By Rick Riozza

Just when you think you’ve done pretty much everything in the wine biz from fermenting to drinking, buying to selling, from auctions to futures, from wine evaluator to wine judge, there’s always a niche we haven’t played with yet.

Since coming out to live in the desert a few years ago and starting up my wine writing gig (I now write for four publications—from this local weekly column to the national publication “The Tasting Panel” magazine), I’ve really had a good time getting to know the local wine purveyors in town.

Characters they are, and some were a little challenging to warm up to. I really enjoy the company of Dan Sullivan, owner of Dan’s Wine Shop in Palm Desert on Hwy 111. He’s been out here a long time and really knows the pulse of the wine business. I first met him at trade tastings and he was pretty laconic and a little tough to get to know—and granted, Dan hadn’t heard of a full-time wine writer in town. But I did the right thing and covered his wine shop and I continually go to him for our annual holiday wine picks.


Costa Nichols and his wife Zola, owners of the venerable Palm Springs Desert Wine & Spirits—which is now combined with the Go Deli Market, are a very likeable couple and welcomed me into their circle immediately. I report their wine picks as well.

Now nestled between Palm Springs and Palm Desert is the tony community & city of Rancho Mirage. Known as “the playground of the Presidents”—indeed, didn’t Obama’s entourage just drive by?—this town is full of country clubs, million dollar acres and home to a lot of high-end restaurants and stores. But do they have a wine shop to call their own?

Pavilions Market of Rancho Mirage is pretty well known as one of the community’s best supermarkets. Along with their famed deli, there is the butcher shoppe, the florist, the pharmacy, fresh seafood department, Starbucks—and for you wine aficionados, are you aware of their wine section that carries over a thousand labels?

Yep—and adding to the appeal, the vino section is ensconced by the chilled corner of cold beer and the refrigerated dairy department. So besides a full selection of Champagne, whites, rosés, reds, and vintage wines, what else would you wish for as your go-to all around wine shop? Well—how about a wine steward, who’s amenable, very friendly, and who is there to answer any wine questions you may have, and should you wish, is capable to offer suggestions as to what wine will be a welcoming choice for your up-coming meal or party plans.

Well, add yet another character on the wine scene. And this guy I’ve known all my life. C’est Moi! It’s me! Apparently my wine acumen and writings were on the radar with Pavilions so they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse—and I get to run the wine shop with all the benefits and no burdens. On the horizon we’ll see more tastings, food & wine pairings, and some winery specials.

So how about that! On the corner of the Boulevards, Gerald Ford & Bob Hope, we’ll be knocking out many fun, notable and tasty wines. Everyone who comes by is amazed at our selection and quite often not only do we discuss the wines they’re searching, we keep the wine chat going about some wines they hadn’t considered; some venture out to try a bottle, some will think about it.

So, my invite is to all of you readers to come by and say hi and let’s talk about some vino! And this is a great chance now to give me your wine opinions after reading through mine for the last few years—agree or dis-agree, I look forward to meeting you all. Apart from my hirsute appearance, I know you’ll love the entire Pavilions staff that—just like that!—I get to associate with.

And not to worry—I’m still your somm-about-town, bopping through a plethora of wine venues, events, eateries, and all things vino—and writing home about it. Add Pavilions of Rancho Mirage as my other wine home in town.

Most of you already know, from my previous articles and recommendations, of the frequent wine sale that goes on with the Pavilions/Vons supermarkets: 30% off and an additional 10% when picking up 6 or more wine & spirits bottles. It’s the time to stock up—I see a lot of loyal customers and vacationers doing just that. Needless to say, I’ve a new habit of grabbing a six-pack every time I leave the store. Cheers to that!

Located within the wine section is the special five cabinet wine refrigerator unit that showcases and holds over 50 cases of vintage wine and Champagne. I’m still looking over and studying all the various wines being housed. It’s a fun time for me to continue to expand my wine knowledge with all of these wonderful wine selections.

For instance, there is the 2010 Liparita Cabernet Sauvignon with that age-old vintage looking black & white wine label that touts award-winning emblems from Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904. I want a poster of that mimimalist wine label!

Well, the family is still making great wine. The wine is Napa Classic:aromas are rich with fruit, complemented by ripe and jammy black fruits (berry, cherry, plum) along with sultana and dried fig. And notice a hint of dried savory herbs, black tea, coconut, clove and allspice. Powerful but balanced, a nice long finish.

Come by while it’s still on sale for around $35. See ya soon! Cheers!

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