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Justin Mund has been winemaker/general manager of Orfila Winery in Escondido for the past 10 years. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Newly discovered wine gems

During this stay-at-home and social distancing time we are enduring, you may be surprised to know that wine sales are doing very well, thank you very much. The last week of March, wine, along with other alcoholic beverages, rose 55%, proving that wine especially is an “essential.” It’s reported that Rosé’s rose 75% year over year. And, online sales were way above last year’s sales for all wines.

A couple of months ago, this column introduced you to a half-dozen wine rookies. It went over so well, we are encoring six more discoveries — five from California — starting with a local winner at Orfila Winery in Escondido, the 2018 Orfila Estate Lotus Viognier (Vee-own-yay), $34. This is the most full-bodied white you will taste. Its tropical fruit notes will put you squarely in the Bahamas. A healthy cream flavor enhances the wines with hints of vanilla. Visit

— Jeff Runquist 2018 Petite Sirah, Plymouth, $28. After winning “Winery of the Year” four times in competition last year, Runquist just released his 2018 Petite Sirah, which should walk in the footsteps of past vintages with a parade of ripe, dark fruits. Rich flavors live in a wine that is at once soft, supple and silky.

— Fifty Row 2016 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $85. Paul Johnson has finally done it. His Fifty Row Cab from the exquisite 2016 Napa Valley vintage has masterful written all over it. Johnson was the owner of Encinitas Baker and Olive when he heard the clarion call of Napa Valley, making the wines he knew were in him. The 2016 stands tall, his best to date with distinctive “Rutherford dust.” Deep garnet in color with aromas of jammy blackberries and opulent dark plum. The palate is treated to voluptuous flavors of black currant, tobacco, plum and dark chocolate.

And here are three picks from Rico Cassoni:

— DAOU 2019 Discovery Collection Rose, Paso Robles, $22. The ornate bottle is the first indication this is a DAOU product. Any wine with DAOU on it has no shortcuts and benefits from Daniel Daou’s master winemaking skills, including the Discovery Wine Collection up to their flagship Soul of a Lion. This dry Rosé has strawberry, peach, and hints of cherry and honey on the nose and a crisp palate of nectarine, orange, strawberry, and apple. It is a perfect afternoon wine and a chameleon for many light dishes that it complements. Check out Daniel Daou LIVE each Tuesday, 9-10 a.m. via Instagram (@daniel.j.daou) as he walks DAOU Mountain.

— Trambusti 2018 Origo Super Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon, Toscana, Italy, $18. After digging through the freezer, I found some of last year’s San Marzano tomatoes. I figured this great value Super Tuscan would be perfect to go with some Casa Cassoni homemade pizza. And I was correct! The dark ruby color with cherry and spice on both the nose and palate along with medium tannins were a great flavor combo complementing the pizza’s sausage and mozzarella. Details at

— Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2017 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $75. Those who read last week’s column might remember that Frank and I enjoyed this wine at a recent Morton’s The Steakhouse Stag’s Leap Wine Dinner. Artemis had raspberry and boysenberry on the nose along with cherry and hints of cedar wood and spice. The plum and dark chocolate palate and lingering finish were perfect with the melt-in-your-mouth Morton’s signature Filet Mignon. Those with a larger budget might want to try Fay Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Collection ($150). This was also served at the dinner and was an exceptional treat. Details at

This Week’s Takeout Specials

— Seasalt in Del Mar, every Tuesday and Thursday, celebrates with $12 salmon or steak tacos with Spanish rice, plus a bottle of Dos Equis beer for a penny! Call Sal at 858-755-7100. Pickup hours are 4-7:30 p.m.

—Vigilucci’s in Carlsbad and Leucadia offers its new family-style takeout. Family trays (6-8 people) for limited-time pricing can be prepared for that overdue party. For Carlsbad, call 760-434-2500 and 760-634-2365 for Leucadia.

—The Landry restaurant group is going all out with the best steak and seafood for takeout. Morton’s The Steakhouse in San Diego has a three-course Steak and Lobster menu starting at $59 and a prime burger plus fries for $13 with a half-priced wine option. Call 619-696-3369 for details.

—Charthouse at the Beach in Cardiff has 10 lunch items under $10, daily 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. From bowls and greens to hand-helds with fries, you’ll see a combination you’ll like. Call 760-436-4044 to order.

Reach Frank Mangio at

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