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The Carlsbad Flower Fields, some 50 acres, are now open for a massive natural display of Ranunculus flowers, now through May 12. Courtesy photo
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Taste of Wine: Hats off to Gianni Buonomo and its latest wines

In the middle of San Diego’s coolest beach community sits the consummate, perfect-fit for an urban winery and tasting room — Gianni Buonomo. Ocean Beach is a colorful collection of character studies, and it’s home to a star group of high-quality wines, mostly old world and mostly sourced from the great wine country of Washington. First a word about the name. Buonuomo means “good man” in Italian, in the Northern region of Piemonte. Though not flashy, he always wears fashionable shirts, pants, shined shoes and a Fedora hat. He has a sense of old world style and tradition.

Gianni is the quintessential gentleman, with elegance, distinction and sophistication, and a model for these wines. Owner Keith Rolle makes all the red wines at Buonomo with Gianni in mind, respectful of the essence of old world culture. Most of his wine grapes are sourced from the Yakima Valley in Washington, which is second in U.S. wine production to California. Washington’s biggest attraction for wine growers is its long daytime hours. Eastern Washington, where most of the grapes are grown, has a full two hours more sunshine, a big advantage in full grape development of flavors and acidity. An increasing amount of grapes are now coming from El Dorado Hills, in the Sierra Foothills of California, including Charbono and Barbera. In all, 14 varietals are now counted on the wine menu.

My favorite is making a comeback thanks to a Double Gold Medal award at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle competition last year. It’s the 2014 Charbono red ($55). On this occasion, the new release award-winning 2015 Barbera was introduced ($39). It has a deep ruby cherry flavor with help from an addition of Malbec and Sangiovese. Barbera is the staple wine of Piedmont in Northern Italy. The event was special as authentic Northern Italian cuisine was prepared and served by Chef Max Farina and his Zafferano Catering.

Brittany Jones is the bartender at Gianni Buonomo Vintners. She displays her favorite, the Double Gold Medal winning  2014 Charbono. Courtesy photo

Rolle has two wine clubs going, Club Gianni where members enjoy 10 percent off retail for all bottle purchases, and the Fedora and the Gold Band Club, with 20 percent off. See more about the only beach winery in San Diego at

Petal to Plate a 10-day party for Carlsbad’s Flower Fields

For over 60 years, the city of Carlsbad, my hometown, has been the hometown for one of the most spectacular displays of natural color and beauty in the world with its Flower Fields.

Over 50 acres are ablaze with a riot of colors, from approximately 10 million Ranunculus flower plants. This year’s event has been blessed with about 12 inches of rain, 10 inches more than last year, and the foliage is bursting with color. Last year’s attendance was reported to be 260,000.

Beside the spectacle of the flowers, many family events are planned for this regional attraction near Interstate 5 and Palomar Airport Road. One-of-a-kind picnics in the flowers, food trucks and an American Flag of Flowers are available, with a live music schedule each weekend through Mother’s Day May 12.

Petal to Plate is a 10-day celebration of fine flowers, food and drink, starting April 4 and going to April 14 with a wide range of fun, food and wine. Especially attractive are the Sunset Wine Tasting and Music dates of March 29, April 5, April 12 and April 19. Five wines and a Sommelier, five bites and live music are included, plus the outdoor ambience of gorgeous flowers. This event is $65 each and will be by advance reservation. Day admission is included in the event price. For details, go to, then click on Carlsbad and the date selected.

Wine Bytes

  • A comprehensive class on the most talked about grape, Pinot Noir, will be held at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, from 3 to 5 p.m. March 23. The expert educator is “M” and she will pour and tutor you on eight renditions of Pinot from California, Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand and South Africa. Light appetizers are included in the $79 price. Call (760) 479-2500 for your place.
  • The Craftsman Tavern in Encinitas has a High West brand Whiskey Dinner coming at 6 p.m. March 27. Entrees include salmon, steak tartare, sirloin and more. Cost is $65 each.  Call Mike at (760) 452-2000.
  • Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley San Diego presents a Zaca Mesa Winery dinner at 6 p.m. March 28. Wine includes Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, and a special blend. Four courses plus dessert for $60 per person. RSVP at (858) 538-5884.