Santa Barbara Vintner – Brander Wines

Santa Barbara County wines are the closest backyard wine region to Los Angeles. “It’s one of the most diverse regions to produce some of the best grapes in the world,” said organizer Allison Levine from Please The Palate, welcoming a group of oenophiles to a Santa Barbara Wine Road Trip luncheon. “The wine region is located along the coastal range of North and South America. The transverse mountain range turns fully from a north-south orientation to an east-west angle. It’s the only wine region bordering the Pacific Ocean on two sides. Clouds roll over the top of the mountains with an ocean influence.”


The first person I talked to was Jennifer Dudley from Brander Wines. We sat down and tasted three of her wines at the restaurant Above71 in downtown’s US Bank high-rise. The dining room offers more than 180 degree spectacular views of the Hollywood sign to Palos Verdes. Sitting in the middle of the dining room, we enjoyed her wines with Chef Vartan Abgaryan’s two course lunch.


Jennifer poured a 2016 Brander Sauvignon Blanc from the Los Olivos District. She told me that the wine is made from estate grapes and six other vineyards. The winery produces 15,000 cases of this light, crisp white wine that sits in  barrels for 18 months. It’s a popular wine due to its tropical essence with a nose of passionfruit, honeydew melon, and hibiscus blossom. With each sip, I tasted white nectarine and guava on the palate. It went well with the grilled octopus with sliced potatoes and grapes, whole grain mustard, pickled onions, and delightful caper berries. Jennifer said it also pairs nicely with a warm baguette and chunk of Humboldt Fog blue cheese or  fresh ceviche and a Caesar salad. This wine is a good value at around $16.


I learned that in 1975, The Brander family purchased 40-acres just east of the town of Los Olives located in the Santa Ynez Valley, about 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara, and 130 miles from Los Angeles. Their first Sauvignon Blanc harvest was in 1977 winning Santa Barbara County’s first gold medal at a major wine competition. In 1979, Fred Brander built his winery. There are three flags at the chateau and tasting room displaying the family’s roots: Sweden, Argentina, and the US.

The second glass was a 2016 au Naturel from Santa Ynez Valley, produced entirely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown on the estate. It’s 100% fruit natural that is produced in 100% stainless steel with 24 hours of skin contact to offer a rich depth. The creamy white wine offering hints of peach and she told us that it “ages phenomenally well.” This paired nicely with the pork belly entree with chopped leeks, potato, rhubarb and spring onions. I tasted notes of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, and cantaloupe on the palate. The price point is around $30 a bottle.


The third glass was a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon that winemaker Fabian Bravo bottled two months ago. This newer wine is a classically Bordeaux-style Cabernet offering nice berries on the nose. It’s a 100% estate wine made with Cabernet and 20% Merlot grapes that rested in new French oak barrels before being bottled. In a glass it has an attractive, translucent dark ruby color. A nose of creme de cassis, Madagascar vanilla bean and dried cherries paired beautifully with a grilled flat iron steak with potato puree, Cippolini onions, shishito chimichurri and yuzu kosho.

After attending this informative lunch, I was eager to visit Brander Wines Tasting Room the next time I drive North to Santa Ynez. It’s doors open at 11 a.m. 7 days a week.

To learn more about Brander’s Santa Barbara wines, go to 401 N. Refugio Road. Santa Ynez (805)688-2455.

Free Wine Tasting & Tour in LA

613C6521-37BF-41C5-B357-758A383828B4Right in the heart of Los Angeles is the San Antonio Winery offering locals and visitors FREE tastes of their award-winning favorite wines that include wonderful whites, robust reds, Champagnes, semi-sweet and sweet wines.

Afterwards, take a tour of the winery to learn about how wine was originally made by the Franciscan Fathers of the early Spanish Missions. Later in the 1830s discover who brought European vines from Bordeaux to downtown LA. Los Angeles soon became the premier grape growing and winemaking region in California.

Santo Cambianica founded San Antonio winery almost 100 years ago. It is still a family run and owned winery. Tour hours are Monday – Friday: 12pm to 4pm, on the hour. During the weekend the tour starts at 11am to 5pm, on the hour. Reservations required for groups of 8 or more. Parties of 21 or more must call for a reservation.

When hungry, inside the winery is a trattoria-style Maddalena Restaurant. It offers a variety of healthy and hearty Italian and American dishes. Choose from fresh pastas, grilled meats, gourmet salads and sandwiches, and delectable desserts. Tables are among redwood casks in a wine county environment.

There is also a wine, cheese and gift shop for guests to purchase items for a picnic or gifts for family and friends.

B3B162B5-7CAF-42FB-AED8-FF58C18DDEA5Once a month the winery offers a wine tasting class.  For a fee guests can participate on Sunday – October 9, 2016 from 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Guests get to taste domestic and international cheeses paired with wines from San Antonio Winery and wines from around the world.  Learn how to create your own wine and cheese event at home. Register ONLINE.  Here is a sample of what guests will receive –

  1. Manchego Quesadilla with green olive tapenade and chili onion tortillas
  2. Tea Time at Downton Abbey – English cheddar melted on open-faced sourdough bread with Dijon mustard
  3. Ball Park – Smoked andouille sausage, Havarti cheese, and dill mustard on a hot dog bun
  4. Peaches and Cream – Sweet potato tortilla chips with mascarpone cheese smothered in a smoky peach salsa
  5. PBCJ – Peanut butter strawberry preserves and Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese on open-faced white bread
  6. Blue Cheese Apricot Scone – Castillo Danish blue cheese and apricot preserves on an open-faced biscuit
  7. Tomato Tuna Goat Cheese Bite – Fresh open-faced tomato topped with a tuna goat cheese salad
  8. Lemon Cheesecake – Canadian extra-sharp cheddar topped with lemon curd on a graham cracker
  9. Buffalo Chicken Hot Wing – Cambenzola blue cheese spread on celery and underwood chicken spread with Frank’s RedHot sauce
  10. Nutella Delight – Nutella spread accompanied with cream cheese and fresh berries on lavash bread.B5DC9424-7F82-4B25-A525-EE2D16187B72

Click on San Antonio Winery to make a reservation or learn more. 737 Lamar St, Los Angeles, CA 90031 (323)223-1401.


