Monday, October 5, 2015

Here & There: in Pursuit of Fine Wines in Fine Places of San Diego County

by Frank Mangio
Restaurant Week had a good run in September. Over 100 restaurants collaborated in San Diego County , to offer some of the best discounts seen in a while for this promotion.  The event was kicked off in the friendly coastal town of Encinitas at the exciting Go Green Agriculture facility where the highest quality and healthiest produce is grown and shipped.

A number of San Diego County wines were invited to pour their best for the assembled guests on a very hot afternoon, but the mood was good for the food and wine tasting.  Fallbrook Winery showed up plus Briar Rose and Palumbo Winery from Temecula, were among the bottle-poppers. I was happy to see Cindy and Nick Palumbo and they did not disappoint when they brought their new-release Sangiovese with them.

Nick and Cindy Palumbo with  new release Sangiovese wine,
part of the San Diego County Restaurant week kickoff.

Theirs is a premium estate wine with a small-lot handcrafted style. Their 13 acres are planted for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese.  A neighboring lot allows them to offer Viognier and Syrah. “I insist on only producing what I grow and keep my yields low.  I live on the property and insist on sustainable farming practices.” Palumbo said.  Learn more at

Palomar College in thriving San Marcos is the higher educational elder in this market. I studied there as most students in North San Diego County did, to get a 2 year degree, then on to a 4 year institution.  It was a feel-good experience to attend Palomar Foundation’s 24th annual fund-raising Gala for the scholarships and textbook assistance program, at the La Costa Resort.  The program was upbeat and an inspiration for the college’s future.

Featured attendees at the recent Palomar College Gala were:
Robert Wetsfall, CEO Solartube, 
Debbie King, Assistant Director Palomar College Foundation 
and Rick Cassoni, Professor Mira Costa College .

The selected wine was the well known Paso Robles favorite, Robert Hall Winery. This 1995 -founded vineyard and winery favors wine with a South of France flavor, made in a 19,000 square foot cave with Don Brady as winemaker.  Right now it has a Meritage wine special on line for $36.  Wine Club members pay $24. Check it out at

I might have saved the most interesting wine find for last, as I discovered a treasure trove of Sicilian wines at Il Fornaio in Coronado recently.

Mandy Martinez , the rep at American Wines, walked us through the new releases at Planeta, considered the largest of the many wineries that dot the Sicilian landscape.  Moscato is a well known Italian sparkling wine and this one had it all going with its Noto Bianco finish.  But the one that Sicily is rapidly becoming famous for is the Nero di Avola, a deep dusted red, finished in the Mt. Aetna region.

Aetna is the most active volcano in Europe and yields the most rich of the Sicilian soils.  It richly enhanced the Il Fornaio Analletti Forno Spaghetti al Gamberetti, a pasta with baked Italian ham, peas, Bolognese sauce and Mozzarella. See

Coming soon to TASTE OF WINE, a three-part profile on the 2015 wine grape harvest.

Wine Bytes

The La Jolla Art and Wine Festival is Sat. Oct. 10th and Sun. Oct. 11th from 10am to 6pm.  Located on Girard St. between Prospect & Torrey Pines Rd this free event has 150 juried artists, gourmet marketplace and wine and beer garden with over 40 wines including Coppola, Benziger and Baja wines.  Funds from the event go to local public schools.  For details, go to

Harry’s Bar & American Grill has a Pahlmeyer wine dinner, Wed. Oct. 21st at 6:30pm. Pahlmeyer is a Napa Valley choice winery.  Their red Bordeaux Blend 2013 is being matched with the Harry’s Beef Bourguignon.  $99. pp.  RSVP at 858-373-1252.

Solare Restorante in Pt. Loma presents a 4 course dinner with the Preston Parker wines of Paso Robles, Sun. Oct. 18th from 6 to 9pm. Cost is $79.  Wine founder Tucker Spear will present , with the wines named after his two sons, Preston and Parker. Partial profits go to the Williams Syndrome Association.  Niner wines will also have 3 wines for tasting. Call 619-270-9670 for details and an RSVP.

