Restaurant Wine Roundup   by Rick Riozza



It’s nice to be back hitting all the food and wine bar scenes that are going on.


We’re in the final days of Restaurant Week 2012 where we’ve been dining at all the famous desert restaurants in the valley at discount prices.  Great places we’ve eaten at, and, great places we’ve been desiring to eat at.  And, of course, enjoying the wines they’re offering.


There’s a whole bunch of info regarding food and wine pairings—stuff that this column will no doubt discuss as we all continue on the game of wine, but the bottom line really is when the meal and the wine, together, take the appreciation and enjoyment to a different level.


From simple matters like sliced cheeses and meats for appetizers or lunch—a light wine, sparkling or not, bumps it up.  And some of us are so deep into the wine ethos that it’s harder to imagine pastas, fish, poultry, or meat without a wine—or at least we don’t want to go there.


But where we do want to go is out to these restaurants to see what’s cookin’ and what’s on the wine list.  Always on the lookout for a good restaurant, we like to dig a bit deeper into their wine menu.  It never has to be extensive but we wish it to have some reasonably priced and eclectic offerings—an interesting and perhaps “sexy” wine.


I’ll just kind of ramble on places we’ve been and places we’re going to, and let’s see what strikes your fancy:    Johannes Restaurant in Palm Springs where the “The Eclectic Chef” Johannes Bacher prepares some of the most inventive “global” cuisine in the desert—and guaranteed fresh ingredients or it’s off the menu for the night.  He’s got a major wine list with all the great usual suspects—and, he’s got those sexy Austrian wines: The Mark Huber Gruner Veltliner, crisp with those vanilla spice, apricot, pear, and grapefruit/lime notes, pairs wonderfully with the poached Tiger Shrimp, Ahi Tuna & Avocado Tartare, or Steelhead Trout appetizers, and, the Australian Grass Fed Kangaroo Loin matches great with the Blaufrankisch wine with its aromas of berries, cherries, licorice, smoke, spice, and black pepper.


Cuistot in Palm Desert is the country French “resto” we all want to get locked in for the night.  The cuisine is stellar and sommelier Fred Gerber strives to satisfy all vino desires from those $450 Pinot Noirs—that I’ve seen people order, to great wine by the glass from around $7-$12.  For Restaurant Week, Fred recommends a glass of Ferarri-Carano Fumé Blanc with the Grilled Sea Bass, and, a French Syrah Blend, Chateau L’Hospitalet Reserve with the Braised Gigot and Lamb Chops.  Both wines at $9.50


Mindy Reed’s Zini Café Mediterrano on Palm Canyon in Palm Springs serves up the delights that its name brings to mind:  Tapas, Pizzas, Pastas, and Seafood.  That type of bistro fare on the street-side terrace is bumped up further by the $5 glass of New Age white wine that is served on ice with lemon as they do in Buenos Aires.  Mindy carries a bunch of sexy wines by the glass—her favorite right now is Mastroberadino’s Sannio Felanghina, the bouquet is fresh and fruity with flavors of citrus, pineapple, and white flowers.


Acqua Pazza Bistro in Rancho Mirage and LuLu California Bistro in Palm Springs I hear are providing a free glass of house wine with their Restaurant Week 3 Course meal for $24.  These are fun places to eat and drink and have great happy-hour deals.  And that reminds me, the most scenic Escena Lounge & Grill in Palm Springs will pair their 4 course meal with 4 glasses of wine for an additional $18.


The Wine Bar at Old Town in La Quinta gets in this list for where else can you grab a delicious Panini sandwich, a classic Caesar or Caprese Salad, or a cheese and meat platter alongside a flight (3 glasses)  of premium wines for tasting!  A wine shop, restaurant & bar all at a great venue.


I always give a shout-out to Johnny Costa’s Ristorante of Palm Springs where Vince Costa consistently provides authentically delicious Italian food—as his dad did for Frank Sinatra.  The place is beautiful, romantic and knee-deep in Italian wines.  When you go—give me a buzz, I’ll recommend a great Italian red.


And speaking of Italian—on the other side of town, there’s Charli Marrones’s Italian Bar & Grill, 42250 Jackson St. Indio.  Everyone tells me the cioppino is fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to that while I check out their wine list.  Plus, CV Weekly’s first summer mixer is being held there on June 7th at 6:30 pm.  We’ll see you there–Arriverderci!


As the old saying goes:  So many restaurants, so much wine . . . so little time.  The new one’s better:  It’s time to slow down and savor the food & wine and enjoy the company of your friends and loved ones.  And let’s thank God for the abundance!    Bon Appetit!   Here’s to your health!



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