10 Most Drinkable Australian Wines

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

After attending an Australian wine tasting seminar at The Church Key last week during Savour Australia Los Angeles, I learned about a variety of wonderful wines produced in Southern Australia. The focus was on the  fertile regions of Barossa, Hunter Valley, Margaret River, and McLaren Vale.

Australia began making wine over two centuries ago. Some of these old vines have been tended to by multiple generations. At the front of the tasting room were five Australian wine experts that included Wine Australia’s Global Education Director Mark Davidson, Allister Ashmead, Bruce Tyrrell, Chester Osborn and Charlie Seppelt. They offered witty facts about Australian wine with a bawdy sense of humor for two hours to an esteemed group of professional sommeliers, wine buyers and journalists.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Here are 10 of my favorite Australian wines of the day. I tasted four white wines and 11 reds starting with Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon. Bruce Tyrrell started the seminar off with:IMG_7175

#1 Tahbilk ‘1927 Vines’ Marsanne 2007

Color: Light lemon yellow

Location: Nagambia Lakes – sandy and gravel

Aroma: “Smells like the back of a sheep,” said Tyrrell, yet this wine offers a lemony magic.

Notes of: Lemon curd and honeycomb. “It’s fresh as a daisy,” said Tyrrell.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#2 Elderton ‘Ode To Lorraine’ Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2006

Color: Deep ruby-red

Location: Barossa Valley

Aroma: Exotic fig jam quality with bright berries

Established: 1884

Fun Fact: This wine was dedicated Lorraine Ashmead the Co-founder and Owner of Elderton by the Managing Director of Elderton, Allister Ashmead. As Allister shared the story of making the wine with his brother Cameron, the room had his full attention. When he told us that they wanted to name it after their mother, yet being a modest woman, she didn’t want them to make a fuss and told them to name it differently, they ignored her demand. They made the wine and arranged to have a bottle delivered to her table as she dined in one of the best restaurants in New York City, for her birthday.

(Allister Ashmead – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#3 Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 47’ Chardonnay 2010

Color: Light Canary yellow

Location: Hunter Valley – Limestone and entirely hand-picked

Aroma: Silky bouquet of melon, stone fruit and creamy oak

Established: Since 1858 Edward Tyrrell and his family have produced wine made from old European vines. Now headed up by fourth generation family member Bruce Tyrrell, the wines have received over 5,000 trophies and medals. In 2010 Tyrrell was named “Winery of the Year” in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion.

How it’s made: A great balance between fruit, acid and oak hints at the quality of the wine and the vintage. The wine is partially fermented is stainless steel seamless Vat 47 before being transferred into new, one and two-year old French oak prior to blending and bottling.

Fun Fact: In 1989, Bruce Tyrell provoked a family feud by holding back 1,000 cases of Vat 1 Semillon. Released seven years later, it went on to become one of Australia’s most celebrated white wines.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#4 Leeuwin ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay 2012

Color: A white Burgundy

Location: Margaret River

Aroma: Tremendous intensity with layers of pear, lime, guava and floral flavors that linger on the creamy finish.

Established: In 1969 by Denis and Tricia Horgan. Robert Mondavi contacting the Horgans in 1973 to promote this wine region and to look for investment opportunities. They initial planted Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot noir. Now they produces around 60,000 cases of wine each vintage and own 121 acres of vineyards.

Fun Fact: Since 2002, Leeuwin Estate has bottled all their wines under screw cap due to cork taint.

(Allister and Chester – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#5 d’Arenberg ‘Derelict Vineyard’ Grenache 2012

Color: Ruby-red

Location: McLaren Vale

Aroma: Spicy and gritty tannins

Established: Established in 1912 by Joseph Osborn. Now Chester Osborn joined the business in 1984 as Chief Winemaker.

History: The Osborn’s acquired an old, derelict vineyard when grenache was disregarded as a stepchild in the wine industry. Now it is turning into a beauty.

Fun Facts: No tractors. In 2012 Chester and his father, d’Arry Osborn celebrated 100 years of family winemaking

#6 Torbreck ‘The Steading’ Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2008

Color: Red plum

Location: Barossa Valley

Aroma: Vibrant aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, and star anise with silky tannins.

Established: Founded by David Powell in 1994. He nurtured and brought back to life old, dry vines. They grow Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz. They make 15 Grenache wines.

(A Fun and Bawdy Bunch - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A Fun and Bawdy Bunch – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#7 d’Arenberg ‘Ironstone Pressings’ Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2012

Color: a pretty red

Location: McLaren Vale

Aroma: lovely sweet and spicy wine. Grenache is the blood of the wine and Shiraz is the flesh of the wine. Fine fragrance.

Established: 1912

Fun Fact: A young cuddly wine. Grown in limestone.

(Australia Wine Region - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Australia Wine Region – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

#8 Leeuwin ‘Art Series’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Color: Dark ruby-red with a black core.

Location: Margaret River

Aroma: Abundant blackcurrant, dark cherries and mulberry. Layers anise, cocoa, clove, black olive and earthy wild field mushroom. 2011 was a very challenging year in winemaking, yet the weather was perfect for grapes in the Margaret River region.

#9 Yalumba ‘The Menzies’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Color: Red crimson hue.

Location: Coonawarra – Same size as Manhattan, NY. Dusty and sandy red earth soil.

Aroma: Bright berry and plum fruits with a sea spray tang.
Established: 1849

Fun Fact: Five generations have made Yalumba Australia’s oldest family owned winery. This is a textbook Cabernet. Named after Robert Menzie, a wartime hero.