Celebrating Art & Wine is the festival in Ramona, Sat. Nov. 7th  at the Begent Ranch, on Highland Valley Rd. from Noon to 5pm. 16 area wines will be pouring their new releases.  28 local artists will be selling their artwork. A live auction of painted wine barrels will liven things up.  Admission information by visiting

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at, and reach him at  Follow him on Facebook.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hospitality Baked to Perfection in Oak Room at Pala Casino Spa & Resort

by Frank Mangio
Pala Casino Spa & Resort has brought the art of fine dining and wine tasting to its highest level, with the sweeping success of its Oak Room.  Sure, there are still the slot machines and card games in the common areas and lots of entertainment  in this high rise resort just east of Interstate 15, and the buffet is the best of the casino locations in San Diego .  But Pala mastered all these rules of casino management, before it could break the rules of casino fine dining, by presenting a four-diamond world class steakhouse with prime streaks and chops as well as fish, lobster and other delicious entrees at its Oak Room.

The Executive Chef is Robert Camerota, who is in charge of the 11 restaurants at the Casino, including CAVE, the new sensation at Pala. Camerota gained fame when he was chef for Steve Wynn and his many hotels in Las Vegas , Atlantic City and overseas.  In 2008 he found the perfect home for his “Chef to the Stars” reputation, at the Oak Room.

Robert Camerota, a top Executive Chef creates the culinary specialties at
Pala Casino’s 11 restaurants, including the Oak Room.

At the Oak Room, everyone’s a star.  “Fabulous, amazing and perfect” are comments that I heard from the dining guests who savored the luscious entrees, a culinary adventure found only in the finest dining capitals of the world.  The assembled professionals know how to serve.  George Myers, our table attendant, confidently detailed the special offerings, while placing a bread ensemble at our table with a variety of dipping sauces and my favorite Riesling, the Chateau St. Michele Eroica.

Some choices selected included the Prime beef, bone-in Filet Mignon steak, dry aged for 21 days and double cut.  Perfect with sides like roasted sweet corn, spinach or asparagus, steamed or grilled. The Chilean Sea Bass was also a favorite, moist and lightly seared.

I left the wine choice up to General Manager Steven Whisler, whose depth of wine knowledge left me listening to what he had to say, especially his choice:  a 2006 Feather Cabernet from Walla Walla Washington , made by Randy Dunn, a renowned maker of Cab from Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley of California. Feather is part of a group of wines, orchestrated by Long Shadows Vintners of Washington and founder Allen Shoup, twenty years with Chateau Ste. Michelle. He is considered the founding father of modern Washington wines.

Pala’s Oak Room wine choice was the 2006 Feather Cabernet,
made by the Napa 
Valley wine legend Randy Dunn.

To learn more about the Long Shadows wine collection, visit

Whisler also revealed that he stocked close to 500 wines, showcasing the best of Napa Valley with a best effort to create value in the list.

Speaking of my favorite subjects, a wine and dinner event is planned in Pala’s underground CAVE, Wednesday October 7th, when Napa Valley ’s Trefethen Family Vineyards comes to the resort, complimenting a 4 course dinner.  From Trefethen Riesling to a finely crafted “Double T” blend, all Trefethen wines are of the highest quality.  The price per person is a reasonable $68.  Reservations must be made at 1-877-946-7252.  Ask to “book the wine dinner on October 7th.” A note that the Oak Room is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

I have just returned from a historic journey to Sonoma and the Napa Valley for the harvest, covering 16 wineries and resorts.  A three part series will follow over a 2 month period, for your interest and education.

Wine Bytes
Tuscany Italian Restaurant and Lounge in La Costa is bringing back the talents of Jazz and Soul singer Rebecca Jade, Sun. Oct. 4th in the lounge from 6 to 8pm.  She will do a tribute to the international singer Sade.  $15. in advance, $20. at the door.  Tuscany will also be doing a wine tasting event Wed. Oct. 7th. For details, call 760-929-8111.

Mira Costa College in Cardiff presents a Napa Valley Wine Class Wed. Oct. 7th from 6 to 8pm.  This is the first class of a three week Wednesday VIP class tour, tasting such wines as Rombauer, Chateau Montelena, and Silver Oak.  Tuition is $60.  Materials $50.  619-980-2135.

