Taste of Tuscany to be found in Palm Desert

It was a sunny, temperate day in Palm Desert recently, adding a lively garden atmosphere to the driveway leading to the grand entrance of the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa. I was there to renew my friendship with Paul Bologna, the wine sommelier for the restaurants, and to review the lush Italian style Tuscany Ristorante that sits by a lake within the property. Paul was guiding guests through a holiday wine tasting of California and Oregon Pinot Noirs at the boat dock.
His “Pinot Showdown” pitted Oregon names like Domaine Serene and Chehalem Reserve against California’s Sequana and MacPhail Toulouse. All were lovely picks, but I am partial to Pinot in Oregon so my favorite was the ’05 Chehalem from the Willamette Valley.
Tuscany’s menu, with its Northern Italian cuisine, is the creation of Executive Chef Oliver Wolf. He contributes to the relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere with a lovely selection of wines and fresh, seasonal flavors. The venerable Lobster Ravioli is the chef’s favorite and has been on the Tuscany menu since its inception.
When you go, you must ask for Elena Sembenini for table service. She has been with the ristorante for 18 years. Her presentation is show business quality as she guides her diners through the history of each menu item. It is classic Italian. She personally selected my wine, Castel Ciocondo Frescobaldi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino. Its elegance cannot be overstated. The wine list, a world tour of all that is superb, it touches all budgets and is a credit to the selection decisions of Paul Bologna.
Life is beautiful when it’s spent dining at Tuscany Ristorante at JW Marriot’s Desert Springs. For more, visit www.desertsprings.com.
What’s in your cooler?
Keeping wine for years, to open and enjoy at another time, was the last thing I thought I would do when I began collecting my knowledge and thoughts about the qualities of great wine.
After a while I began to realize that some red wines do get more magnificent with age.
They become like prized possessions, stored away developing flavors that would be unknown without years of aging.
Old world red wines, whether from the country of origin or a new world adopted country, do best when aged. These are big in tannins, those character-building components of the skins and seeds of grapes that make wine live longer.
My wine storage and coolers hold about 300 bottles of reds, the oldest being 10 years old. All will be consumed as I don’t believe in “collecting wine” just for the sake of name-dropping. Tuscany Italy and Napa Valley California are the wine countries I favor.  Varietals I prefer to keep in storage for increased body and flavor include Cabernet, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Tempranillo, Barolo, Barbaresco, Syrah, many blends from France, Super Tuscans from Italy, Sonoma, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and Temecula.
My prize wine, until I drink it, is a Sassicaia Super Tuscan.
A couple of last thoughts on storing wine. Always keep the bottles laid down horizontally to keep the cork moist, and keep a record of what you have, when you bought it and exactly where it is stored. Salute!
Wine Bytes
— San Antonio Winery in downtown Los Angeles has a wine seminar luncheon, Understanding Bordeaux Varietals, from 1 to 4 p.m. March 20. Call (323) 223-1401 for pricing and details.
— The 9 DePortola Trail Wineries of Temecula are presenting a Zinfandel and Pasta Fest from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 20 and March 21. Each winery has pasta, wine and a logo glass for guests. The cost is $45. Tickets are available at the wineries or by visiting www.deportolawinetrail.com.
— West Steak, Seafood and Spirits in Carlsbad is hosting the Caymus Napa Valley Family of Wines at 6:30 p.m. March 22. Enjoy a five-course dinner featuring seared Prime Angus Filet Mignon paired with Caymus Wines. The cost is $95 each. RSVP at (760) 930-9100.
— BICE Restaurant in the Gaslamp District downtown San Diego celebrates several winemakers from Italy with a four-course dinner paired with Chianti Classico, Barbaresco, Barolo, Montepulciano and other Italian districts from 7 to 10 p.m. March 23. The cost is $80 per person. RSVP at (619) 239-2423.
— The Napa Valley Vintners will be well represented at a wine tasting at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in La Jolla from 6 to 8:30 p.m. March. Enjoy small bites and big wines with winemakers. The cost is $45 each. For more information, call Fleming’s at (858) 535-0078.

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