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An “M” wine class on “The Killer B’s of Wine” draws a full house of eager tasters at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas. Photo by Frank Mangio
CommunityTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: The wine educator to learn from is ‘M’

As we cross the threshold into 2017, let me thank you all for continuing to enjoy my column as I promise to outreach to every corner of the wine world to present to you, wine news that you can use, to add to your joy of wine.

Let’s start the year off with the pure pleasure of the most comprehensive educator of wine that I have experienced in some time, Michele Graber, known to all who know her as “M.”

The setting for her 2-hour seminars, with nine or so premium wine tastings enhanced by regional small bites that match up with the wines, is Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, in their executive tasting room.

Graber’s preparation is unmatched.  The evening I sat in on her most recent class, “The Killer B’s of Wine — Barolo, Barberesco, Brunello and Burgundy.”

I was struck by her first-hand information, having walked the walk in most of those wine venues: Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, and Burgundy in France.

She called these wines, “among the most collectible wines of not just Italy and France but of the world.”  Her presentation was a basketful of education and tasting, backed up by the background, credentials, ratings, maps for all, and tasting notes for each.  

A fascinating bonus for those in attendance was the cheese plate with four unique kinds:  the French Le Rustique Camembert; Epoisses by Germain described as a “good stinky, runny French cheese; Taleggio, a soft, creamy Italian style; and Pecorino Toscsano, a 100 percent sheep’s milk cheese.  This one was easily my favorite, a hard cheese, distinctly Italian that demands a rich Brunello as its tablemate.

On Jan. 21, Graber will direct “An Intro to Wine Intensive,” at Meritage Wine Market, from noon to 4 p.m.  Cost is $140 to taste 17 premium reds and 17 luscious whites plus a surprise wine.

“I will focus on the noble varieties and their growing regions, readily available on the shelves,” Graber declared.  “Our guests will come to understand how each is made, how to taste, evaluate and correctly serve.” Light appetizers will be served along with informative handouts.  Class size is limited to 17.  Call (858) 442-2749 to RSVP.  For more on “M” see  


Frank Family Featured at Parc Bistro-Brasserie

Recently, Parc Bistro-Brasserie and wine sommelier Dino Buzunis arranged to bring Frank Family Vineyards and winemaker Todd Graff to town for a wine pairing dinner.

Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyards winemaker Todd Graff and Sommelier Dino Buzunis share notes on the latest Frank releases, at the wine dinner hosted by Parc Bistro-Brasserie in San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio
Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyards winemaker Todd Graff and Sommelier Dino Buzunis share notes on the latest Frank releases, at the wine dinner hosted by Parc Bistro-Brasserie in San Diego. Photo by Frank Mangio

The most asked question I get is, ‘what are your favorite wineries in Napa Valley?”  Frank Family is always in the mix.

Graff, a former Disney senior executive, has been with owner Rich Frank, for some 14 years.  Frank owns 250 acres in four vineyards in and around Calistoga.

“We make our wines to accommodate the public’s desire to drink their wines when they purchase them,” he revealed.  “Our wines drink well, anytime.

A sad note: long-time tasting room manager for Frank Family, Dennis Zablosky passed away early in December.  He was the first employee for Frank, 23 years ago, and was affectionately known as the “concierge of Napa Valley.”  For more on Frank Family, visit


Wine Bytes

The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo turns 10 this month.  On Jan. 12 they are bringing in 10 food and wine pairing stations under the supervision of Executive Chef Trevor Chappell.  Wines include the legendary Silver Oak and Duckhorn.  Several choices of price levels.  Call (858) 673-7512.

Paso Robles Wine Country is the place to be Jan. 14 from 1 to 6:30 p.m. for the Blendfest Grand Tasting at the Cambria Pines Lodge in Cambria.  Ninety unique blended wines are offered including a blending seminar.  Afternoon tasting is 1 to 3 p.m. for $45; evening tasting from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. is $65.  See

San Diego Restaurant Week returns in 2017, from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22, when 180 restaurants will participate. Visit


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.