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Winebow Imports Jesse Nevarez and Lauren Ranelletti, Italian wine expert. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Winebow Imports' Jesse Nevarez and Lauren Ranelletti. Photo by Rico Cassoni
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Wines of the World at San Diego’s Westgate Hotel

Descobres and Winebow Imports teamed up to curate a true Wines of the World tasting. Of the 34 brands represented at the show, only two were from the US, and the other 32 were from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, and Spain.

I have been to several “Wines of the World” tastings to find a plethora of US wines, with only a handful from outside the country.

Kudos to Eric Rimmele, Descobres’s founding partner, and Jesse Nevarez, Winebow’s director of national accounts off-premise, for putting together such a diverse representation of wines, especially Italian wines, with 11 Italian brands and 23 labels. Even more remarkable was hosting the event at The Westgate Hotel, an iconic award-winning hotel in the heart of San Diego.

It was good seeing Argentina being represented by the wines of Bodega Catena Zapata under the leadership of Nicolas Catena, who thrust Argentinian wine into the modern era with superior wine quality. Nicolas was named a Decanter Magazine Wine Legend in 1997.

Catena’s fourth generation includes daughters Laura and Adrianna. Laura is the winery’s managing director and Catena Institute of Wine (CIW) founder and board member.

Adrianna traded being a historian to join the family’s wine business. She started the El Enemigo label with business partner Ale(jandro) Vigil, whom Adrianna met while studying at Oxford University and is also Catena’s winemaker.

Tessa Corbett, one of Winebows reps at the Argentina booth, took us through their power lineup that started with Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay.

Left to Right) Heather Clark, Chain Sales Consultant, Jesse Nevarez, National Accounts Off Premise Director, both from Winebow Imports, and Eric Rimmele, Descobres Founding Partner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
(From left to right) Winebow Imports’ Heather Clark and Jesse Nevarez, and Eric Rimmele, founding partner of Descobres. Photo by Rico Cassoni

The vineyard is in Uco Valley in the foothills of the Andes Mountains with an altitude of 4,700 feet resulting in unique crispness, minerality, and acidity. Tessa was also pouring Catena Malbec, a solid, everyday go-to Malbec for me. She then pulled out the heavy hitters with the Nicolas Catena Zapata Bordeaux blend cuvee (65% cab sauv/35% malbec).

The fruit is harvested by hand with fermentation in 500-liter oak barrels, concrete, and stainless steel tanks and is aged in French oak for 18 months.

Then, Tessa unveiled the highlight of the booth when she poured the Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino. The Argentino is a 100% malbec produced from vines that are over 90 years old at 3,000 feet and newer 20-year-old plantings at 3,600 feet with 20% whole cluster and 80% berry fruit fermentation.

This was an exceptional malbec with gentle flavors and ultra-smooth tannins. I thought it was the best wine at the show.

Our next stop was down under where Winebow’s Andii Ulrich, a French wine scholar and WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) certified, took us through the Australian wine portfolio she was pouring featuring Australia’s Eden Valley Yalumba wines by owner Robert Hill-Smith.

Yalumba is one of the world’s leading Viognier winemakers,” Ulrich said while pouring a viognier.

The stone fruit flavors with a hint of saffron made this viognier a perfect pairing for Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Ulrich also shared a grenache and, of course, shiraz. The second shiraz was Yalumba’s Signature label with their best cabernet sauvignon fruit blended with Old Vine Shiraz.

The nose had red fruit with blueberries and a hint of cedar and tobacco. The blend’s palate was complex and had a nice finish due to 21 months of aging in 33% new French, American, and Hungarian oak.

We finished the show in “Italy,” where guests could sample the 11 brands and 23 previously mentioned labels, including Brunello di Montalcino and Brunello di Montepulciano and many more.

Some might have noticed that most Brunello’s cost more when shopping around, and there is a great reason for this. Brunellos must be aged for five years before being released.

Riserva Brunellos require at least one more year for at least six years of aging. Also, Montalcino reds are 100% sangiovese fruit compared to Brunellos hailing from Montepulciano that require 70% sangiovese.

My two standouts for the Italian section were the Altesino Brunello di Montalcino and Riserva. I liked the acidic palate with cherry, plum, red fruit, and raspberry that followed the nose of red fruit with leather and vanilla.

The Riserva, to be expected, had a less tannic and softer finish with the extra year of aging. Both were good, but if you can afford the extra $60 for the Riserva, it is the better of the two and had hints of chocolate that I did not get when tasting the non-reserve version. More info at

Besides being a great show with ticket sales limited to ensure few crowds at tables, Arts for a Better Tomorrow is a nonprofit beneficiary. Arts for a Better Tomorrow (ABT) brings an alternative rehabilitative and therapeutic arts-based program.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Temecula’s South Coast Winery is hosting a Blessing of the Vines Food & Wine Festival on Sunday, April 23, 2023, 5 pm-8 pm. Join South Coast as they celebrate a new growing season. Guests will enjoy an assortment of food, wine & dessert pairings curated by our Culinary & Winemaking teams, a sparkling wine toast, live music featuring Fear of Phobias, and event-exclusive wine discounts. The cost is $110 (General Admission) and $95 (Carter Resort & Wine Club). The price is inclusive of taxes & service charges.  RSVP at (951) 587-9463.

Reach Rico Cassoni and Frank Mangio at [email protected].

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