Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Wineries

Weekend plan: the new Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail


Santa Barbara doesn’t want to lose out on all the Central Coast wine action. To that end, a group of local wineries has come up with the new Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, SBUWT for short, with a string of 17 tasting rooms, all in downtown Santa Barbara.

Traipsing from winery to winery not your thing? Or you just don’t have the time? Stay close to city amenities and clock in at Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” neighborhood where you can go from tasting room to tasting room by foot or bike. Or if you prefer, you can make the designated driver some poor pedicab driver. To reduce your carbon footprint even further, consider arriving by train from Union Station downtown.

Coming up: Passport Weekend on July 27 to 29 when SBUWT revs up the offerings with winemakers in attendance, reserve vintages, light bites and live music. [UPDATED: The story originally reported the tickets were $75] For a $50 ticket, taste all weekend and enjoy a 10% discount on any wine purchases made then and there. Could be fun.

To get started, check in at Carr Winery, Santa Barbara Winery or Margerum Wine Company. You can also buy tickets online.

Wineries that are part of the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail include Au Bon Climat, Cottonwood Canyon, Summerland Winery, Grassini Family Vineyards and Pali Wine, and more.

Outside of the Passport Weekend, each winery sets their own tasting fees which can vary from $5 to $15 dollars and typically include tastes of between five and eight wines. 


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Photos: Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail map. Credit: SBUWT

Last-minute plans: Chardonnay Symposium in Santa Maria Valley

ChardNo weekend plans yet? Why not just point the car toward the Santa Maria Valley for the third annual Chardonnay Symposium, which takes place Friday to Sunday.

Fifty Chardonnay producers from around the world plan to show up. There will be chef demonstrations, food and Chardonnay pairings, a Grand Chardonnay Tasting and much more. 

What sounds like serious fun: the BYOC (Bring your own Chardonnay) BBQ at Sierra Madre Vineyard on Friday. Bring a bottle of your favorite Chardonnay and enjoy barbecue from the Hitching Post for a $30 ticket.

The Grand Chardonnay Tasting on Saturday afternoon at Byron Vineyard & Winery (tickets $55) features Chardonnays from more than 50 wineries matched with food from local restaurants and caterers. 

On Sunday, Cottonwood Canyon Winery hosts a sparkling Chardonnay Brunch on a covered patio for $30.

Tickets may be purchased online.


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Photo: Chardonnay harvest at Byron Vineyard. Credit: Byron Vineyard

3 wine dinners: Enoteca Drago, Rosso Wine Shop, Bistro 45

Wine dinnerTo reflect the current economic realities, even once indulgent and sybaritic wine dinners and tastings are reining in the prices. Here are three that should be informative and fun, but won’t tax the wallet too dramatically.

On Wednesday, Enoteca Drago hosts a tasting featuring the wines of Talbott Vineyards. Try their offerings while nibbling on the Beverly Hills wine bar’s antipasti and thin-crusted pizzas. Admission price? Just $20, plus tax and gratuity. Call (310) 786-8235 for information.

Every once in a while, after the shop closes, Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale leads a second (secret) life as a private supper club. Chef Michael Ruiz creates the menu; Rosso provides the wines. The next event is June 20, $55 per person (cash only) for the four-course meal and wines to match each course. The good thing? After dinner, a 10% discount on any of the wines served at the meal: no bottle limit. Sign up by emailing info@rossowineshop.com or calling (818) 330-9130 for more information.

In Pasadena, Bistro 45 helps Rick Longoria celebrate 30 years of winemaking at Longoria Wines in Santa Barbara County on June 25. Five wines and five courses, $65 per person. Bistro chef Steven Lona is planning a Santa Barbara-themed dinner with local produce, fish and live shrimp. Call (626) 795-2478 for more information.


