U.S. crop in the City of Castroville, proclaiming itself the “Artichoke Center of the World.”  But this is still far behind Italy with over 500 thousand tons produced.

Briefly, stuffed Carciofi is made after cutting off the top thorns of the leaves, and trimming the stem at the bottom.  Open the leaves and stuff with mixed breadcrumbs, grated cheese, ground garlic and sweet basil. Drizzle over the top of the leaves with olive oil and white wine. Place the artichokes in a baking dish with a small amount of water in the dish.  Cover the artichokes with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 ½ hours.  The stuffed leaves should pull out easily when they are done. To eat, grab each leaf by the top and scrape out the pulp with the delicious stuffing, with your teeth.

Noted New York chef brings original dining to Carmel Valley
Chef Pascual Lorange is a culinary household name in New York City and some of the multi-starred dining houses of Europe. He was once the private chef for international singer Julio Iglesias.  Well, New York now has that sinking feeling and San Diego suddenly is looked up to as very attractive for must-dine restaurants, including Lorange’s new CRUDO.

I had the pleasure of interviewing this charming man who has raised the cooking bar for other restaurants in the city. He’s brought with him a creative bond for the menu which is somewhere between Mediterranean and Japanese-inspired infusions. He is convinced it’s the perfect fit for the SoCal coastal lifestyle and so do I. “I wanted to bring something new to San Diego but at the some tine, it had to be a sophisticated dining experience, yet affordable,” he enthused.  “CRUDO is a method of cooking fish and other seafood, although we have many selections on the menu like steak, chicken and lamb.”

Before I get into the inflection point of this amazing menu, I was joined by Jason Mosley, the General Manager and Wine Director, who opened four distinctly different wines, two whites and two reds, all of which can be ordered by the glass or bottle, and which pair perfectly with menu specialties that were  shaped for these wines.  “The whites cozy up to the many seafood delicacies and have great elegance to match the food,” he asserted.  “Chateau Ducasse is a Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc from 2012, fleshy with earth tones and minerality, and the Trefethen Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 is natural with no butter or malolactic  to alter the original flavor.”  Over on the red side, Mosley presented a Louis Jadot Pinot Noir 2013 from Burgundy and a Terrior Cabernet 2014 from Napa Valley , a blend of some magnitude.  Mosely observed that “although all were young, it is now what the public wants, rather than wait for a presumed aging advantage.”

Every corner of CRUDO has a light, appealing color and design element to match the menu.  “It’s who I am as a chef,” declared Lorange. At CRUDO you must try the Papillote specialties. They are what are uniquely delicious about this inflection point restaurant.  The food is steamed into parchment paper, then slowly baked to perfection.  They include choices like:  Chicken, Lamb, Crudo Lobster and my personal favorite, the Chilean Sea Bass with marble potato confit, asparagus, leek, heirloom carrot, herbs tapenade and green olives.  Unforgettable. Visit at crudopl.com, or call for a reservation at 1-858-847-2797.

Avensole is the newest winery in Temecula
Avensole Winery, a beautiful 20 acre vineyard, winery and restaurant that sits on a petite lake off Rancho California road, is the 40th winery in Temcula.  Varietals include:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, old and new vine Zinfandel and Gewurztraminer. Bought by the Lytton Family in 2014, Avensole combined means one-of-a-kind adventure in Italian.  Grapes have been grown on this property for over 4 decades.  You might remember two of my nicest friends, Buddy and Cheri Linn, who operated the winery when it was La Cereza, a premium Spanish winery.  I’m certain they are pleased with the results of Avensole.  The winery has free live music on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 8pm.  See avensolewinery.com. or call 1-951-252-2003 x312.

Now on to the wines, a selection of six, with each guest encouraged to “taste them all and note the changes in taste with the Carciofi.” The wines chosen for this party were:

·        Gerard Bertrand Cote des Rose,’ France .  2015.  $12.
·        Cantina Zaccagnini Montepuciano , Italy . 2013  $12.
·        The Prisoner blend, Napa Valley , Ca.  2014. $35.
·        Ferrari Carano UNA blend, Sonoma Ca.  2014. $39.
·        Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Ca. $75.

