By Rick Riozza

Most of our valley’s foodie community by now has heard of, if not indeed enjoyed the fabulous wine & tapas cuisine of Tinto at the fashionable Saguaro Hotel (which recently hosted Splash House) on East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.  A couple of years ago, I went absolutely ga-ga over the night’s culinary dining experience so extraordinary, that I felt compelled to tell everyone in person, in print and on the web about this stylish but casual venue.

Under the direction of local executive chef Robert Sevaly, Tinto and its sister restaurant El Jefe, in Saguaro, are the only Coachella Valley restaurants created by the James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef, Jose Garces.

Some things have changed since the restaurant opened over three years ago: it is even more focused on the Spanish-Basque “tapas/pinxtos experience, where a variety of lovely lusty bites keep the energy going and the conversation buzzing while tasting and quaffing the next sexy wine from Spain.


Impressive and terrific plates alongside cool fun?—the locals get it; whilst visitors and tourists immerse themselves totally with the international flair of Palm Springs.

Either ordering wines from the glass or by the bottle, the wine savvy staff is friendly and go out of their way to describe fantastic old and new world wine  selections to match, pair and wash down elaborate and inventive affairs featuring dishes from the Basque country’s bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses, seafood and pork.

I recommend for starters, the Marinated Mixed Olives and the Smoked Marcona Almonds in olive oil and sea salt, to accompany the entire meal.  These will pair wonderfully with your other tapas and with the array of wine—plus I couldn’t keep my bread out of the marinade.

Besides the olives and almonds—there is the classic Spanish plate of Jamón Ibérico—cured acorn fed Spanish Ham, most flavorful & thinly sliced that melts in your mouth. Also check out the tasty cheeses: Mahon—cow’s milk from Minorca, Idiazábal —sheep’s milk from Navarre, and Manchego—sheep’s milk from La Mancha.  (I had fun playing the man from La Mancha and eating all the cheese I could!).

For a light-bodied and low alcohol tasty white wine, go ahead and ask for a Txakolina, comfortably pronounced CHOC-oh-leenah”.  Easy enough to say and enjoy all night long with flavors of green apples, citrus, flowers, lemon-lime, minerals and sea breeze.  Love is in the air, nibbles everywhere:  join the conversation where food and wine come alive!

For instance, how much do we love pairing sous chef Brendan King’s Chorizo A La Planxa—a garlic & paprika sausage, $9, with a glass of Spanish red Graciano, Rio Madre, Rioja, $10?  Probably the same as matching the DátilesCoachella Valley dates stuffed with almonds, bacon and La Perla cheese, $9, at the table with a bottle of Cava Rosa Reserva, Llopart, 2012, a delicious rosé sparkler that is dry and pleasantly crisp with vibrant notes of fresh strawberry and cherry—with a minerally finish to complement the Spanish Octopus or Sautéed Shrimp we may also be ordering!

And wait a minute—what about chef’s perfectly prepared Berenjenas—roasted eggplant, raisin Escabeche, and goat cheese, coupling along with a bottle of Tempranillo ReservaBodegas Ramirez, Rioja, 2008  A fabulous seven year old Rioja that is still deep ruby red with notes of black cherry, licorice, spices, orange peel with red fruit emerging in the finish.  Delish!

As is evident, I sampled a lot of cheese & tapas, and quaffed along with Jussi Roy, general manager of Tinto.  He was enthusiastic to thank all his patrons for their loyalty.  “We’re pleased to offer our new and returning guests a special value during the summer months.  Our selection of wines is one of the most unique in the Coachella Valley and they are the perfect complement to tapas at Tinto on a warm summer evening.

“On Thursday and Sunday nights through the end of summer, Tinto will offer a 50% savings on all bottles of wine priced under $100 from the extensive collection of Spanish and New World varietals in our cellar. Additionally, parties who order four tapas will receive a fifth tapas complimentary and can select from either the aforementioned Dátiles or Pulpo a la Gallega—Spanish octopus.

In addition to the a la carte menu, Iron Chef Garces has created a culinary voyage exclusive to Tinto Palm Springs. The exciting new tasting menu is a combination of favorites with seasonal specials from locally-sourced and -farmed products.  Priced from $35 (vegetarian), with $45, and $65 options available. Wine pairings may also be added for $30 or $45.

Tinto is located at 1800 East Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs and is open for dinner Thursday-Sunday from 6:00 PM-9:00 PM.   Reservations can be made through Open Table ( or by phone at 760-322-1900.

Buen Provecho & Salud!

Rick is the wine steward at Haggen Market in Rancho Mirage and wittily titles himself the “somm-about-town”.  A freelance writer and contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine and a wine reviewer for, he is also the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery. Rick entertains and conducts locally at wine tastings, food & wine events, and fun wine seminars. Contact