The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

West Restaurants reach out with Toys for Tots

My favorite time of the year is within reach, when the food and wine community reaches out and sets the table with special occasion dinner and wine parties and giving programs for the needy.The West Restaurants & Inn in Carlsbad is a prime example of such an outreach of fun, flavorful food and drink sampling, healthy choices for diners and a seasonal gift for the holiday season Dec. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. On that date, West Village is staging its 6th annual Holiday Open House, asking guests to bring an unwrapped gift for the Marines Toys for Tots drive.

A short time ago, Executive Chef Eurgenio Martignago hosted an OktoberWest culinary, wine and beer event. Wines included a Von Hovel Reisling with a farm to table caprese, basil oil and pumpkin de cre’me.

A Santa Cristina Sangiovese was paired with West Farm Tampura-Style Zucchini Blossoms and the Navarro Correas Cabernet highlight butternut squash gnocchi. All the while, the oompah pah music thumped away Bavarian music.

On Dec. 6, there will be special appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus with carriage rides, carolers, face painting and holiday treats for all. It’s free with a wrapped toy or gift encouraged. For more, call (760) 448-4500.

Enjoy Wines with a Core and Explore Strategy

Ever more brands are presented to wine buyers these days, which can turn into a frustrating experience when you are locked into a few wines, but yearn to learn about what else is out there.

I enjoy a new discovery now and then, but I don’t’ stray from my “go-to” wines that I know will please my palate. My aproach for a relaxed, systemized way to consume wine is what I call Core and Explore. I have a simple 5-point rating system, from one point (dislike) to 5-points (loved it!).

I log the tasted wine with its rating on to a master list, with name, where it came from and where it was bought, varietal, vintage and cost. Your list of “loved its” is your core wine list, which roughly could be about 60 percent of your wine budget. Save 40 percent for new wines that you might have tried at wine events or with friends at a party. Check out their web site for more information, and then buy.

If the wine is truly great, then you’ve added another to your core list.

Some Wines to Try for Holiday Dinners and Parties

Here are some wines that I have tried and added to my TASTE OF WINE Core List: Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir Oregon 2009, $50. A robust Pinot Noir aged in a hazelnut drying facility. Bold Structure.

Ferrari-Carano Tresor Red Blend, Sonoma, Calif. 2009; $52. Five Bordeaux style grapes led by Cabernet Sauvignon from the best estate vineyards hand harvested from dry-farmed vines. French Oaked aged for 19 months.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sonoma, Calif. 2008; $52. A TOP pick in a Readers Choice poll, this wine is silky and elegant with ripe plum accents. Some Merlot and Petite Verdot.

NORTHSTAR Merlot, Columbia Valley Washington, 2008; $20. From the family of St. Michelle wines, concentrated vintage from the wine country with the longest days of sun and light for grape growing.

Orfila Vineyards Pinot Noir, San Pasqual Valley, Calif. 2011; $40. 
Amazing flavor extracted from young, enthusiastic grapes brought in from Arroyo Grande in Monterey Wine Country. Credit Justin Mund, winemaker, for this creative move.

Tommasi AmoroneDella Valpolicella Classico, Verona, Italy. $70. A peak performer, taking locally grown Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinari grapes, and hand drying for four months, then aging for three years.

Wine Bytes

Davanti Enoteca in the DelMar Highlands Center has a Piemonte Italy Wine Dinner event Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. Taste sparkling wines, Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco wines with a five-course dinner. $75. Details and RSVP phone (858) 519-5060.

Wiens Cellar in Temecula is staging a benefit event for the Zoofari Foundation, Dec. 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. There will be wine pouring, appetizers and animal “Ambassadors” like Victor the Cheetah. Also Silent Auction. $55. RSVP at (760) 630-9230.

Holiday Wine Cellar is planning its Grand Tasting Dec. 15 from 3 to 6 p.m. 150-plus wines to choose from to the first 100 who RSVP; $35, includes commemorative glass. Call (760) 745-1200.