These wines range from light and airy with the Rose’ for those that love a wine that was simpatico with the artichoke flavor, to heavy bodied and tannic with the Cabernet for the guests that wanted a pairing with the strong garlic and cheesy element in the stuffing. One Carciofi is easily enough for a meal.  I suggest that all the food you need is in that one fat, plump artichoke.  More details on the recipe can be found at food.com.

September is California Wine Month.
Any day of the week, any month of the year is the time to celebrate the greatness of California wines.  But the table is set and the glass is full for California to shine in September so let’s toast the world’s most coveted wine country producing 120 grape varietals, more than  any country in the world.  Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Temecula and yes, San Diego County, all produce more than 90% of all the wine in the U.S.  Some 3,500 wine producers dot the state.

Spanish missionaries began planting in the 1700’s.  The first commercial wineries started in Los Angeles in the 1830’s, then later in the century in Napa Valley and Sonoma .


Ponsaty’s – a Return to Elegance
Fifth generation Master French Chef Patrick Ponsaty has applied his masters touch to a new, elegant restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe, Ponsaty’s. It replaces Delicias at a key corner in the village. He was corporate chef at the Grand Restaurant Group which has partnered in the new operation.  As you enter

Ponsaty’s, the elegance is evident in the soft browns, greys and gold- toned massive Murano glass chandelier in the main dining room. Chef Patrick has created a menu that “features my family’s recipes and my visions from top to bottom,” he said.  He grew up in the south of France and started his career in cooking at age 15.  Next was Monaco, Spain, New York, and finally San Diego where he was chef  at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and his own Bernardo Restaurant. Recommended entrees include:  the Lightly Seared Cortez Corvina with Lobster-Saffron Risotto and the Lacquered Scottish Salmon with long-stem artichokes.  The winning wine was the 2009 Bonnacorsi Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara .  RSVP at 858-771-1871.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dave Phinney – Mastermind of The Prisoner

by Frank Mangio
This is a story about “new world” wine in the Napa Valley and the meteoric rise of Dave Phinney, who had an idea about blending wine out of the box. You might say he released “the Prisoner” and freed him to hit a creative home run in the wine world.  But we digress.  The story started in 1995 when Phinney, confused about what he wanted out of life, took a friend’s advice and studied wine for a semester in Florence Italy .

Once graduated from university life, he set out to find work in a Napa Valley vineyard and found one at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997. A year later he started his own winery, Orin Swift Cellars with 2 tons of Zinfandel, and not much else.


Master winemaker Dave Phinney is living the Napa Valley dream, when  in 2003 he created the now-famous blend The Prisoner at his Orin Swift Cellars winery, which has reportedly sold recently for 100 mlllion dollars to E. and J. Gallo wines.

He spent the next few years making wine for others as well as himself, experimenting with the way the wines tasted and looked, with mixing and expressive labeling.  It hit him in 2003, when he added together “mixed blacks,” like the old Italian immigrants who came to Napa Valley used to do.  He made Zinfandel the major varietal and added it to the standard traditional “black” blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono.  He called it The Prisoner from the label he chose, an etching of a prisoner drawn by the famous artist Goya.

At first, the Prisoner produced just 385 cases in its first vintage.  It caught on quickly as the new world’s newest and tastiest blend, and eventually went to 85,000 cases in 10 years.  The last vintage of The Prisoner made by Phinney before he sold the name is the 2013 vintage.( $45.)  It has 44% Zinfandel with 20% Cabernet and 16% Petite Sirah, and the rest Grenache and Charbono.  Alcohol content is a hefty 15.2%.  It is a deep ruby red hue with aromas of black cherry and plum and roasted coffee beans, with a long finish.

