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Sommelier David Sheline, left, with Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley, during a recent wine dinner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Sommelier David Sheline, left, with Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley, during a recent wine dinner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Columns Food & Wine Taste of Wine

Copper Cane and J. Lohr at Vittorio’s

This week’s column recaps Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria’s Copper Cane and J. Lohr wine dinners in San Diego’s Highland Village as part of proprietor Victor Magalhaes’ wine dinner series.

Owned and operated by Napa Valley’s Joseph “Joe” Wagner, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions is a collection of brands crafted to offer “genuine craftsmanship for everyday indulgence.”

Wagner is a fifth-generation Napa Valley winemaker. If the name Wagner sounds familiar, it should. His father, Chuck Wagner, founded Napa Valley’s iconic Caymus Vineyards.

In 2001 at the age of 19, with winemaking in his DNA, Joe founded his own award-winning single vineyard pinot noir label, Belle Glos, honoring his grandmother Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. Lorna was a co-founder of Caymus Vineyards and an avid lover of pinot.

In January 2014, Wagner formed Copper Cane Wine & Provisions, with the goal of focusing on innovations that captured his interest and finding new ways to offer the highest quality products that satisfy consumers’ wine appetites. Joe is probably most famous for his Copper Cane Meiomi brand that he sold to Constellation Brands in 2015 for $315 million.

Today, the Copper Cane wine portfolio includes seven wine brands: Belle Glos, Elouan, Quilt, Beran, Böen, Carne Humana and Steorra. Guests at the dinner enjoyed Belle Glos, the best-known of the brands, as well as Böen and Quilt.

Per Copper Cane’s website: “Belle Glos showcases six distinctive Pinot Noirs produced from California’s most noteworthy coastal wine-growing regions. While each vineyard location lies near the Pacific Ocean, the climate differences are significant, varying with the amount of fog, wind, sunlight, and soil type at each site. Each vineyard designated wine is crafted to distill the purest essence of the locale into elegant expressions of California Pinot Noir.”

The August dinner started with a Chilled Mango Gazpacho soup garnished with cilantro, tomatoes and cucumbers. This was paired with Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc “Oeil” Rosé.

Certified sommelier David Sheline, Southern Glazer’s Signature division sales consultant, hosted the dinner. “Oeil in French translates to the eye of the partridge,” Sheline said. “The fruit for this Rosé was grown and harvested with the specific intention of making a Rosé. The fruit clusters had a light direct press with neutral oak and stainless steel fermentation. The stainless steel treatment retains primary fruit flavors and freshness.”

The combo of the Gazpacho and light, bright rosé was a perfect way to start a wine dinner on a warm San Diego summer evening.

Chilled Mango Gazpacho soup paired with Belle Glos Pinot Noir Rosé. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Chilled Mango Gazpacho soup paired with Belle Glos Pinot Noir Rosé. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Dinner progressed with Smoked Salmon Carpaccio and a horseradish cream served with tri-appellation Böen Chardonnay sourced from Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Monterey.

The third course was Pappardelle Pasta and Wild Boar Ragu paired with Belle Glos 2020 Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir. The Clark & Telephone is perhaps the boldest of the Belle Glos pinots and my favorite of the Belle Glos pinots. Its spicy, elegant nose and palate with clove, cinnamon and cardamom finish accented the tasty ragu.

Dinner concluded with Roasted Pork Belly alongside 2019 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon with a light lemon chiffon cake. More info at coppercane.com.

J. Lohr wine dinner recap

Family-owned J. Lohr Vineyards in Paso Robles is known for creating great value wines. You know, the ones that are tried and true, consistent year after year, and so happen to be some of my favorite everyday wines.

However, J. Lohr also produces high-end wines that one would be proud to serve at any special occasion. In fact, J. Lohr has been named to Wine & Spirits Magazine’s list of Top 100 Best Wineries in the world.

At Vittorio’s July wine dinner, featuring J. Lohr wines, dinner commenced with jumbo shrimp ceviche served with Bay Mist Riesling sourced from Monterey’s Arroyo Seco AVA. The riesling’s low-alcohol, slightly sweet, bright acidity was the ying to the yang of the ceviche’s spiciness.

The second course was Pollo ala Senape (sauteed chicken breast) served with creamy polenta and roasted broccolini paired with 2020 October Night’s Chardonnay, also from the Arroyo Seco AVA.

Next was Wild Mushroom risotto with truffle oil and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese paired with 2019 Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir, a 96-point 2022 California State Fair Gold winner. This also hails from Monterey’s Arroyo Seco AVA, with sage and strawberry on the nose, bright red cherry palate and baking spice with cardamom on the finish.

The main course featured rib-eye roast, garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach alongside 2020 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Brenden Wood noted, “The 2020 J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon displays trademark aromas of blackberry, black currant and toasted pastry crust. (It’s) dense and soft on the palate. Elegant layers of black and red currants leave a bright finish, accented by spice and pastry notes from extended oak aging.” The Hilltop made for an ideal pairing with the rib-eye entree. See more on J. Lohr wines at jlohr.com.

Next up for Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria is Dry Creek Vineyards on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. The main course features grilled venison chops paired with 2019 Mariner Bordeaux Blend. Cost is $75 per person plus tax/tip. RSVP at 858-538-5884.

Wine Byte

In 2008, Mike Castelli and son-in-law Nelson Pizarro built Castelli & Pizarro Family Winery in Ramona. Neighbors with established vineyards welcomed and assisted in many ways and continue to do so.

Over the years, the neighborhood winery has offered activities with their wine tastings to keep things fun and interesting. Customers are invited to hike, play bocce ball, golf or even go birding in nearby areas before visiting for a scheduled wine tasting.

The winery offers tastings on Saturdays and Sundays. Guests begin in the cellar and tasting room and have the option of enjoying the spacious outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard.

For larger parties, Castelli & Pizarro Family Winery also offers the option of a private tasting. Details at cpfwinery.com.

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

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