Seasalt Restaurant  in Del Mar has a Ferrari Carano Wine Dinner Wed. Oct. 7th at 6pm.  Special 5 course dinner menu paired with award winning wines. The main course is Beef Tenderloin served with  Ferrari Carano Tresor blend.  $55. per person. 858-755-7100 to RSVP.

A Napa Valley Vintners Grand Tasting will be presented by Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, and the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, Sat. Oct. 10th from 6 to 9pm. Pre-purchase tickets at Meritage for $65.  Reductions for multiple tickets. 760-753-6041.

Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula  brings in a concert by The Blues Travelers, Sat. Oct. 17th .   Doors open at 6pm, concert at 7pm. Seats start at $65.  Added pricing for VIP features. 1-951-491-6551.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Napa Valley Wine Pours at Rancho Valencia

by Frank Mangio
It’s not every week we can get up to Napa Valley , where wine royalty reigns supreme and Cabernet Sauvignon is the King of the castle. Only 4% of the wine grapes in California come from Napa Valley , one of the smallest wine regions in the world. Yet it is hardly tiny in sales.  Napa Valley generates more than 13 billion dollars annually, 1/3 of all the wine sold in the U.S.

Next week, I will be visiting some 14 wineries spread out over 30 miles of hills and valleys, capped by a renowned benefit event, with premium wines offered for tasting that are legendary around the world.

Linda Neal pours her 2012 Tierra Roja Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for TASTE OF WINE’S Frank Mangio at a Napa Road Show at Rancho Valencia Resort, in Rancho Santa Fe.

Recently, Rancho Valencia , a favorite resort in Rancho Santa Fe, under the expert wine guidance of Sommelier Mitch Price and Food & Beverage Director Justin Wilson, brought in a select group of Napa Valley Vintners on two closely knit occasions, as a kickoff to California Wine month for September.  Each date gave the public an opportunity to go face to face with stunningly big beautiful wines, mostly from the great 2012 harvest. This was all the more important to wine lovers, because most, if not all of these wineries are not open to the walk-in public at their tasting rooms in Napa Valley.

Wines featured included:  Grgich Hills, Hill Family, Staglin Family, Swanson Vineyards, Arrow&Branch, Neal Family, Spring Mountain , St. Supery and the biggest story of the gatherings, Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon of Oakville.

Linda Neal, the owner, did the honors, and poured her Cabernet treasures.  She was kind enough to include her sold out 2011 vintage from her personal collection. But all eyes were turning to the current 2012 Cabernet, a brilliantly crafted master wine from winemaker David DeSante.  He was quoted as saying that “the palate races along with full and robust flavors of dark plums, cedar, cocoa and espresso, to an ethereal finish with toffee-like richness.”  Only 225 cases have been made.(Suggested retail at the winery $145.)  It is a distinct sensation of wine refinement.  Review this wine at

It’s Grape Stomping Season in Temecula
 Some wineries in Temecula have some great fun coming in the next weeks, at the Grape Stomp events.  South Coast Winery is planning the Blessing of the Wines, a Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival, Sat. Sept. 20th from 4 to 7pm.  Dining, dancing and games included for $55. each.  Go to for details. Lorimar Vineyards & Winery has its Grape Stomp & Harvest Sat. Sept. 26th from 4 to 8pm.  in the Barrel Room. Live music, hay rides, dinner, wine and a keepsake wine glass for $65. per person.  Call 951-694-6699x4 for tickets.

Grape Stomps are coming to Temecula wineries in the next few weeks.

 Ponte Family Estate has its 13th annual Grape Stomp Sun. Sept. 27th at 4pm.  Prices from $86. to $95. Team competition, gourmet food stations, wine, live music.  Connect at

Wiens Family Cellars has a Wiensfest on Sun. Sept. 27th from 4 to 8pm.  German traditional food, music, wine and beer.  Try the Octoberfest costume contest and grape stomping.  Cost is $40.

Wine Bytes
San Diego County Restaurant week is Sept. 20th to 27th. Over 180 restaurants are discounting their menus. The theme is Go Local. Check out which ones at  You can also RSVP at this site.

