Sunday, May 22, 2016

PORTUGAL WINE ADVENTURE - PART V PORTO PART II – PORT TASTING

by Don Nunn

In out last article on wine travel adventures in Portugal, we concluded as we sat in comfortable arm chairs in a private area of the Graham’s tasting room in Vila Nova de Gaia, gazing out a floor to ceiling picture window looking at the Douro River and the City of Porto.  In front of us were three bottles and our tasting glasses of four year old Ruby Port and Ten and Twenty year old Tawny Port.

The names Ruby and Tawny are simply descriptive names based on the color of the wine, which in turn is a factor of the age of the Port. Ruby is always a younger wine, retaining more of its natural color (a ruby red), and sweet fruity characteristics from the grapes.  Tawny Port has always aged longer in the barrels, and the color fades to a brownish, “tawny” color as the wine matures.  As it ages, it develops more complexity and becomes less sweet.

In wine tasting one generally proceeds from white to red, with sweet dessert wines at the end.  In Port tasting, one proceeds from youngest to oldest.  While the four year old Ruby was tasty, enhanced no doubt by the surroundings and the fact of being on vacation, the benefits of aging became immediately apparent as the first sip of ten year old tawny rolled around my mouth.  Just as one smells the bouquet of the wine in a standard tasting, one can smell the age (as well as bouquet) when tasting port.


Graham's 40 Year Old Tawny Port

     The difference between the four year old Ruby and the ten year old Tawny was enormous, and a similar leap in structure and complexity was readily apparent when moving from the ten to twenty year old Tawny.  The unpracticed nose might not be able to accurately determine whether one is tasting a ten or twenty year old bottling, but it is certainly possible distinguish that one is older than another, just by the aroma, and without looking at the color.

Ruby Port is aged in immense wooden vats (Balseiros) holding thousands of litres.  Balseiros are utilized for aging wines when the producer wants to minimize the effects of the wood and micro-oxygenation by having less wine in contact with the wood or exposed to the effects of the air through the wood of oak aging casks.  Tawny Port is aged in familiar size wooden barrels.  Graham’s Port for sale included a 1980 Vintage Port for 196€, and a 1952 Colheita for 330€.  Colheita simply means harvest, in this case a harvest from 65 years ago.  A Colheita is a dated tawny of a single vintage and is the rarest of all ports based on quantity produced.

After leisurely evaluating and consuming our three samples in the main tasting room, we moved just down the hall to Graham’s Vintage Room for additional tasting and education.  The Vintage Room was decorated with dark wood paneling, leather armchairs, old prints, books and paintings, and a tasting bar.   Reminiscent of a Victorian sitting room or library, the Vintage Room possessed character and atmosphere, and was immediately comfortable.  Here, Vasco, the Vintage Room host proceeded to pour me a tasting of a 1983 Vintage Port and to further my Port education from A to Z.


Don Nunn, Tasting 1983 Vintage Port

New to my (Port)folio of Port education, Vasco explained the important difference between blended Port (Ruby and Tawny are both blended from wine of different ages) and Vintage Port, which is from a single year.  A vintage is declared only approximately three times per decade.  Only if a vintage is determined worthy, does the chief winemaker declare a vintage after two years in the barrel, and the determination is subject to the approval of the Port Wine Institute in Porto.  At that point, the vintage wine is bottled unfiltered, and ages thereafter in the bottle.  Thus, after bottling, it is no longer affected by oxidation and the flavor of the barrel’s wood.  The aging is by reduction, and the wine becomes more fruity over time.  A vintage wine should age at least ten years in the bottle before drinking is recommended.

Vintage Port must be decanted (as it will contain natural sediments) and drunk in two to three days (a week at the most), or it will turn to vinegar.  As I drifted dreamily into the past with my 1983 Vintage, listening to Vasco’s informative discussion, I joked that the required drinking in two to three days was not a difficult proposition to swallow (attempt at dry humor here!).

While all port is fortified with the addition of aguardente, a distilled grape spirit, thus  arresting further fermentation and preserving the wine’s natural sugars and sweetness, non-vintage Ruby and Tawny follow an entirely different aging process from vintage port, and are filtered when bottled.

