Brian Malarky, a chef and restaurateur, caused excitement at Newport Beach Wine & Food with his menu entrée from new San Diego restaurant Herb & Wood. Photos by Frank Mangio
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Southern Glazer a portfolio of some of world’s finest wines

Southern Glazer and its American Spirits division may not mean much to you at first blush, but this world-class distributor brings to market and sells to eager restaurants, markets, wine shops and even cruise ships, some of the finest and most desired wines and other beverages.

Southern’s wine clients read like a who’s who, with names like Banfi, BV, Caymus, Constellation Brands, Daou, Ferrari-Carano, Coppola, Joseph Phelps, Jordan, Justin, Louis Latour, St. Michelle, Stags Leap and a lot more.

At the recent Southern Glazer wine trade show in San Diego, Bryan Morris, Western Manager for Copper Cane wines in Napa Valley, poured new releases.

The occasion was the recent Southern California Trade show showcasing the best of new releases, staged at the Pendry Hotel, the most quirky, remarkable hotel in downtown San Diego. If you like your walk-in shower to be not in the bathroom but just inside the front door by the bed, you will love this millennial-influenced hotel.

By far, the most interesting wine story at the trade show was the saga of Joe Wagner and his latest conquest, a new family of Pinot Noirs at his Copper Cane Wines & Provisions in Saint Helena, Napa Valley. Joe was comfortably working for his iconic father Chuck Wagner, who along with his father Charlie founded Caymus Vineyards in 1972, now known as the Wagner Family of Wine in Rutherford. Their signature wine was and still is the Cabernet Special Selection (2013, $170).

In the ‘90s Caymus launched Conundrum, a red blend, then Mer Soliel, a white blend. In the early 2000s, Check’s youngest son, Joe came to work at Caymus with a yen for his new discovery in reds, Pinot Noir. He was put in charge of Pinot product which Joe named Meiomi. Over the years, Pinot went from 1.5 million sales in California in 2001, to 13.5 million in 2015. Joe, after more than a few disagreements with his famous father, split from Caymus and took Meiomi with him. He is quoted as saying “I told my dad I didn’t think it was the easy way, but looking down the road, it was the right way.”

In 2014 Joe established Copper Cane, a holding company for new brands of Pinot Noir and other varietals. Meiomi was up to 500,000 cases and proving to be a challenge.  Constellation, the corporate drinks giant, stepped up and offered $315 million for Meiomi. Joe, at 34, now has enough funds to make Copper Cane a launching pad for many other brands, some of which were on display at the trade show with fruit from several key vineyards they had bought with the proceeds of the sale of Meiomi.    

Other Pinot Noirs I liked include the 2015 Elouan from Oregon with fruit from the Willamette Valley, Umpqua and the Rogue Valleys with intense structure and rich earthiness ($24, a Top Ten Taste of Wine this year).

The other remarkable Pinot was BOEN, a beautiful Russian River Pinot 2015 with fresh flavor of cherry and blueberry and hints of smoked meat ($30). It’s a deep ruby red with a perfected flavor profile.

(Taste of Wine credits much of the Joe Wagner profile to Wine Spectator and its feature article on Joe Wagner.) See more about his enterprise at

Newport Beach Wine & Food

The most beautifully orchestrated of the many wine and food festivals I have covered is the two-day extravaganza in Newport Beach annually the end of each September. You get the picture when the first encounter at the entrance is the sight of dual Aston Martin vehicles of James Bond fame. Guests are further star struck by the lineup of world-class network-quality chefs and area restaurants that offer gourmet samplings of their award winning cuisine.

And with banners emblazoned with the ID and location, each of their super famous wines popped their latest release wines. There were 250 varieties of wines, spirits and craft beers to select from over a two-day spread. Relaxing and enjoying live jazz music, I had a chance to sink into oversized sofas with cocktail tables and lean-back chairs, in the outdoor venue at Newport Beach’s City Hall promenade. 

San Diego’s most prominent award winning chef was a force at the Saturday event. Brian Malarky’s latest restaurant is in San Diego’s Little Italy, Herb and Wood.

Malarky has been a featured chef on ABC’s “The Taste” and Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Star.” He’s also a winner with the Seersucker format in San Diego and Las Vegas. His mug shot photo I took matched his restaurant motto, “Beauty is not in the face, beauty is in the light of the heart.” Bravo Brian! 

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Wine Bytes

Carruth Cellars in Solana Beach has its 7th annual Reserve Sale from noon to 9 p.m. Nov. 18 at 118 S. Cedros. It’s their biggest sale of the year.  Details at (858) 846-9463.

Arterra in the Del Mar Marriott has a Thanksgiving buffet from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 23. Cost is $49 for adults and $15 for kids. Chef Evan has a spectacular display of your favorites. RSVP at (858) 369-6032.

West Steak & Seafood in Carlsbad has a Rombauer wine dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 30. Dine on a five-course special dinner paired with Rombauer wines.  Cost is $125. RSVP at (760) 930-9100.

Vittorio’s in the Carmel Valley of San Diego is offering a French Sparkling Wine event with a four-course dinner at 6 p.m. Nov. 30. Champagne names like Bollinger and Tattinger will be paired with Vittorio’s custom entrees.  Cost is $75 each. Call (858) 538-5884.

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