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Dolce at the Highlands is the new Italian style restaurant in Carmel Valley with delicious new Mediterranean style cuisine served up with gusto by table servers like Gwen Blome. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Dolce’s new location is sweet dining

About five years ago, old world Italian wines and cuisine came to Rancho Santa Fe with the romantic name (for Italian sweet bread and wine), Dolce Pane Y Vino. Success was immediate — so fast forward to 2016 and the newest Dolce at the Highlands has come to Carmel Valley in the new Pacific Highlands Center.

Like its parent restaurant in the Ranch, the new and vivacious Dolce treats its guests with an expansive dining room, and a bar that seems endless from the front door to the kitchen.

It has both community tables and tables for two or four, with views of very large and comprehensive wine racks, created by the general manager for both locations, Steve Flowers.

The wait help on my visit was Gwen Blome, who was quick to point out her favorite wines.  She was particularly excited by the showcase champagne chosen for the meal, the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV from France.

The shimmering gold bubbly has an enticing fruity nose showing savory texture and refined bubbles.  This is lively dry champagne for appetizers, or a long happy party ($34).

The prized dish at Dolce at the Highlands is the “Branzino” Italian style Sea Bass. Photo by Frank Mangio
The prized dish at Dolce at the Highlands is the “Branzino” Italian style Sea Bass. Photo by Frank Mangio

Other wine menu whites worth noting were the B Cellars White Blend 2012 and the Arneis “Barola Bianca” white from Piemonte, Italy.

Chef Rhoelle Gabriel came to the table and spoke about her California influenced style of Mediterranean-American farm fresh food. Her favorites included a “Regiatelle” pasta dish with Calabria style meat sauce, and a “Branzino” Italian style Sea Bass fish dinner entrée with potatoes and greens.

This was washed down with a bottle of Napa Valley Laird Meritage “Jilian’s Blend” Red, 2013 ($44).

Come prepared for a wine and dine experience at Dolce’s.

The atmosphere is perfect, with a wide choice of wines and menu entrees.

Reservations are recommended at (858) 847-2740, or visit


Quality Wine Dinners Excel at Vittorio’s

Back to back wine winners, world’s apart, have been on the marquee at Vittorio’s, also in Carmel Valley.  Last month, the popular Italian restaurant featured Chateau Montelena Napa Valley wines with a five-course dinner. On May 26 at 6 p.m., one of the south of France’s finest wineries, Gerard Bertrand, will open their best from the Languedoc District.

The main course will live up to consistently great supporting menus Vittorio’s is known for: Roasted Lamb Chops with Hazelnut Crust and Grilled Asparagus will be served with a 2013 Chateau de l’Hospitalet La Reserve Rouge. Cost will be $49.50 per person.

A favorite at the Chateau Montelena dinner was the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, a luxurious vintage; rich in flavor ($50).


Wine Bytes

Capri Blu in Rancho Bernardo has a Roth wine dinner June 1 at 6 p.m.  This Sonoma winery is family owned and makes only full flavored wines. Classic Bordeaux style wines are on the menu. Call for details at (858) 673-5100.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is planning their annual Oysterfest for this year June 11, from 4 to 7 p.m. Call for more details at (760) 479-2500.

South Coast Winery in Temecula is presenting a Celebrity Chef Dinner June 17 from 6 to 11 p.m.  Claudia Sandoval, a master chef winner, will direct a champagne cocktail hour, seven-course dining journey with South Coast and Carter Estates wines, live music and a copy of Claudia’s cookbook; $195 per person.  Visit for more details and tickets.

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