It had me going back for more.  I was captivated. Without The Prisoner, Orin Swift and Dave Phinney went international with old vine Grenache made on 200 acres in the French Langedoc region as well as Napa Valley Cabernet brands like Mercury Head, Papillion and Palermo. Mannequin is a Chardonnay based brand and Abstract is a red blend mainly with Grenache.

Locations is a value brand lineup from places around the world. Look for a single large letter on the label. Most recently, this story  shot skyward when E. and J. Gallo, the legendary  decades-long  jug wine bottle company from Modesto, announced that it had acquired Phinney’s company, Orin Swift Cellars,  for a reported 100 million dollars. Phinney will remain in charge.  Learn more at orinswift.com/information.

Antinori Wines at La Gran Terraza USD
Antinori, as most of us know, is one of the iconic Tuscan wines to know.  His family has been making wne since 1385. I learned about Italian wines from Piero Antinori and Wine Spectator when I first began TASTE OF WINE in 2005.  At a recent wine dinner at the University of San Diego ’s posh La Gran Terraza, the next chapter of Antinori was revealed by its Business Manager in Southern California , Alessia Botturi.


Alessia Botturi of Antinori Winery of Tuscany with La Gran Terraza manager
Luis Rosas as they display the Tormaresca wines.

It is the Antinori Tormaresca brand from the Puglia district of Italy.  Tormaresco means watchtower in Italian and they were built to keep away feudal empires from conquering Puglia , now more known for its Primitivo, a grape that closely resembles Zinfandel in California. The Tomraresca Toricicoda 2013 ($20.97) is closest to what we call Zinfandel.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Antinori’s legendary Tignanello, one of the first and best “Super Tuscans,” pioneer wines that were the first in Italy to blend the Sangiovese grape with other varietals. ($95.)  They now command very high prices, and are not made unless the vintage is among the best.  Details about La Gran Terraza and other wine dinners can be found at lagranterraza.com.

Wine Bytes
Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley off the 56 will be presenting a Cakebread Cellars wine dinner, Thurs. Aug. 25th at 6pm.  This well respected Napa Valley winery will be paired with Vittroio’s splendid dinner menus featuring Beef Wellington and Cakebread’s Cabernet. Cost is $59.50 pp. RSVP at  858-538-5884.

Decoy Dockside in Lake San Marcos has its Sneak Preview special event for the new restaurant, Sat. Aug. 27th from 6 to 10pm.  Cost is $100. ea.  Enjoy complimentary welcome cocktail, appetizers, chef demos, live music and a fireworks spectacular.  RSVP at 619-236-8397.

Live at Lake Henshaw at Santa Ysabel, a food, wine and music festival across from the Roundup Grill.  Date is Sun. Aug. 28th from 11 to 5pm.  Cost is $30 to benefit Shelter to Soldier.  Music by Steelhorse Country. Wine from Ramona Ranch Winery.  Tickets by calling 760-782-2729.

California State University San Marcos is offering its next course in the Certificate for Wine, Beer and Spirits, starting Sept. 8th and emphasizing craft beer.  Fee is $269.  More info at csusm.edu/el/wbsq.

Friday, August 5, 2016

PORTUGAL WINE ADVENTURE - PART VI: GUIMARÃES

by Don Nunn

To any world traveler (as diametrically opposed to tourist), experiencing the indigenous customs of the host country is welcomed as an interesting and educational opportunity to learn about another culture.  The French greet virtually every stranger on the sidewalk going in the opposite direction with “Bonjour” (contrary to their reputation among American tourists as being somewhat stuffy), and the Scots accompany every (always hearty) breakfast with the world’s best bacon.   Sparkling wine available to mix with the ever present orange juice (if so inclined), and warm milk for the coffee are ubiquitous Portuguese breakfast offerings.

After leaving Porto, our Portugal journey continued northward, with the next stop being the Pousada de Guimarães Santa Marinha, a completely restored monastery (Mosteiro).  Proof that true craftsmen still exist (at least in Europe) is everywhere evident in the restored historical edifices throughout the continent, and Portugal proved to be no exception.