Il Fornaio in Del Mar is presenting a Hahn Family Wine Dinner Thurs. Sept. 24th at 6pm.  Hahn rep Peter Pons will lead guests on a tour of the wine portfolio.  Highlight will be a Branzino Intrecciato ( Mediterranean Seabass) served with a 2013 Hahn Meritage.  $55. cost.  RSVP at 858-755-8876.

Vittorio’s of Carmel Valley has a Robert Hall wine dinner Thurs. Sept. 24th at 6pm with a 4 course dinner plus dessert. $49.50 pp.  Call 858-538-5884 for a place.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Move Over Wine! The Craft Beer Rally is Real

A month or so ago, The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the symbol of superb wines in magnificent European style architecture, and in a restaurant that was one of the few in the country to win the Grand Award from Wine Spectator 6 times for its wine collection, presented a Ballast Point Beer Dinner. An act of heresy, was my first thought.  Surely the new ownership knew of the history of wine in this palace, some 15,000 bottles in sumptuous underground cellars to enhance the 5 diamond, 5 star Addison with Master Chef William Bradley.

Derek Killermann, sales rep, and Steve Anderson, Senior Brewer for Ballast Point Beer,
at the Fairmont Grand Resort, in Del Mar.

But this night, “prost” ( German for ”cheers”) was heard in the halls of the Grand’s Clubhouse Grill as they welcomed the Ballast Poin Beer team pairing 4 beers with a four course dinner from chef Joshua Dorfner, plus a basic Pale Ale during the reception. The four were:

Dorado Double IPA, Piper Down Scottish Ale, Victory at Sea Porter and Grunion Pale
Ale. Craft beer evolves around Pale Ale, the malt used in brewing is of a pale color with lots of hops to increase alcohol content which can get up to 10% (on the Piper Double IPA.)  San Diego has been on a tear with the number of breweries increasing exponentially.

Yellowtail Pale Ale is the basic craft beer from such major beer labels as San Diego ’s Ballast Point.

The city of Vista boasts 14, more craft breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S. , and the city has set up a development fund to ultimately increase the number of micro-breweries to 58.  They are considering naming that part of Highway 78 that runs through the city to “ Hops Highway .” Pale Ale is the basic brew that has done the job for such San Diego brands as:  Stone ( #10 in Craft Beer Sales in the U.S. ), Ballast Point (#29) and Karl Strauss ( #41). We’re not talking small change here.

In2011, brewers and brew pubs generated almost 300 million dollars in sales in San Diego County .  Like winemakers, brewmasters yearn for that individual taste and flavor, and the people at Ballast Point feel they have it in the Sculpin India Pale Ale.  Because of its hoppy sting, it was named Sculpin after San Diego’s local rockfish, with poisonous spines but delicious meat.

Hops are added at five different stages.  High in alcohol for a beer, this one is clocked at 7.7%.  Sculpin has hooked the 2010 and 2014 Beer Gold Cup. Today, there are four locations for Ballast Point as they get ready for the Octoberfest season, the biggest beer drinking event of the year. You can drink and eat in most locations:  Miramar , Scripps Ranch and in San Diego ’s Little Italy and Linda Vista districts.

Restaurants that just paid lip service to their beer list are now catching on and you now can select from many craft beers, mostly on tap.  The latest, Chandler ’s in Carlsbad , is typical of the promotions with their “Tap Thursdays.”  Four local brews go for just $8. every Thursday.

Before I fell in love with wine and founded TASTE OF WINE in 2005, I co-founded and managed the Encinitas Oktoberfest, now in its 20th year, for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and “Mr. Encinitas” Edgar Engert. I ran the first 10 and it was a fun run of Authentic German Bavarian culture that I was happy to be a part of.

This year it is Sunday September 20th from 10 to 6pm, on Mountain Vista Drive and El Camino Real. Some 200 vendors, food, beer, wine and soft drinks, live Oompah Pah music and
 games will keep you coming back for more. Ballast Point  beer will be here for your tasting pleasure, as well as others. Details at the chamber’s web site at:

Wine Bytes
The 2nd annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival  is planned for Fri. Oct. 2nd through Sun. Oct. 4th with some of the nation’s biggest chefs exhibiting their individual talents while spotlighting Orange County’s best restaurants, wine experts and wineries. Sat. and Sun. from 1 to 5pm,  over 30 restaurants will keep you sampling their best along with  cooking demonstrations. Sit in on elite wine panels, with over 200 world-renowned wines tasted, even rare “cult” wines.  Live  Jazz music is promised.  This event is brought to you by Southern Wine & Spirits.  All events and pricing can be found at  Also dial up 888-511-FEST.

