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Rico Cassoni, Taste of Wine & Food, Sal Ercolano, Proprietor, Flora and West End, and John Parker, sales representative at Republic National Distributing Co. enjoying J Davies 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon.
(Left to right) Rico Cassoni, Taste of Wine & Food; Sal Ercolano, Proprietor, Flora and West End, and John Parker, sales representative at Republic National Distributing Co. enjoying J Davies 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Courtesy photo
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Sal Ercolano wraps ’21 in style with Schramsberg, J Davies wine dinner

Taste of Wine and Food’s 2020 Restaurateur of the Year, Sal Ercolano, proprietor of Carmel Valley’s Flora Bar and Kitchen and Del Mar’s West End Bar & Kitchen, along with his stalwart employees, is commended for another spectacular year of wine dinners with some of the most renowned wineries in the world.

In 2021, West End and Flora, under Ercolano’s leadership, collectively hosted more than 24 dinners, with a new winery each month despite the trials, tribulation, and turbulence of Covid-19, especially in the food and beverage industry. It was only fitting that Ercolano’s last wine dinner featured Schramsberg’s “Royal” Sparkling Wines and their J Davies still wines.

Schramsberg’s history dates to the 19th century when German immigrant Jacob Schram first made his home and started his winery on Diamond Mountain along with digging out caves into the mountain.

Over one hundred years later, Jack and Jamie Davies purchased and restored the Schramsberg estate in 1965. With no experience in winemaking, but with unlimited passion, the Davies had an ambitious goal to create “America’s most prestigious, select, and admired sparkling wine; chosen for special guests, special gifts, pampering oneself and expressing one’s taste in unique products.”

Through the decades, this spirit of innovation earned Schramsberg and the Davies worldwide praise and recognition.

Most notably their innovation played a role in world history when their original sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs, was used for President Richard Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai.

Schramsberg’s wines have since been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration, earning the reference as a “royal” wine dinner.

John Parker, Sales Rep., Republic Natl. Distributing Company was on hand to narrate the dinner that kicked off with mini bites and NV Mirabelle Brut.  Parker shared, “Unlike vintage bottlings, Mirabelle is blended with previous vintages adding depth resulting in palate richness and aromatic complexity.”

Mostly 2017 (81%) and a combination of chardonnay (57%) and pinot noir (43%) with orange and peach on the nose with peach, apple, and vanilla on the palate, it was a great start to the dinner. For the second course, guests enjoyed Oyster Rockefeller with the 2018 Schramsberg Brut Rose.

The Brut was pinot noir (62%) and chardonnay (38%) created from different blocks fermented separately from multiple growers resulting in rich diversity. The strawberry and cherry palate from the pinot with hints of rose and good acidity well completed the Oyster Rockefeller.

Initially, the Davies planted their estate vineyards to the traditional Method Champenoise grape varieties in 1965. However, over time it became apparent that this land was better suited to the cultivation of red Bordeaux varietals such as cabernet sauvignon.

This was the impetus for the creation of J Davies still red wines. The J Davies 2017 cabernet sauvignon was paired in the main course featuring Chef Hilario’s Beef Wellington. The 2017 cab was sourced from a collection of Napa Valley vineyards including Atlas Peak, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Diamond and Howell Mtns, and Calistoga resulting in complexity, especially with the 2017 vintage.

The 2017 fruit benefitted from a cool fall that allowed long hang time for perfect ripeness and was awarded a Wine Enthusiast 94-point score.

Guests also enjoyed the J Davies 2018 pinot noir paired with wrapped jumbo shrimp and pancetta, as well as crème brulee alongside NV Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs. Nicely done Sal, Chef Hilario, and John for a majestic wine dinner! See more at

Wine Bytes

As nicely as Ercolano ended 2021, he is kicking off the new year in the same manner with Paso Robles’ Daou Family Estates wine dinners at Flora Bar & Kitchen on Jan. 26 & 27. Both dinners start at 6 p.m. The main course features wild boar osso buco paired with Daou’s Flagship 2018 Soul of a Lion. Soul, with a 98-point Robert Parker score, is the crown jewel of Daou, and an emblem of their quest to produce unsurpassed Cabernet Sauvignon from the terroir of Daou Mountain. Both evenings are sure to sell out. Those interested should RSVP soon at 858.461.0622. The cost is $85 per person plus tax/tip.

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].