The Napa, Verona wine connection

When Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa owner Tim Busch recently introduced his Italian winemaking friend and partner Marchesi Armando Fumanelli at a recent gathering, wine history was being made. For the first time in anyone’s memory, a California bottle of Amarone was available. The Trinitas Napa Valley 2006 Amorone, also owned by Busch, made its debut at Estancia in a posh dinner featuring Fumanelli from Verona Italy, who has helped him develop this wine.The evening was heightened when it was announced that this was going to be a “Parallel” tasting, the Old World versus the New World of Fumanelli and Trinitas wines for each of the five-course menus.

An alliance between the two men formed some 15 years ago, when Tim Busch sipped a glass of dark, full-bodied Amarone in the ancient town of Verona, known more for Romeo and Juliet’s liaison. The wine’s unique character stayed with him until he had to make an American version to add to his Trinitas Family Collection of wines in 2011. He set out to Italy and met Armando Fumanelli, whose family has been making wines since 1470.

The two shared their wines, introduced their families and that led to the unveiling of the 2006 Amarone from Trinitas. “Very few people know about Amarone,” explained Busch. I want to offer a unique old world wine experience.” Fumanelli is the Valpolicello District’s largest landowner, northeast of Verona in the Lessini Mountains. The primary grapes are Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella. The wines are concentrated, flavorful and complex.

Busch also had a blockbuster resort alliance announcement to make that night.

His lifestyle company, Meritage Collection, now has four esteemed properties

linked together for “a complete resort experience,” asserted Busch. They are: Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, Balboa Bay Resort Newport Beach, Bacara Resort & Spa Santa Barbara and The Meritage Resort & Spa Napa Valley. An immediate benefit for guests of any of these properties will be VIP access to the Fumanelli estate with stays at the vineyard for wine tasting and cooking classes.

Like others of its class, Estancia has been undergoing extensive upgrading of its rooms and its Mustangs and Burros restaurant and bar, under the watchful eye of General Manager Terry Buchholz. Its Rancho style décor remains the dominant look at the 210-guest room hotel with a world-class spa in place.

Kimberly Kramer is always “searching for great flavor.”

As Executive Chef at Estancia, Chef Kramer oversees the AAA Four-Diamond hotel’s kitchen. She has steered the Mustangs and Burros restaurant into regional cuisine inspired by the season. The special dinners, breakfast and lunch are at Adobe El Restaurante with fresh California fare.

She has developed expertise in Asian and Latin influences.

“I’m passionate about seasonal foods, especially fresh seafood caught with sustainable practices,” she said. Most recently, she was at the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa Valley, now one of the partner resorts for Estancia.

Her Sea Bass with mélange of mushroom, asparagus and roasted pepper was a delight to the senses.

Mustangs and Burros spotlights a Monday through Friday Happy Hour until 6 p.m., with discounted drinks and food. Try the Trinitas family of wines led by the new Amarone 2006, and a knockout 2009 blend called “Mysterium” Mendocino Red. It’s Estancia’s family wine. Learn more at



Wine Bytes

Dolce Pane E Vino in Rancho Santa Fe is donating a dollar for every glass of wine sold to benefit National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month during April. For details call (858) 832-1518.

PAON in Carlsbad has a Joseph Jewell Wine event April 17 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., with the owner/winemaker as special guest. Sonoma based wines are featured. Six wines with small bites for $28. No RSVP needed.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos is featuring a “Blend Party” April 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. for $25. Each customer will get carafes of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec, to create their own blends. There will be a fun contest with the winner getting a $25 gift card. Details are at (760) 744-2119.

The Big Red Fest is back with wineries on the DePortola Trail in Temecula, April 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Taste three wines paired with gourmet food at each of the 10 wineries and receive a free logo glass. Early price $45, $55 after April 15. For more information call (855) 398-9463.

West Steak and Seafood in Carlsbad presents the Silver Oak/Twomey Wine Dinner with vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. This will be the wine/food event of the season with marquee names and an elite menu at $175. RSVP a must at (760) 930-9100.



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