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(Left to Right) Daou SoCal business development manager Roman Palumbo, Butcher Shop owners Sal Ercolano and Gil Frank, and Daou division manager Daniel Brunner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
(Left to Right) Daou SoCal business development manager Roman Palumbo, Butcher Shop owners Sal Ercolano and Gil Frank, and Daou division manager Daniel Brunner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Butcher Shop christened with Daou wine dinner

Frank and I did a review a few months ago of The Butcher Shop that Sal Ercolano and business partner Gil Frank purchased in April.

Per our write-up in our Sept. 18 column, we noted, “Excellence and quality distinguish Ercolano’s portfolio of restaurants. That’s why it was fitting that The Butcher Shop’s first wine dinner includes a winery of equal distinction, a Daou Wine Dinner.”

The proprietor duo, along with executive chef Brian Gist and Daou’s Daniel Brunner, CSW, division manager for California, and Roman Palumbo, SoCal business development manager, created a spectacular wine dinner to christen The Butcher Shop’s inaugural wine dinner. There was electricity in the air for the night of the event.

I could not resist taking a picture of Ercolano, Frank, Brunner, and Palumbo’s beaming ear-to-ear smiles as they overlooked the sold-out audience in the Copa Cabana room. It was also exciting on the Taste of Wine and Food front, with travel writers Nancine Belfiore and Scott Hagner attending the dinner.

The dinner commenced with a beautiful pan-seared Diver Scallop on top of a sweet corn puree with crispy applewood bacon, served with Sauvignon Blanc. After the first bite of scallop and sip of wine, I knew that thee spectacular as the two melded together. The nose of pineapple and lemon chiffon with hints of grapefruit, kiwi, and lime and palate of pineapple and papaya with a crisp finish set the tone for the evening.

During the starter, Ercolano briefly shared his 50 years of industry experience and his 2023 plans for 16 wine dinners across his Butcher Shop, Flora and West End restaurant portfolio.

Braised short ribs with Yukon Gold whipped potatoes, broccoli and baby carrot paired with Daou Reserve Cab Sauv. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Braised short ribs with Yukon Gold whipped potatoes, broccoli and baby carrot paired with Daou Reserve Cab Sauv. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Brunner took the microphone next and shared, “Wine and place are what creates memories, and each customer is the most important part of Daou,” with a goal of “helping people make lifelong experiences with Daou wines.”

Brunner also shared some facts about the Paso Robles region and encouraged those visiting the area to check out Tin City to discover family-owned and operated wineries like Daou Family Estates. Today’s Daou Family Estates includes two Daou generations overseeing winemaking and operations.

The second course was Roasted Butternut Squash with Reserve Chardonnay. The fragrant Reserve Chardonnay had aromas of Asian pear and honeysuckle with wafts of hazelnut and ginger complementing the creamy butternut reminding me that fall was here.

The palate was full of flavors, including lemon meringue pie, pineapple, melon and toasted almonds with delicate suggestions of nutmeg and baked spice apples reinforcing the notion of fall. Midway through the dinner, Chef Brian’s kitchen served Duck Ravioli with a wild mushroom ragu.

The Reserve Seventeen Forty Cab Franc with a merlot blending component kept my palate clean with each bite of the ravioli and ragu. The blackberry cobbler nose with a lush cherry, plum, and chocolate palate was a winning combination.

A wine with a great name, such as Seventeen Forty, also comes with a great story.

“1740 is the year the bell at Daou Winery bell tower was made,” Brunner said. “It is rung three times a year, for the start of harvest, end of harvest, and on Feb. 11 for the anniversary of Daou proprietors/brothers Georges and master winemaker Daniel parent’s anniversary.”

The main course was fork-split braised short rib with buttermilk chive Yukon Gold whipped potatoes, roasted broccoli, and baby carrots. This was paired with Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Daou’s Reserve Cab consistently exceeded my expectations at a more than fair price point compared with other Cabs in its price range and earned 94 points from Robert Parker. The rich, deep opaque color and blackberry nose with currant, blackberry, cherry, and cassis palate, combined with a long smooth finish, rivals wines over $100.

Dinner concluded with Ghiradelli brownies infused with a dulce de leche, served with a vanilla bean gelato and salted caramel drizzle. Daou’s Bodyguard Red, mostly petit sirah with a petit verdot blending component, balanced the brownie’s richness.

During dinner, Palumbo and Brunner visited tables, answering questions about Daou’s rich history, winery, and wines. Chef Brian’s menu and delicious Daou wines were picture-perfect combinations to christen The Butcher Shop under Ercolano and Frank’s new oversight and leadership. See more about Daou Family Estates at

Ercolano’s final 2022 wine dinner will be another great one, with Napa Valley’s The Prisoner Wine Company highlighting its bold and unconventional blends at his Flora Bar and Kitchen venue starting at 6 p.m on Wednesday, Dec. 14 and Thursday, Dec. 15. Guests will enjoy Blue Fin carpaccio and Sea Scallop Risotto before the Short Rib main course paired with The Prisoner Cabernet Sauvignon. The cost is $85 per person + tax/tip. RSVP at 858-461-0622.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

— Coming up on Saturday, Nov. 26, Castelli & Pizarro Family Winery is hosting a five-course meal with wine pairings for every course. Hosted by Nelson Pizarro and Chef Erin Sealy, this is a meal you won’t want to skip!

On top of a passion for creating perfect wine, they are dedicated to bringing an exciting wine experience to guests. With bocce ball, their own pizza hut, and over 3,000 vines onsite, Castelli & Pizarro Family Winery is a must-visit in the rolling hills of Ramona.

The five-course menu features Rose, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, all made on-site by hand-picking each grape cluster to perfection.

Start the night with a puff pastry topped with fresh burrata, yellow nectarine, micro greens, and white balsamic. Fill up throughout the rest of the evening on lump crab fire-roasted corn risotto fritter, savory herb crepes filled with Atlantic salmon, aromatics-brined pork chop and Chef Erin’s famous shi shi taco! End the night with a complimentary dessert while taking in views of the breathtaking vineyards.

Tickets are $125 per person and can be purchased through Wine Pairs Events.

Rico Cassoni is the exec producer for Taste of Wine & Food. He and founder/advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator, are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at Reach them at [email protected].