Guimaraes from Pousada

The monastery at Guimarães has been restored architecturally as needed, but the new and refurbished masonry work is indistinguishable from the original, of which a large part remains.  Plumbing and electrical is installed in historical buildings constructed centuries ago, but is done in such a way that the wires and pipes are unnoticeable.  The magnificent end result is a four star hotel in an historical building furnished with all of the modern conveniences, including a fine dining restaurant.  Yet the guest walks the same cloisters, and muses contemplatively in the same terraces and courtyards, as the Augustinian Monks who built and occupied it starting eight centuries ago.

Most of the antiques that now fill the Pousada are hotel furnishing additions that enhance the atmospheric surroundings, but were not present when the monks walked the halls.  No doubt, however, the stark and uncomfortable looking benches that line the long and spacious corridors of the present Pousada were familiar to the spartan lives of those long ago monks.   Sternly self-disciplined by their religious vows, living rigorously simple lives, perhaps those monks would not approve of the comfort that permeates their hotel monastery today, but I certainly did.


Terrace at Pousada de Guimaraes

The Pousada sits, as did its predecessor monastery, high on a hill with a commanding view over the valley below, in which reposes the substantial town of Guimarães.  My favorite place in the Pousada was a very large terraço (terrace) at the end of a long hallway of guest rooms on the top story of the former religious edifice.  I found it early in my customary exploration just after checking into our room.  The terrace was centered with a 15 foot high fountain, covered on its one enclosed side wall with giant azulejo (tile) panels depicting historical themes (everything here was overly spacious or of large stature) , and overlooked Guimarães far below.

Open on three sides and supported by immense (of course) stone columns, the terrace was mostly shaded from the afternoon sun and provided the perfect place to relax, enjoy the view, and reflect upon the satisfaction of finding such an atmospheric lodging in which to spend the night.  The terraço was intended for the common use of all hotel guests, but we happily found ourselves entirely alone to soak up the ambience.


Pousada de Guimaraes

Guimarães was Portugal’s first capital and also the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, the first King.  Its history dates back to the 10th Century, and the medieval town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One custom that I could do without is the meal cover charge, 4€ each at this location.  Nevertheless it is a small price to pay for the enjoyment of a relaxing dinner amongst the stone columns and buried memories of the dining area in this historical monastery.   The restaurant area was filled on all sides by many more azulejo panels.  As these panels are done in cobalt blue, are mostly antiques themselves (fifty or more to hundreds of years old), and depict primarily historical themes, I knew before embarking on the trip that I would be a fan.  Of all the things I like about Portugal, the Azulejo Panels are certainly my favorite (yes, even more than Port).


 Dining Room Pousada de Guimaraes

Dinner tonight consisted of a cured duck salad with pine nuts & raspberry vinaigrette starter, intermezzo of carpaccio with melon ice cream, fig jam, and herbed crème cheese, and main course of filet mignon, with a side dish of mushrooms and rice served in a cast iron pot.

The wine this night was a red from the Dão region.  The name comes from the Dão River.  The Dão is a mountainous region of north central Portugal, a little east of Guimarães, and is favored with a moderate climate.  The Dão has its own DOC, and for the Dão DOC to be on the label, it must be produced with at least 20% Touriga Nacional grapes.  The wine I had was blended with a mouthful of other Portuguese varietals.  The cost of the wine was consumer friendly.

This was the best meal of the trip thus far.  On my own personal 5 point scale for food quality,  I rated it 4+, a score that was only equaled or exceeded twice in three weeks, and both of those other times were in surprising locations.

In our next installment, we continue still farther north, to the Peneda-Gerês National Park, which demarcates a portion of Portugal’s border with northwest Spain.  The National Park is a mountainous area of forests, lakes, and remarkable beauty. 

Cool Down with Viognier and other White Wines

by Frank Mangio 
The first time I put my lips to a Viognier wine it was love at first taste. This white wine, so thirst-quenching and delicious, deserves better. Its roots are deeply laid in the northern Rhone Valley of France and is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhone. Viognier is hard to pronounce and is lagging way behind the leader of the white wine pack, Chardonnay.

