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(From left to right) Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s Family Style Trattoria, Ted Plemons, Partner in Cass Vineyard and Winery and Jim Kern, Cass Representative showcase the latest Rockin’ Ted wine. Photo by Frank Mangio
(From left to right) Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s Family Style Trattoria, Ted Plemons, Partner in Cass Vineyard and Winery and Jim Kern, Cass Representative showcase the latest Rockin’ Ted wine. Photo by Frank Mangio
Columns Food & Wine Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Rockin’ Ted pops his red at Vittorio’s

Ted Plemons always has a flair for the dramatic, with a big dose of comedy thrown in for good measure.  His philosophy…wine and fun go hand in hand and always leave them laughing. It’s been that way since he met up with Steve Cass, who was looking for someone to build his retirement home, on 145 acres in Paso Robles back in 2000.

Ted, a local Paso architect, born and raised in Paso, put together a new home and a barn for him.  The two became fast friends, and over more wine than they should have had in South Africa, they laid out plans for a winery.

The Cass culture has a firm belief in the Rhone River French style of wines. If you’re not up to speed on the Rhones, here’s your homework for this coming weekend.

Try a five-ounce glass of some of the following: Viognier, Roussanne Marsanne, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and a few over on the Bordeaux side of the fence that Cass makes like Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec.

Cass mixes it up for its signature bottles that they affectionately call “GSM,” or Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. A 2018 GSM scored a double gold recently at the recent Orange County Wine Competition, the largest for all California wines.

On the night Vittorio’s had reserved for Cass Winery and Plemons, he was running a little late and the dinner crowd, one of Vittorio’s largest, began to overflow into the adjacent rooms. On arrival, Plemons received a hero’s welcome which only stoked his fire and fun for the rest of the night.

For a singular taste sensation, Plemons paired a 2019 Grenache with the pork and a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon to knock down the win for the petite lamb shanks.

Then came the star of the night, the 2017 Rockin’ Ted, aged for 28 months in vintage new French oak and American oak.

The blending of the wine is done during the last 12 months to accomplish a full-bodied smooth tannin with complex flavors of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and a dose of mischief from Rockin’ Ted himself ($75). The “Ted” grapes were fermented into five-ton open-top fermenters and pumped over multiple times daily to achieve maximum extraction.

A roar from the audience defined the next few moments as Plemons produced 3 Rockin’ Teds, given away at a raffle drawing and another that had my name on it, along with the message: “To my bro….have a little Ted!” That “signature” bottle sits on my “best bottles” mantle along with Antinori, Daou, Duckhorn, Grgich, Falkner and Ricasoli. There’s much more to this story, at

San Diego’s 2021 Wine Awards from Wine Spectator

The Restaurant Awards of Excellence for their wine program have been announced by world-class publication, Wine Spectator.  There are three levels of awards that were given considering the wine director, quality of wine lists, and prices for food and wine offered.

The highest level, the Grand Award in San Diego, was given to Addison at the Fairmont Grand resort in Del Mar which has 3,200 wine selections, and 9,700  wine bottles.

The next level award, Best of Award of Excellence, went to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Island Prime, Mister A’s, Nine-Ten, and WineSellar Brasserie — all in San Diego. Paon Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad, Stake Chophouse in Coronado and The Winery in Del Mar were also winners.

The third level award was the Award of Excellence and included:  A.R. Valentien, Avant, Bob’s Steak & Chophouse, Coasterra, Eddie’s Prime, Il Fornaio, Juniper & Ivy, The Marine Room, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Season’s 52, Solare and Truluck’s. Salute!

Wine Bytes

Callaway Winery in Temecula wants you to sip, stomp and play at their Grape Stomp and Harvest Sat. Sept. 11 from 6:30pm to 10pm. The cost ranges from $90. to $125.  This event includes a grape stomping contest, Lucy look-a-like contest, live music, dinner, and face painting. For details, visit

Daou Family Estates is planning a five-course dinner at North County Wine Company in San Marcos at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28. The dinner will include five wine selections, each paired with a dinner course by featured chef Erin Sealy and DAOU rep Roman Palumbo. You won’t want to miss this evening of wine, food and fun. The five-course dinner and wine cost is $90 plus tax and gratuity. Contact Erin at [email protected] or call 619-823-3541.

Castelli Family Vineyards in Ramona is having a Pizza party, Sun. Aug. 29 from 12 Noon to 5 p.m.  Catered pizza and choice of a 2015 Sangiovese or a 2017 Pinot Noir. The cost is $49.99 each.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator and one of the leading commentators on the web. Reach him at [email protected]