By Rick Riozza

One of the most pleasurable ways to learn and experience the wide world of wine, is to attend a great restaurant’s wine dinner.  Not only does the chef & kitchen take especial time to consider a strategy of meals to showcase their gustatory talents, but with laser-focus, they actually pair and match the flavor profile and nuance of each course with a particular wine that’s been chosen by the actual winemaker or distributor.  Oftentimes, these dinners will involve several courses and different bottles of wine.  What’s not to like about that.

Fortunately for us valley residents and visitors, this is indeed the season where many winemaker dinners are scheduled throughout our restaurant scene.  And I look forward to covering and highlighting the restaurant venues, chefs and the featured wines of the occasion.

The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa’s popular “Le Serate di Vinowine dinner series returns, bringing distinguished winemaker representatives to present and mingle with guests over a four-course gourmet cuisine experience. The culinary adventures of Executive Chef Joel Delmond will be expertly paired with wines of equal stature from the Napa Valley area in three separate dinners taking place on Friday nights. The Franciscan Estate wine pairing dinner is January 27, followed by the Seghesio Family Vineyards wine dinner on February 17, and concluding the series is the Flora Springs Winery wine dinner on March 24, 2017.


Over the course of the evenings guests will learn about the featured cuisine prepared by Chef Joel, while meeting and becoming educated by each winery representative about each of the wines being served. Each dinner includes a welcome reception at 6:30 p.m. for Chef’s Choice of Amuse and a sparkling wine, with dinner beginning at 7 p.m.

The Franciscan Estate Winery & Vineyards is located in the heart of the renowned Oakville appellation, and is one of Napa Valley’s most venerable wineries.

Franciscan Estate was established in 1973 and within a few years began producing world class wines of true character from their Oakville estate.  Founding winemaker Justin Meyer wanted to understand the nuance of vineyard sites and how wine matured over time. He diligently laid out the estate vineyard into small blocks to capture the unique microclimates and soil changes. Each block was separately fermented and cellared. The wine was only blended once it had properly evolved. This small lot approach resulted in wines of unmistakable character that highlighted the nuances of every vineyard block and vintage.

This intensely personal approach to winemaking is an ongoing pursuit toward perfection exploring new methods, and finding better ways to bring out the ultimate expression of the vineyard.

At the January  27th  Franciscan dinner, Chef Delmond’s will start guests with Crispy Sweetbreads, and Romesco Silk with wild arugula and a black garlic vinaigrette served with the “Equilibrium” White Blend wine, followed by a second course of Blue Crab Churro and a Piquillo pepper fondue, garden greens, avocado and orange oil paired with a Napa Chardonnay. The third course is a Roasted Pulpo and a Roasted Peruvian Potato with espelette pepper oil, garden basil and pil pil sauce paired with a Napa Merlot. The final course is a Meyer Lemon Souffle with pomegranate, crème anglaise, grand marnier, and sour cream ice cream nicely paired with a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

On February 17, the featured winery is Seghesio Family Vineyards, founded in 1895. In many ways the story of Seghesio is the story of the Sonoma County wine industry. It begins with the vision and determination of immigrants and continues through the hardship of Prohibition and the challenges of survival in the 20th and 21st century. It is the story of one family’s adaptation and reinvention, not once, but multiple times.  Entrenched in California wine history, through five generations and 120+ years, Seghesio Family Vineyards has always been about heritage, tradition and community.

The meal begins with a Tuna and Avocado Napoleon with ginger, onions, Ponzu glaze and yuzu granite paired with Vermentino from the Russian River Valley. The second course of Veal Tripe Milanese, and Lacinato kale with artisan olives and lemon butter is served with a Costiera White Blend from Sonoma County. The third course of Pan Seared Wild Scottish Partridge, along with toasted highland farro, Brentwood corn, pluot jam, Banyuls reduction, and guancialle vinaigrette is presented with a Venom Sangiovese of Alexander Valley. The dinner concludes with their famous Old Vine Zinfandel from Sonoma, along with Black Mission Fig Cake, and a Mascarpone pistachio gelato, almond crumble and hibiscus pop rock.

March 24th features Flora Springs Napa Valley Family Estate. The property’s legacy actually dates back to the late 1800s when wine grapes were first planted on the Napa Valley property that is now their estate home.  Nearly 40 years have passed since the founders, Jerry and Flora Komes first stepped foot on to the historic Flora Springs estate in search of a place to “kick off their boots.” It was Flora who saw the magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery.

Chef Joel begins with Seared Mano de Leon Scallops, with toasted cumin crème fraiche, French radish, and Escondido avocado emulsion paired with a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a Baked Japanese Eggplant with Burrata cheese and arrabiatta sauce, served with a Napa Chardonnay. A Napa Merlot accompanies the third course of Colorado Roasted Rack of Lamb, and Kennebec potato risotto, baby fennel salad, wild turkey demi glaze, carmelized Cipollini onions. The dinner wraps up with a Brentwood Corn Cake with honey comb, fennel crystals and sour cream gelato with a Napa Valley Red Blend.

The cost of each dinner is $89 plus tax and gratuity, with limited seating available. Reservations are required by calling (760) 770-2150 or via email to