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Taste of Wine: Celebrity Cruises makes it a Great Wine Festival

Orange County is quickly catching on and catching up to San Diego and Los Angeles with elegant, comprehensive wine events of size and stature.

Three such events caught my attention recently, one of which I was able to attend, at the Great Park in Irvine.

It was the Celebrity Cruises Great Wine Festival, created by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County to raise funds for low-income individuals, to allow free legal services. There was wine, beer, spirits and lots of gourmet food from chefs with some of the finest restaurants in Orange County.

Scott Clifton, vice president, strategic marketing team from Celebrity Cruises, salutes the Great Wine Festival with a Chardonnay from Jackson Family Wines of Sonoma. Photo courtesy Great Wine Festival
Scott Clifton, vice president, strategic marketing team from Celebrity Cruises, salutes the Great Wine Festival with a Chardonnay from Jackson Family Wines of Sonoma. Photo courtesy Great Wine Festival

Celebrity Cruises, as the lead sponsor, shared a large, living room VIP atmosphere with Jackson Family Wines of Sonoma.  Several oversized sofas and wine bars provided the comfort for Celebrity’s information stations, presenting future cruises around the world. Scott Clifton,

Celebrity’s Vice President, Strategic Marketing Team, Scott Clifton pointed out that his cruise line places high value on wine pairing with the highest quality food for his guests.  He supports events that are able to put him and his team together with event guests, to present the Celebrity story.

A couple of interesting wine booths caught my attention. Zaca Mesa vineyard and winery in Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County, was offering their 2013 Viognier for tasting.  This is one of the best examples of this complex white that originated in the Rhone Valley in the south of France. Fresh tropical fruit permeates the palate.  Zaca Mesa is building interest in a river trip through the Rhone Valley in 2016.

Another fascinating booth was from the Malibu Coastal Hills, just north of Los Angeles.  Its Cabs and Syrahs are winning some important awards internationally and the Malibu Coast is now an official AVA area for growing wine grapes.  The vineyard is Malibu Rocky Oaks, some 2,000 feet above sea level and the city of Malibu.  See more at


A Master of Wine in Carlsbad

Recently I was doing my daily run-though of some 200 emails that are wine related, including one from PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad — but this one stopped me in my Internet tracks.

It was different.  It was brilliantly articulate.  It was from a friend and master sommelier that I knew from another day.  Gino Campbell had returned to San Diego County and was now at PAON, as wine buyer, manager of the wine shop and wine educator.

As soon as I saw the weekly lineup of wines at the current wine shop tasting, I knew a special dynamic had swept PAON: the wine choices were fantastic, brilliant selections from Austria, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Washington and a tucked away hill along the Central California Coast.

No one takes this much care about their offerings, except maybe a master sommelier. And if you think being a master sommelier is easy, two of the best advanced sommeliers in San Diego took their final master exams recently, and failed.

Not only is Campbell a master, he graduated with honors at the University of Bordeaux in France.  He is in the process of opening a wine school at PAON, “to take the mystery out of wine.”

Campbell has scheduled a Burgundy Tasting with a Burgundian expert June 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. for $25 per person. No RSVP. Don’t miss it.  See more at


Wine Bytes

The Wine & Roses charity tasting event returns to the Grand Del Mar Hotel June 7 from 3 to 6 p.m., with all proceeds going to Camp Oliver in Descanso, Calif. Prices begin at $100 for general admission, with higher levels for VIP privileges.  The selected wines have shown premium levels of competition at the San Diego International Wine Competition held earlier this year.  This event also features small-bites from over 30 local gourmet restaurants, a silent auction, a drawing and live entertainment.  For more details and ticketing, please visit

Twenty/20 Restaurant inside the Sheraton Hotel Carlsbad, will be hosting a Tequila and Custom Tapas event, June 10 at 6 p.m. Guests will get to mingle and enjoy a tasting of six high-end Tequilas with Mezcal along with Tapas.  Mixologist Steve George will educate the guests; $45 per person. RSVP at (760) 827-2500.

A Little Italy Pizza Tour is planned for June 13 and June 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Sample four pizzas at four different Italian restaurants. Also includes a glass of wine in the $44.95 price.  Book your RSVP at (760) 736-1138.


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  Reach him at and follow him on Facebook.

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1 comment

Tirum travel marketing June 26, 2015 at 4:37 am

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