 Ruby Port is bottled young and ready for immediate enjoyment.  Tawny, as we have mentioned may age for a very long time indeed.  In order to be labeled 10, 20, or 30 year old, the average age of the wine must be of the specified age.  It is blended with wines that are both younger and older, but the average age is the determining factor for purposes of labeling.  The fortification process was initially developed primarily to preserve the quality of the wine during the time necessary to ship it to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.


Graham's Port Lodge

As non-vintage port continues to age in the barrel (at Graham’s French Oak is utilized), its maturation is affected by continued oxidation and the flavors absorbed from the wood.  All non-vintage Ports may be open for months without going bad, the older, the longer.  Late-bottled vintage, single quinta vintage and white ports represent still more styles of port that we do not have space to explore in this article.  Once again, the more one learns about a particular subject, the more there is remaining to be learned.

Wrapping up our exquisite experience at Graham’s, Vasco advised that Graham’s has a Tawny Port from 1882 that is still aging.  Finishing the visit at the Graham’s retail shop, I was understandably unable to resist purchasing a 40 year old Tawny for €119.  One certainly would not be able to touch a mid-70s Bordeaux or Burgundy for that price. To me, the anticipation of uncorking an out of the ordinary purchase for an as yet to be determined special occasion is a big part of the appreciation of that special purchase.  Until then, it rests comfortably in the company of a few other special bottles of wine.



Douro River at Sunset

Reluctantly leaving Graham’s Port Lodge, we had an uneventful return taxi trip to our Pousada Palácio do Freixo.  Dinner at the Pousada commenced enticingly with Francesinha, akin to a stuffed pizza – steak, ham, sausage, and mozzarella, with a beer and port wine sauce – one of my favorite dishes of the Portugal adventure.  I accompanied the Francesinha with a Kir Royale aperitif (Champagne and Crème de Cassis) and a toast to Porto.  I selected a main course of Tentaculo Polvo (grilled fresh octopus with plenty of tentacles), and washed it down with a chilled glass of a local white wine.

Already in the north of Portugal, in our next installment we continue an easy hour to the northeast to Guimarães, to a former convent converted into a magnificent hilltop hotel with commanding views over the town and surrounding countryside.

Dolce’s New Location is Sweet Dining

by Frank Mangio

About 5 years ago, old world Italian wines and cuisine came to Rancho Sante Fe with the romantic name( for Italian sweet bread and wine), Dolce Pane Y Vino.  Success was immediate, so fast forward to 2016 and the newest Dolce at the Highlands has come to Carmel Valley in the new Pacific Highlands Center .

Like its parent restaurant in the ranch, the new and vivacious Dolce treats its guests with an expansive dining room, and a bar that seems endless from the front door to the kitchen.  It has both community tables and tables for two or four, with views of very large and comprehensive wine racks, created by the GM for both locations, Steve Flowers. The wait help on my visit was Gwen Blome, who was quick to point out her favorite wines.  She was particularly excited by the showcase


Dolce at the Highlands is the new Italian style restaurant in Carmel Valley with delicious new Mediterranean style cuisine served up with gusto by table servers  like Gwen Blome.

Champagne chosen for the meal, the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV from France. The shimmering gold bubbly has an enticing fruity nose showing savory texture and refined bubbles. This is a lively dry Champagne for appetizers, or a long happy party. ($34.).

Other wine menu whites worth noting were the B Cellars White Blend 2012 and the Arneis “Barola Bianca” white from Piemonte Italy .

Chef Rhoelle Gabriel came to the table and spoke about her California influenced style of Mediterranean-American farm fresh food.   Her favorites included a “Regiatelle” pasta dish with Calabria style meat sauce, and a “Branzino” Italian style Sea Bass fish dinner entrée with potatoes and greens. This was washed down with a bottle of Napa Valley Laird Meritage “Jilian’s Blend” Red, 2013. ($44.)


The prized dish at Dolce at the Highlands is The “Branzino” Italian style Sea Bass.

Come prepared for a wine and dine experience at Dolce’s.  The atmosphere is perfect, with a wide choice of wines and menu entrees. Reservations are recommended at 858-847-2740, or visit dolcephr.com.

Quality Wine Dinners Excel at Vittorio’s
Back to back wine winners, world’s apart, have been on the marquee at Vittorio’s, also in Carmel Valley .  Last month, the popular Italian restaurant featured Chateau Montelena Napa Valley wines with  a five course dinner. Thursday May 26th at 6pm, one of the south of France ’s finest wineries, Gerard Bertrand, will open their best from the Languedoc District. The main course will live up to consistently great supporting menus Vittorio’s is known for:  Roasted Lamb Chops with Hazelnut Crust and Grilled Asparagus will be served with a 2013 Chateau de l’Hospitalet La Reserve Rouge. Cost will be just $49.50 per person.