(Bruce Tyrell - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Bruce Tyrell – Photo by Jill Weinlein)


#10 Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ Chardonnay 2014

Color: Medium yellow color

Location: Margaret River – right on the coast – gravel soil “A bloody good area for Chardonnay,” Tyrrell.

Aroma: Bright nectarine and white peach fragrance captures the fruit character of this elegant wine with a delicate array of secondary notes encompassing lightly grilled citrus offering lemon notes, with a toasted hazelnut finish

Established: 1967

(Winemaker Andrew - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Winemaker Andrew Quin- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

At the end of the day, we all met for dinner next door at the Country classic Eveleigh restaurant to meet Australian Winemaker Andrew Quin from Hentley Farm Wines. He poured the perfect wines to compliment chef Jared Levy’s farm-to-table fare. This exquisite Australian dinner was presented by the American Australian Association of California, Wine Australia and Table8.

Fabulous French Passion Jura Wines

IMG_6757In the eastern region of France are 200 estates producing Jura wines. They account for less than 1% of national wine production from all of France’s wine regions, yet this area is known as “the grandest of the small wine regions.” With 5 distinct varietals there is an ideal wine to enjoy as an aperitif to digestif. The varieties include – Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ploussard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grapes.

I had the opportunity to taste several wines from 20 different estates at Hinoki and the Bird in Century City on April 19, thanks to my friend Allison Levine from Please the Palate.

The event Passion Jura event started with a Jura wine seminar with wine educator DJ Kearney. Afterwards there was a walk around wine-tasting at various tables set up by the following participating wineries:  Cellier des Tiercelines; Château d’Arlay; Domaine André et Mireille Tissot; Domaine Baud; Domaine Benoit Badoz; Domaine Berthet-Bondet; Domaine Cédric Joly; Domaine Désiré Petit; Domaine Dugois; Domaine de la Pinte; Domaine de la Touraize; Domaine des Ronces; Domaine Grand;Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot; Domaine Pierre Richard; Domaine Rijckaert; Domaine Rolet; Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois; Juravinum and Domaine Wicky.

(PASSION JURA Tasting - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(PASSION JURA Tasting – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Levine welcomed me, handed me a wine glass and guided me to begin tasting Passion Jura wines. I recognized some of LA’s finest sommeliers, including Sommelier Emanuele Rizzo of Pizza Romana on La Brea in Mid-City. This handsome Italian man knows how to pair wine with pizza, meat, and pasta better than most. Read my review of how he became a sommelier – I also recognized a few restaurateurs, importers and journalists at this event.

Here’s what I tasted and learned at the PASSION JURA Los Angeles – Annual Grand Tasting –

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE ANDRE ET MIREILLE TISSOT – Stephane Tissot created wine in 1962. Later this vineyard became a biodynamic viticulture with grapes untouched by chemicals. Natural yeast is used in the fermentation process. They have 24 people working year-round to produce 35 different cuvees. Their sparkling is 50% Chardonnay and made with natural yeast. Their Arbois Chardonnay Patchwork is grown in limestone, while the Chardonnay Les Graviers offers a spicy finish.

Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)
Hinoki and the Bird spread (Photo by Jill Weinlein)

When attending these enlightening wine events, I do take a sip and swallow each wine presented, instead of spitting it into a silver spittoon, unless it is awful. There is always plenty of bottled water and food, so no one walks out too tipsy. The food buffet at Hinoki & the Bird offered an array of beautiful cheeses, meats, nuts and breads. The platters were adorned with tiny pansy flowers.

(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Beautiful AOC Arbois Ploussard – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The AOC Arbois Ploussard offered a lovely orange-red color with a light musky smell to the nose and aromas of red berries. On the palate it offered a fruitiness with well-balanced tannins. There was an earthy, almost pine essense. The Arbois Chardonnay is from big barrels offering aromas of citronella, honey and white flowers with a salty essence. It’s great with fondue and seafood.

(Each wine is unique - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Each wine is unique – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The Cotes du Jura Tradition offered almonds and hazelnuts to the nose and a fruity and spicy finish.

(Domaine Des Ronces makes a great sparkling wine - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine Rijckaert wines- Photo by Jill Weinlein)

DOMAINE RIJCKAERT – Created in 1998 by Jean Rijckaert and Florent Rouve to focus on purity and freshness. Their handpicked harvest, slow pressings and indigenous yeast offers some really great wines that are served at some of the finest tables in France. Visitors can stay overnight at the more than 100-year-old home, built in the middle of the vineyards at Leynes, in the south of Burgundy. The outbuildings store wine and the vat rooms house  casks where the white wines such as the Chardonnay – Arbois – En Paradis matures.

(Domaine Des Ronces – Kevin Mazier – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

At the Domaine Des Ronces, founded in 1950 by George Mazier, it’s a family enterprise. In 2010, Mazier’s son Michael started managing the winery. By 2010, Michael Mazier and his son Kevin practiced organic farming and focused on biodynamics with a range of diversity from white to white floral wines and red Poulssard. The Trousseau is more of an orange tint in color due to staying one more year in the cask. Their Cremant Du Jura is 100% Chardonnay.

(My favorite red wine  - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(My favorite red wine – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

One of my favorite wine pour was from DOMAINE DE LA TOURAIZE. Eight generations have made wine since 1704 with Etienne Morin making the first bottle. There were five tastes with three whites and two reds. My favorite was a good summer wine with notes of Rose’, yet its a brilliant red wine, the Ploussard La Cabane.

(Domaine De La Touraize - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Domaine De La Touraize – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Walking to the Domaine Rolet table, I sipped a sparkling Du Jura Blanc Brut made with 70% Chardonnay. This would make a fine wedding toast bubbly wine. Pierre Rolet and Franny Breuil have worked 70 years making their unique wines that also include Arbois Pouldard Vielles Vignes made with Poulsard and Pinot Noir. It was one of the few tables that had a female representative.


