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Taste of Wine: PAON ramps up with Napa’s Laird, Riboli next

Above: PAON Restaurant in Carlsbad. Courtesy photo

Last week, I pointed out that in my 14 years of commenting on the wine and food scene, I had never seen such a rush of events celebrating a taste for the good life.

This week we salute PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad, and its Wine Director Kate Edgecombe who has taken the program at PAON to new heights. Her most recent triumph is the presentation of one of the premier wineries in Napa Valley, Laird Family Estate.

Ken and Gail Laird bought their first piece of agricultural property in Calistoga in 1970, a 90-acre parcel with worn out prune trees. They quickly converted it to a grape vineyard with a boost from Robert Mondavi who urged them to make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

Today, the Laird empire owns 2,400 acres with some 40 vineyards. Wineries are coming to them to buy their extraordinary grapes.

The Lairds’ daughter Rebecca now operates the winery, and a cool thing is her daughter Jillian has her name on the “Jillian’s Blend” label, Laird’s most requested wine.

The current release is now 2014 ($48). It flashes a deep ruby red cast, a seductive bouquet of toasted oak, candied plum and ripe strawberries. Delicate tannins and acidity lead the flavor of dusty cherry and boysenberry.

Others in the dinner lineup included a 2017 Pinot Grigio, a 2016 Red Hen Chardonnay, a 2016 Ghost Ranch and Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir and a 2014 Flat Rock Cabernet.

Edgecombe has filled the rest of the month with many more days of wine creations.  Themed tastings abound daily with six unique wines from Friday to Thursday that change weekly. Hours are from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

A highlight is the Riboli Family Wine Tasting, Wednesday May 29 with special guest, Anthony Riboli, a fourth-generation winemaker.  Cost is $25. When you RSVP at (760) 729-7377, ask about a private dinner with Anthony and his wine colleagues following the tasting.

Ron Rubin of R&R Wine Marketing told the Laird Family Estate story at PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad, where six new wine releases were presented at a special wine dinner. Courtesy photo

A wine dinner with Marimar Estate Vineyards and Winery of Napa Valley follows on Wednesday June 5, and a Wine Warehouse Sale and Tasting Party highlights a Summer kickoff, Sunday June 9. Ticket includes an entry into the event, wine tasting of several wines at seven different stations, live music and chef’s selection food station.

All wines tasted will be offered at great discounts, first come first served. Two sessions include a VIP session from noon to 2 p.m. for $35 and a general admission from 2 to 4 p.m. for $25. Reservation required at (760) 729-7377.

Millennials, those who are 21 to 40, are the fastest growing group of consumers of wine, and I asked Kate Edgecombe, herself a millennial, if she was seeing an increase in this generation of wine customers. “We are seeing more millennials especially in PAON’s restaurant,” she observed. “They are asking for wines that will pair well with menu choices.

They are not bound by the same tired names and want to know the background of a selection. Servers must have more knowledge than ever about their recommendations, including organic assistance in grape production.

We have a ‘try before you buy’ suggestion, that is encouraging a glass of a new wine, before investing in a bottle. An accommodating start-up grape is Pinot Noir with its flexibility, paired with many types of dishes, before immersing into a heavier bodied wine like Cabernet or Syrah, stronger on the palate.”

Millennials are now accounting for about 42% of all wine consumption, surpassing any other generation, downing about 3 glasses a sitting according to the Wine Market Council. Their favorites are sparkling wine, Rose’ and Pinot Noir.

A good percentage of millennials think nothing of spending over $20 a bottle, about 20% more than the average buyer. More on PAON and its events at

Another wine win for Gianni Buonomo

At the 2019 Finger Lakes International in New York, Gianni Buonomo of San Diego again struck gold, this time Double Gold for their 2014 Super Tuscan Sangiovese, Gold for the 2015 Maestrale Bordeaux Red Blend and the 2015 Charbono. Gianni Buonomo was recently voted Best Winery in San Diego by readers of San Diego Magazine. For more information, visit

Wine Bytes

  • The Craftsman Tavern in Encinitas is presenting a California French-inspired wine dinner with Eric Kent Winery at 6 p.m. May 29. Chef Sergio Serrano has a five-course dinner featuring Orange and Red wine braised short ribs, paired with a 2016 Sascha Marie Pinot Noir. Cost is $65 per person. Contact Mike at (760) 452-2000.
  • Vittorio’s Family Trattoria in Carmel Valley San Diego has a Stags Leap Napa Valley wine dinner at 6 p.m. May 30. Stags Leap is a don’t-miss winery with a big history.  Featured dish is the grilled petit filet with oyster mushroom sauce and roasted asparagus, paired with the 2015 Stags Leap Cabernet. Cost is $65 each. Call for an RSVP at (858) 538-5884.
  • The 16th annual Encinitas Rotary Wine & Food Festival benefitting local charities will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. June 1 at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. A silent auction with over 30 items is live on line, and remains open during the event. Taste over 25 wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants.
  • To purchase tickets, go to
  • Napa Valley’s Keenan Winery will be highlighted at Solare Restaurant and Lounge in San Diego at 6:45 p.m. May 29. Reception with Michael Keenan at 6:15 p.m. Big reds and whites will be poured at a four-course dinner created by Chef Filippo. Cost is $88 per person. Info at
  • The Mexican Gourmet Festival, a one-night tribute to Mexican gastronomy, traditions and art is coming to the San Diego Bay Embarcadero June 1. Sample cuisine and products from chefs, restaurants and artists. For event and ticket information, go to Event is over 21.