La Gran Terraza at the USD Hahn University Center has its Wine and Dine events going.  Wine paired dinners with Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sept. 22nd, Antinori on Oct. 6th, Gaja Winery on Oct. 13th.  Cost is $50. pp.  Call 619-849-8205 for  RSVP and times.

Vigilucci’s in Leucadia presents Pairings Prevail Tues. Sept. 15th from 6:30 to 7:30pm.  Cost is $20. for this benefit sensory experience of wine and food. Call 760-802-8402. RSVP with limited seating.

South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa in Temecula invites you to the Blessing of the Wines, Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival, Sun. Sept. 20th, from 4 to 7pm.  Dine and dance, live music, exciting prizes for stomp competition.  $55. general admission, wine club price is $50.  For tickets visit:

Touring/Tasting in La Costa, La Jolla & Il Fornaio

Capturing the essence of a quality wine in descriptive words that feel perfect for the moment of judgment  can be a simple expression.  Love is a deep, involved feeling that forecasts long-term devotion, while luscious is a more exciting, let’s jump in the pool together feeling.
I used both words without hesitation at my three recent wine visits to The La Costa Resort, Harry’s Bar & Grill and Il Fornaio in Del Mar.

At the recent La Costa Resort benefit for Make a Wish  of  San Diego, expertly produced under the leadership of Dustin Cano of Meritage Wine Market, Italics Wines of Napa Valley’s Coombsville district stole the show with its “15” blend.

 Andy Wilcox, right, managing partner of Italics Winegrowers of Napa Valley , is shown pouring the “15” blend for a guest at the annual Wine & Wishes in La Costa.

The story on this wine  is that winemaker Steve Reynolds wanted to highlight the best that Napa Valley had to offer so over a decade ago, with 13 sub-appellations at that time, he blended wines from each of the 13 and so created the blend “13.”  Now he has created the 2012 “15” as Napa Valley added two more sub-appellations.  Now Coombsville has been created as #16.  Instead of looking around for a winery to collaborate with, Italics was born, in Coombsville, on 73 acres southeast of the city of Napa .  Love and luscious were perfect descriptors for “15.”

In La Jolla , across from UTC, you will find Harry’s Bar & Grill.  The original is still going strong in Florence Italy .  Owner Garo Minassian brought in Kobrand Wines, reps for some of the finest Italian wines on the “boot.”

With a lively menu, Kobrand brought in among others, the Feudi Maccari Saia, 2012 Nero d’ Avola ($18.50). This one comes from the hot selling wine country of Sicily and on average, 30 year old vines 80 meters above sea level on volcanic soil.  12 to 14 months aging is done in small French Barriques, then aged for 6 months in bottle.

 Nicole Gilberts and Sara Klein of Kobrand with Harry’s owner Garo Minassian.

Like California there was just enough rainfall in 2012 and the vines sought lower ground for sustenance, producing beautiful balance…lovely and luscious!

IL Fornaio in the Del Mar Plaza has a seascape view to love. Table #54 is the one to ask for. Manager Mathew Galli is as congenial as any I know.  He brought in Beni Di Batasiolo, represented by a passionate shepherd of the wines, Stefano Poggi with his million dollar smile. Poggi took the assembled through his inventory of Piemonte wines, then warmed up when he spotlighted the 2010 Batasioli Barbaresco ($44.95), the iconic wine for the district.  The grape is the Nebbiolo, a luscious grape of great nobility, strongly tannic, yet delicate in floral flavor. It comes from the town of Barbaresco .

Stefano Poggi, left, presents the wines of Benni di Batasiolo to Il Fornaio manager Mathew Galli.
Italy has more than 2000 different wines, more than the rest of the world together.  Remember to always eat some food with your favorite Italian wine.  It always enhances the flavor. Now that’s amore!

