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Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: September is California wine month

Any day of the week, any month of the year is the time to celebrate the greatness of California wines.

But the table is set and the glass is full for California to shine in September so let’s toast the world’s most coveted wine country producing 120 grape varietals, more than any country in the world.

Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, Temecula and yes, San Diego County, all produce more than 90 percent of all the wine in the U.S. — some 3,500 wine producers dot the state.

Spanish missionaries began planting in the 1700s.  The first commercial wineries started in Los Angeles in the 1830s, and then later in the century in Napa Valley and Sonoma.

Wine is California’s bountiful reward for its perfectly crafted land and climate.

San Diego’s premier restaurant group, Cohn Restaurants, is celebrating September’s California Wine Month with dinners and tastings at many of its 24 locations in San Diego and elsewhere.

Beverage Director Maurice DiMarino sets the wine programs for the company, founded by David and Lesley Cohn who began with a small diner in 1981.

Some of their award winning restaurants that you will recognize include:  The Prado in Balboa Park, Island Prime at Harbor Island, Vintana in Escondido, Corvette Diner now in Liberty Station Pt. Loma, 333 Pacific in Oceanside and the newest sensation, Coasterra at Harbor Island.

Coasterra, converted from an old paddlewheel boat that sat next to Island Prime restaurant on Harbor Island, will be first to offer the month-long parade of wine events, with its Sea and Air Parade Wine Tasting, Sept.10 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s San Diego’s military Fleet Week and this date allows a panoramic view of the excitement of the Sea and Air Parade. Twenty wines will be tasted plus “Cal-Baja” appetizers. Cost is $100 per person. RSVP at (619) 814-1300.

Beachside Bubbles and Barnacles is the Sparkling Wine Tasting and Oysterfest at SEA 180 Coastal Tavern in Imperial Beach, Sept. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.  Five Sparkling wines, oyster stations and shucking workshops are offered along with a 180-degree beach view; cost is $60 per person. RSVP at (619) 631-4949.

A History of California wines seminar is scheduled at Island Prime on Harbor Island conducted by Wine Director Maurice DiMarino, Sept. 24 from noon to 2 p.m.  Ten unique California wines and all you need to know about them will be complete with delicious hors d’oeuvres.  Cost is $40 per person. RSVP at (619) 298-6802. Five other restaurants will have special wine lunches and dinners throughout the month.  For more, visit


Ponsaty’s — A Return to Elegance

Fifth generation Master French Chef Patrick Ponsaty has applied his master’s touch to a new, elegant restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe, aptly named Ponsaty’s. It replaces Delicias at a key corner in the Village. He was corporate chef at the Grand Restaurant Group, which has partnered in the new operation.  As you enter Ponsaty’s, the elegance is evident in the soft browns, greys and gold-toned massive Murano glass chandelier in the main dining room.

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras is the appetizer of choice at Ponsaty’s, paired with a 2009 Bonnacorsi Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. Photo by Margarite Triemstra
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras is the appetizer of choice at Ponsaty’s, paired with a 2009 Bonnacorsi Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. Photo by Margarite Triemstra

Chef Patrick has created a menu that, “features my family’s recipes and my visions from top to bottom,” he said.

He grew up in the south of France and started his career in cooking at age 15.  Next came Monaco, Spain, New York and finally to San Diego where he was chef at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and his own Bernardo Restaurant. Recommended entrees include: the lightly seared Cortez Corvina with lobster-saffron risotto and the lacquered Scottish salmon with long-stem artichokes.  The winning wine was the 2009 Bonnacorsi Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara.  RSVP at (858) 771-1871.


Wine Bytes

A Grape Stomp Festa is being planned Sept. 3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Menghini Winery in Julian. Grape stomping, Italian dancing and bocce ball, vendor booths for wine and food; cost is $15 for adults includes a logo glass. For information call (760) 765-1857.

Falkner Winery in Temecula offers Labor Day weekend events on the outdoor lawn and at Pinnacle Restaurant Sept. 3 and Sept. 4.  For more details, call 951-676-8231 x4.

The Palomar College Starlit 25th Annual Gala celebration is Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.  Proceeds go to a legacy of community support for access to higher education.  This memorable evening is open to the public, with a silent auction, dinner, Comet Award, live auction and entertainment, and produced by the Palomar College Foundation.  Wines have been generously donated by Lorimar Winery in Temecula. Various participation opportunities are available, by contacting Pam Grasso at pgrasso@palomar.ed or by calling (760) 744-1150 ext. 2732.

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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