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Rancho Santa Fe Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: SoCal awash in wine shows

It would take reams of copy to summarize the dozens of wine shows that have descended onto Southern California to pour the latest releases of fine wine for a thirsty public.

At times you can find international shows where wines from many countries compete with the U.S. (read West Coast).  Others are just California and many more focus on regions, like the one I visited recently — the wines of the Santa Lucia Highlands of the central coast.

Along the central coastal area of California, there is no lack of wine counties to visit.  From Santa Barbara north to Santa Ynez, the Sta. Rita Hills, Paso Robles, Monterey and the special, bucolic mountainside just below Monterey called Santa Lucia Highlands.  Truly a home for wine artisans where vineyards are planted on terraces overlooking the Salinas River Valley, cooled by the fog and ocean breezes off Monterey Bay, and where 49 properties grow wine grapes on 6,100 acres.

Most of these wineries make Pinot Noir.  There is no more attractive setting for this glamour queen of wine than the Santa Lucia Highlands.

With more than 30 years experience, Dan Lee and his Morgan label are the essence of this region.

His Double L Vineyard, purchased in 1996, is today one of the best-known vineyards in the state.  You can taste this crown jewel of Pinot Noir ($58) as the 2013 Double L has just been released.

That year was beautiful for wine grapes, as was the 2012.  You find aromas of coffee and black cherry, and flavors of blackberry, dates and plum.  For more, go to

Jonathan Apt, western sales manager and Dan Morgan Lee display a 2013 Morgan Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Photo by Frank Mangio
Jonathan Apt, western sales manager and Dan Morgan Lee display a 2013 Morgan Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Photo by Frank Mangio


One of the fastest growing wine events in San Diego is one that is only in its third year.  Held at Liberty Station in the Pt. Loma district, this indoor/outdoor venue quickly picked up over 100 brands of high quality wineries.

The passionate producer David Fraschetti, who did corporate events and is a lover of fine wine, rolled up his sleeves and laid out a space plan of wines, food and music second to none, and called it Vin Diego.

Heavy hitters lined the walkways in the park-like setting — wines like Ferrari-Carano, Grgich Hills, Opolo, Niner, South Coast, Sokol Blosser and ZD plus many more were repeat customers. Marina Kitchen, Jake’s, Solare and the Grant Grill had tasty bites.

Mark your April 2016 calendar for the second Saturday and be sure to experience Vin Diego next time around.  Visit for more information.

It doesn’t have to be a huge strung-out event to gain an insight into the world of wine.  Find an active restaurant like Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley, just north of San Diego producing monthly wine dinner events, and you will learn a lot.

Marty Merritt, regional manager for Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles, came in recently with some of his newest releases from Hope.  All are Rhone Valley-south-of-France style wines.

Vittorio’s was up for the event and called on his chef for exceptional cuisine like jumbo scallops, roasted duck breast and New Zealand lamb chops. The wines were red blends, chardonnay and a personal favorite, a 2013 Treana White ($23).  Mostly from the Viognier grape, flavors of ripe stone fruit with honey overtones are the real deal. Check out

Wine Bytes

North County Wine Company presents a Top Shelf Tasting May 8 from 4 to 10 p.m. This is a special opportunity to taste big-time wines like Keenan, Pahlmeyer and Don Melchor Cab. Cost is $35, including hors d’oeuvres.  Details at (760) 653-9032.

Island Prime & C Level Restaurant on Harbor Island San Diego has a symposium and wine tasting from South Africa, May 9 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.  Two experts from that country will moderate. $40. Call (619) 298-6802.

Tablas Creek Winery comes to La Jolla at La Valencia’s La V Restaurant May 12 from 6 to 9 p.m.  The winery is one of the top-rated properties in Paso Robles. $120. Details at (858) 454-0771.

The Rotary Club of Bonsall presents its annual Wine, Brews and Blues Festival, the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, May 16 from 5:30 to 10 p.m with both wine and handcrafted beer tastings, silent auction and live blues music for dancing; food including a beer and brats courtyard. Proceeds benefit charities.  Tickets are $75 and are available at

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  Reach him at and follow him on Facebook.

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