Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summertime is Wine Time

by Frank Mangio
It’s as if someone blew a whistle and the 4th of July, the ultimate backyard party holiday, came and went. My neighbors like to party at home and in other neighbors homes, so we all did a “progressive” BBQ and wine soiree before the fireworks took over all the fun. There are still many nice evenings left and after a long day’s work list, nothing beats a backyard party, so let your summer lifestyle show and take you guests to somewhere else in the wine world.

Ray & Loretta Falkner have followed their marketing instincts for unusual yet stylish wines for 15 years, having founded Falkner Winery in Temecula in the year 2000. They did well with Mediterranean style wine like Syrah, Viognier, Sangiovese and Super Tuscan style wines.


Ray Falkner of Falkner Winery in Temecula with his Luscious Lips wine,
part of a “Seductive Series” four pack.


 Then they got inventive with marketing and created the ultimate party wines, first with a Luscious Lips bottle in a white or red varietal. There is even a Luscious Lips bright Rosato pink wine. The sensual strawberry and cranberry flavors pair beautifully with summer parties. Then there is the gold medal winning Risque Riesling with a semi-dry taste of pear, cinnamon and spice.  Package it all up and you have the Seductive Series of four wines.  Each bottle is not more than $19.95, with a discount for the four-wine series.  Even bigger discounts are featured in the Crush Club. See falknerwinery.com.

Over at Milagro Farm Vineyards & Winery outside of Ramona, an influx of investors, a new winemaker known as “the Mexican Mondavi,” and ambitious inside and outside renovation, have made this winery a popular summertime favorite. Their party recommendation is a “Milagro Spitzer,” with their Aleatico Port and other ingredients like Lavendar Cola Syrup. Milagrofarmvineyards.com.

The French drink more Rose’ than any other country, about 16 bottles per year, that courtesy of Wine Spectator.  This pink wine makes for a sweet fruity flavor to keep the party going.

Thanks to wineries like Pedroncelli of Sonoma, California Rose’ is abundant and getting recognized. Pedroncelli makes a Dry Rose’ of Zinfandel with a mixed berry and cream soda flavor that makes you coming back for more. They pick and produce in virtually the same year with the current vintage at 2014. ($12.) Pedroncelli.com.

“Life is full of flavor” and that really applies to summer party wines.  I want you to try a couple of fun wines from Argentina :  Decopas Sauvignon Blanc from Bodega Trivento with youthful refreshing  flavors, and Trivento Reserve Torrontes, both from Mendoza . ($11. each) See triventousa.com.

Let’s turn to Chile for a fun Chardonnay with a great story for partygoers, the Casillero del Diablo.
The “cellar of the devil” comes from Chile ’s premier winery, Concho Y Toro.  This is light yellow in color with aromas of pineapple, citrus and vanilla. ($12.) This one, like most others we have suggested, are topped with twist caps, so convenient for party people.  No corkscrews, no problem! Casillerodeldiablo.com.

Wine Bytes
Harry’s Bar & American Grill on La Jolla Village Dr. across from UTC in La Jolla has a 5 course dinner paired with 5 fine Italian wines featuring a Masi Amarone 2010, Wed. July 22nd at 6:30pm.  Cost is $85. ea.  Call 858-373-1252.

Il Fornaio in Coronado presents “Balcone Siciliano” Thurs. July 23rd with a reception at 6pm, dinner at 6:30pm.  This is fine Sicilian food with wines from Planeta in Sicily , moderated by wine expert Marco Barat.  Feature wine with this 5 course meal is the Planeta Etna Rosso 2013. $60. per person. RSVP at 619-437-4911.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos has a 5th year wine celebration, Fri. and Sat. July 24th and 25th, from 4 to 10pm.  Two tasting events on Friday, one is $10. and the other $35. It includes spectacular Napa Valley Reds like:  Caymus, Overture by Opus One, and Kathryn Hall Cabernet. Sat. enjoy $10. flutes of Roederer L’Ermitage Brut, as well as 50 cent tastes on a wide variety of wines. Raffle drawings and food both days. Details at northcountywinecompany.com.

Wine & Wishes, a premier wine and food tasting event that benefits Make a Wish kids in San Diego and Imperial County , will be presented Sun. July 26th from 4pm to 7pm at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.  Napa Valley wines and other quality names, along with delectable food from top restaurants, will be offered.  The event will include silent and live auctions, luxury raffle and live entertainment.  Complimentary valet.  Tickets are $200. ea.  Visit bidpal.net/wineandwishessd.com, or call 619-279-5211.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Top Ten Tastes 1st Half of 2015

by Frank Mangio

Half the year 2015 has already gone, so how many new wines have you tasted in the last 6 months. Better yet how many would you buy again?

