Saturday, July 25, 2015

Each new winery we visited in our trip to Baja's Valle de Guadalupe seemed more impressive. And none so much as Clos de Tres Cantos Winery.  Here the original, creative architecture shows in a series of stone pyramids which are where the grapes are crushed, the fermentation takes place and barrel storage.
Most impressive was how wine bottles are being used as window and skylight lighting.  The effect when sunlight strikes the glass is a dazzling display of multiply colors.
Our hosts were Owners Joaquin Maya Cusi and Maria Benitez, who after guiding us through a tour of the pyramids, took us to their showplace tasting room.  Here with a combination of indoor and plaza seating we tasted some of  their wines as well as an array of most delicious appetizers.
The wines were mostly blends using classic varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Grenache and Mourvedre.
We left with no doubt that Clos de Tres Cantos Winery has a brilliant future.

Friday, July 24, 2015

This was our second visit to the Vina De Liceaga Winery.  On our first visit we had the opportunity to meet Owner Edurardo Liceaga-Campos and learned about the first harvest, which was in 1993, and what had followed.  At the time of this visit the sparkling tasting room and patio had just been completed.
On our visit last week we learned that the Mr. Liceaga had died and that his wife, Myrna Liceaga was now owner.  We did have the opportunity to meet her briefly.
Mr. and Mrs. Liceaga did their work well and the winery is  one of the showplace wine facilities that are now filling the Valle de Guadalupe.
On the eighteen acres of vineyards many different varietals are planted and represented in the wines.  The Liceaga Winery is unique in the Valley for producing grappa as well as wine.  Under the Aqua de Vid label there are two 80 proof bottlings, one called De Moscatel and the other, De Uvas Rojas.
We tasted this grappa but very, very carefully.  We still had a long day before us.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

 Our recent trip to visit new wineries in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe revealed they are in the fore front of saving water and electricity.  Finca La Carrodilla is an example.  The winery has been built in several levels which has allowed gravity to be used almost exclusively in the basic processes of making wine. 
The top level is used for the crushing of the grapes and the juice is then drained to the level below for fermentation in tank or barrel.  Then a level still lower is used for the long time storage of the wine or for immediate bottling.
We can only recall one winery in California that is using this electric power saving system.
Fernando Perez Castro, son of the owning family of Finca La Carrodilla, was our host to show us not only the facilities but to taste some of the wines currently being made there.
Besides being practical and functional the winery shows a splendid architectural style.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A showplace museum has been built in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe that tells the 6,000 year history of wine.  It is entitled Museo de La Vid y El Vino and we were there.  The building is most impressive made with the stonework that is an art form in Mexico.
Exhibits tell the story of wine globally and its early beginnings in Egypt and the Middle East and how the process of turning grape juice into wine spread to Europe and then the New World .  It then moves on to how vineyards were first planted in Baja by Russian emigrant. The story of how Don Angelo Cettto planted the first modern vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe in 1967 is well told. This started the movement that has now made the Valley Mexico's premiere wine producing area.
The terroir of the Valley is examined as well as the actual process of making wine and the role of barrels in producing the final product.
All writing at the museum is in Spanish so some knowledge of the language is helpful.  The art and photography exhibits tell their own graphic story.
The museum is located 24 kilometers east of Ensenada on Highway 5 and open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, July 20, 2015

We will be reporting on our trip to Baja California's Valle de Gaudalupe wine country this week.  We left our car at Border Station Parking and met the Van that would be our transportation in Mexico.  As always Highway 10  from Tijuana toward Ensenada is very scenic as it follows the coast which includes dramatic cliffs towering above the rocky shore below.
Then we left the coast for Valle de Guadalupe which is Mexico's premiere wine country and our mission was to spend two days visiting new wineries and vineyards.
But first it was to enjoy breakfast at La Cocina de Dona Esthela, a restaurant that has achieved a reputation for serving traditional Mexican dishes as part of their cuisine and menu.  This included an acclaimed Borrergo Tatermado as well as Borrego en su Jugo.  All this with tortillas being made as you watched.
The only downside to  La Cocina is that it is off the main highway and you will need a local person to guide you to it
Then it was on to Finca La Carrrodilla Winery which is new and fits in so well  with the  scenic, beautiful Valle de Guadalupe countryside that surrounds it.
More about this trip tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Consistency is the hallmark of a good restaurant.  Our recent visit to Nello Cucina proved this once again.
Located in South Coast Plaza Nello has long provided outstanding Italian cuisine, some on the lighter side thanks to its location. 
Located in a Mall customers vary from those wanting a light lunch to others interested in a dining experience.
The Nello menu provides  both of these options.
We were there to meet Antonio Mattina, Executive Chef and General Manager.  Until our meeting we knew him only by reputation.  With 35 years experience on three Continents there is not much that Antonio does not know about the restaurant business. 
His skill in the kitchen is undisputed and we took full advantage of it.  My partner and I opened with the Calamari that arrived with a most flavorful red sauce.  Then I ordered the Osso Buco and when it arrived at table we were awed.  The veal knuckle was bedded in a creamed rice and nestled in a red wine sauce.  This entree and others are on special order and always available.
My partner tried Antonio's homemade pasta with beef ragu, parmigiano and again on special order red peppers for added spice.
The regular menu offers a full range of soup, salads, pizza, pasta and main courses like Cioppino, and veal scaloppini.  A house specialty are skewers which can be ordered with filet mignon, shrimp or chicken
Nello Cucina is located at 3333 Bear Street on the first floor of the South Coast Plaza and is open for lunch and dinner until 9 p.m.  For more information call 714 540-3365.