If you are in New York, there will be a Passion Jura seminar and tasting from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Studio 450 – 450 West 31st Street – New York, NY 10001 RSVP:

The Magnificent Masters of Taste

The Just Opened Venue - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An ideal culinary venue for foodies inside the historic Rose Bowl – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

It was a spectacular day to savor the finer things in life on the field of the historic Rose Bowl during Masters of Taste on Sunday, April 3.

The new outdoor, luxury culinary festival opened at 3 p.m. to the public as a fundraiser for Union Station. Approximately 2,000 influential food and beverage enthusiasts enjoyed small plates from some of L.A.’s finest chefs and notable sweet masters.

There were multiple opportunities to sip signature handcrafted cocktails and tastings from over 25 beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

(The friendly wine staff from Alexander Valley Vineyards -Instagram: @AVVWinery – Twitter @AVVWinery – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Participating wineries include Alexander Valley Vineyards from Healdsburg, Paso Robles’ Anglim Winery, the premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars and Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Guests can also enjoy pressed juices, hand-roasted coffee and entertainment.

Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.
(Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.)

Here are some of my favorite participating chefs and what they served at the event.  Matt Bata, from Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bernhard Mairinger, of BierBeisl; Michael “Mick” Schepers, of HACHÉ LA; Yoya Takahashi, of Hamasaku; Carolos Tomazos, of Inotheke; Sean Popcock, of Made in Brooklyn; Kyle Schutte, of Wood & Vine; Neal Fraser, of Redbird; and Isaias Pena, of Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern. Brewmasters include Alosta Brewing Co., Bootlegger’s Brewery, Iron Triangle Brewing, Indie Brewing Company and Golden Road Brewing.

(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Proceeds from Masters of Taste benefitted Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena and committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

I hope this event was a huge success and that they will organize another Masters of Taste in 2017. Here’s who I met –

  1. Made in Brooklyn Pizza Food Truck – HOLD IT. FOLD IT. EAT IT. Instagram @MadeInBrooklynNYPizza – Twitter @MIBPizza
(Chef Sean Popock made in Brooklyn Pizza Truck – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

2. Kelly’s Kookies served individual plate of various cookies to each guest before entering the center of the stadium.They were delicious.  Instagram @KellysKookies – Twitter @KellysKookies.

Kelley's Kookies - Melting Moments - Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread
(Sweet Masters Kelley’s Kookies served Melting Moments – Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. San Antonio Winery served a variety of their wines and offered foodies a chance to win a beautiful wine basket. Instagram @SanAntonioWinery – Twitter @SAWineryLA

San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner - photo by Jill Weinlein
(San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner – photo by Jill Weinlein)

4. BAI – Bai is the Mandarin Chinese word for “pure.” It’s also an acronym for “botanical antioxidant infusions.” Bai uses only natural flavors without artificial colors to create our fresh, delicious, 5-calorie beverages. Instagram @DrinkBai – Twitter @Drink Bai.


5. I recently reviewed Executive Chef Neal Fraser‘s newest culinary endeavor Fritzi DLTA and was happy to see him representing Redbird. Instagram @RedbirdLA – Twitter @RedbirdLA

Jill Weinlein with Neil Fraser Redbird while making Ricotta Gnudi with guanchale & spicy tomato sauce.
(Jill Weinlein with Neal Chef Fraser)

6. Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – I always enjoy seeing Executive Chef Isaias Peña and owner Paul Boettcher. I’ve reviewed this fun gastropub on Wilshire Blvd. along the Wilshire Corridor – / Instagram @SpareTireLA – Twitter @SpareTireLA

Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son - Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar
(Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son – Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. HOOCH is a private cocktail app for your smart phone. The App is free to download to check out. If you decide to become a member, membership is $9.99 per month, less than the price of one cocktail. Instagram @HoochApp – Twitter @HoochApp

HOOCH - Mixwell - Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail
(HOOCH – Mixwell – Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to ticket holders.

Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to guests.
(What a treat to get a massage – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8. Choctál representatives offered four tastes of chocolates and four spoons of their vanilla ice cream. The chocolates were from Ghana, Kalimantan, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The vanilla beans used to make the vanilla ice cream are from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mexico.  The ice cream is elegant, smooth and intensely creamy. Instragram @Choctal – Twitter @Choctal

Choctal Cutie
(Choctal Cutie serving tastes to festival attendees – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9. Executive Chef Brendan Collins of Birch was at the festival. He had his book – Cooking, Blokes and Artichokes – A Modern Man’s Kitchen Handbook for all to admire. Instagram @BirchLosAngeles – Twitter @BirchLA

Executive Chef Brendan Collins
(Executive Chef Brendan Collins – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. Golden Road Brewery Crafted in Glendale/Los Angeles since 2011. They served tastes of Wolf 3D and 329 Lager. Did you know there are 329 days of sun in So Cal? 329 Lager is full-flavored and easy-drinking with a clean, crisp finish. Instagram @GoldenRoadBrew – Twitter @GoldenRoadBrew

Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event.
(Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Indie Brewing Company – I met (L to R) Brewmaster James Mancuso, who loves every Indie brew. Kevin O’Malley – a graduate of the Introduction to Practical Brewing Course at University of Davis, California, one of the top brewing schools in the U.S. His favorite beer is the Indie’s Porter offering a complex rich taste with a drinkability he has never experienced with any other porter. Connor Forbes, an expert at brewing, drinking, and loving beer. These guys were a lot of fun and had a great time at Masters of Taste. Instagram @IndieBrewCO -Twitter @IndieBrewingCo

(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company – photo by Jill Weinlein)

12. The Raymond – 1886 Bar opened a cocktail program was created by Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello (The Edison, 7 Grand, Tom Bergins) with a strong foundation in classic techniques. They make perfect Manhattans, Old-Fashions, Sidecars, and Sours with fresh juices and hand-cut chunks of ice. Every syrup, infusion, tincture and foam is house-made and perfectly tailored to suit the recipes. Bar 1886 offers over 600 off-menu house cocktails. Instagram @1886Bar – Twitter @1886Bar.