Well, I am happy to report that, despite more than a few personal afflictions, this first half of 2015 I managed to be in the middle of about 75 wine events ( plus a few Tequila events).  I’m happy to report that half of my top ten wines, are brands that I had not tasted before this year. White wines are on the rebound, including white blends.  I have 3 on my list.  Italian wines continue their renaissance in Southern California, thanks to restaurants like Solare and Vittorio’s in San Diego, and Thornton Winery in Temecula.
 
Napa Valley captured 4 places, Italy 3, Paso Robles 1, Washington 1, and a San Diego winemaker and owner with a beautiful Pinot Noir from grapes in Sta. Rita Hills above Santa Barbara . All 10 wines are rated equally. Alphabetical considerations cause their place in the ten.  Prices shown are listed in the wine’s web site or best values in wine stores.

Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2010.  $65.  The 2009 vintage was in the top 10  last year.  This one shows more finesse, intensity and flavor.  Structured, long finish from rich fruity roots of Sangiovese.  A five year wait for this princely wine. Castellobanfi.com.

Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay, La Rocca Napa Valley , 2013.  $38.  A dry, single vineyard white wine, fermented and aged in concrete egg-shaped vessels. From the legendary Bien Nacido Vineyard in cool Santa Maria CA. Handcrafted in the ancient concrete method, that imparts richness without oak. Lively acidity. Castellodiamorosa.com.

Coomber Family Ranch Pinot Noir, San Diego/St Rita Hills Ca. 2013. $74.99  A big Pinot with Central Coast grapes.  Aged in Oak to bring out flavors of cinnamon, cherry and spices. Based in San Diego .  Coomberwines.com.

Etude Chardonnay, Carneros Napa Valley , 2012. $14.  A work of art, rich and vibrant fruit, harking back to the natural days of minimalist Chardonnay. Apple, pear and citrus. Etudewines.com.

Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley , 2012.  $65.  The thinking man’s Cab.  A touch of Merlot Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Organically crafted in a perfect vintage that winds up more complex than the sum of its parts.   More intelligence at grgich.com.

Hill Family Merlot, Napa Valley , 2012.  $19.95.  Fourth generation farm family, they know to balance the vineyards before harvest, for depth and character.  After years of growing grapes for others, they have their family name on the best of the crop.  Hillfamilyestate.com.

Pepper Bridge Seven Hills, Walla Walla Wa. , 2012.  $60. Another great Washington wine where wines are made in the vineyard, according to winemaker Jean-Francois Pellet.  “It’s all about striking the right balance.,” said Pellet. Finesse, elegance and a long finish. Mostly Cab, with Merlot and Cab Franc.  Pepperbridge.com.

San Felice Pugnitello , Tuscany It., 2010.  $55.95.  From the ancient vineyards of San Felice, this grape contends with Sangiovese as the patron grape of Tuscany .  Intense purple-red.  Velvety with massive fruit taste.  From the 30 year winemaker Leonardo Bellacini.


  
Bruno Cumar of Madellena Distributors, Leonardo Bellacini San Felice winemaker and Solore Restaurant owner Randy Smerik before a capacity dinner turnout.
 

Thornton Winery Barbera, Temecula CA .  2013.  $44. Winner of the sweepstakes prize for Best Red Wine at the  2015 Riverside International Wine Competition.  Winemaker David Vergari handpicked these Italian grapes from across the street from Thornton .  French Oak superior treatment secures the raspberry and blueberry aromas.  This is a cellar-worthy wine.  Thorntonwine.com.

Treana White, Paso Robles, 2013.  $16.  The 3rd of our whites to hit the charts, this one is actually a white blend, rare in the wine industry.  It’s a Rhone Valley French style Marsonne and Viognier.  Bright tropical flavors of stone fruit and honey.  Crisp acidity enhances most dishes. Hopefamily.com.

The New Way to Enjoy Jazz, Brunch and your Favorite Beverage

Tuscany is an Italian Restaurant in a sweet spot in Carlsbad ’s La Costa, at a busy shopping center at El Camino Real and Alga Rd. Since its beginnings in the early 90’s, its always had fine food, and a busy bar with an occasional piano player.


