My favorite time of the year is within reach, when the food and wine community reaches out and sets the table with special occasion dinner and wine parties and giving programs for the needy.

The West Restaurants & Inn in Carlsbad is a prime example of such an outreach of fun, flavorful food and drink sampling, healthy choices for diners and a seasonal gift for the holiday season on Thursday, December 6 from 5 to 8pm.  On that date, West Village is staging its 6th annual Holiday Open House, asking guests to bring an unwrapped gift for the Marines Toys for Tots drive.
A short time ago, Executive Chef Eurgenio Martignago hosted an OktoberWest culinary, wine and beer event.  Wines included a Von Hovel Reisling with a farm to table caprese, basil oil and pumpkin de cre’me. 
A Santa Cristina Sangiovese was paired with West Farm Tempura-Style Zucchini Blossoms and the Navarro Correas Cabernet highlighted a butternut squash gnocchi. All the while, the oompah pah music thumped away Bavarian music.
On December 6th, there will be special appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus with carriage rides, carolers, face painting and holiday treats for all.  It’s all free, with a wrapped toy or gift encouraged.  For more, call 760-448-4500.
Wine Bytes
Ever more brands are presented to wine buyers these days, which can turn into a frustrating experience when you are locked into a few wines, but yearn to learn about what else is out there. 
I enjoy a new discovery now and then, but I don’t stray from my “go-to” wines that I know will please my palate.  My aproach for a relaxed, systemized way to consume wine is what I call “Core and Explore”. I have a simple 5 point rating system, from one point (dislike) to 5 points (loved it!).
  Argyle wine maker Rollin Soles pours his 2009 Nuthouse Pinot Noir from Amity Hills in Oregon.

  Argyle wine maker Rollin Soles pours his 2009 Nuthouse Pinot Noir from Amity Hills in Oregon.

I log the tasted wine with its rating on to a master list, with name, where it came from and where it was bought, varietal, vintage and cost.  Your list of “loved its” is your core wine list, which roughly could be about 60% of your wine budget.  Save 40% for new wines, that you might have tried at wine events or with friends at a party.  Check out their web site for more information, then buy.
If the wine is truly great, then you’ve added another to your core list.
Some Wines to Try for Holiday Dinners and Parties
Here are some wines that I have tried and added to my TASTE OF WINE Core List:  
Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir Oregon 2009. $50.  A robust Pinot Noir aged in a hazelnut drying facility.  Bold Structure.
Ferrari-Carano Tresor Red Blend, Sonoma Ca.  2009.  $52.  Five Bordeaux style grapes led by Cabernet Sauvignon from the best estate vineyards hand harvested from dry-farmed vines. French Oaked aged for 19 months.
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Sonoma Ca.  2008. $52. a TOP pick in a Readers Choice poll, this wine is silky and elegant with ripe plum accents. Some Merlot and Petite Verdot.
NORTHSTAR Merlot, Columbia Valley Washington, 2008.  $20.  From the family of St. Michelle wines, concentrated vintage from the wine country with the longest  days of sun and light for grape growing. 
Orfila Vineyards Pinot Noir, San Pasqual Valley, Ca. 2011.  $40.  
Amazing flavor extracted from young, enthusiastic grapes brought in from Arroyo Grande in Monterey Wine Country.  Credit Justin Mund, winemaker for this creative move.
Tommasi Amorone Della Valpolicella Classico, Verona, Italy.  $70.  A peak performer taking locally grown Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinari grapes and hand drying for 4 months, then aging for 3 years.
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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