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Tuscan winemaker Count Ugo Contini Bonacossi dies at 90

UgoFeb2012Last week another Italian wine great died at 90. He’s Count Ugo Contini Bonacossi of the Capezzana estate in Carmignano just northwest of Florence. The count was instrumental in gaining DOC status for this red wine viticultural zone, recognized for its quality by Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici in 1716, and even earlier. In 1990, Carmignano achieved the highter DOCG status.

Ugo’s grandfather acquired the beautiful old Capezzana estate in the 1920s. After the war, Ugo got his viticultural degree, and began transforming the property from mixed agriculture to concentrate on growing Sangiovese. The property also has a number of old olive trees. Capezzana’s olive oil is exceptional. 

During his lifetime the count worked hard to elevate the quality and reputation of Carmignano wines, which are still not all that well known. I wish I saw them on more wine lists: They’re usually wonderful buys. And Tenuta di Capezzana is certainly one of the top estates. Villa di Capezzana is a blend of Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, while Barco Reale is a younger version of the same wine. They also make a beguiling vin santo, blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Colombano grapes and sometimes a touch of Chardonnay.

Years ago, I had lunch at the estate with much of the extended family seated around a long table. The entire day spent visiting the cellars, peering into the olive oil vats, and touring the estate remains a wonderful memory, but especially that time at the table savoring Lisa Bonacossi’s Tuscan cooking and new and old vintages of Capezzana's Carmignano. 

Today, his children and grandchildren run the winery. In September he would have celebrated his 65th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lisa. 

At his memorial service last week, a letter from his granddaughter Annalù was read: “We have the strength of a great man, a man who was very wise, a man who taught us to listen, to enjoy life with irony and to have the courage to live life to the fullest.”


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Photos: Ugo Contini Bonacossi opening the door to the original cellar. Courtesy of the Contini Bonacossi family. 

4 Events: Ray's and Stark, Chaya, Golden Road Brewing, Papilles

ChayaBirthday party: On March 5, Ray's and Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is celebrating its first year with a party. Executive chef Kris Morningstar has devised a menu featuring the best dishes of the year, such as chile with chorizo, dates, local goat cheese and almond sauce; squid ink pasta with garlic, chile, mint, opal basil and bottarga; and crispy pork belly with black vinegar sauce.   Sommelier-barsmith Paul Sanguinetti and general manager Martin Riese will DJ throughout the evening and guests will be able to participate in free screen printing on the patio. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 857-6180, www.raysandstarkbar.com.

Good things come in threes: To commemorate Chaya Downtown's third birthday, the restaurant is featuring a three-course prix-fixe menu ($33 per person) and $3 happy hour specials during March.  The menu will consist of roasted heirloom beets with baked cana de cabra cheese, arugula, fennel and balsamic must, grilled Wagyu flank steak and sweet potato frites, with Belgian chocolate fondant with raspberry coulis and mascarpone ice cream for dessert. For happy hour, guests can savor bar bites such as the spicy tuna hand roll, buttermilk-poached chicken skewers with soy glaze and seven spices, and a flat bread of the day with a chef’s choice of marinara, olives, asiago and arugula.  On March 16, the official anniversary date, Chaya Downtown will host a “Flights and Bites” wine tasting with Chateau Ste. Michelle for $33 per person. 525 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, (213) 236-9577, www.thechaya.com.

Beer for benefit: Golden Road Brewing is teaming up with the Whole Planet Foundation to raise money for the organization by hosting a beer festival on March 11.  Attendees will be able to sample the brewery's signature beers, including the Point the Way IPA, Golden Road Hefeweizen, Either Side of the Hill (strong ale) and Get Up Offa That Brown.  Food will be provided by Whole Foods Market and local vendors.  The foundation is dedicated to alleviating poverty in the developing world by providing families with the tools to expand their home businesses.  Tickets for this event are $20 per person and can be purchased online. 5410 W. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, (213) 373-4677, www.eventbrite.com, www.goldenroad.la.

