The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Local author’s book targets the ‘Casual Wino’

When San Diego wine entrepreneur John Alonge first opened his eclectic San Diego Wine and Culinary Center after years in the vineyards of France and the kitchens of some of the top restaurants in the U.S., he accomplished a first for wine retailers. Under this big top of wine, he has a venue for wine sales, a bistro restaurant, a kitchen for cooking classes, an area for jazz and blues concerts and an array of public and private wine events. The place is strategically located across from the convention center and many hotels. The man has a unique perspective on the world of wine. But there was one more thing John had a burning desire to do.
“I took three months off to gather all this knowledge of wine and wrote a plain English book for the masses of people who are casual consumers of wine,” he declared. “I wanted the reader to get comfortable with the terms and expressions so they can then get their palates to feel comfortable with all the new wine discoveries in the world. Instead of drinking your mother’s Cabernet Sauvignon, I wanted people to get out there and try some of the other 5,000 grape varietals. So I named the book “The Wine Heretic’s Bible, Plain English for the Casual Wino.” John weaves a kind of hip, breezy English into his satirical chapters. Most authors will dedicate their books to their families but John thought differently: “This book isn’t really dedicated to anyone in particular, except possibly Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. You’ve gotta love a god who loves wine.” I’ll drink to that!
John concludes his book with more common sense wine advice: “I will continue to battle against all of the pretension and snobbery surrounding the subject of wine. I only want everyone to be able to kick back and enjoy a little vino from time to time without having to make a big deal out of it. But to do so with some semblance of knowledge and a dose of daring. That’s the goal of The Wine Heretic.” Go to to buy it online or e-mail John at [email protected] com.
Other wine gifts for the holidays
“The Wine Heretic” makes for a perfect gift for the entry level wine consumer.
And there are other attractive ideas that are equally perfect. I love to display custom label wine bottles in my home and several wineries specialize in that for one bottle or a case with a personal label or etched design. Orfila Vineyards and Winery in Escondido does attractive custom labels on bottles by the case and you can mix grape varietals. Some advance planning is necessary, so this could be a New Year’s holiday gift or I am sure they will give you a gift card to show your lucky recipient what’s on its way. Check with Brittany at (760) 738-6500, ext. 28.
For etching and handpainting direct on the bottle, San Diego Wine and Culinary Center provides custom designs on their wines or you can use your own bottles. Order online at
Have you seen the Skybar Wine System? It keeps a limited amount of wines perfectly chilled and naturally preserved from a single system. Visit The next level of wine aerators is out. The fill bowl is more than 70 percent larger than its predecessors. It’s called the Respirer and it’s available at North County Wine Company as low as $25.95 in quantity. Call (760) 744-2119.
Wine Bytes
— San Diego Wine & Culinary Center has two holiday style music concerts going. Starting at 7 p.m. Dec. 22, a jazz ensemble will spotlight the holiday ($10 per person cover), and at 7 p.m. Dec. 23, a special Christmas performance will take place ($15 cover charge). Call (619) 231-6400 for details.
— For the month of December, ZD Wines of Napa is donating 50 percent of its winery sales to the UC Davis deLeuze Family Endowment Fund, supporting a nontoxic cure for Lymphoma Cancer. Their ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon has just released so it’s a good time to order. For details, call (707) 963-5188.
— A holiday tasting is happening on from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Encinitas. Ten lovely wines for $10, including Tablas Creek and Cambria. RSVP at (760) 942-2104.
— Christmas and New Year’s dinners are special at The Westgate Hotel downtown San Diego: from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 24, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Christmas Day a sumptuous buffet and two venues for New Year’s Eve from 7:30 til past midnight. Get the full story at (619) 557-3655.
Savory Casual Fare in Encinitas will have special prix-fixed dinner menus for the holidays. Christmas Eve is 5 to 9:30 p.m. and New Year’s Eve has an early seating 5 to 6:45 p.m. and a late seating 7 to 9:30 p.m. For more information call (760) 634-5556