By Rick Riozza

Fun wine times this season—yeah? I’ve never been to so many wine and food events since I’ve been out here. Definitely an economic resurgence in the valley. Let’s take this column to catch up on and look forward to some notable venues to keep in mind when thinking about wine trekking and dining.

First off—you foodies will be thrilled to know that five young chefs from the La Quinta High School Culinary Arts Institute have won the chance to compete in the finals of the 2014 National ProStart Invitational in a nationwide cooking competition taking place in Minneapolis this May. To support the program, Miramonte Resort will be hosting a “Grand Tasting” fund raising dinner.

The event will take place on Thursday, April 17th, from 6pm – 8pm and is $50 per person. The Institutes’ award-winning menu will create a Moroccan-themed dinner featuring Mussels Potage Marrakech as an appetizer, Moroccan Rockin’ Chicken for the main course and a dessert of Tangier Poached Pears. Yum!


We are thrilled to support the La Quinta H.S.Culinary Arts Institute and encourage the community to join us for an exceptional evening of delicious food prepared by these future culinarians,” said Jim Pedone, Regional Director, Sales & Marketing for Miramonte Resort & Spa.  “With the significance of the restaurant and hospitality industry in our community it’s vital that we encourage our kids to pursue their dreams, and with this distinguished program, students are given a head start towards a rewarding culinary career.”

To help raise funds themselves, the students have created their own date chutney and date syrup which sells at Shields Date Garden. So c’mom—let’s help them out as well. Bon Appétit !

For tickets or more information on the Grand Tasting at Miramonte Resort & Spa, contact La Quinta High School at (760) 772-4150 ext. 152.

And now, for our Wine & Food Medley of Moments & Mixes:

Talk about a high-end wine dinner—the Bellatrix Restaurant, at the Classic Club Golf Resort, recently hosted the fantastic Palmaz Winery and their collection of red and white wines to match the exquisite cuisine of Chef Gerald Brunett. Food & wine managers, Ruan and Christina—thanks for keeping our wine community happy and satiated!

The winery, and, the winemaking process at Palmaz in Napa Valley is amazing. It all takes place within the living rock of Mount George, in a flawlessly engineered maze of tunnels and lofty domes, you’ve got an underground wine cave whose height is equivalent to an 18-story building, “providing the vertical range needed for true gravity-flow winemaking”—you think? The result is a complex, elegant wine.

Their Cabernet Sauvignon, of which we enjoyed the 2009 and 2010 vintages, is stellar! These wines sell for $180 a bottle and continually sell out every year.

I always recommend this venue with their great bar and happy hour—and wine tastings as well. Bellatrix Restaurant, Palm Desert (760) 601-3690

By the way, I ran into the Classic Club’s General Manager, Greg Rubino, at the Food + Wine Festival over in Palm Desert. As to the food, some of the best “bites” on hand were Wolgang Puck’s braised short-ribs, Babe’s Barbeque’s “Chicken Leg Osso Buco”, Sullivan’s Mac n’ Cheese—was that the best or what!, Figue Mediterranean’s scrumptious scallops and the refreshing Octopus Gazpacho from Chef Drew at Catalan.

As to the wine, Greg—who’s definitely a wine guy—and I definitely enjoyed the luscious Kathryn Hall Napa Valley wines that were poured. One of the best food & wine pairing dinners in recent memory was when the U.S Ambassador to Austria—yes, the same Kathern Hall, brought her wines to pair with Austrian-born Executive Chef Johannes’ cuisine at his eponymous Palm Springs restaurant. The meal and wine were marvelous!—the guests still talk about that one.

In fact, you can ask Costa Nichols, owner of Desert Wine & Spirits in Palm Springs, about it—he was at the dinner! And now he and his crew have moved to a new suite–#22, at the Sun Center Shopping Mall, 611 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs. (760) 327-7701

The wine and foodie community has been anticipating this move for a while for the shop now has an excellent deli to match their excellent wine selection. Join in on the opening celebration this April 16, at 3pm and then join in on an Italian Wine Tasting to complete the day’s festivities. I’ll be covering that event, so see ya there!

Also, in mentioning Catalan Mediterranean Restaurant earlier: Adelante!! Catalan’s Wine Director, Mark Davies, has obtained the moment’s most desirable wine: WineSpectator’s 25th Anniversary Wine of the Year! The Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004. There’s no question that La Rioja is one of the best wine districts in Europe. Bravo! España and to Mark for grabbing a case of that wine for us to try.

While we’re talking Spain, we had a really fun time over at Tinto Restaurant at the Saguaro Hotel where famed Iron Chef Jose Garces was on hand with Executive Chef John Tice for a fabulous wine pairing dinner one night and on the next, a cooking demonstration & book signing where a lively party followed as we enjoyed wines from Bokisch Vineyards with their Spanish varietals.

And really quick—the Desert Sun’s Lynn Lieu and I along with other media peeps were gathered at Pinzimini at the Westin’s Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa where we joyfully experienced Restaurant Chef Shawn Aoki’s new Chef’s Tasting Menu for which I counted six courses along with six premium wines! Look for more of my coverage on this tasty deal!

Stay tuned: Fantasy Springs Resort & Spa has brought back their Sip of the Desert Wine & Spirits Event. Last month, we tasted over 20 wines top quality wines from around the world. For this month’s event call 760.328.5727 for reservations.

Now take a breath & take a bite! Ciao!