Wine Bytes
A Taste Of Wine congratulations to the Tobin Brothers and  their great success at North County Wine Company in San Marcos .  It was named the Best Wine Bar in North San Diego County by a leading poll.  Check it out at

The Emilio Nares Foundation, supporting families with children battling cancer, will host the 12th annual Harvest for Hope, Sun. Sept. 13th from 1 to 4pm at the San Diego Central Library. Event includes unlimited tastings from San Diego ’s finest restaurants and beverage brands to raise funds for this worthy cause.  Live and silent auctions and local musicians. Ticket cost is $135. ea.  For more information and tickets, call 760-310-9467 or visit

Hotel Del Coronado presents a special 5 course dinner Tues. Sept. 15th. Each course will be paired with exquisite wines from Cakebread of Napa Valley.  Cost is $95. per person. $165. with wine pairing.  RSVP from 5:30 to 9:30 at the 1500 OCEAN restaurant  at the hotel. 619-522-8490.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Paso Robles Deeply Rooted in Fine Wines

They came for a re-visit to San Diego, some 35+ wineries from Paso Robles led by veteran cheerleader and Communications Director Chris Taranto, who has guided the message for Paso
wine country for as long as I can remember. Appropriately called the Grand Tasting Tour, it had some wineries that were seasoned and comfortable like Hope Family,

JUSTIN, Niner, Opolo, Tablas Creek and San Antonio . A short look around and some things were new like Alta Colina, Barr, Burbank Ranch, Venteux and the sensation of the show, Pianetta with its reboot of the fabled Jug Wine. But more about that later. If you’re new to the wine tasting regions in California, Paso Robles is located about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the

Key Paso players Michael Geise of Hope Family Wines, and Chris Taranto
for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

Central Coast.  It’s the 3rd largest wine region with about 200 wineries on 32,000 vineyard acres. Here, wineries have proven that with the unique climate, topography and soil, over 40 worldwide grape varietals can be grown and bottled.

Some wines to try:  Hope Family Wines Treana Red.  Their Viognier is a personal favorite, and this 2012 Red Blend of Cabernet and Syrah doesn’t disappoint either. ($45.).  Taste plum, cherry and spice.  Visit hopefamily Now on to Pianetta Winery and their re-boot of the wine in a jug.  It’s Jug Wine 2013, with mostly Zinfandel, and some Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Sirah. ($24.)

The Jug wine format returns, as displayed by Caitlin Pianetta of Pianetta Winery in Paso Robles.

“We wanted to create a fun, traditional style of wine and decided the best way would be in a JUG,” explained Caitlin Pianetta, President and owner. 2013 is the 7th vintage, and it sells in the tasting room and select stores.  See more at

New Dates for San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
The largest wine and food festival in Southern California  returns for the 12th time.  The new dates are:  November 15th thru the 22nd. For those few who have not seen this extravaganza, it’s a star-studded classic that takes place at various locations in San Diego. The festival’s Grand Tasting at the Embarcadero Sat. the 21st will feature over 200 wineries, breweries and spirits from around the world, 70 local restaurants and the “Chef of the Fest Competition.” Ticket information is now available by visiting, or by calling 619-312-1212.

Wine Bytes
North County Wine Company in San Marcos presents a flight of new release California wines Fri. and Sat. Aug. 28 and 29. Half glass pours on three prime brands for only $15. Call 760-653-9032 for times.

Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo has its 5th annual Tastings Festival and Classic Car Show, Sat.
Aug. 29th from 1pm to 4pm.  You get lovely wines, cool beer, delicious food and live music for a $30. advance admission.  Phone 858-775-5788 for details.

Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula wants you to join them for a Primitivo Vertical Wine Tasting Dinner Sat. Aug. 29th starting at 6pm.  4 vintages poured with a 4 course dinner. $85. pp, $65. for club members.  Get the full story at 951-694-9892.

Capri Blu in Rancho Bernardo has a Taste of Veneto Italian Wine dinner, Wed. Sept. 2 starting at 6pm. From Pinot Noir to Amarone, these wines will pair perfectly with  a 4 course dinner led by Ossobuco Pork Shank.  Cost is $55. ea. RSVP at 858-673-5100.

