Taste of Wine

How do you say ‘WOW’ in French?

I had just seen the film “Midnight in Paris” when my assignment schedule had me at the door of Pamplemousse Grille in Del Mar. If you caught the movie, it has the main character experience surreal flashbacks to the era of the golden ‘20s in Paris, France where the food and wine were magnets for writers, actors, fashion divas and musicians to hang out and create great conversation. Such a scene can and does occasionally happen at Pamplemousse on the strength of celebrity chef-owner Jeffrey Strauss. This man has a flair for presentation and a talent for taste. He has wowed foreign dignitaries, U.S. Presidents and top socialites. “Food presentation is both power and art,” he asserted. “Here, we have the casual yet elegant atmosphere of a French farmhouse with food and wine that delights all the senses.”

G.M. Steve Ernst and Chef-Owner Jeffrey Strauss of the French- inspired Pamplemousse Grille in Del Mar. Photo by Frank Mangio
When I photographed Strauss and his General Manager Steve Ermst, he held up a case of Chateau Petrus, the sonorous Right Bank star-quality wine from Bordeaux’s Pomerol and the best reflection of a Merlot based French Vineyard. It was fitting. Of the 1,417 Red wine selections in the menu, there are 75 from the world-class Bordeaux appellation.

Of the spectacular food offerings at Pamplemousse, I would recommend the Smoked Fish Medley, a premier plate of smoked salmon, cold smoked and roasted jumbo prawn, day boat scallop and petite lobster tail, finished with pepper and caviar infusion. The wine enveloped and elevated the flavor. It was a Tantara 2007 Chardonnay from the Central California Coastal legendary vineyard, Bien Nacido.

The menu is seasonal, each one with an inspiring French flair that has earned Pamplemousse local and national awards.

The Smoked Fish Medley is a Pamplemousse Grille specialty with four styles of seafood delicacies. Photo by Frank Mangio

Pamplemousse and Jeffrey Strauss have been selected to cater for the 30th Anniversary Season Gala for the North Coast Repertory Theatre April 12 at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club. Auctions, entertainment and fabulous wines will spice up the occasion. Contact (858) 481-2155 ext. 211 for details. And for more information on Pamplemousse Grille, visit pgrille.com.

Five to Add to your Wine Cellar

It’s an all-red, all-California sweep since the last list was posted in early February. Three big California-centric wine shows in the last month helped my decision-making: The Paso Robles Road Show and the Pacific Symphony Benefit in Orange County, and the Family Winemakers Show in San Diego County brought new and exciting releases to the wine industry and the public.

Quality, value and accessibility are major considerations in selections so here goes, in alphabetical order:

— Bacio Divino Blend, Cabenet Sauvignon and small amounts of Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and Merlot, Napa Valley, 2007. $80. The biggest buzz at the Family Wine Show. Dark, ruby color with muscle. Means “divine kiss” in Italian. It will leave you in love.

— Conundrum California Red Wine Blend, Napa Valley, 2009. $20. The Wagner Family of Caymus fame produced this magical wine after great success with their popular white blend.

— Fort Ross Pinot Noir Reserve, Sonoma Coast, 2007. $49. Dense, garnet hue with a focus on the black currents and orange pekoe tea notes. Vineyard produces mountain wine high above the Pacific.

— Markham Merlot, Napa Valley, 2006. $18. Elegant wine from St. Helena restoring dignity to the Merlot name. Black raspberry notes.

— Opolo Summit Creek Zinfandel, Paso Robles, 2010. $15. Fruit forward characteristics of black cherry, raspberry and old spice.

Wine Bytes

• Orfila Winery in Escondido premiers “Feel Good Fridays” March 30 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. with live music and bottle specials. Call (760) 738-6500 ext. 22.

• Bacchus Wine Market, downtown San Diego presents High End Cabernet March 30 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. $35. Includes premium Bordeaux, Super Tuscans and Napa Valley. Call (619) 236-0005.

• Free Jazz on Sundays starts up at Falkner Winery in Temecula, April 1 from noon to 3 p.m. Chairs & tables available for wine and food. Details at (951) 676-8231.

• Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas opens up Italian wines for their tastings April 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. Take the flight to Italy for $20. Details at (760) 479-2500.