Two “shout out” restaurants have opened recently in Escondido and Hillcrest amid great praise for their strategic use of wine with their impressive food service.  

Vintana and 100 Wines are the latest creations of the Cohn Restaurant Group, now numbering 15 locations in San Diego, established 25 years ago with the legendary Corvette Diner in 1987.
A paradigm has been set here as each new restaurant has set up wine as the lead attraction, with big bold bars and billboard style point of purchase as soon as guests come through the front entrance. Greg Provance is the personality to know at Vintana. As General Manager he orchestrates a large retail wine department where the customer can pick and choose from value priced wines with a wide variety of price points, then take the bottle to a dining table where it’s uncorked and serviced for just $15.  “We like wine choices to be made in the display area, it adds more value to the restaurant,” he declared.
Our choice this night was the St. Michelle Eroica Riesling for the appetizer and salad startup portion of the menu., a true favorite and a collaboration of German and Washington State wine country influences, with just the right acidity and sweetness.  The main entrée of Vintana’s signature Filet Trio had great support with an ’09 Argyle “Nuthouse” Pinot Noir from Amity Hills Oregon.  It possessed a smoky, licorice, berry flavor that was silky and smooth from start to finish.  
This steak was served in three pieces, each one with a different spread on top: bone marrow butter, bearnaise sauce and garlic blue cheese.  Sides included seasonal mushrooms and prosciutto asparagus.  The brilliant Executive Chef who is also a partner at Vintana is Deborah Scott, who has teamed up with the Cohns since 1995 at Kemo Sabe in Hillcrest.
 It’s all smiles with  General Manager Kristi Keller and Executive Chef Kathryn Humphus at the new 100 Wines in Hillcrest

 It’s all smiles with  General Manager Kristi Keller and Executive Chef Kathryn Humphus at the new 100 Wines in Hillcrest

 A 30 minute freeway trip south from Vintana will get you to Hillcrest and the casual, cozy, old world wine den and bistro, 100 Wines.  This Cohn creation is sentimental, rustic and small-plate inspired.  
Executive Chef Kathryn Humphus calls it “home style food, prepared simply with Mediterranean flavors.” I asked her for some typical examples of her style.  “The lamb meatballs are wonderful starters, easy to share, and comes with lemon-cumin yogurt. 
Then there’s the dry roasted beet, burratas, arugula and toasted walnut salad.  Entrees include Free Form Ravioli with Pecorino, Pear, Mozzarella and Butter Sage Sauce… a recipe I picked up in Florence, Italy.  We want diners to share everything.  We’re changing it seasonally so expect something new and different when you come back”.
The wine program at 100 Wines is novel and significant.  It’s old world and California by design. Customers can browse selections by price categories of 20 wines under $20, 30 wines under $30, 40 under $40 and some sparkling and dessert wine options.  The bar has craft style cocktails as well.
While each format of a Cohn restaurant varies wildly in food selection and design, they all share an “obsession with hospitality.” See, and for Vintana, access
Wine Bytes
•Wine Loft in Carlsbad  presents a Stolpman Tasting Event with owner Peter Stolpman Sun. Nov. 18 from 1:3o to 3:30pm. Try 8 of his best wines.  $40. pp.  RSVP at 760-944-1412.
•The annual winter warehouse wine tasting is Sat. Nov. 17 from 2 to 5pm at Schlossadler International Wines in Oceanside; all imported and mostly German and Austrian.  Live music and specialty foods offered while you taste the newest arrivals.  $15. cost.  More details at 800-371-9463.
•Eating out for Thanksgiving?  Check out these great destinations for Nov. 22:  The San Diego Marriott Marina Kitchen with its 3 course bay view dinners from 2 to 9pm for $30. ea.  RSVP at 619-699-8222.  Amaya at the Grand Del Mar Resort has a 3 course prix-fixe menu being served from 11:30 to 8pm.  Price is $75. pp. Call 858-314-1996.  In Temecula Wine Country, Café Champagne at Thornton Winery has a Thanksgiving buffet from 12 Noon to 5pm with all the holiday favorites including Champagne & Mimosa for $65.  RSVP at 951-699-0099.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at  Reach him at

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