The Raymond in Pasadena
The Raymond in Pasadena

To learn more about Masters of Taste, go to

Italain Wine 101

Slow Wine 2016 - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Slow Wine 2016 – Photo by Jill Weinlein

A cohort of mine, Allison Levine is a wine and spirits expert @plsthepalate. She invited me to the Slow Wine 2016 Tasting at the elegant Taglyan complex on Vine Street in Los Angeles to learn about Italian wines.

At Slow Wine, grab a glass and be wow’d – Photo by Jill Weinlein

There were almost 60 exhibitors pouring at least three tastes of their different wines.  What I found fascinating were how many of the attendees took a big sip, swished it around and spit it out with force into a sliver bucket. Wine aficionados spitting into a spittoon. I was not about to follow their lead, because I enjoy sipping and swallowing wine. I like how it tickles my palate.

IMG_2496I knew I would be snookered if I tasted from every table, so I paced myself. I took just one sip of four or five different varietals, and then visited the Farrarelle Water table to drink a full glass of sparkling water. This water is Italy’s #1 sparkling water bottled directly from an ancient volcanic source since 1893. I learned the Ministry of Health recognized the following benefits while drinking Fattatelle Mineral Water –

  1. Helps with the digestive process
  2. One litre contributes about 35% of the daily value of calcium.
  3. Not only does the water offer calcium, but potassium to reinforce the muscular system, bicarbonate to facilitate digestion, and silica that is essential to retard the aging process of tissues

Next I also went over to the charcuterie table to enjoy some slices of cheese, prosciutto, breads and dried fruit. It’s all about pacing yourself at these wine events.

I learned about wines from all over Italy in 14 different regions. Here are 8 of my favorites that were some of the finest bottles from a sensory point of view and a few good bottles that retail for under $1o.

I also learned some tips about the proper way to taste wine from the charming Fabio:

  1. Take a sip, purse your lips together and outwards, and then open your lips a little and take in air to aerate your sip. It will make a subtle noise. Don’t be too loud. You will enjoy the subtle flavors by tasting wine this way.
The Charming Fabio - Photo by Jill Weinlein
The Charming Fabio – Photo by Jill Weinlein
  1. I met the charming Fabio at the Boscarelli from Tuscany table to sip noble wines worthy of the Pope. It’s a family owned since 1962 when Egidio bought the winery. His daughter Paola carried on working the vineyard and now a third generation with De Ferraris, Nicolo and Luca keep the 100% estate-grown grapes healthy in limestone and clay soil. Slow Wine awards the Il Nocio dei Boscarelli 2011 a GREAT WINE.

    Representatives from Collefrisio – Photo by Jill Weinlein
  2. Collefrisio from Abruzzo offered a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Vignaquadra 2011 made with very ripe fruit offering lot’s of flavor. It’s a stand out among the reds and pairs nicely with pasta and a great ragu. It spent 50% of its time in stainless steel tanks. The winery was founded in 2004, and is now the leader on the regional wine scene for their grapes. With 124 acres they produce 500,000 bottles. Their white wines offer a citrus profile with grapes growing on hills gently dropping down to the sea in clay soil. Slow Wine awards some of these bottles a good value.
  3. Le Vigne di Zamo offered a Friuli Colli Orientali Merlot Vigne that was from 60-year-old vines on 165 acres that are hand-picked and ferments for two years before bottled. They rest for 18 months before sold to store and drink. This wine earned a Slow Wine – Great Wine designation. Sons Silvano and Pierluigi run the winery and  recently entered a partnership with Oscar Farinetti’s Eataly group producing thoroughbred reds. Slow Wine awarded the FCO Merlot Vigne Cinquant’anni 2012 – GREAT WINE.

    Label is based on a Henri Mattise painting to express joy - Photo by Jill Weinlein
    Label is based on a Henri Mattise painting to express joy – Photo by Jill Weinlein
  4. Velenosi is in its fourth decade becoming the wine ambassador for Marche wines. The 50-year-old vines on 340 acres produce labels that line shelves around the world. I sipped the over ripe velvety Offida Rosso Ludi 2011 made with Montepulciano, Cabernet and Merlot. Slow Wine awarded this one a GREAT WINE. They also poured a complex white Offida Pecorino Villa Amgela 2014 Pecorino that pairs beautifully with seafood and soups. The acidity cleanses the palate.

    Slow Wine 2016 – Photo by Jill Weinlein
  5. Who doesn’t love a sparkling Lambrusco? Most are clear, however the Cantina della Volta offers a Lambrusco di Sorbarar Rimosso 2014 that is hazy, unfiltered and offers a pleasing raspberry color and enjoyable zesty finish. It’s delicious.

