Wine guru again wins top restaurant award

The WineSellar and Brasserie has once again taken the top annual Wine Spectator Grand Award for having one of the greatest wine lists in the world. Tucked into the Sorrento Valley with wine storage, a wine shop, a wine bar, a bistro and a brasserie, it has captured this international recognition annually since 1989, shortly after owner Gary Parker opened his business in 1988.

Gary Parker, owner of WineSellar and Brasserie in San Diego, in front of his newly finished Wine & Craft Beer Bar. Photo by Frank Mangio

“I started out with wine storage then moved into retail wine sales before it was ever cool to do it,” he observed. “I had restaurant experience working with Bertrand Hugg who owns Mille Fleur in Rancho Sante Fe, and before that I was with him at the old Mona Lisa in Solana Beach. In the early ‘80s I sold wine door to door and tutored restaurateurs on how to taste wine. I saw an opportunity to combine all my talents and WineSellar and Brasserie was born. I was way ahead of my time with this format where storage customers brought in restaurant customers and the retail side helped the restaurant.

Word got out fast that the brasserie had internationally known French style, decades-old Bordeaux wines on the menu, and it soon caught the attention of the world-class publication Wine Spectator.

“My wine storage customers, mostly high-end collectors, got me going with the great French wines,” he chuckled. “A lot of them left their wines due to the three Ds: debt, divorce and death. They and their families wanted me to take their wines off their hands, then I would add them to my restaurant wine list. They were some of the greatest wines ever known.”

Parker still stocks a lot of California and French wines in his restaurant inventory which numbers about 1,600 choices.

As everyone knows the market is changing and Parker knows, so now he points to his new wine bar and small bites menu for a casual WineSellar Brasserie experience, while still focusing on the multi course French style, sit down lunches and dinners upstairs in the brasserie, with Chef Alfred Fierro’s creations.

The day I reviewed the menu, it was Scallops Carpaccio, a mixed grill of lamb, beef, potato puree and a red wine reduction to highlight a prix fixe presentation, washed down with wines from Spain.

Diners and wine tasters have many options at WineSellar and Brasserie, making it a fun discovery. Now Parker is developing a new value wine label, KARMA, with whites and reds from the Mendoza district of Argentina. The 2007 Malbec Gran Reserva was lovely. Congratulations to WineSellar and Brasserie on yet another Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for 2012. See

Search and try these wines

About once a month I check back into my wine rating list of bottles I have tasted and rated as I experience them. The name, varietal, vintage and wine country are noted, as well as price and a rating, one to 5, with 5 as an “Excellent” rating. So, here are some “5s” for your consideration, by alphabetic order:

— Anciano Tempranillo Gran Reserva, Spain, 2001, $8. Aged a whopping 10 years. From the Valdepenas District. Mature fruit flavored.

— Castello Amorosa Dolcino Gewurstraminer, Napa Valley, 2001, $24. Lightly sweet, summer perfect.

— Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, 2007 $55. Aristocratic, fine balance of Sangiovese grape clones producing a ruby rich flavor with hints of licorice.

— Fog Crest Chardonnay, Russian River Sonoma, 2010, $28. Platinum Medal Winner at the Monterey Wine Competition and Double Gold Winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Tasting. Beautifully crafted.

— J. Davies Cabernet, Diamond Mountain Napa Valley, 2008, $80. Voluptuous fruit forward wine that will capture your senses.

— Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel, Dry Creek Sonoma, 2010, $16. Petite Sirah added for balance, combined with 100-plus-year-old vine flavor, equals a rare Zin value.

— Robert Renzoni Sonata Blend, Temecula Valley, 2009, $38. All estate grown cabernet and brunello grapes, a bold duo of French and Italian connections. Won Silver at the Orange County Fair.

— Sassacaia Tenuta San Guido “Super Tuscan,” Bolgheri Italy, 2006, $225. At least once in your wine life, you must taste this “stony ground” cabernet and Cab Franc Italian blend from the slopes of Bolgheri. Deep, refined tannins. The 2006 was the best in a decade.

Wine Bytes

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas presents a U.S. Pinot Noir pouring from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 10. Cost is $20 for six wine tastings. Check it out at (760) 479-2500.

La Costa Wine Company is planning its annual Wine Expo from 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 11. Cost is $25 per person. Thirty different wines to try. RSVP on this one to (760) 431-8646.

Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula has an evening concert with Steel Magnolia on Aug. 10. Details at (951) 491-6551.



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