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Linda Neal, left, pours her 2012 Tierra Roja Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for TASTE OF WINE’S Frank Mangio at a Napa Road Show at Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe. Photo courtesy Frank Mangio
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Taste of Wine: Napa Valley pours at Rancho Valencia

It’s not every week we can get up to Napa Valley, where wine royalty reigns supreme and Cabernet Sauvignon is the King of the castle. Only 4 percent of the wine grapes in California come from Napa Valley, one of the smallest wine regions in the world. Yet it is hardly tiny in sales.

Napa Valley generates more than $13 billion annually — one-third of all the wine sold in the U.S.

Next week, I will be visiting some 14 wineries spread out over 30 miles of hills and valleys, capped by a renowned benefit event, with premium wines offered for tasting that are legendary around the world.

Recently, Rancho Valencia, a favorite resort in Rancho Santa Fe, under the expert wine guidance of Sommelier Mitch Price and Food & Beverage Director Justin Wilson, brought in a select group of Napa Valley Vintners on two closely knit occasions, as a kickoff to California Wine month for September.

Each date gave the public an opportunity to go face to face with stunningly big beautiful wines, mostly from the great 2012 harvest. This was all the more important to wine lovers, because most, if not all of these wineries are not open to the walk-in public at their tasting rooms in Napa Valley.

Wines featured included:  Grgich Hills, Hill Family, Staglin Family, Swanson Vineyards, Arrow&Branch, Neal Family, Spring Mountain, St. Supery and the biggest story of the gatherings, Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon of Oakville.  Linda Neal, the owner, did the honors, and poured her Cabernet treasures.  She was kind enough to include her sold out 2011 vintage from her personal collection. But all eyes were turning to the current 2012 Cabernet, a brilliantly crafted master wine from winemaker David DeSante.

He was quoted as saying that, “the palate races along with full and robust flavors of dark plums, cedar, cocoa and espresso, to an ethereal finish with toffee-like richness.”

Only 225 cases have been made (suggested retail at the winery is $145).  It is a distinct sensation of wine refinement.  Review this wine at

Next week I will be walking in the vineyards of Napa Valley during red wine Harvest, gathering lots of content for TASTE OF WINE readers.

The next edition will be the week of Sept. 27.


Grape Stomps are coming to Temecula wineries in the next few weeks. Courtesy photo
Grape Stomps are coming to Temecula wineries in the next few weeks. Courtesy photo

It’s Grape Stomping Season in Temecula

Some wineries in Temecula have some great fun coming in the next weeks, at the Grape Stomp events.  South Coast Winery is planning the Blessing of the Wines, a Grape Stomp and Harvest Festival, Sept. 20 from 4 to 7 p.m.  Dining, dancing and games included for $55. Go to for details.

Lorimar Vineyards & Winery has its Grape Stomp & Harvest Sept. 26 from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Barrel Room. Live music, hayrides, dinner, wine and a keepsake wine glass for $65 per person.  Call (951) 694-6699 ext. 4 for tickets.

Ponte Family Estate has its 13th annual Grape Stomp Sept. 27 at 4 p.m.  Prices range from $86 to $95. Team competition, gourmet food stations, wine, live music.  Connect at

Wiens Family Cellars has a Wiensfest Sept. 27 from 4 to 8 p.m.; German traditional food, music, wine and beer.  Try the Oktoberfest costume contest and grape stomping.  Cost is $40. See


Wine Bytes

North County Wine Company in San Marcos is having its fourth annual “Bro-Down” Sept. 18 from 4 to 10 p.m.  The brothers Tobin pick four wines each and you pick the best not knowing which brother picked what. Cost is $20.  Call (760) 653-9032.

San Diego County Restaurant week is Sept. 20 to Sept. 27. Over 180 restaurants are discounting their menus. The theme is Go Local. Check out which ones at  You can also RSVP at this site.

Il Fornaio in Del Mar is presenting a Hahn Family Wine Dinner Sept. 24 at 6 p.m.  Hahn rep Peter Pons will lead guests on a tour of the wine portfolio.  Highlight will be a Branzino Intrecciato (Mediterranean Sea bass) served with a 2013 Hahn Meritage; $55. RSVP at (858) 755-8876.

Vittorio’s of Carmel Valley has a Robert Hall wine dinner Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. with a four-course dinner plus dessert; $49.50. Call (858) 538-5884 for a place.


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.