The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Hottest spots in the desert for lodging, food & wine

About two hour’s drive time from the hustle and bustle of the San Diego coast, spread out like a canvas panorama at the base of Highway 74, lies a group of desert communities that includes:  Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and La Quinta.

In winter hues of pastel greens, reds, shades of brown, and blue skies that seem to be everywhere, the solace of the desert beckons.

Three restaurants and their attractive wine lists deserve star ratings.

All three have set a new table recently and are worthy of the excitement that fine wine and food brings to diners that demand a memorable experience.

Morgan’s in the La Quinta Resort and Club is an important piece of a bouquet of features at La Quinta.

The Waldorf Astoria property has a resume of stunning features after its multi-million dollar restoration of the original 1926 glamour resort late last year. Five championship golf courses including PGA West, embrace the 45 acres.

The resort’s signature casitas cluster around 41 showcase pools.

Everything inside and out has been upgraded and made upscale.  Morgan’s has an intimate, ranch appeal to it with contemporary American cuisine.

Jimmy Schmidt, considered the pioneer of the farm to table movement in restaurants, is the executive chef, who along with Brian Recor, the chef de Cuisine, have created the Morgan’s menus for some 14 years.  “We still work hard at providing produce that is fresh from the fields of the CoachellaValley just a few miles way,” said Recor.  “You will find sweet corn, baby artichokes, red peppers and other vegetables on the menu today, both as sides or featured dishes.” Morgan’s Festival Menus are a diner’s pleasure and I lucked out as their French Black Truffle Dinner was being spotlighted with its big, rich nutritious flavor.  It was served with a Foley Griffin Red Wine, with its Merlot, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet blend. Next Festival Menu is Dungeness crab Jan. 24 to Feb. 8.  Learn more at

Mitch’s On El Paseo Prime Seafood is a new restaurant in the middle of the svelte dining and fashion scene in Palm Desert.

The picturesque patios attract close to 300 diners a night to the Asian cuisine created by sushi master and chef James Holder.  A frequent diner is Mike Grgich, the wine pioneer of Napa Valley who winters in the desert.

We met over a salmon salad, and he opened a menu-pleaser, his 2009 Zinfandel, a featured Zin on Mitch’s wine list.

Visit the smartly listed wines and menus at

With the Santa Rosa Mountain panorama, beautiful lakes and silent tour boat rides, what’s not to love about JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort!

If you go, you’ll have to take in the Rockwood Grill and Blue Star Lounge, a lakeside indoor-outdoor combination with refreshing views that celebrate life in the desert.

Rockwood Grill serves Brandt beef, considered the most elite of the prime steaks.  My choice was the Filet garnished with plump grilled asparagus. My choice of sauce topping was the cured sweet onions that made for a dinner to remember.  The wine was a Grgich Hills Merlot with cherry, blackberry notes, aged to resemble a Grgich Cabernet.  Savor the details at


Wine Bytes

San Diego Restaurant Week is Jan. 18 thru Jan. 24, and most will have discounts well beyond those dates.  Best way to find your favorite deal at the restaurant of your choice is to access

Marina Kitchen at the Marriott Marquis Hotel brings back Wine Wednesdays with Sommelier Josh Orr presiding.  Next up, the Food and Wine Pairing event Jan. 28 from 6 to 7 p.m., for just $20. Great perks to keep you there for dinner to follow.  Call (619) 234-1500.

Pride Mountain wines of Napa Valley are featured in a wine dinner at the Argyle Steakhouse, Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.  Cost is $120.  Call (760) 603-6907.

Sanctuary Wines get the spotlight at the Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo, in a dinner Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.  Call (858) 673-7512 for price and RSVP.


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at  Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Facebook.