The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Thornton unveils champagne jazz with an energized Mindi Abair

If I likened the kickoff Mindi Abair concert at the beautiful outdoor Thornton Winery in Temecula to wine, my quote would be: “I came expecting Merlot and got Zinfandel!” Mindi, the ever-seductive charmer with her cooing smooth jazz and tenor sax notes, this time came with two legendary rockers from the 1980s, Jeff Golub who played for

Mindi Abair opened the Thornton Winery 24th Annual Champagne Jazz Concerts in Temecula. Photo by Frank Mangio
Rod Stewart, and David Pack, the lead singer for the hit makers Ambrosia. This was a brilliant, exciting musical stroke of genius as Mindi jumped into music by Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and James Brown. What a big moment for the 24th season of Champagne Jazz at Thornton Winery. It will be hard to top it, but with the lineup coming in, they’ll match it. Some recommendations: Chris Botti June 3, Bobby Caldwell and David Benoit June 24, Brian Culbertson and David Sanborn July 15, Dave Koz and Candy Duffer Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 and Peter White Sept. 16. The series goes to Oct. 21.

Mindi was gracious enough to sip some beautifully crafted Thornton Brut Rose at a pre-concert press gathering, signed autographs and stayed for photos. She bubbled over as much as the wine and saluted the Thornton Family on the best orchestrated concert series on the circuit.

At Thornton, the audience is offered the “culinary fusion” three-course gourmet dinner created by Thornton’s restaurant Café Champagne under the direction of Executive Chef Steve Pickell. Wines recommended with the dinner included: Thornton 2010 Viognier, Thornton 2010 Mourvedre and Thornton 2010 Zinfandel, under the direction of winemaker David Vergari. He was in a celebratory mood this night as we found out that the Thornton 2010 Tempranillo ($25) and 2010 Estate Petite Sirah ($22) had won Gold at the important Monterey Wine Competition. It was a dazzling night for the audience and for Thornton Winery. For details on the concerts and levels of tickets available call (951) 699-3021, or visit

New Wine Releases-Try Them!

The tempo of new releases has stepped up exponentially as wine events have picked up the last few months, giving brands an opportunity to unveil their latest. Here are five worth trying:

Banfi Centine Rosso Toscana Montalcino Italy, 2009. $10. A marriage of Sangiovese and Cab/Merlot grapes offering intensity and spice for such a young Italian red. Best value on anyone’s list.

Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc, Sonoma, Calif. 2011. $15. A fresh vibrant white blended wine with a rich mouth-feel. Subtle oak character.

Trentadue owner Victor Trentadue pours as Cooper Henderson, Sales Director, watches at a recent wine trade show. Photo by Frank Mangio


Orin Swift The Prisoner Red Blend, Napa Valley, Calif. 2010. $38. A Zin-based ripe red spice box. Added varietals include Cabernet, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache.

Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel, Sonoma, Calif. 2009. $40. Big, powerful, yet smooth on the palate. Well Balanced notes.

Trentadue La Storia Zinfandel, Sonoma, Calif. 2010. $30. Bright, intense fruit with a touch of Petite Sirah for cherry, blueberry. Fine oak barrel age for brown sugar, vanilla accent.

Wine Bytes

Meritage Wine Market is presenting an Italian Wine & Food event Sat. May 12 from 5 to 7pm, for $50. North, South, East and West are all represented with premium cuisine and wines. Call (760) 479-2500.

Mothers Day dinners in Temecula on Sun. May 13 include: Wilson Creek with a Brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with piano music, $49.95. Call (951) 699-9463; Monte De Oro Brunch includes a free bottle of wine and sweet gift. There are two services at 10 a.m. and at noon. Go to; Café Champagne at Thornton Winery buffet with live music from 12 to 5pm, includes a glass of Brut Champagne for $49.95.

Enjoy Mothers Day menu items at Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas. Seatings starting at 1 p.m. Long stem rose for Mom plus live Jazz starting at 5:30 p.m. RSVP at (760) 944-9000.

3rd Corner in Encinitas has a Mothers Day Prix Fixe Menu with three wines for $25. RSVP at (760) 942-2104.

Castello Banfi will be the star wine at a dinner at Vigilucci’s at the Carlsbad Beach location May 18 starting at 6:30 p.m. A special menu will be prepared. $80. Call (760) 434-2580 for reservations and the menu.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at Reach him at [email protected]. Listen to Frank’s comments on KFSD 1450 AM every Saturday from 1 to 2pm on Wine & Dine Radio.