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Carlsbad Community Community Community Del Mar Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Gelson’s Markets open with ‘top shelf’ wines

The subject has been kicked around like an old can ever since I started writing on wine.  Large chain markets are moving into the “try before you buy” format in their wine departments, with in-store wine bars boosting traffic and sales on the weekend.

It seemed like idle talk, until a series of market turnovers brought a new name to the San Diego area, with bright new ideas about wine.

Gelson’s Markets, a Southern California market chain, most recently opened in Del Mar and Carlsbad to much fanfare.  

When the Gelson’s in Del Mar opened in January, its grand opening direct mail piece came out with several pages devoted to what I call “top shelf” wines.  In most wine retailers, the top shelf, at eye level, shows their premium inventory of well known, acclaimed wines.  The bottom shelves usually show inexpensive, high volume, even “jug” wines.

Gelson’s doesn’t seem to hold to that old ritual.

A personal message from their senior director of wine buying cheerfully lays out a policy of distinctive wine selections with “high marks, craftsmanship and value.” The message points out that, “if you need help, you can rely on Gelson’s Certified Wine Specialists to assist in selecting the perfect wines.”

That help is eveident at the Del Mar location with the sight of a handsome wine bar offering free tasting and wine education Fridays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m.   The Carlsbad location, which opened on Feb 18, will have its wine bar open soon.

A closer look at some “top shelf” names included: Banfi, Duckhorn, Grgich, Frank Family, Opus One, Raymond, Justin and last month’s TASTE OF WINE, wine of the month, Stone Street. Gelson’s also has a buy six, mix or match, and get 10 percent off the lowest marked price on the bottle.  A nice touch is the wood-crafted Gelson’s wine gift boxes.

Visit their site at

Auctioneer Fritz Hatton bangs the gavel at the 2016 annual Premier Napa Valley auction that raised $5 million. Photo courtesy Napa Valley Vintners
Auctioneer Fritz Hatton bangs the gavel at the 2016 annual Premier Napa Valley auction that raised $5 million. Photo courtesy Napa Valley Vintners

Napa Valley Vintners raise $5 million at annual auction   

The Napa Valley Vintners recently presented its 20th annual Premier Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction resulting in a $5 million fundraising total, among the biggest amounts raised in its history.  Interest was high for the 2014 harvest, which would be the third consecutive premium vintage, which includes 2012 and 2013.  There were 226 lots sold, mostly 2014’s from some top names.  A new feature this year was the opportunity for a vast viewing audience to place their bids online at the auction for an exclusive number of wine offerings.

Some names you’ll know at the auction included:  Rombauer, Shafer, Duckhorn, Silver Oak and ZD.

Napa Valley Vintners is a nonprofit trade association of 525 members producing wines of the highest quality.  Learn more at

Wine Bytes

Il Fornaio in Coronado presents a Westerly Wine Dinner March 17 at 6 p.m.  A five-course feast includes paired wine and wine education.  Cost is $55.  RSVP at (619) 437-4911.

Monte De Oro Winery & Vineyards in Temecula is offering a Zinfandel Blind Tasting March 18 with a reception at 7 p.m. and tasting at 7:30 p.m.  At least 10 Zins to compare, with appetizers included;  $60 for the public; $55 for the Synergy Club and $50 for the Black Label Club.  Details by calling (951) 491-6551.

RELM Wine & Beer Bistro in Carlsbad’s Village district brings you an Italian Wine, Food, Travel and Cultural event March 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. Taste the differences between four old world Tuscan wines and two harvested here in the new world.  Travel information from Tuscany’s towns and countryside; $32 in advance.  Call the event line at (760) 814-1198.  RELM now has a Happy Hour Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. with 25 percent off food, wine and beer.

Italian wine flavors abound at Seasalt Seafood Bistro during Italian wine night with celebrity presenter Marco Barat, March 23 at 6 p.m.  Feudi Di San Gregorio in Southern Italy is spotlighted in this five-course Mediterranean flavored menu.  This is an enchanting night, for just $55.  Call (858) 755-7100 for an RSVP.


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

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