Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Heitz Cellar stars at Wine Warehouse show

The wines of the world, for the most part, are spoken for, promoted and sold to restaurants, retail markets, wine shops, hotels and resorts, by a small number of giant distributing companies. Their job is to elevate their clients to notoriety and wealth. 

Daniel Vu, Sales Manager for Heitz Cellar in Napa Valley, presents the 2012 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet to San Diego Wine Connoisseur Dino Buzunis. Photo by Frank Mangio

Wine Warehouse is one such company and recently presented some 300 wine, beer and spirits clients at the Grand Hyatt downtown San Diego. The gathering packed one of the grand ballrooms at the hotel and brought such Napa Valley wine luminaries as Far Niente, Orin Swift, Trefethen, Flora Springs and Heitz Cellar.

Daniel Vu greeted me with a big smile. He has been reading my Taste of Wine column for these many years and has been with Heitz Cellar for much longer than that. His winery has always taken the long view to excellence. Anything less just won’t be in their bottles. A perfect example of that was the decision to skip the 2011 vintage of Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet and go from 2010 to the current 2112 ($235 at the winery). 

Most Cab lovers know that in California, 2011 was upsetting with its cool, rainy tantrums and the crop just didn’t meet Heitz’s exacting quality standards. But, as I wrote in my Ten Best Wines Tasted 1st Half of 2017, the 2012 was a complete reversal of a near-perfect growing season, with style and finesse.

Wine lovers in the know will love the incredible balance from start to finish. 

In 1961, Joe Heitz, with his wife Alice, went from wine maker to wine owner. He had been buying grapes from Tom and Martha May at a little known Napa Valley vineyard in Oakville, Martha’s Vineyard. Heitz decided to keep the grapes separate from the rest and Martha’s Vineyard became the first “vineyard-designated” Cabernet in Napa Valley. The families are still closely connected, on the handshake agreement of the original members back in the ‘60s.

Heitz estate Cabernet for 2012 is also drawing a lot of attention for value as well as high quality ($52). Aromas of fresh picked blackberry and cassis fill the nose and set up the palate with a rich and complex flavor.

Heitz is one of the few with a considerable library of older vintage cabernets than can be purchased at the winery. Visit at HYPERLINK “”


More jazz concerts coming to Thornton Winery

 Thornton Winery in Temecula just announced an added power-packed jazz music lineup to their original star names shown in Taste of Wine and my Facebook post in June. The great sax man Boney James comes in at 5 p.m. Sept. 24. And the very talented piano man Brian Culbertson will be in concert at 7 p.m. Sept. 30.  Culbertson is a

Brian Culbertson, award-winning jazz and blues piano man, will play at the Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz series on Sept. 30. Courtesy of Thornton Winery

writer, producer and player of many instruments, mostly jazz and R&B piano. He has had 16 solo albums to his credit. Don’t miss him. General admission is $85 and the Gourmet Supper package is $160.

Go to or call (951) 699-0099 for ticket information.


Wine Bytes

North County Wine Company in San Marcos has a memorable two days of its seventh anniversary from 4 to 10 p.m. July 28 and from 1 to 10 p.m. July 29. Raffle drawings, free food from 5 to 9:30 p.m., champagne, wine flights and Sabering at 5 p.m. sharp! Sabering is a unique way of opening bottles of bubbly. Six wines tasted for $10. Top shelf tasting is $35 each. Details at (760) 653-9032.

Ambrogio 15, the unique Italian-style pizza emporium in friendly Pacific Beach, is celebrating its first anniversary with a “Milano” Pizza party from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 1. Complimentary bites and bubbly will be on hand. Taste of Wine gave this old world, authentic pizza restaurant a great review last year. Details by calling (858) 291-8650.

The Julian Chamber of Commerce is hosting its third annual Sip of Julian from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5 at Town Hall on Main Street. Tickets are $25 each. Taste several local quality wineries and breweries and small bites at several venues in Julian. Call (760) 765-1857.

Pala Casino is hosting its second annual Food & Wine Festival from 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 19. More than 50 fine wine selections will be available for tasting along with food samplings from Pala’s 11 restaurants. Harmony of Rock will do live tributes to the sounds of the ‘70s. Tickets are $75 per person, and are available now by calling (877) 946-7252.  

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at Go to menu then column. Reach him at