    Daughter Elena's drawing of a chick is featured on the label.
    Daughter Elena’s drawing of a chick is featured on the label.
  6. From the Piedmont area, Elvio Cogno offers a Slow Wine award of GREAT WINE for their Barlo Vigna Elena Ris. 2009 named after the winemaker’s daughter. It’s aged for 36 months in large Solvenian oak barrels. Then aged for 24 months in bottles. This wine is aromatic with delicate floral rose notes with a hint of mint and whiff of licorice. The red rose color is appealing. This goes well with pasta with game sauces, roasts and braised meats, wild boar stew and blue cheese. The label is based on Elena’s drawing of a chick that she gave to her parents when she was three years old. IMG_2510
  7. From the Piedmont area, Elvio Cogno offers a Slow Wine award of GREAT WINE for their Barlo Vigna Elena Ris. 2009 named after the winemaker’s daughter. It’s aged for 36 months in large Solvenian oak barrels. Then aged for 24 months in bottles. This wine is aromatic with delicate floral rose notes with a hint of mint and whiff of licorice. The red rose color is appealing. This goes well with pasta with game sauces, roasts and braised meats, wild boar stew and blue cheese. The label is based on Elena’s drawing of a chick that she gave to her parents when she was three years old.
  8. Another Piedmont favorite is La Mesma, a family business meticulously run by the three Rosina sisters: Paola, Francesca and Anna. I met two of them and a daughter at Slow Wine LA. The vineyard’s unique characteristics offers distinctive qualities in their wine. They hand-pick the Gavi Del Commune Di Gavi Yellow label that earned Slow Wine – Everyday Wine with an excellent value for under $10. The grapes are never sprayed with weed-killers or chemical fertilizers. They use a soft pruning technique, harvest and soft pressed before going into controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats. Nurturing healthy vines in a healthy environment. Their Gavi Spumante Metodo Classico 2009 is made from 100% Cortese white grapes, most famous for its crisp, notes of apple, peach and honeydew flavors with the essence of lime, almond and light herbal aromas. It was very pleasing to my palate

Spin The Bottle is Fun!

I was invited to Spin The Bottle with my husband last Friday night in Toluca Lake to sip and learn about a few wines, and to meet the Proprietor/President Doug LaGambina.

Born in Brooklyn, LaGambina with an Italian background, enjoys a good bottle of wine. When he moved to Los Angeles in 1997 as a promoter in the music industry, he noticed California wines were cheaper than the European wines in New York, and they were just as good…..some even better.

He explored Napa Valley, Sonoma and Paso Robles tasting wines at various wineries and bought some bottles. He even studied to get his Sommelier 1 license.

IMG_8713Over our first white flight of local wines with LaGambina, he shared with us, “I left the music industry and got into another industry that enables bad behavior…the restaurant world.” He is an investor at Wood & Vine across the street from the Pantages Theatre and opened Spin The Bottle to offer great wines at reasonable prices to locals in the neighborhood. It’s the go to place to meet friends for a nice glass of wine pre-dinner. It is also a terrific Pub Crawl destination.

LaGambina’s one room wine bar is lined with bottles from all over the world. He also likes and serves wines by tap. They come in a keg and last longer than a bottle. You also get more glasses than you do from a bottle. Sitting down with a flight, La Gambina educates guests at his wine bar about his favorite wines.

IMG_8715Our first white flight was three wines on tap. There was a lovely Pinot Blanc from Skylark that offered delicate pear, apple, and white flower aromas; and a Spanish Albarino from the Lodi winery – Bokisch Vineyards. This was my least favorite of the three, yet it would make a mighty refreshing sangria for summer evening parties.

My favorite of the white wines was from Oregon’s Willamette Valley Chehalem Chardonnay. It was as good or better than any French Chardonnay with its white peach nose, hints of vanilla and no oaky notes. I should have bought a few bottles of this liquid light gold and will have to go back for more. Doug brought a jam jar filled with Marcona almonds dusted with rosemary and sea salt to nibble on while we enjoyed our tastings.

IMG_8719Then the red flight appeared with a 3 oz. pour of a Santa Ynez – Curve Le Bec from Beckmen. It was a wonderful Rhone blend of 43% Grenache, 34% Syrah, and 15% Mouvedre. Next, we sipped a Pinot Noir from Banshee Winery in Sonoma County that offered notes of bright red berries. LaGambina makes a herb ricotta spread and crunchy crostini crackers. He makes it with whole milk ricotta, basil, lemon, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s quite good and easy to spread.

IMG_8710We also sipped a three-grape Moroccan Rose’ wine that was fabulous. It’s interesting that Moroccan’s make wine at an Islamic country. Ouled Thaleb is located in the Zenata coastal appellations between Casablanca and Rabat. The wine maker led the renewal of the Moroccan wine industry in the 1990’s. This salmon color Rose’ is made with 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Cinsault. It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and offers notes of watermelon, cranberries and rose petals.

FullSizeRender-13We finished with a big red and a wood plank with a variety of cheese and charcuterie. The red was a pour of Dolcetto d’Alba 2014 made with 100% Dolcetto grapes. The varietal notes of cherry, blackberry and plum rounded off by aromas of red fruit and almonds went nicely with LaGambina’s slices of Manchego cheese, thin slices of deep red Spanish chorizo, French “Sanglier” wild boar and Italian with fennel, with cubes of quince paste and a few olives.

Before leaving Spin The Bottle, my husband and I thanked LaGambina for a lovely wine experience. It was a great way to start off a fun weekend. Come learn about wines with Doug LaGambina. His passion is contagious.

Spin The Bottle is open Tuesday & Wednesday from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m., Thursday at 1 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday – Saturday from 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. The wine bar is closed on Sunday and Monday.

10139 1/2 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, (818) 509-7813.

The Journey from Croatia to Napa Valley


Born into a wine making family in the town of Desne on Croatia‘s coastal region of Dalmatia, Mike Grgich gained international respect for being the wine maker behind the 1973 Chateau MontelenaChardonnay that shined over several white Burgundy wines in the wine tasting event that became known as the Judgement of Paris at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.

With his world-renowned Chardonnay and contributions to the wine industry, Grgich was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame on March 7, 2008. The tribute arrived at the same time that Grgich celebrated his 50th vintage of wine making in the Napa Valley.

In 2013, I sailed with my family into the small town of Trstenik on the Pelljesac peninsula onboard the Princess Aloha to tour the Grgich winery and sip the famous white and red wines.

We learned that Grichg left communist Yugoslavia to West Germany. From there he emigrated to Canada and received a job offer in California working at a number of wineries in the Napa Valley — including Souverain Winery, Christian Brothers Cellars, Beaulieu Vineyard and Robert IMG_4228Mondavi.

