The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Winemaker of the Year named at the San Fran International

Amanda Cramer of Niner Wine Estates on the west side of Paso Robles, and some of her wine creations, have taken top honors at the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition. Her Niner 2007 Premium Bordeaux Blend ($58) took Double Gold and Best Bordeaux Blend, and her 2007 Cabernet  Bootjack Ranch ($28) also took Double Gold.
Cramer has been with Niner since 2004 and came there from assignments in the Napa Valley, Australia and Chile. “Given the opportunity to help build a winery from the ground up in the attractive Paso Robles area was something I simply could not pass up,” she said.
“I’ve always loved the combination of agriculture, chemistry and artistry that winemaking represents.  The agricultural is the most important,” she said, pointing out that 2010 will be Niner’s first all-estate produced vintage. “As winemaker, the most important decision I make is the harvest date.”
Amanda’s background as a Washington, D.C., teacher of math and chemistry provided solid preparation for the road out west and enrollment in the UC Davis School of Enology and Viticulture, considered the foremost in the country, while interning at Far Niente Winery in the Napa Valley. 
After a series of high-profile positions in winemaking at such names as Chimney Rock, Robert Mondavi, D’Arenberg and Casa Lapostolle, she took a job as assistant under the great Heidi Barrett at Paradigm in the Napa Valley, who developed Cramer’s expertise in Bordeaux varietals. Then came the chief winemaker opportunity at Niner Wine Estates, and this year the Winemaker of the Year Award at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. See more about Niner by visiting
Wine Spectator
annual restaurant awards
Wine Spectator is the most circulated wine publication in the world and the most prestigious. Every year, they research restaurants worldwide for best wine list, pricing, sommeliers and food and wine presentation.
 Three levels of awards are given: Award of Excellence, Best of Award of Excellence and the highest, the Grand Award. The following are the San Diego area winners that I have reviewed in my column:
— Grand Award: Addison, Grand Del Mar Resort; and The WineSellar & Brassiere, San Diego.
— Best of Award of Excellence: Amaya Bistro, Grand Del Mar Resort; Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe; and Donovan’s Steak & Chop House, University City.
— Award of Excellence: Bistro West, Carlsbad; Firefly, Encinitas; Firenze Trattoria, Encinitas; Island Prime, San Diego; Mille Fleurs, Rancho Santa Fe; Paradise Grille, Del Mar; Truluck’s University City; and West Steak & Seafood, Carlsbad.
I have observed and commented that many more restaurants are upgrading their wine presentations and deserve consideration. Innovative offerings like direct sales by the bottle, lowering or even waving corkage fees, lowering prices by the glass and adding wine “flights” are just a few of the serendipitous findings on the wine list. Wine is helping to bring the customer back into the restaurants.
Wine Bytes
— Relm Wine, Beer and Bistro, a new wine bar, has opened in Carlsbad at 2917 State Street, operated by Rene Fleming.  A wide variety of small plates will be offered starting Aug. 24 including soups, salads and unique sandwiches. Call (760) 434-9463 for more information.
— San Diego Wine Company has a Fritz Portfolio Tasting with owner Clay Fritz from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 28. Fee is just $10. Call (858) 586-9463 for more information.
— 3rd Corner in Encinitas hosts the favorite Paso Robles Justin Winery for a four-course dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 31. Includes the great latest-release blends:  Isosceles, Justification and Obtuse. The cost is $70 per person. RSVP at (760) 942-2104.
— WineSellar & Brasserie presents a special yacht party “Sunset Wine & Cheese Harbor Cruise” from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 29. Limited guests. Total price is $99. Call Amos at (858) 688-1063 for details.
— The next “Drink Yourself Blind” wine tasting competition at Bacchus Wine Market  in the Gaslamp District downtown San Diego is from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 3.  They brown bag eight wines. Prizes for those that are correct on four or more. Cost is $15. Call (619) 236-0005 for details.