A Live Jazz Brunch on Sundays at Tuscany is drawing music lovers  and diners.  The Tuscany House Band features left to right:  Rick Ross, Althea Elaine Smith and Danny Dicarlo.

 A change of ownership was made recently when a Los Angeles musician with a dream of showcasing award winning entertainment, with fine wine and food, took the musical wraps off Tuscany. Danny DiCarlo, a musician himself, has been putting the final touches on a musical program at Tuscany that’ s been long overdue in North San Diego County .  It starts at the piano bar where nightly, your favorite easy listening live music is heard seven nights week.

The lounge area has been enlarged with lots of room for small bites and your favorite glass of wine  for a short stay. But if your like a lot of friends of mine, there’s lots of reasons to make Tuscany a place to stay longer and make a night of it with  some friends.  The occasional showroom events are becoming a key reason for Tuscany ’s success.  On a given date, you might see award winning comedy, opera, a full-house Jazz band or a favorite singer.

“This is a California inspired Italian restaurant ,” DiCarlo said, when asked about how he would describe Tuscany. “With our piano lounge, live entertainment showroom and Sunday morning Jazz, we have a wide selection of food, wine, cocktails and entertainment,  in a casual sophisticated setting.”

Getting back to the “New Way to Enjoy Jazz with Brunch and Beverages,” Tuscany’s Live Jazz Brunch, served from 10:30 to 2:30pm, is shaping up to be a Sunday go-to meeting place. The Smooth Jazz is intimate with diners and has an uptown sound.  The menu is versatile and Italian in flavor.  Diners can choose from ala carte traditional favorites, with the luxury of 7 brick- oven pizza choices.  “Now that’s Italian” describes a unique choice of several luscious omelettes  like the Tuscany Traditional and the Sicilian Three Cheese. I took the advice of my favorite Italian waiter, Pino Battalico, a legend among Italian food specialists.

 His advice…“you have to choose the Danny D’Omelette, named after our owner Danny DiCarlo, and I want you to have it with a Banfi Chianti Classico Reserve from Italy , vintage 2011.”  Ingredients include:  smoked ham, Italian sausage, salami, bacon, cheddar cheese, roasted tomatoes, wild arugula, spicy Srirachi Aioli and served with roasted potatoes.  All this with Jazz music to make it perfect!  Six other omelette selections await you at Tuscany . To learn more about this lovely Italian restaurant, be sure to search their web site at tuscanylacosta.com.  Tickets to the stage shows are also available at the site.  For dining reservations, call 760-929-8111.

 Wine Bytes
Twenty/20  restaurant in the Sheraton Carlsbad has a 4th of July American BBQ Buffet, 5pm to 9pm.  Live music , exclusive terrace seating for viewing fireworks.  Cost is $50. for adults, $25. for children. Under 3 gets in free.  Book now at 760-827-2500.

Falkner Winery in Temecula is celebrating their 15th Anniversary from Fri. July 3rd to Sun. July 5th. Free concerts Sat. and Sun. from Noon to 3pm, winery tours, huge discounts on wines, outdoor BBQs, lunch specials at the Pinnacle Restaurant.  Wine raffle drawing each hour, from 11am to 5pm.  Details by calling 951-676-8231 x1.

Would You Know your Favorite Wine in a Blind Test?

by Frank Mangio
Those of us who enjoy all that wine can and will give us to enhance our lives, at one point in our journey will want to take the next step forward and broaden our horizon.  Not only to learn about as many wine styles as we can fit into our day, but to understand and test those styles into stimulating rituals and contests that determine our skill as wine connoisseurs.

One of the most exciting and challenging tests of wine tasting skill is that of “Blind Tasting,” a simple question that asks “if I cover the label of your favorite wine and add a number of other wines in to the mix of tastes, would you be able to identify yours?”  Easy you say?  In a recent internationally certified test of professional wine skills called the Court of Master Sommelier Diploma Examination, the most recent held in Colorado , four San Diego Advanced Sommeliers tried and failed to win the Master Sommelier distinction.  One passed the “service” part of the tests, but failed, as the others did, the Blind Tasting portion.


 Advance Sommelier Josh Orr of Marina Kitchen orchestrates 
a Blind Tasting class using non-labeled wine decanters to pour the wines,
then asks questions about what was tasted, 
before revealing the wines.