The Palomar College Foundation and President’s Associates invite you to the 24th Annual Gala fundraiser benefitting Palomar College students and programs, Sat. Sept. 12th.  The event is at the
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad starting with a  5:30pm hosted reception and silent auction.  Highlights include: a 7pm dinner presented by Executive Chef de Cuisine Marc Therrien, to include the Comet Award and Inspiration for the Future; 8:30pm live auction and opportunity drawing; 9pm music and dancing.  Black tie and complimentary valet.  Pricing, reservations and more information about the event including sponsorship opportunities are available at, or by calling 760-744-1150 ext 2735.

Temecula Valley – Polished up for the Future

by Frank Mangio
2015 may be the inflection point for the wineries of Temecula Valley .  There is a new spirit in this embattled valley, currently home to some 36 hard working names that are determined to get state, national and international respect.

In fact there is so much that’s attractive for visitors to the valley, let’s call this issue one of two columns. That’s necessary to cover new developments in this wine country that five counties in SoCal visit, about 20 million potential wine visitors, for a day trip to Temecula!

The Temecula Valley AVA, as we know it today, became effective in 2004 with 33,000 acres.  1,300 acres are planted in commercial vineyards.  5,000 acres are located and protected in a “Citrus/Vineyard” zone in and around Rancho California Road with strict guidelines set by Riverside County .  Through grit and determination, several projects and improvements are making 2015 a banner year.

A beautiful and spacious 10,000 square foot Cave is just about complete at
Oak Mountain Winery in the fast-forward Temecula Valley wine country.

Top of the mind is the amazing Oak Mountain Caves , a hillside winery on the De Portola Trail, which is a cluster of wineries on DePortola Road .  Primarily for a 1,000 barrel storage 104 feet underground, this 10,000 square foot facility with a steady 66 degree temperature, does much more than store. Valerie Andrews, who founded Oak Mountain with her husband Steve, who is the winemaker, walked me through this mixed use, magical subterranean dig.  “We’ll have tasting rooms down here, and the Cave Café kitchen will be ready to go the end of August.,” she predicted.  “Our private Cave Club members will enter an exclusive all-glass door private area with complimentary wine tasting 7 days a week.

Oak Mountain is up to 30 hand crafted wines to be served in the bar areas, which along with the banquet area, is still under construction. Customers can discover little known varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Pinotage and Counoise.

Above ground, Oak Mountain has weekly entertainment programs.  On Sat. Aug. 22nd, an Elvis Tribute Band plays starting at Noon with no admission charge, in a climate controlled pavilion.  For tours and other information, contact the winery at 951-699-9102 or visit

Lorimar Vineyards and Winery was realized by two brothers in-law, Lawrie Lipton and Mark Manfield, a restaurateur from Kansas City , back in the year 2000. The first planting on 22 acres was Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Syrah, Grenache, Muscat , Viognier and Sangiovese; distinctly Rhone Valley France and Tuscany Italy.  In 2012, a perfect replica of an Italian villa was constructed with magnificent views of Palomar Mountain. Inside is an elegant tasting room with stone fireplace and an art gallery. What’s most exciting to me is that Lorimar and one of the valley’s most respected farmer-winemakers, Marshall Stuart, have partnered together to give rise to the Wine, Art and Music theme, evident in all that Lorimar presents.  “When I owned my own winery, I worked with Lorimar in the earlier years before this beautiful winery was built.” Stuart recalled.  In keeping with the musical theme for the wines, reds include:  Nocturne, Crescendo, Medley, Solo and a lot more.”

 One of the Temecula Valley ’s foremost farmer-winemakers is now hands-on making
superb wines at Lorimar Vineyards and Winery in the Temecula Valley.

The 2012 Medley Meritage was a personal favorite. ($44. For club members, $33.) It reminded me of a Stuart favorite in his days as a wine owner, when he made Long Valley Red, a valley legend.  I asked him what was a big seller these days.  “Malbec has become very popular, especially our 2012 Siancio ($46. For club members, $34.50.).  We just planted 4 1/2 acres of it.  It’s a working man’s Cabernet.”  For more Lorimar news access, and for more on Temecula Valley , come back to my column for next week.

