The sounds of conversation and laughter compete with the clinking of glasses in The Wine Artist?s lofty venue. The space sprawls over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room to host private parties, bridal events, corporate events, and private cooking classes. Events at The Wine Artist feature unique wines, gourmet catering, and experiences such as wine bottling and team building activities.
The "secret" in Bacchus' Secret Cellar is gas. Argon gas, to be exact, which powers the bar's preservation system and ensures that the wines within stay fresh for long periods of time. There are about 50 wines—mostly reds—on tap at the counter, as well as 8 sparkling wines, 5 dessert wines, and 12 microbrews. The library of options encourages guests to sample several, so it's wise to order a flight: you can get a signature array of 2.5-ounce glasses, or you can compose your own for a unique harmony of tastes.
The bar is just the beginning of the cellar's wine selection. On the shelves that span the walls, more than 350 labels beckon to be uncorked. A bistro menu provides gourmet food to complement sips, from starters of oven-roasted dates to lamb burgers and prosciutto flatbreads, made by dropping a regular loaf of bread into a printing press by accident. There's also a full menu of cheeseboards, with goat, cow, and sheep cheeses from the United States and abroad.
The idea for California Fruit Wine was hatched in 2009, when a friend of Alan and Brian Haghighi introduced the twin brothers to small batches of homemade fruit wine. Since those first sips, Alan and Brian have continued to help wine drinkers break free from grape-based conventions, utilizing such fruit as pomegranates, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pumpkins as the foundation for an ever-growing arsenal of flavors. The winery fills glasses with unique bouquets, and?like the microbreweries throughout Vista Business Park?buys its ingredients from vendors up and down the west coast rather than growing them or stealing them from the refrigerators of napping bears. California Fruit Wine's spacious facility, which is stocked with a stage, bar, and pool table, can also be rented out for parties and private events.
Lifelong gardener Jim Carter, owner of South Coast Winery, bottles fine wines on 38 picturesque acres in Southern California’s Temecula Valley. South Coast’s grounds house a luxurious spa and seven Mediterranean-esque resort villas, reminiscent of a remote Tuscan village. Jim’s specialty varietals have been recognized time and again in local and national wine competitions. Visiting oenophiles can spend time here unwinding with an open air massage, vacationing in a temporary home equipped with a marble Jacuzzi and sweet plump grapes at arms length, or learning about the winemaking process on a vineyard tour.
A small flight of stairs leads guests down into a rustically decorated room, which evokes the ambiance of a subterranean wine cellar with its earthen arches, barrel-lined walls, and soft chandelier lighting. Designed by the artisans who created Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, the dining room appeals to a similarly nostalgic whimsy. However, the cooks slightly modernize the menu's historic European roots by introducing unexpected ingredients.
The chefs elevate simple grilled-cheese sandwiches by slipping in braised short ribs, caramelized shallots, and horseradish cream alongside the gruyere and monterey jack cheeses, and a splash of cognac adds even more richness to the silken lobster bisque. Thai barbecue-glazed tofu and basmati rice also help to distinguish the menu by lending it a distinctly international flare.
Staying true to its name, The Cellar proudly features a 1,400-bottle wine list, which, according to the staff, helped to garner the restaurant Wine Spectator's exclusive Grand Award. The selection includes familiar staples, boutique producers, and rare vintages from virtually every major wine-producing region except the Marianas Trench.
From inside The Vintage Steakhouse, it would be easy to pretend that a passenger on the trains passing just outside the window is engrossed in a pristine early edition of The Sun Also Rises, smoke swirling off the Chesterfield perched absentmindedly between his fingers. Without much effort, you might conjure a woman in the bar car, gratefully sipping a Southside and sending up a wordless celebration of the reversal of Prohibition.
That?s because restaurant resides inside the historic Capistrano Depot, which, despite its 1894 build date, bears an unmistakably art-deco vibe evocative of the 1920s or ?30s. A trio of arched windows is the focal point of the main dining room; when trains aren?t sliding past their decoratively gridded glass, diners can peek through bougainvillea and willow trees to the 200-year-old adobes planted behind them. Inside, knotted wood planks run across the 18-foot ceilings, a near match to the hardwood floors glistening beneath.
A smaller dining room sits in the adjoining Dining Car, a fully restored 1927 Pullman train car upholstered in warm reds and golds. Candlelit tables for two line each side of the car, under which couples? intertwined feet rest softly upon the regally patterned carpet. The ambience is a bit more social in the Chef?s Alley room, an 1887 freight house with its own cocktail bar and more contemporary d?cor.
No matter where parties choose to dine, they?re presented with a thoughtful menu of hand-cut steaks and seafood accented with local, organic produce. The chef prepares all dishes over an open-flame mesquite grill, giving everything a juicy, so-that?s-what-fire-tastes-like flavor. A chef?s selection of veggies and the patron?s choice of potato accompany the entrees, which range from filet mignon in a cabernet demi-glace to prawns saut?ed in a sauvignon-blanc sauce.
These rich sauces pair perfectly with the more than 150 varietals that populate the restaurant?s wine list. Though heavy on French and Californian selections, the temperature-controlled wine cellar also has a few Spanish, Australian, and Italian bottles tucked away. Plus, the cellar stores a few cases of bubbly for the prix-fixe Sunday brunch?s bottomless champagne special, ensuring a festive follow-up to the smooth live jazz that plays every Friday and Saturday night.