Grgich became the winemaker and limited partner at Chateau Montelena. His 1973 vintage Chardonnay was selected number one with 221 competitors from countries around the world. The story was told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.

Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres of vineyards and produces 70,000 cases of wine each year. It’s a must to visit when exploring Rutherford in Napa Valley. To learn more, click on

Healthy Eating is a Breeze

DSC_0697After experiencing a Paleo dinner prepared by Chef Ali Parvinjah last Saturday night at Breeze Restaurant and Bar, I vowed to start my New Year’s resolution early, by eating like my ancient ancestors in the Paleolithic era.

Chef Ali at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza is an expert at Paleo cooking and inspired me to adjust my culinary lifestyle.

Born in Connecticut on the fourth of July, Chef Ali was overweight as a child and bullied. He went to the California Culinary Academy to become a chef, because he loved eating food. Later, he worked at Patina and helped Joachim Splichal open the downtown steakhouse, Nick and Stef’s.

Seven years ago, Chef Ali was at his all time highest weight, 270 pounds. He was miserable and decided to do something about it. He met Roger Machado a professor of Brazilian jiu-jitsu who taught Chef Ali to become a vegetarian, while learning the martial arts-combat sport. While attending classes for two years, Chef Ali dropped down to 205 pounds. Feeling good about himself, he competed in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and became lighter, faster and leaner. Chef Ali surrounded himself with people who ate a healthy Paleo eating plan, and dropped down to hisDSC_0689 current trim 185 pounds.

Meanwhile, Hyatt offered him a job to be a chef at various Hyatt Hotels. Chef Ali created a successful gourmet vegan menu for the Hyatt in London, and then came to the Century Plaza Hotel a little over two years ago.

Here he has created a Paleo menu to accompany the regular menu at Breeze Restaurant and Bar. Even the regular menu offers fairly healthy dishes that included vegan, gluten free, perfectly portioned dishes that are lighter and only 500 calories or less.

“Paleo is a modern nutritional plan based on a hunter-gatherer diet, also known as a caveman diet,” Chef Ali said. “The development of farming and grain-based diets that are reconstructed are the root to obesity.”

A Paleo diet consists of sustainable fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. He believes our bodies can’t digest these foods properly and stores them as fat. “You take in the calories, yet don’t get much in nutrients,” he said.

IMG_5892You will not see any of these on Chef Ali’s Paleo menu, but what you will see is an appetizing array of dishes that you could easily eat daily.

“I go to the Farmers Market every Wednesday in Santa Monica to be inspired by the soil and what grows from it,” said Chef Ali. “Recently while choosing fresh vegetables and produce, I created my winter and holiday season Paleo menu.”

The Breeze Paleo Menu features appetizers titled “The Early Days of Man,” with two dishes that peeked our interest; a roasted butternut squash bisque and a pear and arugula salad. When our dishes arrived, I asked our attentive server, Robert, how this soup can be so creamy without any dairy. Robert has worked at the Century Plaza since 1995, and explained to us that Chef Ali adds coconut milk to the butternut squash, some onions and thyme, and then smooths it out with a Vitamix.

The salad had a natural sweetness and tartness to it with the sliced pears and honey, next to fresh cranberries filled with good antioxidants.

Our server Robert recommended a glass of Canvas Chardonnay made exclusively by Michael Mondavi for the Hyatt Hotels. It’s a clean tasting

food-friendly wine. Also, we had a glass of a more oaky and buttery Franciscan Chardonnay with our salad.

Inquiring about the wine list, I noticed there are 14 wines by the glass and various bottles that range from $52 to $235. What piqued my interestDSC_0690 was the Director’s Cut on the back page. Robert sent sommelier Nicholas Trznadel over to our table to explain these wines. Nicholas looks at his inventory of wines and chooses a variety of bottles to sell at discounted price to make room for new incoming wines. “It’s an added value to guests and keeps our wine list current and fresh,” said Nicholas. Every two to three weeks, he changes the wines offered on the Director’s Cut list.

Under the entrées is a char grilled New York steak topped with a grainy mustard sauce and served with sautéed winter greens, and an appealing sweet potato and leek gratin. Chef Ali’s mustard sauce is made with almond milk, honey, herbs and spices. There’s no butter

Nicolas brought out a bottle of a 2011 Justin – Justification that is made with 59 percent Cabernet Franc and 41 percent Merlot. The Merlot softens the blend. It paired nicely with the steak offering deep blackberry, blueberry and currant notes with soft spice and earth tones.

I ordered a moist and tender seared Patagonian tooth fish, also known as a seabass. It was served on a bed of cauliflower “rice” with roasted artichokes, sliced fennel, and colorful baby tomatoes next to robust olives decorating the plate.

The dishes are presented to appeal to your eyes and tastebuds
The dishes are presented to appeal to your eyes and tastebuds

The “rice” is blanched cauliflower put into a Cuisinart to resemble Jasmine rice. It doesn’t taste like rice, yet is a much healthier option.

Nicholas offered a healthy pour of 2011 Chalk Hill Sonoma Chardonnay with just a wisp of green apple, pear, soft oak and elegant butter tones.

Desserts are under “The Sweeter Side of Man” and include a Mason jar pumpkin pie with coconut whipped topping. Our favorite was Chef Ali’s mint chip ice cream made without any dairy. It’s made with raw cashews, maple syrup, vanilla bean, fresh mint and raw cocoa nibs from the seeds of the cacao tree. The nibs give the frozen delight texture and a delicate crunch. Three tablespoons of cacao offer more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries. It also has the chemicals that produce one to feel blissful and euphoric.

So for my New Year’s resolution, I am going to try to change the way I look and the way I dine. I look forward to visiting Chef Ali again for inspiration, guidance and to enjoy his healthy,

It looks like ice cream, tastes like ice cream, yet has no dairy.
It looks like ice cream, tastes like ice cream, yet has no dairy.

seasonal fare.

