A reason to envy ‘Zonies’


By Andy Abramson

This is the season when many visitors from the state directly to our east descend on the San Diego area. But if you ever find yourself going to Arizona, specifically Scottsdale, run over to Cowboy Ciao and See Saw, two super wine-friendly establishments that share the same wine list and are located right next door to one another. Not only is the cooking off the charts at both establishments, with Cowboy Ciao featuring Southwestern cuisine and See Saw Modern Japanese, the wine list is one of the most amazing loose-leaf size lists around. But the home run is the pricing - rock bottom low for a restaurant and so tempting you won’t be able to order just one bottle.

If you’re a fan of Gaja wines, the venerable Italian wine producer, which makes wines rivaling the world’s greatest Bordeaux releases, you’re going to want to make friends with Eli, of Eli’s Wine and Spirits (previously Barons) in the Del Mar Highlands shopping center in Carmel Valley. He’s got the wines of Gaja scheduled for a Saturday tasting in August and it is shaping up to be a real winner.

As a long time fan of Keenan Wines, I have to draw your attention to two very special dinners at the Wine Vault and Bistro, in downtown San Diego. Winemaker dinner number one is a 10-course Chef’s Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing (limited to 24-36 people) on Wednesday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. The price is $150 plus tax and gratuity. Winemaker dinner number two is a six-course Wine Pairing Dinner (limited to 90 people) on Thursday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. The price is $65 plus tax and gratuity.

This marks the third July in a row, that Wine Vault & Bistro has hosted Michael Keenan of Napa Valley’s renowned Keenan Winery for what should be a series of incredible evenings at the Vault. Wednesday’s dinner will be an intimate, 10-courses-paired-with-10-wines, chef’s tasting menu. The chef will prepare 10 different courses and talk about their preparation, and then Michael will discuss the wines being paired with each course. In addition to the six wines being served at the following night’s dinner, the Vault will be pouring reserve cabernet (WA’94), reserve mernet (WA’95), cabernet franc (WA’93) plus Michael’s new mystery wine. The mystery wine is a limited production, super-premium blend that Michael won’t tell anyone about. It will never be reviewed, and it has never been tasted by anyone except the winemakers. The dinner will be the first time it’s ever been outside the winery, and the attendees will be the first people in the entire world to taste it. Thursday’s dinner will be a usual winemaker dinner format with six courses paired with six delicious wines. Michael will talk about the wines and visit table to table. Call the Wine Vault and Bistro to reserve your table at both events at (619) 295-3939.

The Third Corner has opened in Encinitas in the Lumberyard and judging by the crowds, the place is a hit, with great food and a wide range of fine wines. This means that Encinitas now has three excellent wine bars/wine bistros along the Coast Highway, with Gafneys and Taste nearby.

Andy Abramson writes about wine and answers your questions. He can be reached at