Thornton Winery brings jazz greats to town

The tradition began back in 1988, when owner John Thornton came up with what was then a novel idea, to offer local music on weekends with his wine and food menu to attract new customers.
“It started simple 22 years ago. We didn’t charge for admission to the concerts. We just wanted customers to try our wines,” said John as we drank a glass of his 2006 Nebbiolo wine. “Over time, the shows became more organized and took on new life as top jazz musicians were booked in, the audiences grew and we offered dinner and wine packages in our outdoor fountain terrace setting. This year we have 21 performances.”
This year’s concert lineup is the strongest statement yet of the superb musicians that Thornton Winery attracts. Their wine and supper packages provide a total music, food and wine experience with winemaker Don Reha presenting his new releases and chef Steve Pickell of the 5 star Café Champagne  pairing perfect menu selections.
The concert schedule goes from April 25 to Oct. 16. I asked Steve Thornton and Events Manager Tonya Wake who the one artist is that has played the most years and is a popular favorite with the 40 members of the concert staff. Without hesitation they both agreed it is premier sax man Dave Koz. “He has been a major part of our success with his warm, personal approach to performing,” Steve said. “This year he is playing two days in a row, Saturday and Sunday Aug. 28 and Aug. 29, with Jonathan Butler.” 
Tonya, who is like an orchestra leader, conducting each concert to perfection for 16 years as events manager, agreed that Dave Koz is the easiest to work with. John added that Koz’s parents, when they were alive, used to come to the concerts and him chocolate chip cookies because they knew how much he liked them. Under Tonya’s guiding hand, all Thornton concerts are a relaxed, intimate affair with a customer and artist-friendly environment.
For the full schedule of performers in this 22nd year of the best names in jazz, visit or call (951) 699-0099 and talk to Tonya Wake, the “orchestra leader.”
For steaks, seafood and spirits — go West
It was a night to remember recently at West Steak, Seafood and Spirits in Carlsbad as the legendary Caymus Vineyards of Napa Valley showcased their premiere wines, paired with a five-course dinner of unmatched quality by Executive Chef Eugenio Martignago.  General Manager Tom Bertrand continues to position West as the quintessential restaurant for taste and dining trends.
This commitment to excellence has been rewarded by the popular Open Table award to West as the No. 1 Restaurant in San Diego County for 2009. The full house of diners that came to the wine event, led by Caymus Regional Manager Mike Gioia, savored the Caymus 2007 Special Selection Cabernet with Chef Eugenio’s main entrée of Seared Prime Certified Angus Filet Mignon on a bed of Braised Oxtail and celery root puree. The service sparkled as wine and food entrees were on the table on time and at peak taste. 
The extensive wine list at West brims with wines of value and premium notoriety. From a delicious, budget-style Castello Banfi Centine by the glass to a glorious Joseph Phelps Insignia Meritage, you will find one you will truly love. Check Happy Hour Specials for exceptional bargains. For more information, call West at (760) 930-9100.
Wine Bytes
— Bacchus Wine Market in the Gaslamp district downtown San Diego is presenting wines from Northern Italy from 4 to 9 p.m. April 30. Taste Barbera, Dolcetto, Valpolicella and more. Cost is $15. For more information, call (619) 236-0005.
— Lorimar Winery in Temecula Wine Country kicks of its event schedule with Kansas City BBQ, Wine and Blues in the vineyards, from 3 to 8 p.m. May 1. Tickets are $55 per person. Kids under 12 get in free. Smokin’ good tri-tip, ribs and chicken. For more information, call (951) 240-5177.
— Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido has a Saxon Brown wine tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 6. This is Sonoma-style single vineyard wine like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. The cost is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, call (760) 745-1200.
— Mama’s Day, the 19th annual benefit for Mama’s Kitchen providing meals for the needy, is from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 7 at the Hyatt Regency in San Diego. More than 70 of San Diego’s top restaurant chefs will participate, with auctions, music and wine. Pre-sale is $125 per person, $150 at the door. RSVP at (619) 233-6262.
— Roll Out the Barrel returns again this year from 5 to 8 p.m. May 8 at Humphries by the Bay in the Pt. Loma district of San Diego. Encinitas Meritage Wine Market is helping to coordinate the Make-A-Wish benefit that has 20 restaurants and 40 wineries participating. Tickets are $100 each. VIP benefits for $175. For more information, visit