A favorite at the Chateau Montelena dinner was the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, a luxurious vintage, rich in flavor. ($50.) RSVP Vittorio’s for the May 26th date at 858-538-5884.

Wine Bytes
Capri Blu in Rancho Bernardo has a Roth wine dinner Wed. June 1st at 6pm.  This Sonoma winery is family owned and makes only full flavored wines. Classic Bordeaux style wines are on the menu. Call for details at 858-673-5100.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is planning their annual Oysterfest for this year on June 11, 2016, from 4 to 7pm. Call for more details at 760-479-2500.

South Coast Winery in Temecula is presenting a Celebrity Chef Dinner Fri. June 17th from 6 to 11pm.  Claudia Sandoval, a master chef winner, will direct a champagne cocktail hour, 7 course dining journey with South Coast and Carter Estates wines, live music and a copy of Claudia’s cookbook.  $195. per person.  Visit store.wineresort.com for more details and tickets.

When Jazz & Wine Meet, it’s at Thornton’s Champagne Jazz

by Frank Mangio
For the love of Jazz and wine!  Over the last 20 something years in Temecula, John, Sally and Steve Thornton have provided lovers of Jazz with  the perfect venue for the top lineup of Jazz stars to revel, cheer and taste their favorite wines.  This is the first year without the effervescent Sally as she passed away, a sad event for all Champagne Jazz fans.  True to their mission, John and Steve have just presented a truly legendary lineup of great Jazz for 2016.

Their acclaimed reputation for nothing but the best in Jazz builds on their past as one of the finest in outdoor venues, intimate and acoustically perfect, on a Mediterranean style terrace.



Jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, is at
Thornton  Winery in Temecula Sunday July 31 at 6pm.

The seating is around a grand fountain. Dinner tables are available under a shaded area. The season kicks off with Jeffrey Osborne and special guest Nick Colionne on Saturday May 28th  at 7pm.

Other stars of Jazz in the series are:  Peter White, Paul Taylor, Euge Groove, Boney James, Herb Alpert, David Benoit, Al Jarreau, Dave Koz, David Sanborn, Geroge Benson, Kenny G, Jonathan Butler, Pat Metheny, Brian Culbertson and Richard Elliot.  You can pick up the dates and times for all these greats at thorntonwine.com.

I saved my favorite for last. As a performer, he is in a class by himself.  He is Chris Botti, a uniquely expressive trumpeter with great musical imagination, a string of #1 Jazz LP’s and on the road touring for some 300 days a year.

Botti makes certain he and the audience have a mutual experience at his concerts, and you can experience this magic at his Thornton concert on Sunday July 31st at 6pm. There are 3 ways to purchase tickets at Champagne Jazz:  general admission with concert style seats and optional food service at the Jazz Grill, reserve table Gourmet Supper Packages prepared by Café Champagne , and reserve Season Tickets that the box office will create just for you.   Contact the Thornton Winery box office for purchases of any of the options, at 951-699-0099.

Encinitas Foodie Fest has it All:  Executive Chefs, Food, Wine & Spirits, Music

The 2nd annual Encinitas Foodie Fest blends the best of North San Diego County food, art and music. A total of 15 chefs show us how to prepare farm-to-table cuisine on 2 stages at the Lumberyard Shopping Center , downtown Encinitas.  30+ restaurants  will serve up gourmet tastes.  The “Barefoot Bar” has a dozen craft beer, wine and spirit vendors, including wines by Carruth Cellars, Lorimar Winery, Meritage Wine Market and Del Mar Tasting Room.



Celebrity Chef from Chandler ’s, Teri McIllwain,
will be showcasing her farm-to-table talent at the  Encinitas Foodie Fest.

  There will be live music from 11 to 4pm at the 3rd,, “Vinos, Bites and Brews” Stage, with Perfect Strangers, XANDRA, Ben Powell and Jimmy Patton with Enrique Platas. Visit foodiefestencinitas.com for details and tickets. Also available at the 101 Mainstreet Association office, downtown Encinitas.