"Off the Clock" wine tasting: On Sunday, wine aficionado Santos Uy will be highlighting five wines along with a myriad of sweet and savory bites from his new restaurant, Papilles, at local wine shop Domaine LA.  The featured wines will include a 2010 Batic Pinela and 2000 Lopez de Heredia Rosado. The tasting is capped at 25 guests, with tickets ($15 per person) available for purchase online6801 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 932-0280, www.domaine547.com.


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Photo: Chaya Downtown. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

4 Food Events: Winter ColLAb, 'bill-to-tail' feast and more


Winter ColLAb: L.A. craft-beer trailblazers Ryan Sweeney (Verdugo Bar and the Surly Goat), Brian Lenzo (Blue Palms Brewhouse), Clay Harding (38° Ale House & Grill) and Tony Yanow (Tony's Darts Away and Mohawk Bend) have come together once again to present ColLAboration a pop-up mobile craft beer garden.  The event will be held at the Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. (located near the Metro Blue Line) on Feb. 26.  The beer garden will feature signature winter brews from Bootleggers, Bruery, Dogfish Head , Eagle Rock Brewery, Eel River, Hangar 24, Golden Road Brewing and more.  Pliny the Younger from Russian River (only available on tap) will also be on site.  There are several ticket packages available ranging from $15 to $38, which can be purchased online1050 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, (213) 746-5670, www.collaboration.la/.

Napa Valle Grille:  Executive chef Taylor Boudreaux and Summerland Winery founder Nebilo “Bilo” Zarif have crafted an exclusive five-course wine pairing dinner ($75 per person) to showcase Central Coast wines on Feb. 24.  Diners will sample an '08 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with crispy duck breast and chanterelles, parsnip puree, mushroom foam and micro basil; and an '09 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah to complement an oven-roasted venison chop with seared foie gras, Parmesan potato cake, creamed Bloomsburg spinach and a truffled Syrah reduction.  Seating is limited, reservations are recommended. 1100 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 824-3322, www.napavalleygrille.com.

Muscovy duck dinner:  On Feb. 23, Locanda del Lago continues its whole-animal dinner series with a five-course meal featuring Muscovy duck sourced from San Joaquin Valley’s Grimaud Farms. For $70 per person, with unlimited house red and white wines (or $54 per person without wine), guests can savor dishes such as housemade duck pâté with Pink Lady apple-mustard compote, duck ravioli with shallot confit reduction, and roasted duck breast with espresso sauce and sautéed Swiss chard.  Reservations are required for this dinner. 231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 451-3525, www.lagosantamonica.com.

Vertical Wine Bistro: In honor of leap year, the wine bar is offering food and drink specials for a mere 29 cents on Feb. 29.  Guests who order a glass of wine can receive a second glass for 29 cents (there are 55 varieties to choose from).  For those diners who have come with an appetite, they can create their own pairing of one cheese and one charcuterie for 29 cents.  The full menu will also be available. 70 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, (626) 795-3999, www.verticalwinebistro.com.


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Photo: Meg Gill, president and co-founder of Golden Road Brewing, and Mohawk Bend restaurant and bar owner Tony Yanow. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

5 Food Events: Moveable Feasts; HopHead Heaven; Can You Dig It?

Food events in Southern California

Moveable Feasts: The Los Angeles Nomadic Division hosts its second Moveable Feasts dinner on Feb. 19. Last month, the dinner was held at Lucques and this month it will take place at Soho House in West Hollywood. This month's event honors Andrea Bowers, an L.A.-based multimedia artist and activist whose work makes political statements by focusing on social issues. Tickets are $200 per person and includes a three-course dinner with wine as well as a special, artist-designed object. RSVP by contacting laura@nomadicdivision.org. 9200 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (310) 432-9200, sohohousewh.com.