Monday, July 13, 2015

With California's drought and the need to conserve water in the news, almost daily, many people are seeking to replace front lawns with less water demanding foliage. 
In seeking such foliage we can think of no better place to learn about the State's native foliage than at Claremont's Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 
Here one can view some 22,000 native plants that are to be found in California from mountain to seashore to  desert.
We visited the Botanic Garden recently with the idea that it could help us on a decision whether we should  make our front lawn history and replant with plants that need less water and less care.
The Garden covers eighty six acres and has three distinct areas to show the foliage of California with every plant having a placard  with its  identity and description.
The Botanic Garden is located at 1500 North College Avenue in Claremont.  It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.   For more information call 909 625-8767.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We were much impressed with what Restaurateur Johan Lieuw has achieved at his Junction restaurant located in Claremont Village.  Here he has put together a fusion of Korean and California cuisines.  We were in Claremont to take part in its Restaurant Week July 10-19 and our luncheon at the Junction was an educational experience.
The menu is most original with appetizers listed as "First" followed by entrees listed as "Second".  Then there is "Off the Truck" specialties ranging from a Korean BBQ Taco to Ciabatta Philly sandwich.  Or here you might select a Burrito or Kimchi fried rice.
Appetizers range from ginger butter escargot to oriental chicken salad and entrees from stewed lamb shank to short rib goulash.
The menu lists a large selection of vegetarian items.
The Junction also has a full bar and here items for quick snacks.
Johan and Chi Lieuw also operate the Red Hot Kitchen in Loma Linda.
The Junction is located at 1 North Indian Hill Blvd. in the Claremont Village district.  It is open seven days a week.  For more information call 909 626-5100. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

While in Claremont for its Restaurant Week, July 10-19 one afternoon we had lunch at Tutti Mangia Italian Grill.  While this was our first visit we did know about the restaurant's reputation for excellence.  For a number of years it has rated five stars from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
And it took only a short time for us to learn that this reputation was well earned.  We met with General Manager Richared Joos and he suggested we allow Executive Chef Jose Ruiz to send us samples of the restaurant's specialties.
We said yes and it was a very good decision on our part.  With the serving of the first course,  grilled octopus and rustic Puttanesca sauce and the manner in which it was served we knew this was an exceptional restaurant. 
Here the service staff is truly well trained and all flows smoothly as the food moves from kitchen to table.
Our entree was Balsamic braised Wagyu long bone short rib with roasted sweet corn Polenta and grilled tiny onions and beet. It was memorable.
Tutti Mangia also offers a truly outstanding list of wines from around the world with the number of Italian vintages truly remarkable.
Tutti Mangia Italian Grill is located in the heart of Claremont's Village at 102 Harvard Avenue.  It is open seven days a week.  For hours call 909 625-4669.

Friday, July 10, 2015

In a short period of time we found a lot to do in Claremont.  Actually we were in the City to take part in its Restaurant Week taking place from July 10 to 19. One morning we took a walking tour of historic Claremont Village.  This collection of shops and restaurants is reminiscent of an earlier era, comfortable, serene and unusual for Southern California.
Our stay at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel  fit in with this image as well.  Our room had it all in comfort and convenience.  We had a desk and wifi for our computer, and a club chair for our all to brief leisure moments..  And yes a balcony with chairs and table for al fresco activities.
The Orchard, hotel restaurant, offered us a spectacular breakfast and a interesting menu by Executive Chef Mathew Mattsen for both lunch and dinner.
The Hotel offers a casual garden like setting which was perfect for our quick getaway trip to Claremont.
Adjacent to the Hotel was the Piano Piano watering hole, a unique club for cocktails and nightly entertainment.  This entertainment included a singer guitarist as well as two pianos with added percussion for a most lively experience that also involved willing customers that continued far into the night.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Claremont Restaurant Week was previewed in grand style at Double Tree Hilton Hotel last evening.  Twenty one Claremont restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week which starts today July 10 and continues to July 19.
Many of the restaurants are offering prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for the event.  Chefs are using the week long event to showcase local favorites as well as seasonal specials.
All the 21 restaurants were present at the Double Tree allowing  Chamber of Commerce members and the media to sample some of their individual specialties.  It all took place on a perfect summer evening at the Double Tree with its casual, country club style ambiance.
Entitled Discover Claremont more can be learned about the July 10 -19 event at