First let’s get the pronunciation right. It’s (Vee-on-Yay) and like Chardonnay, Viognier has the potential to produce full-bodied complex white wine, with a pretty, golden hue to it to tempt the palate. Unlike most simpler whites, both Chardonnay and Viognier age well, so it’s not unusual to see a year or two of vintage on the label.  Another interesting thing about this wine is that it blends well  with other whites. Our friends at Robert Renzoni in Temecula Valley make a Cantata blend with 60% Pinot Grigio and 40% Viognier.  Lots of apple and pear on the nose, with a hint of pineapple on the finish.


 Viognier grapes are bursting with notes of fruit like Peach, Pear and Mango,
and it does well in Temecula Wine Country.

 Viognier seems to have found a home in Southern California. A number of wineries in Temecula have embraced its heat-loving properties and distinguished palatable accents. Besides Robert Renzoni, several other wineries feature Viognier in their white wine lineup.  Falkner Winery has always done well and Ray Falkner was an early believer in the varietal.  His new release Viognier is a gold medal winner, grown on the estate.  White peach, pineapple, key lime and honeysuckle are clear plate-pleasing fruits, evident in Falkner Viognier. South Coast does well with their entry.  Aromas of peach and nectarine dominate, along with a velvety finish, evident in all Viogniers.

Maurice Car’rie Winery is an all-white varietal winery and its Viognier is accented with apricot , Asian pear notes and citrus blossom.  Most Viogniers will be in the $20. price point. Viognier was out of favor and in the 60’s, with  just a few acres in the northern Rhone Valley of France. The popularity and price of the grape has risen since then.  It’s a difficult grape to grow and prone to mildew and up and down yields. A just-right Viognier will have a high level of sugar with high alcohol and perfume, compared to other whites. Source Wikipedia.org/wiki/viognier.

Pinnacle at the Top for Lunch in Temecula Wine Country
 Pinnacle Restaurant, high atop a lookout with a sweeping view of Temecula Wine Country is Falkner Winery’s premium lunch restaurant. Executive Chef Gianni Ciciliot has fashioned a food lover’s menu that pairs well with the many marquee varietals, headlined by the Falkner 2012 Amante Super Tuscan red blend, my wine of the month for August. August is Lobster Fest month at Pinnacle.

Each week Chef Gianni presents this elite seafood in a unique way.  This weekend dine on Maine Lobster charbroiled with garlic butter, whipped Boursin cheese mashed potatoes, asparagus and a triple onion cream sauce. Lunch is served daily from 11:30 to 3:30pm.  RSVP by calling 951-676-8231 x4.

Wine Bytes
Gianni Buonomo Vintners, San Diego ’s first beach winery in Ocean Beach has a new wine release gala, Fri. Aug. 12th at 7pm, paired with several favorite restaurants. The 2013’s  include Rhone style blends, Bordeaux inspired blends and a Super Tuscan style Sangiovese. The winery will introduce their new label, Gianni California .  Ticket info at gbv2013release.eventbrite.com.

It’s Summer in Pink at Cucina Enoteca Del Mar, Sat. Aug. 13th from 2 to 4pm.  5 Rose’ samples will be offered along with an impressive anti pasti spread by chef Joe Mangnanelli.  Cost is $40.  Call 858-704-4500 for an RSVP.

Il Fornaio with locations in Coronado and Del Mar presents its Sicilia Fest Regionale dishes, now til Aug. 21st.  Specially crafted menu delights from the island of Sicily .

La Costa Wine on El Camino Real in Carlsbad has a beer and cheese tasting with the “Booze Bothers,”  Sun. Aug. 14th from 2 to 4pm.  It’s an all craft beer offering, for $25. ea.  RSVP at 760-431-8455.

