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Amici’s Ristobar is in the hands of owners Louise Lischewski, left, and Chris Lischewski, right, with the menu the creation of Chef Roelle, center.
ColumnsTaste of Wine

A Ristobar is Born in Carmel Valley

A what? When I first saw this description, I had to pause and refresh, with a glass of one of their select red wines at the opening last month of Amici’s in the Carmel Valley district of San Diego.

Amici’s is a creative restaurant upgrade and that’s a word all should recognize. It means “friends” in Italian. We can thank the owners, Chris and Louise Lischewski and Eric Nielsen. They were inspired by their many trips to Italy and wanted to embrace the lifestyle of the Italians who know all about a relaxed meal with friends in an atmosphere of warmth, with a bottle of Italian wine.

Executive Chef Roelle Gabriel is a master of fine Italian wine and food togetherness. She has returned to what is now Amici’s, from the prestigious Pelican Hill Resort where she cooked for the elite in Orange County. The idea of fresh Italian farm-to-table cuisine washed down with the earthiness of Italian wine at Amici’s was irresistible to her.

For this opening celebration, Amici’s wine cellar placed some special library wines out for tasting, connecting with the monthlong California Wine Celebration. Some were highly rated in the high 90s including two at 100 points of perfection by wine critic Robert Parker. Chef Roelle created curated small bites to complement each sip.

Two of the many wine contributors to the recent Wine and Wishes Fundraiser in La Costa were Jake Krausz of Arkenstone and Mark Davidowski of Vangone, in Napa.

My good friends from Mt. Veeder Winery were pouring their fabulous 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley ($44), with mostly Cab, along with a dash of Merlot, Petite Verdot and Malbec. This current vintage 2015 has a Zen-like richness to it. Berry, peppercorn and olive standout, with notes of crème brulee.

So now, I get it. Ristobar is the perfect word combination of what Amici’s is about. Yes, it’s a restaurant, yes it’s a bistro, and yes it’s a bar and for sure, you will be a friend for life, at Amici’s. Visit at or call (858) 847-2740.

Wine the Great Helper for Fundraising

Once again, winemakers have come through for worthy causes, providing them with the resources to raise funds for direct support for needy members of our community. One of my favorites is the annual Make A Wish benefit in San Diego and Imperial counties, through the annual live and silent auctions in one gala evening at the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. “Wine and Wishes” helps funding for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, creating life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.

This year, with the tireless help of our friends from Meritage Wine Market, Dustin Cano and David Weigel who chaired the event, it was able to raise almost $450.000. The average cost of a wish is $10,000, so these funds will go a long way to help many. Rico Cassoni, the Wine and Food Tech director, tasted many of the wineries’ finest, all available at Meritage Winery in nearby Encinitas. Cassoni reports that Robert Craig wines from Napa Valley caught his attention. Their Mount Veeder 2014 Cabernet ($98) is rated a 95 by Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate. Arkenstone was another showstopper with its 2015 Cabernet ($85) and the 2014 Vangone Estate, presented by Mark Davidowski which was a “Block A” Cabernet ($200).

A well done to all the volunteers, wineries, local craft breweries and spirits, and extraordinary tastes from superior San Diego chefs, all helping to transform lives, one wish at a time. For more information, visit

Wine Bytes

  • Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas presents the Lewis lineup of fine wines from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26. Six wines for $30, $20 for club members. Lewis sources their grapes from the best sites in Napa Valley. Learn more at
  • AVANT Restaurant in Rancho Bernardo has its Fall Garden Dinner series with an event from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 30. AVANT’s culinary team will show a lighter style of menu, limiting use of starch, sugar, butter and cream. A vegetable-forward menu will be featured. Cost is $49 per person. Call (858) 675-8551.
  • It’s the sixth annual Ramona Art and Wine Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 3. Location is the Begent Ranch on Highland Valley Road. General admission $39 each.  Passport includes wine tasting, and a multi-course lunch for $79. Call (760) 787-1102.