If the Paleo menu does not appeal to you, a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner menu is offered.

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Chef Ali is preparing a maple yam bisque with fried leeks and lemon misto oil, herb cashew crusted prime rib with Yorkshire pudding. Finish with a raw pecan pie with coconut whipped cream or a chocolate Yule log. Dinner is from 5:30 to 10 p.m. for $50 per person. This celebratory dinner includes a glass of Canvas Chardonnay or Cabernet. On New Year’s Eve, Chef Ali is cooking up a special three course prix fixe dinner for $80 a couple.

Breeze is open for breakfast on Monday through Friday from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.  On Saturday and Sunday breakfast is open until 11:30 a.m. Lunch is offered daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The sushi bar is open from Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner begins at 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. daily. $$ 2025 Avenue of the Stars (310) 551-3334.

Fleming’s Steakhouse and Bar at L.A. Live

What makes Fleming’s Steakhouse different from other steakhouses is their tableside martini. The bartenders make eight varieties including a vintage vodka martini, appletini, and sparkling peach martini. A server picks up the creative cocktail from the bar and brings a silver martini shaker and iced cold martini glass to the table. He shakes it for about thirty-seconds and pours it right in front of you.

Another difference is the menu. There are two pages of food items and four pages dedicated to beverages. They offer 100 wines by the glass with a wide variety of whites, reds and blends, from sparkling and bubbly to sweet wines. “Wine is an intensely personal choice, and wine by the glass is the perfect way to celebrate it,” said Maeve Pesquera, Fleming’s Director of Wine.

The list includes many iconic wineries from California, as well as international wines. They have bottles from Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Flemings has a dozen California locations, including L.A. Live, which opened in 2008, with manager Matt Tietig. He told us that he has watched the company grow from 10 to 64 restaurants.

“During Laker games and concerts, we are full,” said Tietig as he seated us in a brick colored velvet booth surrounded by mahogany wood-paneled walls.

Steaks are the featured item on the menu, but chicken, pork and seafood is offered as well.  I ordered the creamy wedge salad and a double breast of chicken, marinated with Italian spices and extra-virgin olive oil overnight and grilled before serving. My husband ordered the crab cakes and bone-in filet mignon. The corn-fed beef is USDA Prime that has been aged for up to four weeks to maximize flavor and texture.

At Fleming’s each steak is seasoned with Kosher salt and black pepper and then broiled in a 1600 degree oven, sealing in the juices. The steaks are finished with a dab of butter and parsley. Order a few sides to accompany your entrée – there are ten to choose from.

We paired the filet with a new wine on the menu, The Dreaming Tree, Crush to Coast 2010, a red blend made with 78 percent Merlot, 13 percent Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah and Cabernet with hints of black cherry, currant and plum.

In 1998, Paul Fleming, of P.F. Chang fame, and Bill Allen created the first Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Newport Beach. Their vision was to open a modern-style steakhouse with a new type of ambiance and experience for the customer.

To read the rest of my review, courtesy of  the Beverly Press newspaper, click on this link Published on Sept. 20. 2012.

Celebrate a Special Event at Monte De Oro Winery

The minute I walked into Monte De Oro Winery, I looked at my husband and said, “We should have a party here.” Open 1 ½ years ago, this winery is owned by 67 families (investors) throughout the U.S., England and South Africa.  What makes this winery special is their glass floor in the middle of the tasting room. Looking through the glass is their barrel storage room and a table set in the middle for an intimate dinner party.

We were lucky to get a tour of the downstairs room with French oak barrels. It’s also an area where visitors can rent for parties, receptions, and private barrel tastings.

All the barrels are labled with dates and grape varietals.  The red wines are barrel-aged for almost two years.  Then the wine is bottled and “rests” for another six-months before released. This allows the wine’s complexity and depth to shine.  A more refined taste then the wines that are sold in the store.  Those are newer wines that are more fruity and tart. When you allow a wine to “rest”, it compliments food by enhancing flavors.

This winery offers great entertainment throughout the summer.  Missing Persons and the Romantics are performing on August 20, 2011.

Go to 35820 Rancho California Rd. Temecula (951)491-6551.

Go to the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau – (888)363-2852 or email: Their website is:


Europa Village – A Taste of Spain, Italy and France

Visit the ambience of Spain, France and Italy while sipping wines at Temecula’s Europa Village. Opened 3 ½ months ago, they put a lot of money into their charming temporary tasting facility. It’s a picturesque location for sipping wine as visitors step inside the front garden filled with iceberg roses and olive trees overlooking acres of grapes.

This is a winery that attracts a lot of groups. There was a birthday girl with 20 enthusiastic friends. They exited a limo and stepped into the Italian wine cave for a private tasting tour. Inside the Vienza tasting room, the celebratory group sipped reds from unique glasses that offer a place for their thumb and index finger. While tilting their heads back, they smiled and giggled as they captured the luscious aroma and flavor.

The Spanish design breezeway gives visitors a peek at what the architecture will look like at the Bolero Cellars. It leads visitors into the C’est La Vie Wine Chateau, that is very French in décor and offers some divine wines.

Europa Village recently acquired a bed & breakfast with ten bedrooms. The home is Old World in décor and character. The former chef of the award-winning South Coast Winery and Spa prepares breakfast for guests.

We sipped their wonderful summer 2009 Pinot Grigio wine. It offered hints of white peach and lemon cream. Next the 2009 Chardonnay is a Chablis-style shortly aged in Oak barrels. Our last taste was a 2007 blood-red Tempranillo with a spicy blend and notes of vanilla.

The wonderful glasses are available at $12 a glass or a set of 4 for $48.  

 Europa Village – 33475 La Serena Way, Temecula (888)EV.Europa.

For additional information on Temecula, go to the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau – (888)363-2852 or email: Their website is: