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Napa Valley winemaker Dave Phinney’s newest venture is Locations wines, including California, an extravagant red blend. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Wine & dine pioneer celebrates 30 years of innovation

When you look at the history of Gary Parker and his WineSellar & Brasserie in San Diego, all these past 30 years presenting a wine and dine combination of innovation and customer satisfaction, you have to agree that he is San Diego’s wine guru.

Wine is in this man’s blood. There’s no other way to describe how his creativity and perception has steered and shaped the presentation of the wine and dine business in this city since 1988.

Columnist Frank Mangio was on hand for the 30th anniversary of WineSellar & Brasserie with owner Gary Parker.

His location choice was a bold one, in a light office and industrial space in massive Sorrento Valley north of the city.

“I started out with a wine storage business then moved into wine sales and restaurant service before combining my talents with WineSellar & Brasserie. I would buy great French-style wines from my storage customers and they added to a fine dining brasserie atmosphere I created upstairs over the wine shop that has grown in reputation and quality to this day. It caught the attention of the world renowned Wine Spectator magazine that rewarded us with their highest awards over the years.”

Parker has always stayed ahead of the market and has introduced such innovations as a wine club, fast casual wine bar, craft beers, try it and buy it wine tastings, private wine labels and, with his wife Lori, private small group trips to far away wine countries for memorable moments with leading wineries around the world.

His 30th Anniversary menu included a choice of Scottish Salmon, Duck Confitand Australian Rack of Lamb. To pair these entrees, I chose the Matanzas Sauvignon Blanc and Heintz Pinot Noir. They did not disappoint.

Parker has recently appointed the well-respected Kurt Kirschenman as food and beverage manager/sommelier and increased his special events. His next one will be a “California Dreamin” walk around wine tasting from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24 that promises more than 15 highly rated wines from the Golden State. Cost is $35 per person, $30 for club members. For an RSVP call (858) 450-9557. Visit at

Phinney continues to dominate

Taste of Wine has written several times about the meteoric success of Dave Phinney. He burst on the Napa Valley wine scene in the early 2000s with The Prisoner, the top wine from his Orin Swift Winery.

Phinney began his odyssey over a bowl of pasta in Florence where he was a student. A fellow student convinced him to enter the wine business where he got a wine job during harvest at the Robert Mondavi winery.  An investment of a few thousand dollars and The Prisoner red blend was born, and as they say, the rest is history. 

Recently, after selling the Prisoner and Orin Swift Winery for hundreds of millions of dollars, Phinney thought there must be compelling locations that exist where soil, climate and vines connect to produce grapes that uniquely express their location through wine.  Phinney thought, “What if I could blend wine across all appellations in a country, to produce a wine that represented a country of origin with no rules? What if I had complete freedom to express whatever I believed in pursuit of wine expression? The answer was yes, with Locations.” Travelling the world, Phinney has done just that with a journey of discovery looking for old vines with low yields. It started in the south of France with “F,” a blend of 80-year-old Grenache, Syrah and Carginan vines ($17). “CA” came later, a luscious California wine ($21.99). It’s a blend of Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Barbera, Syrah and Grenache. Other Locations include WA, I. E and, with more to come. Taste of Wine salutes Dave Phinney for making an affordable, value wine along the lines of The Prisoner but with a price anyone can afford and love! See

Wine Bytes

• Truly Fine Wine on Morena Boulevard in San Diego presents a Dia de la Bandera Tasting from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 24. Bajas’ Guadalupe wines will be featured, for $15. per person. RSVP at (858) 270-9463.

• The Art of the Blend happens at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 24 with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Learn from a component tasting of each with a hands-on blending on your own, plus appetizers. Cost is $79. For your place, RSVP at (760) 479-2500.

• The Big Barrel Tasting in Town will be at Carruth Cellars Urban Winery in Solana Beach from noon to 7 p.m. Feb. 24 and Feb 25. Taste wine before bottling. Live music and pizza all day for $30 per guest. For details, call (858) 846-9463.

• Penner-Ash Wine Cellars will be spotlighted in a five-course wine dinner at The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo at 6 p.m. Feb. 27. Wine expert David Johnson will present.  Cost is $75 each. The 2015 Syrah is featured with the main entrée, a Braised Beef Cheek.  RSVP at

Frank Mangio can be reached at