Mark Burningham of Benziger Wines with Nicole Gilbert of Kobrand Distributors seen popping the corks at Vittorio’s. Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Arterra gets back to greatness with a wine-paired menu

To be a premier chef in an ever-changing signature restaurant located in a marquee hotel like a Marriott, takes some doing.

In baseball, they would call you a center fielder, able to handle any culinary challenge.  With Arterra, Executive Chef Evan Cruz has seen it all with his learning expeditions around the world, picking up savory tips from such places as Korea, other Asian capitals and every European center of food excellence.  He’s San Diego born and raised and has worked with Roy Yamaguchi at Roy’s and Bernard Guilles at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.  At Arterra, he has great support from Chef Andrew Hoh with his signature Sushi, with eclectic flavors and new Sushi inventions in an indoor-outdoor setting.

Cruz is inventive with his menus and wine pairings.  “As soon as I get a menu out, I want to change it.  It’s the freedom of ideas that abound in the culinary global world,” he asserted.  “And now that fresh and local are so important, new and different flavors are what diners want.” He pointed to his Duck Steam Buns and Short Rib Bulgogi as overwhelming “Sample” favorites, not seen on other menus, helping to bring back Arterra to greatness.

Pam Schwartz is restaurant manager and covets her responsibility with the wine list.  She waited until she understood exactly what was being brought to the table before selecting a wine match, in this case the Duck Steam Buns.  Out came a white Riesling from Kung Fu Girl in Washington state.  The entrée, a specially  prepared Delmonico Steak (a Ribeye without the bone) with wild mushrooms, had equally special wine with it:  a 2005 Gevrey Chambertin Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux France.

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Vittorio’s and Benziger-Wine Dinner Partners

Benziger Family Winery of Sonoma has been seen in frequent appearances in the San Diego area lately.  Benziger most recently partnered up with Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley for a Mediterranean four-course dinner to match up with such Benziger favorites as the 2013 Chardonnay, the 2012 Pinot Noir, the 2013 Merlot and a “Tribute” 2012 Estate Bordeaux Blend.  Not to be outdone, Vittorio’s had a flavorful grilled flat iron steak with red wine sauce. Vittorio’s continues to be the low price wine dinner leader with the four courses plus dessert and five wines for $49.50.  They do them monthly.  RSVP at (858) 538-5884.

Wine Bytes

A Sip of Julian happens Aug. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sip of Julian on Main Street.  Cost is $25 for a self guided tour of eight nearby wineries, brewers and hard cider places. Appetizers provided.  It’s a great weekend in the country.  Call (760) 765-1857.

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in Encinitas has a benefit concert, gourmet tasting and art show, Aug. 16 from 3 to 6 p.m.  $65.  Guitarist Jimmy Patton live in concert.  Four-course tasting menu with Handley Cellar wines and Mike Hess beer.  Seascape garden.  Call (760) 445-9225 for more info.

The 7th Annual San Diego Spirits Festival is coming Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier.  Cost is $90.  Cocktails, food and entertainment.  Bartender battles; three bands. Visit the event website at

The winemaker dinner series continues at Amaya in the Grand Del Mar with  Brooks Winery from Oregon, Aug. 20 starting at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $105. Guest winemaker is Chris Williams.  RSVP at (858) 314-2727.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at and reach him at  Follow him on Facebook.

1 comment

Mike August 5, 2015 at 8:47 am

I certainly would like to know more about this wine “2005 Gevrey Chambertin Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux France.” Where can this wine be purchased? Could you please post a picture of the label. Thanks.

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