Recently four generations of the Riozza clan made it out-of-Dodge to the cooler weather of San Diego. And as most foodies these days are wont to do, it always settles into a culinary vacation. We stayed around Carlsbad at first, visiting Pizza Port Brewery and of course enjoying—well, delicious pizza and beer, which I’d love to inform you readers about in a future column.

When our thirst cravings pursued a vino adventure, in San Diego, I know of no better place than hanging out at the Marina Kitchen Restaurant, Lounge, Wine Cellar & Bar. I’m probably giving it a longer designated name, but it surely focuses on the venue and what it wonderfully has to offer.

Last year we discovered The Mariott Marquis Hotel Resort at the San Diego Marina. The beautiful Marriott Marquis, with its existing two high-rise towers, had just completed a 100+ million dollar makeover on their resort property and in record time has become the favorite “urban oasis” in and around the San Diego downtown, marina and Seaport Village area. Check out the beautiful scene on their website at


And within the resort walls we found the most impressive “wine lover’s destination” in South County. The Marina Kitchen has been ascertaining/asserting itself with an array of fun fine wine programs that include winemaker dinners, inter-active wine events and tastings to enjoy both on the weekdays and weekends.

Now before you start rolling your eyes and immediately dismissing the idea of venturing into a luxury hotel resort to simply get a nice glass or bottle of wine to enjoy with an assortment of eats, the true vino lover in you will wish to take pause. Many venues in San Diego have a great ocean and bay view, patio dining, stylish decor, great food, or, great wine—but few places have it all! Allow me to present to you, the Marina Kitchen.

For the fifth year in a row, it is the recipient of the Award of Excellence in Wine Spectator’s highly coveted 2017 Restaurant Wine List Awards. . The Award of Excellence is given to restaurants with wine lists that offer a well-chosen selection of quality producers, as well as a thematic match to the dinner menu in both price and style. The Marina wine list represents over 500 different selections with emphasis in California, France, Italy, and Germany.

I chatted with Head and Certified Sommelier Mike Pickering who oversees Marina Kitchen’s exciting and engaging beverage program, which also includes managing a large team of sommeliers at both the Kitchen and the entire Marquis Resort as well. “Sure—we’re all very proud to continue to receive the Award. It really speaks of the commitment we all have to developing, executing, and constantly improving our wine program”

Mike continues, “Hey! I’m a Lifer—I love to go out to eat. I’m enjoying the position of a lifetime. I get to share my passion for both food and wine; I truly enjoy my time with Executive Chef Aron Schwartz working on and creating dishes that best pair with our continuing selections of wine available. The modern comfort theme of Marina Kitchen, exhibits a menu that focuses on fresh, sustainable and local ingredients. We’re always working with the resident fishmongers, butchers and produce providers.

“Even with the Marriott’s up-scale ambiance, we run a really casual and relaxed lounge and bar. Our “Wine Cellar” room is beautifully designed and is quite a showcase for our varied wine selections from all over the world. Our staffs are true wine lovers and enjoy the opportunity to share tastes with locals, visitors, and groups all around.

“One thing wine guests and visitors enjoy is a personal touch. Mike assured me that he and his beverage team are especially attuned to the needs of their guests and encourage our them to cozy down with us; be it a nice glass of wine or a ‘vertical-tasting’ of premium world class wine.”

Marina Kitchen’s famed “Uncorked” wine hangout series, taps winemakers from around the country to meet industry professionals, guests, visitors, and travelers in a casual, intimate setting. Upcoming Uncorked Events held from 6pm to 8pm, include Kaitlyn Hite from Foxen Winery in Santa Maria Valley on September 19th; Mark Vlossak from St. Innocent in Willamette Valley on October 28th; and, Andrew & Adam Mariani from Scribe Winery in Sonoma Valley, on November 18th.   

The Marina Kitchen Wine program includes events and tastings that include: a Tasting Bar Session (inside and outside of the Wine Cellar); other fun activities such as “Flights & Bites”, “Wine Wednesdays”, Guest Winemaker Dinners, Wines of the Month, and “Wines on Tap”—a new take on Barrel Sampling; and, Premium Wine Flight Tastings—where one can enjoy a glass of world class wine, such as from a $600 bottle of famed Burgundy and Bordeaux;

For instance, how often have you desired to taste and consider some of the historically famous world class wines out there but have never had the opportunity? With the “Premium Wine Flight Tastings”, mentioned above, we wine enthusiasts have the delight to try a top French, Californian, or Italian wine without having to spend a week’s pay!

There’s just too much wine fun here! As I’ve stated before, there is no time like the present to get out and enjoy a wine-themed destination. Whether it’s a once in a lifetime experience or something to look forward to periodically—treat yourself! And whether your stay is long or short, or, even if you’re just passing through the area, do yourself a favor and quaff a glass or two and simply enjoy the view. Cheers!

For the latest details on Marina Kitchen, visit Marina Kitchen’s Facebook page at or call 619-234-1500. Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina 333 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, California 92101 USA

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