Wine Bytes
Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley presents a wine dinner with the French vintner, Gerard Bertrand, Thurs. May 26th at 6pm. These are wines from the South of France, matched up with such excellent cuisine as Roasted Lamb Chops with Grilled Asparagus.  $49.50 ea.  Call for an RSVP at 858-538-5884.

The 13th Annual Encinitas Rotary Wine & Food Festival is Sat. June 4 from 5 to 8pm.  This will be a new and bigger location, the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course on Quail Gardens Drive . All proceeds will be divided among several worthy charities.  Taste beverages from over 25 wineries and breweries.  Sample over 25 restaurants best offerings, music from top local musicians and participate in a large silent auction and raffle drawing. $90. pre-event, $100. at the door the day of the event.  See encinitaswinefestival.com.

Monday, May 9, 2016

France vs. CA. Again at RELM

by Frank Mangio
RELM is a Carlsbad Village focal point for inquiring minds  that are thirsty for the latest in wine and beer, in a bistro setting. It has been re-invigorated after a short slump, by the smart and stylish General Manager David Andersson  who came in after a successful run at Donovan’s Steak House in downtown La Jolla . It really got interesting when Andersson collaborated with Tamara Golden, a local expert on travel news and views, to come up with a “Meetup”  series of events  that incorporate wine, food, travel and culture, at least one per month. The setting is intimate and encourages understanding through narration, large wall photos, and lots of wine comparisons, old world vs new world. France’s Rhone Valley , Provence and the “Cote d’ Azur” were highlighted in a 2 hour meetup of some 24 interested guests.

French wines, it seems, are often compared with their American counterparts, going back to the “Paris Tasting” of 1976, when Napa Valley wines were compared with French wines for the first time in a “blind” setting, and the American wines defeated the French in the well-known Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon categories.

French grapes like Cabs, Chards and Merlots are the most produced in California , so there lies the undercurrent of constant competitiveness. While Andersson poured the wine and offered tasty French-style bites like “Chevre,” a Duck Liver Mousse with Cognac , Golden presented a vivid journey through the South of France with imagery and imagination.  Her sources were her own experiences. She began in the North of the Rhone Valley at Lyon , France ’s 2nd largest city, then guided us to Hermitage, deep in Rhone wine country.  Avignon was the final stop in the Rhone Valley with its Ponte De Avignon, a famous bridge in France .

Looking ahead to more Meetups, RELM and Tamara Golden will be presenting a Spain Wine Tasting and Travelogue Sat. May 28th from 4 to 6pm.  They will offer a six-wine sampling from various Spanish districts and take a visual journey throughout Spain, the country of bullfighting, flamenco, tapas and Gaudi’. Cost is $35.

On Tues. June 14th from 7 to 9pm and again on Sat. June 18th     from 4 to 6pm, they will present a South Africa Wine Tasting and Travelogue with native wines, a tour of Cape Town and a Safari.  Cost is $35. To register, contact tamara@goldenjourneystravel.com or visit goldenjourneystravel.com.

San Diego wines have been making news these days with some wineries taking home some serious awards from top ranked competitions.  Sun. May 15th  you can experience  some 27 wineries including Orfila, Fallbrook, Woof ‘N Rose, San Pasqual and many more, in a festival of wine and food at Bernardo Winery, that will also be pouring their wines. Time will be 1 to 4pm, with a cost of $50. per person and includes unlimited wine tasting and a selection of gourmet foods.

There are now 115 wineries in San Diego County .  It is fascinating that San Diego was the first region in California where vineyards were planted and wine produced, when the Spanish missions were first built.  The Bernardo Winery location is at 13330 Paseo del Verano in Rancho Bernardo. Visit sandiegowineries.org for details.  For tickets go to sdcvawine2016.brownpapertickets.com.

Wine Bytes

Tablas Creek Vineyards of Paso Robles comes to a Winemaker Dinner at Inn L’Auberge Del Mar, Tues. May 17th at 6:30pm.  A five course, 6 wine occasion  will spotlight Spring Lamb with Tablas Creek 2013 Esprit de Tablas.  $125. ea.  RSVP at 858-793-6460.

Island Prime on Harbor Island San Diego is planning a Wines of the World with the Winemakers, Sat. May 21st from 12 Noon to 2pm.  Tickets are $40. pp.  This is a combination symposium and tasting with 5 winemakers: New Zealand , South Africa , Argentina and Australia with 10 wines to be tasted. Call 619-298-6802.