Wine Bytes
Marina Kitchen in the Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Diego is presenting its next Wine Wednesday programs, with “Native Northern Italy” on Wed. Aug. 26 and Coastal California Wed. Sept. 2nd from 6pm to 7pm.  Cost is $20. per person, tasting included.  To reserve, call 619-234-1500.

Il Fornaio in Del Mar presents a Beni di Batasiolo Wine Tasting Thurs. Aug. 20th from 5 to 8pm.  $25. per guest.  Wine expert Stefano Poggi presides.  Select appetizers served.  Reservations at 858-755-8876.

Cork & Draft Classic is an event at Embarcadero North Park San Diego Sat. Aug. 29th from 3 to 6pm.  ( 2pm for VIP tix.)  Wines brews and more.  Prices start at $54. but vary according to date of purchase.  Event to benefit military members in need.  Check it out at
WineSellar & Brasserie has a “They make wine Where? Tasting Wed. Aug. 19th in Sorrento Valley .  Cost is $15.  Call 858-450-9557.

Rancho Valencia  in Rancho Santa Fe is the perfect setting for the great wines of Napa Valley in a Vintners Series, Fri. Sept. 4th from 7 to 9pm.  Theme is “Valley Floor vs Hillside .” Cost is $75. Also live music and gourmet style food stations compliment the wines, including:  Tierra Roja, Round Pond Estate, Spring Mountain , and St. Supery Estate among others.  Located on the beautiful Croquet Lawn.  RSVP at 858-759-6246.

Arterra Gets Back to Greatness with a Wine-Paired Menu

by Frank Mangio
To be a premier chef in an ever-changing signature restaurant located in a marquee hotel like a Marriott, takes some doing.

In baseball, they would call you a Centerfielder, able to handle any culinary challenge.  With Arterra, Executive Chef Evan Cruz has seen it all with his learning expeditions around the world, picking up savory tips from such places as Korea , other Asian capitals and every European center of food excellence.  He’s San Diego born and raised and has worked with Roy Yamaguchi at Roy’s and Bernard Guilles at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.  At Arterra, he has great support from Chef Andrew Hoh with his signature Sushi, with eclectic flavors and new Sushi inventions in an indoor-outdoor setting.

The new, greater food and wine menu at Arterra in Del Mar’s Marriott is in the capable hands of Executive Chef Evan Cruz and Sushi Chef Andrew Hoh.

Chef Cruz is inventive with his menus and wine pairings.  “As soon as I get a menu out, I want to change it.  It’s the freedom of ideas that abound in the culinary global world,” he asserted.  “And now that fresh and local are so important, new and different flavors are what diners want.” He pointed to his Duck Steam Buns and Short Rib Bulgogi as overwhelming “Sample” favorites, not seen on other menus, helping to bring back Arterra to greatness.

Pam Schwartz is Restaurant Manager and covets her responsibility with the wine list.  She waited until she understood exactly what was being brought to the table before selecting a wine match, in this case the Duck Steam Buns.  Out came a white Riesling from Kung Fu Girl in Washington state.

The entrée, a specially  prepared Delmonico Steak( a Ribeye without the bone) with wild mushrooms, had equally special wine with it:  a 2005 Gevrey Chambertin Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux France .

To make a reservation and see more, visit

Vittorio’s and Benziger-Wine Dinner Partners
 Benziger Family Winery of Sonoma has been seen in frequent appearances in the San Diego area lately.  Benziger most recently partnered up with Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley for a Mediterranean 4 course dinner to match up with such Benziger favorites as the 2013 Chardonnay, the 2012 Pinot Noir, the 2013 Merlot and a “Tribute” 2012 Estate Bordeaux Blend.  Not to be outdone, Vittorio’s had a flavorful grilled flat iron steak with red wine sauce. Vittorio’s continues to be the low price wine dinner leader with the 4 courses plus dessert and 5 wines for $49.50.  They do them monthly.  RSVP at 858-538-5884.

Mark Burningham of Benziger Wines with Nicole Gilbert
of Kobrand Distributors  seen popping the corks at Vittorio’s.