Befitting its name to the letter, California Wine & Cheese exclusively celebrates the work of artisan wineries and creameries all over California. The California-centric collection includes more than 100 different wines, many of which appear in a floor-to-ceiling wine rack that fills almost an entire wall with horizontally arranged bottles. Behind the shop's bar, the staff pours more than 50 of these labels by the glass and the flight, allowing visitors to taste everything from chardonnay to zinfandel. Selections range from a diverse collection of white and reds, which are both available for guests to try.
At this self-described urban microwinery, vintners crush, age, and bottle their own vintages using local California grapes. Inside its capacious cellars, juices from grapes grown in regions such as Paso Robles, Napa, and Sonoma age in oak barrels. The resulting vintages are available for purchase onsite, online, or through a nearby genie, and also fill glasses Thursday?Sunday in the attached tasting room. There, patrons can meander through rows of barrels, stop to rest their glass on a granite-topped bar, and on nicer days, catch a salt-sprinkled breeze through the open warehouse door.
Handcrafted, full-bodied wines are the standard at Orange Coast Winery, where head winemaker Doug Wiens creates a number of varietals with grapes sourced from across the state. At the new Ocean Cellar tasting room in Corona Del Mar, visitors are invited to partake in luxurious seated wine tastings, where they sample a variety of the fermented fruits of Wiens' labor. Available throughout the season, some varietals include a Syrah reserve, a spicy Tempranillo, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and 2011 & 2012 reserve Cabernet Sauvignons.
To Master Chef Massimo Navarretta—who grew up farming and wine-making in Campania, Italy—it makes little sense to separate wine from food. At his eatery Onotria, which received Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2012, he groups dishes on the menu by wine pairing, rather than by main ingredient or ability to be balanced on the tip of a tiny dessert spoon. Seafood-based plates, such as prosciutto-wrapped tiger shrimp or poached octopus with artichokes, complement a glass of dry, sparkling white wine. Lightly breaded pork medallions accompany a light, dry red, while hearty lamb chops or filet go with a bolder varietal such as zinfandel or merlot. These dishes can serve as tasting plates for groups, entrees for individuals, or finger food for visiting giants.
To create the seasonal menu, the kitchen uses hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, as well as organic and biodynamic ingredients. Meals are served under a high-peaked ceiling with wooden rafters, in a dining room with exposed-brick columns and mottled walls that echo the look of an old-country trattoria.
Modern French Bistro | Local Ingredients | Seasonal Menus | Cosmopolitan Vibe | Covered Patio
While You're Waiting
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Covet luxury apparel from renowned designers such as Hermès and Valentino at the South Coast Plaza shopping center (3333 Bristol Street).
After: Sip a craft cocktail with local trendsetters at Mesa (725 Baker Street).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This Pinot Provence (686 Anton Boulevard), another upscale spot specializing in seasonal French cuisine.
In 2013, the Golden Foodie Awards' Best Californian Cuisine trophy went to SeaLegs Wine Bar. But while plenty of local and sustainable ingredients suffuse SeaLegs' seasonal dishes, the results don't always showcase Californian flavors. Composed mainly of tapas, executive chef Alexander Dale's menus range from crab bisques with dashes of pumpkin-coconut curry to chipotle-braised short ribs with butternut-squash polenta cakes. Alexander's culinary talents extend to brunch and dessert as well, with seared ahi tuna mixed into eggs benedict and brownies infused with ale from Stone Brewing Co.
When they aren't enriching sweets, craft brews fill pints from 10 taps and an extensive bottled selection. That, however, pales in comparison to the choices inside SeaLegs' wine cellar, which stores more than 2,000 bottles giddy for the chance to carry messages on the high seas. Feasts unfold amidst SeaLegs' elegant dining space, where vintage photos adorn walls, Frank Sinatra and Norah Jones tunes set a romantic mood, and water from nearby Huntington Beach laps onto shore.