I happen to have the guidelines for the Court of Master Sommeliers Blind Tasting.  So here is what you need to know when going through this requirement,  Comment on Visual: is the wine bright, dull, transparent.  Is it clear, hazy, cloudy.  Describe the color of the wine you’re tasting. With its Nose:  alcoholic power, fruit, earth, wood, flowers. What do you taste on the Palate?  Dry, sweet, body, fruit, earth, wood, flowered, spices, herbs, acidity, tannins, complexity.  Conclusions:  new or old world, cool or warm climate, grape variety or blend, level of quality, age. What country region, vintage?

 So give it a try with others.  Discuss what you are tasting and trust your palate.  I will wager you will get some questions correct and more as you go forward.  You may get all and identify your favorite wine from the group, but in 2014 only 6 candidates out of 165 made it to Master Sommelier.  You would be in the top 4% of blind tasters.  Cheers! And good fortune.

The Oldfangled Unaffected Wines of Bonny Doon
 
Vittorio’s Restaurant, in the Carmel Valley district of San Diego, seems to have the edge in bringing in small, quirky wines, brilliantly made by eccentric small production masters.  Such was the case again when Bonny Doon from Santa Cruz opened up their best, including my pick of the evening, a Clos de Gilroy Grenache 2013 ($20.).  It was served with a grilled Swordfish over Crab Cake, Tomato and Onion Relish.  Learn more at bonnydoonvineyards.com.

Blue Sky Tasting at the Wine Warehouse Trade Show

by Frank Mangio
Every year I anticipate the blowout show in San Diego produced by Wine Warehouse, an international wine beer and spirits powerhouse distributor that draws hundreds of brands together for an annual product showing. Heck, they even represent sodas, ciders and teas!


 Hundreds of wine glasses greeted visitors to the annual Wine Warehouse Trade Show,
this year at the Hyatt Regency, downtown San Diego.

 Many of the owners of West Coast wineries attend this show, allowing access to tell their stories and pour their wines.  This is the main reason I go.  My readers get some valuableinformation from many of the owners.  Mark Donati was there from Donati Family Vineyards in Paso Robles.  Also from Paso, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, one of the first to make wine in this prime wine country.  Dan Lee from Morgan in Monterey , who you have learned about in my column, was there with his Morgan Winery; and all the way from Tenuta di Castellaro in Italy , Giovanni Pasquero traded comments on his Tuscan wines. Other names to know included:  Far Niente Estates, Heitz Cellars and Flora Springs in Napa Valley , Fess Parker Winery from Santa Barbara , L’Ecole from Washington , Peachy Canyon from Paso Robles and Pedroncelli and Trentadue of Sonoma. All were pouring their current releases, some premiered new brands and vintages.

You may wonder, at these mammoth wine tastings, how to stay sober and maintain a fresh palate. Many would say that taste and spit is the way to go, but for me, I have never spit out wine.  The swallow is an important part of the 5 part harmony of tasting wine.

I make sure I sip no more than 2 ounces of the wine in question, and stop frequently to aerate with water, and soothe the palate with appetizers, especially cheese, crackers and vegetables, when available.  I taste from no more than 12 wineries, what with visiting, exchanging contacts and sipping from the new releases.

I want each winery to be an experience and a familiarization with their creations.

Wine Warehouse was founded in Southern California in 1973 by Bob and Jim Myerson who wanted to share their enthusiasm for premium quality wines with the many wine shops, restaurants and bars, known as the trade. Today, it is one of the largest distributors of  alcoholic beverages in the United States . Wine Warehouse now offers wines from dozens of countries.  It now represents more than 10,000 wines, beers, spirits, non-alcohol beverages and glassware to license holders in California .  Go to winewarehouse.com for more information and links to all of their clients.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Encinitas Rotary Wine Event Benefits Charities

Recently, I observed that the wine consumer was getting washed with wine shows. This was not meant to be a complaint. Wine shows give the visitor an opportunity to sample some superior wines, upwards of 200 choices, along with food pairings, for one nominal admission fee. The realization that big wine shows equal big profits has resonated, especially in Southern California where most days are perfect for outdoor events.

There is one wine/food event I want you to keep your eyes and palates on: the Encinitas Rotary and its Wine and Food Festival.

Set for Saturday June 6 from 5 to 8pm at the pristine San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, this event has quickly won the support of the public, like no other of its size.


Encinitas Rotarian Rich Houk  and Sandy Houk are Co-chairs of the 12th annual
Wine & Food Festival at the San Diego Botanic Garden  in Encinitas.

