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Recently, Sal Ercolano hosted two sold out Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards wine dinners at the West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Photo via Facebook/Chalk Hill Estate
Recently, Sal Ercolano hosted two sold out Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards wine dinners at the West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Photo via Facebook/Chalk Hill Estate
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Chalk Hill Estates chalks one up at Del Mar’s West End

I love how wineries have a knack to come up with simple, effective, and descriptive names for their properties. Sonoma’s Chalk Hill is a great example as it is named for the white volcanic soil throughout its vineyards, perfect for growing one of its prized varietals – chardonnay.

Del Mar’s West End Bar and Kitchen recently hosted two sold-out Chalk Hill wine dinners — West End owner Sal Ercolano’s seventh and eighth wine dinners this year. Alan Crawford, VP of Luxury Brands at Foley Family Wines, narrated the dinner that Frank and I attended.

Crawford shared that Chalk Hill Estates Vineyards and Winery is part of the Foley Food & Wine Society owned by Bill and Carol Foley who created “an Exclusive Society Dedicated to Uniting Three of Life’s Biggest Passions: world-class wines, exceptional cuisine, and amazing experiences.”

Its family of wineries spans from California’s Central Coast up to the Pacific Northwest, including Sonoma, Napa, Central Coast, Oregon and Washington, as well as Argentina, France and New Zealand.

Besides Chalk Hill, other well-known U.S. brands include Lancaster, Chalone, Foley Johnson, Ferrari-Carano and Banshee. In total, the Foley Family portfolio represents 25 wineries worldwide.

Crawford shared some of Bill Foley’s career and history. Foley acquired Chalk Hill Estate in 2010 from Fred Furth, an Exxon executive spending time in Alaska flying himself around. In 1972, when Furth was flying his plane over the Russian River Valley and seeing the natural amphitheater carved into the hills, he knew this was a perfect spot to create Chalk Hill. Bill and wife Carol’s passion and love of Burgundian varietals made Chalk Hill an intriguing venture.

In addition to his role as a vintner, Bill Foley is the Chairman, CEO of the Vegas Golden Knights.  Foley is also the executive chairman of Fidelity National Financial’s board of directors and vice chairman of the Fidelity National Information Services’ board. Most impressive is that Foley finds time to be the vintner at Chalk Hill and oversee the Foley Winery Portfolio. Did I already say impressive!

Dinner started with Chef Noe’s bites served with Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill’s 2nd largest varietal.  Its floral notes and grapefruit on the nose with crisp and bright mango and melon on the palate was a good match for the starter bites.

The second course was a Citrus Crab Cake served with Chalk Hill’s iconic Estate Chardonnay, a 92-point Robert Parker awardee. The chardonnay exuded vanilla, orange blossom, apples, and toasted marshmallow with its French oak aging along with a creamy mouthfeel and pear on the palate.

This combined well with the citrus in the crab cakes. In the third course, guests enjoyed Tuna Ragout made with fresh tuna over fresh pipe-shaped pasta and Estate Pinot Noir. The pinot’s wild strawberry nose with red berries and cherry palate enhanced the ragu flavors but did not overpower the tuna in the ragu.

The main course featured a generous lamb osso bucco on the shank in a red wine reduction served over polenta and root vegetable side. The fall-off-the-bone osso bucco was matched up with an Estate Red Blend (49% cab sauv, 40% malbec, and 11% petit verdot). The red blend had a bold bouquet with intense aromas of black cherry, tobacco, and leather. The palate had dark fruit along with hints of vanilla and spice and was a great companion for the richness of the osso bucco and its reduction sauce.

While the lower part of the 1,200-acre property with 300 acres planted and the white volcanic soil is perfect for whites, the top part of Chalk Hill features red volcanic soil perfect for the red varietals that the Red Blend was comprised of. The evening concluded with chocolate pudding and Quinta Do Noval Black Port.

This was a terrific evening of rich foods paired with equally bold wines, narration by Crawford, and tableside conversations with Crawford along with Foley’s SoCal Marketing Manager, Michael Clayton.  I highly suggest checking out Chalk Hill wines at and for those who travel wine countries check out the Foley Food & Wine Society at

Next up for the Ercolano 2022 Wine Dinner series is Jordan Winery Wine Dinners at 6 p.m. on both March 30 and March 31 at Flora. Guests will enjoy a three-course wine dinner bookended with appetizer and dessert courses and include two Jordan library wines, 2011 and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. The main course features Veal Scaloppine Saltimbocca with the 2014 Library Cab Sauv. Price is $85 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at (858) 461-0622.

Wine Bytes

— San Diego’s largest Urban Winery, Carruth Cellars, is holding its 12th Annual Barrel Tasting Party from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 26, and Sunday, March 27, each day at its Solana Beach Tasting Room.  Guests will taste their way through the best of Carruth’s cellar, straight from the barrel before the wines are bottled. Explore five stations as you sample 10 wine varietals and enjoy food, music, and take home a branded souvenir glass. Plus, get exclusive access to purchase wine before it’s bottled and released in Fall 2022 (known as “futures”) at a generous discount. Starting times are available to book every 20 minutes.  Tickets are $56 for Carruth members and $70 for the public. RSVP at

— Vigilucci’s Leucadia is having a Spring Italian Wine Dinner on Thu 3/24, 6PM.  Guests will enjoy a four-course dinner. The main course features Rosso Red wine braised short ribs, gorgonzola polenta, and baby carrots paired with 2012 Napa Valley Antica (Antinori) Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines served during dinner are available for purchase at 20% off retail prices. The cost is $89 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at 760-634-2365.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Reach them at [email protected].