Fazeli Cellars in Temecula presents Studio 54, Sat. June 4th from 6 to 10pm.  Flares, afros, platforms, bling, disco, dancing, food wine and beer. Price is $79.99. Club members $69.99.  Call 951-303-3366.

In Italy the Wines are Everywhere

by Frank Mangio
Italians have a nice little saying that would be good to earmark in your search for a fulfilling life of good wine and good friends: “Amici y vini, sempre meglio vecchi.”  It means,”friends and wine are always best when they’re aged.”

Making friends and making wine is the passionate lifestyle in every corner of Italy .  There are reportedly over 384,000 wineries in Italy , both big and tiny, making 377 different kinds of wine.  This is the land of wine.  The Italians brought wine to France when the Roman legions conquered the country. Now the Italians are the #1 importers of wine to the United States replacing the French.

Yet here in the U.S. there are many who have not been educated to Italian wines and their terroir taste.  Mouthfeel is less grape and more the earth and its minerality and herbs.  Soils in subclimates can change radically in vine blocks. There is a special affinity for Mediterranean food and Italian wine, unlike any other country.  When one overindulges in wine, Italians just shrug and say “he didn’t eat enough food.” There are 3 wines that I want you to be familiar with: Barolo in the Piedmont district north of Milan ; Amarone in the Valpolicello district near Varona and Brunello Montalcino in Tuscany.

Barolo is king of the reds with the power and glitz from the Nebbiolo grape.  Minimum aging is 3 years by law.  It is a dry, full-bodied robust wine, that can be aged for many years with stunning results.  Some names to know include:  Beni Di Batasiolo, Guiseppe Rinaldi, Fontanafredda, Michele Chiarlo and the legendary Gaja, a winery named after its founder, Angelo Gaja, considered the father of modern day Piedmont wines.  All these wines are expensive and can go upwards of $600.  With some digging, there are value Barolos out there for about $40.


 Moving south to the district of Veneto, the home of the sparkling wine favorite, Prosecco, a fascinating and powerful  red wine is viewed as a sensational favorite. Its name is Amorone from the Valpolicella area. The process is extraordinary as grapes are harvested deep into October by carefully choosing bunches having fruit apart from each other to let the air flow through. These grapes, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, are allowed to dry and shrivel on mats and drying racks to lose water and concentrate the sugars and flavors, in a process called “Appassimento.” This lasts for up to 5  months before they are then crushed and fermented with alcohol in most cases 16%.  Wines to know are:  Cesare, Allegrini, Masi, Tommasi and Alighiera. Prices are mostly from $70.  to $100.

Brunello do Montalcino, in the south of Tuscany , is our 3rd stop. The name Brunello means “nice dark one” and indeed it is as it gets its clonal history stems from Tuscany ’s most popular grape, Sangiovese.  It is only made around the medieval town of Montalcino , 600 meters straight up.  The founder of this wine is considered to be Ferrucio Biondi Santo in the 1870’s.  There are now  some 200 producers who must, by law, barrel this wine some 4 years plus 1 year in bottle, before selling.  The winery that popularized Brunello is American owned and operated, Castello Banfi.  The 7,000 acre property was purchased in the 1970’s by the Mariani family who were importers and wanted a higher quality Sangiovese (Chianti) than was then available.  Their pursuit of excellence was rewarded as they are now considered Italy ’s premier vineyard estate and the leader in clonal research on the Sangiovese grape.  Other Brunello di Montalcino names to know include:  Biondi- Santi, Castiglion Del Bosco, Poggio Antico, Il Poggione and Altesino.  Prices are in the $60. to $100. range. The 2010’s, now in release, are spectacular and will age beautifully.

Wine Bytes

Encinitas is the place to be 11 to 4pm Sat. May 21st at the Lumberyard Center . It’s the 2nd annual Encinitas Foodie Fest blending the best of North County food, drink, art and music.  15 chefs  show how to prepare farm-to-table cuisine  on 3 different stages and 6 chefs will compete for the Best of the Fest competition.  A “Barefoot Bar” will be serving a dozen or so craft beer, wine and spirits. Wines provided by Carruth, Lorimar, Meritage Wine Market and Tasting Room Del Mar. Live music throughout the fest.  Fun for the whole family to benefit the Systic Fibrosis Foundation.  Cost is $48. pp.  Ultimate Foodie VIP package for 2 with major perks including 2 nts.lodging May 20 and 21 at the Best Western Moonlight Beach for $1,000. Details at www.foodiefestencinitas.com.