Guests will taste from over 20 wineries, breweries and other beverages. Area restaurants are pitching in with their best menu offerings and all will be serenaded by live music while they bid up auction items.  All this makes for a pleasant wine event  like most others, however Rich and Sandy Houk, co-chairs of the Encinitas Rotary, want you to know that 19 charities benefit  from your attendance at this event.  “Last year was the 7th year of a sellout,” Rich declared.  “Our festival raised over $120,000. for both children’s and community charities. It was a team effort with all 90 Rotary members volunteering to make it a success. Tickets start at $90. and when people buy their tickets, they can choose their favorite charities from our list.  The beneficiary charities need to attend all our meetings and they agree to sell a designated number of tickets.  They also help with raffle items to raise additional dollars.  It’s a total team effort.”

The wines offered are a great fit. Most are from the Southern California region.  Be sure to pay special attention to a favorite of mine this year, Coomber Family Ranch wines.  Skip Coomber has made a high-end style of wine, with Pinor Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  These wines compete with any I’ve tasted.

To purchase tickets for the Encinitas festival, go to encinitaswinefestival.com. Enjoy the festival and help a charity.

Red & White Wines-More than just Color
It’s always red versus white. Whites always start out, and reds finish.  That’s because reds are more robust and more complex than whites. Reds are made from dark red, even black grapes.  Whites are made from green grapes.

During fermentation for whites, the stems, seeds and skins are gently removed from the grape juice after being squeezed from the pressing machine.  For reds, stems, seeds and skins are left in the grape juice during this process.  Tannins and pigments are produced, resulting in this complexity that wine lovers strive for.

Rhone Style Wines Shine for Niner

It’s a given that the Napa/Sonoma wine country in California draws more visitors than any other vineyard region.  All of us who are connected to this star-kissed industry owe it to Napa/Sonoma and the heavenly wines they have given us.  I’m one for honoring those that made history and brought California the fame and fortune it deserved, but the next chapter of the wines of California could be more exciting than ever, and it’s there we raise a toast to Paso Robles.

Cheers to “Paso” and its 26,000 acres and over 200 Wineries. Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles off Highway 101, the countryside amazingly produces the largest variety of red and white wines from most of the world’s grape varietals due to an extraordinary set of sub-climates. Over 40 different grape types get along with each other.

Winemaker Patrick Muran recently presented Paso Robles
favorite Niner wines at Firenze 
in Encinitas.

Paso’s rich history began in the 1790’s and hasn’t looked back.
The area flourished when low production, boutique style, family-owned vineyards and wineries multiplied in the 1990s and early 2000s, favoring the land just east and west of the 101,  just a few miles from the cool coast with its ocean breezes.

One such family saw the future in the wine industry and acted on their beliefs.  Richard and Pam Niner founded Niner Wine Estates in 2001, a 148 vineyard acre plantation, and called it Bootjack Ranch.  Later they would increase their holdings and added Heart Hill Vineyard, 46 acres west of the 101, then recenty Jespersen Vineyard, 77 acres in the south and along the coast in Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo , for the express purpose planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The present winery, off highway 46 west of the 101, was built in 2009 and is a two level, gravity-fed, all indoor production building with natural light, energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

Niner winemaker Patrick Muran is an avid surfer and sailor who grew up near Paso and Niner.  “I surfed all over the world and gained great respect for the raw power in nature,” he said.

“We are well known for our Cabernet, Bordeaux and Rhone Valley French blends, and we are going full throttle, romancing  Pinot Noir, that we are growing in the Edna Valley . We brought in a new winemaker whose an expert on making Pinot, Molly Bohlman.  She was from Paul Hobbs Winery in Sonoma. She is devoted to this style of grape.”

I asked Muran how the vintages were for him since he became Niner’s winemaker.  “2011 was a scary challenge with frost on the vines and lack of long periods of sun.  2012, which is the year for most of our current releases, was a much happier time.

There is now a Pinot Noir cycle.  We are on top of it with our 2012 from Edna Valley vineyard, and Molly’s credentials.”

The principal wine served at the recent Firenze Encinitas dinner was the 2010 Twisted Spur blend, served with Lamb Osso Buco and grilled asparagus.  It consisted of:  39% Merlot, 37% Petite Sirah, 22% Syrah and 2% Cabernet,with 18 months in oak barrel and 2,286 cases  made. I would recommend it at $35. retail. This is a big and bold flavor with rich blueberry and plum.

