Howell Mountain is where it’s at if you’re in Napa Valley

Millions of wine lovers, touristy types and California back-country drivers are driven to explore a revered 44,000 acres of wineriess and vineyards known as the Napa Valley. It makes only 4 percent of the wines in California, but produces 20 percent of wine sales in this state. Its reputation really took off when Robert Mondavi established his Robert Mondavi Winery. The rich tastes and ripe tannins of the signature Cabernet Sauvignon resemble the Bordeaux wine making area of France, and has demonstrated and was judged, to be superior to the French version.
Highway 29, which cuts through the valley and routes the traveler to some 400 wineries and 700 grape growers, is a miniature Interstate 5 with traffic woes increasing to the boiling point.
Those in the know have known for some time that the Silverado Trail, which parallels Highway 29 to the east, is a more beautiful, pristine route that takes the traveler to some of the best brands in Napa Valley. Its crown jewel is Howell Mountain, a gentle, rural incline that begins at the 1,400 foot level. It also happens to be the fog-line boundary.  Any grapes grown above that level are subject to sunnier days and cooler nights, the holy grail for excellence in wines. The soil is rockier and porous allowing for drainage of the heavier rainfall that they experience. The bottom line is a rich complexity and flavor.
The Howell Mountain appellation was the first to be recognized as a distinct growing region within the Napa Valley. The family style wineries often have small, hard-to-obtain quantities and are respected for their Cabs and Zins.
The Howell Mountain Wine Tasting for the public and the trade is traveling to Los Angeles and the Peterson Auto Museum on Wilshire Boulevard on March 15 from 2 to 6 p.m. More than 25 select wineries will be pouring.
It will be a rare occasion. Some names to know include Cakebread, Atlas Peak, Beringer, Duckhorn, O’Shaugnessy, Robert Foley and many more.
Tickets for the public are $45. each and can be processed at www.howellmountain.org. Public hours are 4 to 6 p.m. The info line is (707) 965-2665.
La Costa Wine Company ramps up events
Kris Garrett is a man on a mission.  He purchased the former Wine Street in Carlsbad not too long ago from Tanya Kinberg, a popular wine entrepreneur, and proceeded to move into the down economy with an added value and special event mentality. The name was changed to La Costa Wine Company and the interior was remodeled into a clean, upscale style that made wines easier to find. An imported cheese section was added to compliment the increase in events at the comfortable bistro style, marble bar. Tanya’s unsurpassed experience in the Napa Valley was enlisted for key “A-List” selections from small producers.
The biggest, most exciting news yet is just around the corner on the calendar as Kris and his North County Wine Company host the two legendary wineries in Paso Robles wine growing history: Justin Winery from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and the man that put the appellation on the map, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery from 5 to 8 p.m. March 4 with a charge of $20. Eberle is considered to be the pioneer in the making of fine wine in Paso Robles Wine Country with more than 30 years of production. His winery tastings are still complimentary, including cave tours. Learn more at www.eberlewinery.com.
At the Justin tasting, wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet, Savant, Justification, Tempranillo and Obtuse. Fee is $30. Their site is www.justinwine.com.
For more on La Costa Wine Company, visit www.lacostawineco.com or call (760) 431-8455.
Wine Bytes
— Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas is hosting an Amglin Winemaker Dinner  at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25. Cost is $75 each. Amglin of Paso Robles focuses on the Rhone Varietals and will be pouring Viognier, Pinot Noir, a Rhone blend and a Syrah. To RSVP call (760) 635-1066.
— Cicciotti’s Trattoria in Cardiff is staging a benefit Opera Concert from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 25. Entrance fee $20. Two internationally known tenors will sing. Gaetano Cicciotti, the owner, has a new cookbook out featuring Italian food specialties. Call (760) 634-2335 for details.
— Bacchus Wine Market in the Gaslamp District San Diego presents its next “Drink Yourself Blind” bagged wine tasting from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 26. There will be eight wines to try. Guess right and win prizes.  Call (619) 236-0005 for details.
— A ZD Napa Valley Wine Tasting is planned for 21 Oceanfront Restaurant in Newport Beach from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Feb. 26. A four-course dinner will be paired perfectly with wines for $95. Call (949) 673-2100 for details.
— The Hilton Anaheim hosts a Chalk Hill Wine Dinner  for $75 per person at 6 p.m. Feb. 26. The main entrée is Herb Roasted Lamb with Salsa Verde and Black Truffles, matching up with the ‘06 Estate Cabernet. Call (714) 740-4412 to RSVP.

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