TThe professional, knowledgeable staff at Vintner’s Circle share their love of the wine lifestyle with hands-on wine classes that teach guests, family, and friends how to bottle wines, distinguish between different varietals, or pair wine with cheese. The shop’s unique winemaking courses take aspiring vintners through the accessible four-step process, which begins with choosing wine juices from a selection of more than 50 internationally sourced varieties. Participants then fill more than two dozen bottles with their own vintage. They can emblazon these bottles with custom-designed labels and colorful tops. Vintner's Circle also stocks a variety of gifts for weddings, holidays, and other special occasions, as well as wine accessories and gifts for wine lovers to enjoy year-round. Wine-education classes, corporate events, and team-building events are also on offer.
Whether culled from California's Napa Valley region in the fall or from Chile and Argentina in the spring, every bundle of red and white grapes winds up beneath a patron's stomping feet. Eight months later—after a pressing session and half-hour racking—each red, white, or rosé batch makes the transition from barrel to bottle. Clients then fill, cork, seal, and adorn the bottle with their own label before gently kissing it to remove any curses. For visitors more eager to imbibe wine than concoct it, The WineMakers Cellar accommodates guests with dinners and wine and cheese pairings in its bistro. Handcrafted wine continues to flow at cooking demonstrations, courses, and private parties held within the facility.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
The attentive and knowledgeable staff members at Maratene's help each customer find the beverage of his or her dreams, an infinitely preferable experience to discovering the sulfurous, steaming goblets of their nightmares. Give a moderate nod while excessively enjoying a medium-bodied Castle Rock Pinot Noir ($10), or recite a philosophical treatise to an indifferent partygoer over a rich and complex Truchard Cabernet ($25). The chronically indecisive can sip samples at one of the shop's free Saturday wine tastings or visit owner and trained sommelier Gregg Burke's wine blog for more tips.
At Biagio’s Ristorante, chef Jimmy Perides bakes individual pans of housemade lasagna and tosses imported and gluten-free pastas that earned the restaurant its Zagat rating. He puts his own mark on the menu with the steak ala chef, a new york sirloin steak crowned with cherry peppers, roasted garlic, and shitake mushrooms. Servers deliver wines from a selection of 50 handpicked bottles, which are often uncorked at seasonal tastings or splashed around at annual “wine fights.” The restaurant’s robust wine collection won it a 2010 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. A gurgling rock fountain stands at the entrance of the restaurant, welcoming patrons into the main dining area and adjacent wine room, and a flickering fireplace casts a warm glow over terracotta walls.
It would be easy to spend an entire day at Calandra's Italian Village—perusing the colorful packaged Italian imports in the market, lingering over a cup of pistachio gelato in the gelateria, and finishing off with a glass of wine in the bar. Wanderers who stroll to the left of the village stumble into Il Vecchio Cafe, where Italian tapestries adorn the walls and diners chat animatedly at wooden tabletops. Servers dart across the sunlit floors, bearing plates of homemade penne alla vodka, eggplant caprese panini, and broiled tilapia and refilling glasses of wine. A counter overlooks the kitchen, where a wood-burning oven bakes thin-crust pizzas. Wooden beams and vintage-style walls enclose the tabletops that speckle the outdoor stone deck, creating the look of a rustic Italian farm or the set of a movie where a rich businessman learns the value of friendship from a talking countryside mouse.