California Wine Festival has new look

Orange Country will be in a buzz April 29 and April 30 as the California Wine Festival becomes the hottest ticket in town with a quintessential two day wine tasting experience.  The organizers, who publish a leading wine trade magazine, present events at the Ritz Carlton Resort Hotel Laguna Niguel Friday starting from 4:30 p.m. with a Riedel Glass Tasting and Seminar, then a Sunset Rare and Reserve Tasting in the grand Ballroom from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
On April 30 it’s the Grand Tasting and Festival from 1 to 4 p.m., with a VIP pass option from 11:30 to 4 p.m., at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.
I have reviewed the wineries commited to Saturday’s outdoor event and would recommend tasting from:  Adelaida, Alexander Valley, Briar Rose, Callaway, Cass, Kenneth Volk, Kiamie, Laetitia, Leonesse, Opolo, Scheid, Wiens, Wilson Creek and Vino Robles.  These wines are California fruit-forward, from Temecula Valley, Paso Robles, Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbara.  
We don’t want to overlook the restaurants that will be presenting generous samples of their menu items.  Popular dining rooms like Smoky’s House of BBQ, Melting Pot, Nirvana Gourmet and a loaf of bread for every Saturday visitor from Sadie Rose Bakery.
The Friday evening wine gathering is billed as rare and reserve wines. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a champagne reception will begin the festivities, followed by rare bottles from Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast and Santa Barbara.  Top regional chefs will serve hot and cold appetizers, while bluesy Jazz keeps things melodic and cool. An 18-ounce wine glass to keep is a delightful bonus.
This same group has a Santa Barbara similar beachside event set up for July 14 through July 16.
Several levels of tickets are available and I urge you to accesscaliforniawinefestival.com  as soon as possible.  Tickets for both the Dana Point and Santa Barbara events start at $65 each. If you want to speak to someone, call (800) 797-7753.
Arterra Unwraps New Rave-Style Restaurant
Arterra, which is defined as “art of the earth,” has the San Diego dining scene raving and wanting more once they discover this stylistic restaurant, bar and outdoor lounge off the lobby of the Marriott Hotel,  on El Camino Real at Sorrento Valley Road in Del Mar.
The meet and greet area inside Arterra is really 3 areas.  The outdoor lounge  is spacious with lots of stand-up and sit down space set around fascinating firepits with low-rise  décor walls.  The wine bar doubles as a sushi bar, widely known as a chill-out and relaxation station.
Executive Chef Tony Miller has an impressive portfolio of hotels and restaurants including 11 years with Marriotts.  His last one was Hawaii and it deliciously showed in his menu selections.
For starters, try the lobster “mac and cheese” with mascarpone, parmesan, white truffle and orzo chives.  Move into flatbreads with “cold pizza” supporting smoked salmon, chili crème fraiche, blanco grapefruit, avocado, watercress and salmon roe.  In the mains, there are many to choose but the honey glazed natural chicken breast, duck confit, scallion pancake and cucumber kim chee was superb.  The meal was washed down with Erath Pinot Gri 2009 and a personal favorite, Frank Family 100 percent Cabernet 2006.  Chef Tony has been at Arterra for 9 months and is taking it to new heights of fusion-style food.
“What grows together, goes together” he said.  “We take 4 different cultures and put them together.”  Originality and an element of mystery have made Arterra what it is today… a place to see, and been seen.  Check it out at arterrarestaurant.com.  Call (858) 369-6032.
Wine Bytes
— Red Blends are featured at the next Friday night Bacchus Wine Market event, Apr. 15, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. in the Gaslamp downtown San Diego.  $15 gets you 6 different red wine blends.  Call (619) 236-0005 for names.
— It’s a Night of Pinots at Vigilucci’s downtown Carlsbad Apr. 21 at 6:30 p.m.  Includes a 5-course dinner paired with California Pinot Noirs for $65 per person.  RSVP at (760) 434-2500.
— It’s a night of small wineries and big wines at the Orange County Wine Extraordinaire at the Anaheim Hilton, April 17 from 2 to 5 p.m.  Cost is $50 in advance, and $60 at the door.  80 wineries in attendance.  Taste wines in a Riedel Glass.  Call (714) 708-1636.
— Sage Grill in Encinitas continues its series of fine wine dinners with a Rutherford Hill Wine event April 18.  Reception at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.  Four wines, three courses, $59 each.  A Big Wine & Apps tasting is planned for April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.  $20 in advance. RSVP at (760) 943-SAGE (7243).
— 333 Pacific in Oceanside is presenting a Chilean Wine Tasting on April 19 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Heavy appetizers included in the price of $20 per person.  Details at (760) 433-3333.
— Taste the top Italian wines of Italy’s premier Vinitaly Festival at Toast Enoteca & Cucina, downtown San Diego, April 21 from 6 to 9 p.m.  More than 40 wines will be offered with delicious Italian appetizers. Cost is $60. RSVP to Toast at (619) 269-4207.

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