The Coast News Group
Seasalt Seafood and Steak in Del Mar recently hosted “A Night in Valle de Guadalupe,” brought to the restaurant by Sommelier Diana Villaneueva, shown with Seasalt owner Sal Ercolano. Photo by Frank Mangio
Columns Region Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Saluting Seasalt and Gianni Buonomo

Lately, the buzz around the wine beat in the San Diego district has been the head-turning performance of Seasalt Seafood and Steak of Del Mar in bringing in premium wineries to match up with Chef Hilario who always provides six-course food pleasure.

This year, the lively and engaging owner, Sal Ercolano, has taken his events to a new level, now offering two consecutive nights of wine dinners, and with special wineries like Prisoner, he sells out for three nights. We will be announcing details on dates later in the year for Caymus on Oct. 18 and Mondavi on Nov. 8.

We have written a lot about Ercolano because we love his style and the way he handles himself with his restaurant guests. He understands the joy of food and wine and leads the cheers for the legendary wineries and the personalities that make the wines great.

It took several trips to the Valle de Guadalupe in the heart of Baja Mexico for Ercolano to be convinced that a resort and winery in the district was singularly important and needed to come to Seasalt and be among his leading list of wine greats.

San Diego’s hottest urban winery, Gianni Buonomo, celebrated its winning wines with international awards for the 2014 Charbono and a 2013 Blaufrankisch, with an Italian Celebration wine dinner. Photo by Frank Mangio

The lovely representative and Sommelier of El Cielo is Diana Villanueva. Before a full house at Seasalt, she presented two versions of El Cielo’s Chardonnay, two Red Blends, a Merlot and a Cabernet. The diners were buzzing with excitement and interest.

One of the most frequent questions I get from readers is where to go in the Guadalupe Valley for fine wines, and what’s the best way to go to the wine country. El Cielo is classic old world style wine with the Astronomos division.

Constellations are modern wines with innovative blends and Astros are young wines with fresh, lovely and fruity flavors. Thank you Sal for bringing us El Cielo. Its website is  A travel and dining company that helps visitors have a great Baja experience is Baja Gastromica. Call Jim or Lisa at (760) 419-9292.

Gianni Buonomo celebrates the ‘Best of San Diego’

About five years ago, a friend of a friend urged me to try the wines of the “new guy” in town who had a few varietals with wine grapes from Washington state, with the quaint name of Gianni Buonomo ( means good man in Italian).

Our group tasted the wines including a Sangiovese, but the prevailing feeling was that he can’t get to first base … he was a new kid with a few cases of wine, a story we had heard many times over. How wrong we were. Keith Rolle learned well in the fields of Washington state. Fast forward to last year, and Gianni Buonomo, after gutting it out, opens its urban winery in San Diego’s Ocean Beach, next to Belching Beaver and Hodad’s, two surfing hangouts on colorful Newport Avenue.

Recently, the impossible happened … gold medals have come to Gianni Buonomo from international competition for its 2013 Blaufrankisch ($39), a native of Austria and Hungary that Rolle sourced from Washington state. The other winning wine was the 2014 Charbono ($55), which won double gold from the San Francisco Chronicle show. A former Napa Valley favorite, this Charbono was sourced from El Dorado wine country near Placerville.

And to top it off, San Diego Magazine recently awarded its Best Urban Winery to Gianni Bonomo. The best thing to do, since this is the hottest urban winery in San Diego and only small amounts of these enriched wines are made, is to join the Fedora Club. Wine club members get 20 percent off purchases of six or more bottles, or a 10 percent discount on single bottle purchases.

The 2014 Sangiovese ($39) was the other spotlight wine, aged two years in Oak barrels, then two years in bottle. A personal favorite, I would recommend it for fine Italian cuisine or a simple “Pomodora dish” (angel hair pasta with Marinara sauce, garlic, sweet basil and Parmesan grated cheese.)  For more, visit or call (619) 991-9911.

Wine Bytes

  • La Costa Wine has a German wine tasting from 4 to 9 p.m. Sept. 28 and Sept. 29.  Celebrate the Octoberfest with La Costa Wine’s flight of wines. Cost is $20. Call (760) 8455 for details.
  • La Fleur’s Winery in San Marcos continues their concert dates, barrel room style with Todd Pyke’s music, Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m. No cover charge, just bring your thirst for fine wine. Details at (760) 315-8053.
  • Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas presents Copper Cane wines from Napa Valley, with a custom dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 4. Copper Cane was recently featured in Taste of Wine and Food online.
  • Copper Cane is a collection of brands, mostly Pinot Noir, from Joe Wagner, a fifth-generation winemaker formerly from the legendary Caymus wines. They reflect innovation and a love of the land. Cost is $78 per person. Make a reservation by calling (760) 944-9000.