The Coast News Group
Carol Shelton, left, the “Queen of Zin” from Sonoma, pours at a Friday night SommCon Trade Tasting, along with TASTE OF WINE columnist Frank Mangio and Carol Shelton Wines’ General Manager Mitch Mackenzie. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival hosts the wine world

San Diegans, and many more, came from all over the world, descending on the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Embarcadero Park in late November for two blowout wine and food events to partake in the two most satisfying things you can do in public — eating and drinking.

It was the 12th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21.

Before we get to my time at this wine and food extravaganza, be advised that this event began on Nov. 18 with the first ever Sommcon, the Business of Wine, a convening of all those who want to advance in the wine business.

There were daily seminars like a Napa Valley Panel discussion; Brunello, a master’s perspective with Banfi Wines; master class on Rioja wines; Bordeaux wines and many more.  If ever you thought of entering this wonderful wine business, mark your calendars now for SommCon 2 next November, and be sure to get involved with this amazing convention.

Carol Shelton loves Zinfandel, and she makes some of the best. She was at her best at the SommCon Trade Tasting. You have to try the 2013 Old Vine Wild Thing Zinfandel ($19).  Shelton is the most-awarded winemaker in the U.S.

She has worked years with some of the wine industry’s top owners.  Carol Shelton wines was founded in 2000 with her husband Mitch Mackenzie.  She produces 5,000 cases a year and chooses grapes from all over California. See more at

The Saturday open-air event setting was the Embarcadero Park behind Seaport Village. Over 150 wineries, breweries and spirit companies, 70 of the finest restaurants and 30-gourmet food companies participated.

The centerpiece was the “Chef of the Fest,” an annual competition that brought top chefs head-to-head with their best dishes.  The winner was Chef Aron Schwartz of Marina Kitchen at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina with his Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.

New wine star launched at Solare Ristorante

Randy Smerik, the energetic owner of Solare, at Liberty Station in San Diego, has a keen nose for wines that are ready for takeoff.  He recently introduced Preston Parker wines from Paso Robles, with Bordeaux and Rhone style blends.

Tucker and Sarah Spear, left, bring their new Preston Parker wines to Randy Smerik and his Solare Ristorante in San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio
Tucker and Sarah Spear, left, bring their new Preston Parker wines to Randy Smerik and his Solare Ristorante in San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio

Tucker and Sarah Spear, dedicated to making small production, hand crafted wines, founded the winery.  Spear is the wine sales manager at Niner Wines, which has cooperated by opening their facilities and their winemaker, Patrick Muran, to the Spears to produce these wines. The wines are:  “Ambitious” ($30) and “Brave”($25) at the event. They’re a happy group at Solare as they were a winner, Best Restaurants in San Diego, and Executive Chef Accursio Lota was voted Best Chef in San Diego.  Visit

Wine Bytes

The new restaurant everyone is talking about, Seasalt Del Mar, the seafood bistro, has Italy’s great Banfi wines with a five-course dinner, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.  The main course will have Seasalt’s famous slow braised short rib matched with award-winning 2010 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino.  The cost is an unbeatable $55 per person.  Call (858) 755-7100 as soon as you can.

Solare Ristorante at Liberty Station San Diego has an Italian Truffle dinner Dec. 9 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.  White and black truffles, freshly foraged, are the world-class delicacy, mixed with a five-course dinner.  $240. Call (619) 270-9670 for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.

The Vin Diego Wine & Food Festival tickets have just gone on sale for the 4th annual event, April 1 and April 2 at Liberty Station in San Diego.  The best wine making masters will gather for this fun must-see event.  Details at

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.