The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

It’s on with the Harvest in Napa Valley

August is barely here and already harvest whistles are blowing for one of the major varietals of wines in Napa Valley — the sparkling wines.

Winemakers were also hearing a collective sigh of relief, as last winter was one of the driest on record.

“Thanks to a long, moderate spring with some rains and recent heat-spikes, we’re looking forward to bringing in some beautiful fruit and maybe even an above average yield,” said Ludovic Dervin, winemaker for Mumm Napa Valley.

The Napa Valley Vintners recently brought some of their prize wineries down from the valley to Rancho Santa Fe’s Rancho Valencia, nine in all, with their latest releases, for a summer event.

It attracted wine consumers, interested in the up-and-coming names and what was being said about the 2014 harvest.

Some names to know that I had the pleasure of tasting were:  B Cellars Owner Duffy Keys, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, and Haitus Cellars with Mark Davidowski, who owned the Meritage Wine Cellar in Encinitas.

Others included:  Derenoncourt, Levendi, Malk, Peju, Pine Ridge, Stags Leap and Grandona. Justin Wilson, the Rancho Valencia Food & Beverage director, set up lawn style reception and tasting areas, and offered displays of cheese, antipasti charcuterie, salads and signature sliders, among other delicious indulgences. Live music filled the courtyard.

Napa Valley now has nearly 500 wineries, but just 4 percent of the wine produced in California comes from Napa Valley.  This picturesque world-renowned wine area elevation goes from sea level to 2,600 feet. Nearly all are family owned, with 65 percent producing 5,000 cases annually or less. Only 45,000 acres (9 percent) of Napa Valley is planted under vines, but supplies 1/3 of the value of all wine sold in the U.S., about $13 billion worth.

Napa Valley is most proud of its:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Remaining small is a constant challenge for the great winemakers who are passionate about quality.  Recently, the Michael Mondavi Family sold the Winery of Napa Valley, in the Carneros District.

“We are seeking to establish a boutique winemaking facility and tasting room befitting our distinguished wines and labels, ” said Mondavi.  They are hoping to downsize to small-lot prestige wines.  You can follow the harvest action in the coming weeks on the Napa Valleyweb page

The Legacy of Jim Croce Lives On

For those of us who are long-time San Diegans who loved the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jim Croce and his wife Ingrid were a musical duo from Philly, who in the ‘60s, traveled the country in search of fame and a name.

But it wasn’t until July 1973, when they re-located to San Diego, that it all turned up for them with the hit record “Big Bad Leroy Brown.”

After whirlwind tours, Europe, club dates and another smash LP, “I Got A Name,” it all came crashing down with a plane crash on takeoff in Lousiana on Sept. 20, 1973, a week after he recorded the LP.

Ingrid and Jim had talked about a restaurant bearing their name in the upcoming Gaslamp District of San Diego, and in 1985, Ingrid opened the restaurant and club Croce’s, which became the standard-bearer for the hottest nighttime street scene west of New Orleans.

Now the next chapter begins in the Jim Croce legacy as Ingrid has moved her restaurant to an attractive restaurant neighborhood on 5th Avenue near Balboa Park and named it Croce’s Park West.

Already, diners have felt the presence of a brilliant young Sommelier/Manager Michael Simpson who in a short time has caught the eye of Wine Spectator with their Award of Excellence to Croce’s.

He has brought in Chandon Winemakers Collection from Napa Valley for a dinner event, and is planning a Chateau St Jean of Sonoma five-course dinner Aug. 26.  Simpson strongly believes there are no set rules in wine pairing.  “The main rule is not to have one element overpower the other.  Wine and food must be in balance.”

Learn more about Croce’s at Or call (619) 233-4355.

Wine Bytes

PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad has A Sunday of Rosé Aug. 10 at 1:30 p.m.  Cost is $28. Most are from Provence, France.  Includes Trio Amuse Bouche bites.  RSVP at (760) 729-7377.

International winemaker Nick Goldschmidt will present a seminar and tasting at Vintana in Escondido, Aug. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m.  He will take you through the tasting of 10 different wines.  Cost is $35.  Call (760) 745-7777.

Harry’s Bar & American Grill on La Jolla Village Drive in San Diego is pleased to bring in Brunello Montalcino Banfi wines for a five-course food and wine pairing, Aug. 20 from 6 to 9:30 p.m.  Call Garo for an RSVP and menu information (858) 373-1252. Cost is $85.

Join other wine enthusiasts at Morada in the Rancho Santa Fe Inn Aug. 21 for a wine tasting from several wineries, 5 to 6:30 p.m.  Includes light appetizers.  $25. RSVP at (858) 381-8212.

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].