New Skater Girl Wine is on Board with San Diego Restaurants and Wine Shops

by Frank Mangio
From the wine entrepreneurs who gave us Coomber Family Wines, a fast rising premium brand of vintners collection varietals from the Central Coast and Napa Valley , now brings us Skater Girl, with a 7 year old English Bulldog named Maggie, with “a lot more than just a pretty face.”

Skip and Maureen Coomber, seeing success with their original brands of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet in the higher end market, with a link to contributing a portion of sales to various animal rescue shelters, looked to their love of animals for inspiration to the next level of winemaking.  For 7 years, they laughed and had fun with their skate boarding  Maggie.  ” We wanted to create a fun, everyday brand of wines that were easy to drink, had great value and honor our talented Maggie” Coomber explained. ($15. each, estimated retail.)  


Skater Girl starring the Carlsbad English Bulldog Maggie, is the latest wine creation of the Coomber Family, now available in many wine shops and restaurants in San Diego .

 I asked about how he was able to teach Maggie to ride a skateboard. “Bulldogs have a thing about the sound of wheels.  She would run around the board after one of our family had pushed it, then want to jump on, then push on it, eventually learning how to ride it.  She loves to have an audience. Well, she has one now.  We submitted a video of Maggie to You-Tube and it went viral.  It was played on the big screen at last year’s KAABOO Festival in Del Mar and the audience went crazy.”

The Coombers have a very successful custom crush service facility in Buellton, and purchase quality grapes from the Central Coast and Napa Valley for both Skater Girl and Coomber Family Wines. They have a personal test for all their wines. They both must personally enjoy the wines they produce. The Chardonnay must have natural flavor with superior grape style, the Pinot Noir must have a Burgundian aroma and flavor profile and the Cabernet must have a strong, powerful  body with deeply toned elegance.

Wherever presented, Skater Girl wines have received orders. Check the Del Mar Wine Company, Wine Loft Carlsbad, Rosati’s Encinitas and the Hilton Del Mar among others. Trade inquiries are encouraged at 858-354-3910.

Meet Agata Lozano – Global Wine Ambassador
I have never met a more energetic, enthusiastic wine ambassador than Agata Lozano, from Lozano Family Wine Cellars of La Mancha, Spain.  After learning the wines as a 4th generation Lozano, she set out all over Spain, China and Russia promoting her family’s annual production of more than 1.5 million bottles a year from over 2,500 acres.


Agata Lozano, now a La Jolla resident, has traveled the world promoting her family’s Lozano Family Wines from La Mancha in Spain , the country’s 10th largest wine exporter, founded in 1853.

Lozano makes a wide assortment of wines including:  Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo Rose and Temprnillo reds, plus many brands of sparkling wines.  On this day of discovery, we tasted the new release Oristan, a premium oak aged Tempranillo, with small amounts of Cabernet and Shiraz. Agata now declares La Jolla her permanent home, reminding her of her favorite Spanish cities of Valencia and Seville. Currently she is looking for a well-known distributor for her Lozano wines and is now interviewing.  She can be reached at 707-266-4350.

Wine Bytes
Tuscany Restaurant in La Costa now has live romantic Jazz available with dinner the first Friday of each month in the Encore Room starting at 6:30pm with the Jazztones. RSVP at 760-929-8111.

The Marine Room in La Jolla has a Cooking Class & Dinner, Wed. Aug. 10th from 6 to 8pm.  Cost is $85. Three-course dinner with wine pairings.  RSVP  at 858-459-7222.

Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo has its Summer Cellar Series with the Winemaker, starting Wed. Aug. 17th from 6:30 to 9:30pm. Each of the 3 events will be a different experience with seasonal foods and wine pairings.  Go to Bernardowinery.com to find out more including pricing.

Pala Casino Spa & Resort, off Highway76 in Pala has its Starlight Food & Wine Festival, Sat. Aug. 20th from 4 to 8pm on the lawn of its Starlight Theater and the Wine Cave. Over 50 premium wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles, accompanied by food pairings and entertainment.   Tickets are $75. ea.  Call 1-877-946-7252 or visit startickets.com.