Mike Grgich Turns 93 – Makes More Wine History

by Frank Mangio
The evening of April 2nd at La Quinta Resort will always be a special time and place.  Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, my wine hero and world renowned Napa Valley winemaker, considered to be the pioneer of Napa Valley wine excellence, invited me to be with him for his gala celebration. He was being honored for several milestones: his new biographical book launch “A Glass Full of Miracles,” the 40th Anniversary of his smashing victory over French Chardonnays at the Paris Tasting of 1976, plans for a major movie on this event and most importantly, honored for his 93rd birthday.

He has been a close friend and mentor since I first started TASTE OF WINE in 2005.
Grgich came to Napa Valley from Croatia in 1958 with just a few dollars in his pocket but with dreams of making great wine.  His 1973 Chardonnay he made at Chateau Montelena that won the Paris Tasting,  will always be treasured for bringing Napa Valley to the world stage is a classic American story of hard work, determination and faith in the American dream of success.



 “ I count my blessings as miracles,” he would tell his biographer-writer.  “Meeting and making great award winning Cabernet Sauvignon for Robert Mondavi in 1969 was the first miracle.  The next was the “Judgement of Paris” for my 1973 Chardonnay”  On July 4th, 1977, Grgich broke ground in Rutherford Napa Valley for his own winery, along with partner Austin Hills . He named  it Grgich Hills Winery, later renaming it Grgich Hlls Estate in recognition that all its wines now were coming from Grgich-  owned vineyards.

Over the years Grgich has added to his miracles, his wine being acclaimed and served to dignitaries by several U.S. Presidents, and British royalty.  In 2008 he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame and in 2012, he was honored when the Smithsonian National Museum of History opened its exhibition of the Paris Tasting.  It featured Grgich and his Chardonnay, plus his suitcase that he traveled to America with, and finally the  famous beret he is known for.

All this and more is documented in  the new book “A Glass Full of Miracles,” now available at www.grgich.com. It traces his childhood in Croatia , his arrival in the U.S. to make wine in the Napa Valley 50 years ago and the miracles and fame that followed.

Grgich continues his journey in wine as he  guides  Grgich Hills Estate and plans for its future with his daughter Violet Grgich and his nephew Ivo Jeramaz.  “My father had a rule he taught me,” Grgich said.  Every day do your best, learn something new, and make a friend.”  The winery keeps improving.  It now farms 366 acres from the original 18 in Rutherford. It is now organic, farmed naturally with no artificial fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. All of the wines are estate grown, produced and bottled.

Occasionally I will run across a reader or two that declares winemaking should only concentrate on what is happening now in the industry, and bypass the legacy.  I say, those that ignore or mock history, are least prepared for the  future. Congratulations Miljenko “Mike” Grgich.  Keep showing us more miracles.

Vin Diego Serves Up Primo Vino

by Frank Mangio
Dave Fraschetti, producer of Vin Diego, delivered again in this, the 4th annual two day, only wine and food festival, held recently in Liberty Station, San Diego . On a Friday evening at a Marriott hotel, Fraschetti orchestrated “A Passion for Rare & Reserve Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.”  Most of the winemakers and owners were there from prime wine districts like Oregon , Napa Valley and Sonoma , Monterey and Paso Robles.

Fraschetti was a corporate marketing manager, who, late in his career got  a sudden assignment to put together a major company concert that starred a super pop singer.  After a few bumps on the road to the event, he came out with a big success and has put that experience, plus his long-time love of wine, to good use  in his Vin Diego events. He sold out this year’s show late last year.  Wineries love the fact it is wine only at this festival, with no beer and no spirits to bulk up the show.  Some wineries at the Friday affair were also pouring some high quality choices like J.Lohr and Senior Manager Bruce Smithan and his Cuvee Series Bordeaux Blends, with 6 extraordinary wines in the series.