Other  Niner wines poured at this event were:  2012 Grenache Rose’, 2012 Edna Valley Pinot Noir and the 2012 Estate Petite Sirah.  A food and wine pairing cruise is planned by Niner Saturday June 20 from 1 to 4pm around Morro Bay . Call 805-226-4882 for details; and visit ninerwine.com.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Southern California Awash in Wine Shows

by Frank Mangio
It would take reams of copy to summarize the dozens of wine shows that have descended into Southern California  to pour the latest releases of fine wine for a thirsty public.  At times you can find international shows where wines from many countries compete with the U.S. ( read west coast).

Others are just California and many more focus on regions, like the one I visited recently, the wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands of the central coast. Along the central coastal area of California , there is no lack of wine countries to visit.  From Santa Barbara north to Santa Ynez, the Sta. Rita Hills , Paso Robles, Monterey and the special, bucolic mountainside just below Monterey called Santa Lucia Highlands .  Truly a home for wine artisans, vineyards are planted on terraces overlooking the Salinas River Valley, cooled by the fog and ocean breezes off Monterey Bay.  Forty-nine properties grow wine grapes on 6,100 acres.

 Most of these wineries make Pinot Noir. There is no more attractive setting for this glamour queen of wine than the Santa Lucia Highlands.

With more than 30 years experience, Dan Lee and his Morgan label are the essence of this region.  His Double L Vineyard, purchased in 1996, is today one of the best known vineyards in the state.  You can taste this crown jewel of Pinot Noir ($58.) as the 2013 Double L has just been released.  That year was beautiful for wine grapes, as was the 2012.  You find aromas of coffee and black cherry, and flavors of blackberry, dates and plum.  For more, go to morganwinery.com.

One of the fastest growing wine events in San Diego is one that is only in its 3rd year.  Held at Liberty Station in the Pt. Loma district, this indoor/outdoor venue quickly picked up over 100 brands of high quality wineries.  The passionate producer David Fraschetti,  who did corporate events and is a lover of fine wine, rolled up his sleeves and laid out a space plan  of wines, food and music 2nd to none, and called it Vin Diego.

Heavy hitters lined the walkways  in the park- like setting.  Wines like:  Ferrari-Carano, Grgich Hills, Opolo, Niner, South Coast , Sokol Blosser and ZD plus many more were repeat customers. Marina Kitchen, Jake’s, Solare and the Grant Grill had tasty bites. Mark your April 2016 calendar for the 2nd Saturday and be sure to experience Vin Diego next time around.  Visit vindiego.com.

It doesn’t have to be a huge strung-out event to gain an insight into the world of wine.  Find an active restaurant like Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley , just north of San Diego producing monthly wine dinner events, and you will learn a lot.  Marty Merritt, regional manager for Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles came in recently with some of his newest releases from Hope.  All are Rhone Valley south-of-France style wines.

Vittorio’s was up for the event and called on his chef for exceptional  cuisine like jumbo scallops, roasted duck breast and New Zealand lamb chops. The wines were red blends, chardonnay  and a personal favorite, a 2013 Treana White ($23.).  Mostly from the Viognier grape, flavors of ripe stone fruit with honey overtones are the real deal. Check out hopefamilywines.com.

Wine Bytes
North County Wine Company presents a Top Shelf Tasting Fri. May 8th from 4 to 10pm. This is a special opportunity to taste big-time wines like Keenan, Pahlmeyer and Don Melchor Cab. Cost is $35. including hors d’ oeuvres.  Details at 760-653-9032.

Island Prime & C Level Restaurant on Harbor Island San Diego has a symposium and wine tasting from South Africa , Sat. May 9 from 1 to 2:30pm.  Two experts from that country will moderate. $40. pp.  Call 619-298-6802.

Tablas Creek Winery comes to La Jolla at La Valencia ’s La V Restaurant Tues. May 12th from 6 to 9pm.  The winery is one of the top rated properties in Paso Robles.  $120. ea.  Details at 858-454-0771.

The Rotary Club of Bonsall presents its annual Wine, Brews and Blues Festival, the California Center for the Arts in Escondido , Sat. May 16 from 5:30 to 10pm. Both wine and handcrafted beer tastings, silent auction and live blues music for dancing.  Food, including a beer and brats courtyard. Proceeds benefit charities.   Tickets are $75. ea.  available at bonsallrotary.com.