HopHead Heaven: Library Alehouse in Santa Monica is celebrating local bitterness with an 11-day fest featuring hoppy brews from Southern California. The alehouse will be pouring beers like Eagle Rock Populist, Bootlegger’s Knuckle Sandwich, El Segundo Blue House Citra Pale, Smog City IPA, Ladyface IPA and Golden Road Point the Way IPA, among others. Small bites like street tacos, sriracha honey wings and habanero shrimp ceviche will be available to pair. 2911 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 314-4855, libraryalehouse.com.

Can You Dig It? On Feb. 24, M.B. Post's chef David LeFevre is kicking off a quarterly series where he'll be hosting a guest chef and featured farmer. The program will feature a three-course meal of small plates at $65 per person with optional wine pairing. For the inaugural event, LeFevre is hosting chef Giuseppe Tentori of Boka and GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago to highlight produce from Maryann Carpenter of Coastal Farms in Santa Paula. 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5405, eatmbpost.com.

Colman Andrews dinner: Brentwood's Farmshop is hosting a four-course dinner on Feb. 28 with dishes from "The Country Cooking of Italy" by Colman Andrews. Andrews, co-founder of Saveur magazine and the recipient of eight James Beard Awards, will be present at the event to sign copies and discuss his latest release. The event costs $90 per person and includes dinner and a signed copy of the book. 225 26th St., Ste. 25, Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400, farmshopla.com.

Zinfandel Festival Paso Robles: Paso Robles is hosting the 2012 Zinfandel Festival March 16 to 18. The festival turns 20 this year and will celebrate with barrel tastings, winemaker dinners and vineyard tours throughout the weekend featuring Zinfandel blends from more than 150 wineries. See pasowine.com.


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Photo: Cous cous from Manhattan Beach Post. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Pasadena PinotFest arrives once again

Pinot Noir on the vineHas an entire year rolled around already?

At any rate, it’s once again time for the annual Pasadena PinotFest (the fourth, actually) which kicks off Jan. 15 with a five-course dinner at Altadena Town & Country Club. Each course is cooked by a local chef and paired with a Pinot Noir producer.

Chefs involved include AKA Bistro and Bistro 45’s James Labrinus, the Raymond’s Tim Guiltinan, and Noir Food & Wine’s Claud Beltran. And Pinot producers pouring their juice include Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Winery, Clos Pepe Vineyards, and Williams Selyem.

Part of the proceeds for the $149 dinner ticket help Los Angeles County families in need.

But the dinner isn't the only event.

Weekly Pinot tasting events at $15 per person follow for a month, and Saturday afternoon, Feb. 11, a grand public tasting at the Altadena Town & Country Club will feature up to 100 wines. That tasting costs $89 per person, a bit more for those who fancy hanging around the "VIP" lounge. 

If learning more about Pinot Noir happens to feature on your new year’s resolutions, this event is for you.

For more information and tickets, call (626) 795-7199 or go to pasadenapinotfest.com.


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Photo: Pinot Noir grapes on the vine. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

It's wine-grape harvest time in Santa Barbara County

Bien Nacido 600

The wine-grape harvest is in full effect in Santa Barbara County from now through November.

At Bien Nacido Vineyards, harvest officially started at the end of August, after a challenging growing season, with Pinot Gris for Au Bon Climat. The vineyard, consisting mainly of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Syrah, has a long list of prominent winery clientele, including Tantara, the Ojai Vineyard, Gary Farrell and Qupé. Next up is Pinot Noir, which the Santa Maria Valley vineyard has found to be lighter than predicted but readily ripened thanks to Southern California sunshine. 4705 Santa Maria Mesa Road, Santa Maria, (805) 937-2506, biennacidovineyards.com.

Stay updated on Santa Barbara County's wine-grape harvest at sbcountywines.com. Starting Oct.  8, a weekend-long "Celebration of Wine" will take place at Rancho Sisquoc Winery in Santa Maria. Participating winemakers -- from Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley -- will showcase their latest wines, including many newly bottled; in addition, there will be winemaker dinners and barrel tastings. Tickets from $35 per person.


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.