There were some lovely Chardonnays and Pinot Noir wines to taste, from tropical tasting Chards to oak style Pinots. Winemaker Jeff Meier, with owner Jerry Lohr since 1984, have crafted wines for every palate and price range. Other wineries at the event included: Ferrari Carano from Dry Creek Sonoma, with  over 19 vineyards throughout Napa , Sonoma and Mendocino, totaling 1,500 acres. Hook & Ladder from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma , founded by veteran fireman Cecil De Loach , with 4 decades of growing and selling at value prices.  Stoller Family Estate in Oregon , with old world style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Fiddlehead Cellars with owner and winemaker Kathy Joseph hails from Lompoc , north of Santa Barbara where she nurtures distinctive Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  Both varietals have an old world pedigree.

Fiddlehead sources grapes from lesser known west coast wine countries like Willamette Valley Oregon , Santa Rita Hills and Happy Canyon Santa Barbara.  Kathy is a gardener of ferns and so while searching for a name early-on for her winery, she hit on a memorable botanical term that describes a coiled frond of an emerging fern leaf, a Fiddlehead! And so her winery had a new name.

I loved the Oregon Pinot Noir she poured for me, a 2012 “Oldsville  Reserve”from the Willamette Valley , with a distinct cherry and plum taste, with savory herbs to garnish. Just 450 cases produced.

The two day Vin Diego was classy in every way.  Guests report "there was a lot of freedom of movement in the spacious grounds and indoor venues and a lot of choices in both food samples and the 75 wineries represented." Look for it next year on April 18th, 2017.  It’s a must attend event. Visit vindiego.com.

Opportunities for Teaching about Wine, Beer and Spirits at CSUSM

Adult students can now receive a Professional Certificate in Wine, Beer and Spirits in a comprehensive program at Cal State University San Marcos, with a campus in Temecula.  There are 7 courses to complete the Certificate. Each class is 5 weeks, 3 hours a week, with part lecture, tours and tastings.  Classes will be off site in Temecula and North County at wineries, breweries and distilleries.  The university is looking for industry experts to teach in the program, beginning with the Foundations of Wine that starts Thursdays, June 2nd to June 30th.  For more information email Wendy @ Wevers@csum.edu.  For all 7 courses go to www.csusm.edu/el/wbs.

Wiens Wines: It’s All in the Family

by Frank Mangio

On a recent  tour of the growing Temecula Valley wine country, our final stop brought to mind the first time I had laid eyes on what is now Wiens Family Cellars.  It was 2006 and it was little more than a mobile office/tasting room, with a room full of Wiens brothers.

Their vineyard life began in 2001 with a 7 acre spread southeast of Sacramento.  The light bulb went on for the 4 brothers when they decided to move their operation to Temecula in 2003. It all came together by the end of 2006.  A big, beautiful tasting room with special facilities for Select wine club members and guests with exclusive wine tastings in the Barrel Room, are shining examples of first class all the way for Wiens.  There are 46 members of this extended Wiens family, and all contribute in some way to its success.

I sat down with winemaker Doug Wiens and exchanged views on the Wiens story as it evolved over the years.  I asked him if I was right that the focus is on the highest quality wines without compromise.  Wiens agreed that “I have always set my sights on being a Bordeaux style winery with emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignon, to prove that Temecula can make an excellent cab.  In dollar value, this varietal is the #1 seller in California .  We have a 2012 Grand Rouge that  makes a statement and underlines our mission to be the home of Big Reds.($95. Wine club price is $76.)  It’s bursting with cinnamon, chocolate and cedar. “ I asked him how much of the bottle was Cabernet. “ We have a higher percentage of cabernet  due to the great 2012 vintage.  It added depth and complexity to the wine and did not diminish the herbal qualities of the 29% Cabernet Franc.” Seventeen grape varietals are made at Wiens.  Most are of French origin and they are grown at several vineyards of varied altitudes in the Temecula area.  To date the 2016 growing season is going to be an early bloom, low production very hot vintage, much like the outstanding 2013 season, and that’s playing into the hands of Doug Wiens.  It will be another premium year for the premium winemaker.  See more and learn at wienscellars.com.

Dates Set for  2016 San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, the west coast’s largest luxury wine and food extravaganza, has announced the dates for this year’s event, and they are November 13th to the 20th for this 13th annual classic.

More than 60 events are planned over this 5 day non-stop week, held in locations throughout San Diego . Wine, beer, spirits and gourmet foods are on the agenda. This one is an eye and palate-popper.  The Lexus Grand Tasting is Saturday, November 19th and features 150 wineries, breweries and spirits, plus 60 local restaurants.  See more at sandiegowineclassic.com.