Wine and Cigars: They pair well at La Cereza

The big buzz in the wine world has been wine and food pairing. A new appreciation of the relationship of a fine wine with a menu item that will bring out its ultimate characteristics has had chefs and winemakers trading flavor ideas, with the diner the big winner. Five-course dinners pair up with five elegant wines, from white to the dense bold reds, usually offered with the main course.
Enter La Cereza Winery in Temecula Wine Country with a new idea that’s causing a lot of interest with wine lovers, some of which may surprise you. But first a little background. Buddy and Cheri Linn came from the trade show world and burst on the Temecula wine world a few years ago when they purchased not one but two side-by-side wineries: Maurice Carrie, primarily a maker of white wines, and what is now La Cereza Winery, featuring Spanish reds, but with a niche of fine whites that have taken some important awards in recent competitions.
These two entrepreneurs have changed the landscape of wine in Temecula. They are both gifted in the sense that they understand and act on the next big trend in the industry. When they purchased the wineries, they made sure they secured the services of Gus Vizgirda, a premium winemaker in the valley, and one who could keep up with the innovations of the Linns, which included a move to feature Spanish wines.
Grape varietals like Tempranillo and Garnacha have rocketed in sales and awards with the 2005 Garnacha grabbing gold in the recent Dallas wine competition.
The couple have created a Spanish art gallery atmosphere in their tasting room and recently opened Hemingway’s Cigar and Wine Bar, a kind of Havana hideaway atmosphere. Customers can kick back on the soft leather oversize chairs and trade stories at the old world style bar under the portrait of “Papa Hemingway” and Cuban-style portraits that characterize the fun of La Cereza.
All this of course leads up to the latest turn by Buddy and Cheri, into the new line of five premium La Cereza Cigars, carefully paired with their wines for maximum flavor and enjoyment. “Fine cigars with fine wine are finally the missing ingredient to complete wine relaxation and the Hemingway experience,” Vizgirda said.
“We searched in several different countries for over a year to find the right blend of tobaccos, while finding the master rollers to create these extraordinary cigars,” Buddy Linn added. It starts out with the mild “Girlfriends” cigar that matched up with the light and fun “Girlfriends” white wine, popular with ladies at the bar.
The top of the line is the “Presidente,” made in the Dominican Republic and aged for five years. The rich earthiness matches up with the winery’s 2006 Tempranillo.
Fine wine, food, art and music have all made their imprint on the bloodline of La Cereza. Now, you can add premium cigars to the pedigree. For more, see www.lacerezawinery.com.
San Diego County restaurant week sets record
It started with a pep rally featuring San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders with some 50 participating restaurants in attendance at Tom Ham’s on Harbor Island in January. The Restaurant Week promotion eventually brought 180 restaurants together countywide for up to 90 percent increases in diners and sales, attracted by the values of $20 to $40 for gourmet three-course dinners.
“We’re thrilled that even with the downturn, this promotion was a great success, so much so we are going to bring it back later this year, Sept. 13 to 18,” Chair and co-founder Ingrid Croce of Croce’s Downtown Gaslamp Restaurant said. Visit www.restaurantweek.com for details.

Wine Bytes
— Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas announced their next three Friday wine pourings: the Wines of Spain on March 20, Napa Wines on March 27 and French Wines on April 3. Events are 6 to 8 p.m. Details on pricing are available by calling (760) 479-2500.
— A new wine bar and restaurant has started up in Rancho Santa Fe at the Cielo community, with a daily menu of unique wines and menu pairings. It’s called Decanter. The owner and sommelier is Jayson Knack. He has stocked more than 4,500 wines from around the world. Call (858) 756-9333 for more information.

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