Off the Menu OC

Covering the dining scene in and around the OC

Celebrating California Wine Month

NB1California Wine Month is quickly drawing to a close, but it’s not too late to celebrate the occasion by either buying and enjoying wine from the Golden State, or attending special wine events and tastings.

According to the Wine Institute, California makes 90 percent of all U.S. wine and is the world’s 4th leading wine producer after France, Italy and Spain. There are 3,800 bonded wineries, making 207.7 million cases of wine with a retail value of $22.0 billion. Three of every five bottles sold in the U.S. is a California wine.

Those are impressive statistics, but then California makes some impressive wine. We’re fortunate to have a variety of places in Orange County (particularly Newport Beach) to sample and purchase California wines.


One of the best wine-by-the-glass programs around is at Fleming’s Steakhouse. The closest location to us is in Fashion Island, Newport Beach. They list countlessNB3 California wines on their menu, and hold frequent wine dinners focused on noted California vintners.

We attended a Frank Family wine dinner at Fleming’s earlier this year. The diners are held in a large yet intimate room downstairs from the main dining room. We loved the food and wine pairings at the dinner, and can’t wait for the next wine dinner.

Until then, enjoy Fleming’s notable wine program, which has garnered awards from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

Visit for details and locations.


Many people don’t know that Newport Beach is home to two wineries: Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, and Orange Coast Winery.

NB2Founded in 1998, Newport Beach Vineyards makes several Bordeaux varietals, including a classic blend using grapes grown on the property overlooking the back bay. Their wines are available at several wine shops and restaurants in Newport, including Vin Goat, Juliette Kitchen, and Gelson’s Market.

We’ve been to several events at Newport Beach Winery, and love the rustic property and the palate-pleasing, hand-crafted wines.   

We recently attended a gourmet pizza and wine night there, which Catherine claimed was “a brilliant idea. The two go great together and being able make your own pizza and enjoy it among the vines, great wine and good company couldn’t make for a better night. A highlight of the evening was sampling current and soon-to-be-released wines.”

For details on their upcoming events, visit

Doug & Debbie Wiens of Temecula run Orange Coast Winery on 16th Street (a Corona del Mar tasting room is in the works). Doug is also the winemaker and one of the founding partners at Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula (known for their “Big Reds”), a large winery owned and operated by several members of the Wiens family.

Orange Coast Winery is open Thursday through Sunday for wine tasting. Visit for details.


OC Wine Mart in Irvine near John Wayne Airport is one of our favorite places to sample wines. Owned and operated by the dynamic and friendly Julie Lim, OC Wine Mart has an enomatic wine system–a large round OC Wine Mart 2machine with bottles of wine hooked to it. Buy a tasting card, insert into the machine, press a button on your choice of wines, and out pours a one ounce taste.

Julie has a terrific selection of California wines for sale, and she holds weekly wine tastings with different themes.

Our favorites have been Best California Zins (because who doesn’t love a good Zin), Perfect Pairing: B. Toffee and Justin Vineyards, and Tobin James since…well, it’s Tobin James.

Visit for more information.

Founded in 1999, Wine Gallery in Corona del Mar specializes in small-lot wines. They have wines by the glass and also wine flights available, and hold regular tasting events. Their wine shop offers hundreds of varietals both domestic and foreign, with a focus on California wines.


Located in the old Wine Lab location on Coast Highway, California Wine and Cheese carries mainly California wines, and offers wine tastings and flights as well as small plates and cheeses.


Wine Lab 3And speaking of Wine Lab, their wine boutique and tasting room at The Camp in Costa Mesa carries some of our favorite California wines, particularly those from Paso Robles and Santa Ynez valley. They also have wine flights available, served in large test tubes (after all, they are a “wine lab”).


It’s also not too late to take a day trip to Temecula wine country, about an hour’s drive from OC. More than three dozen wineries offer tasting of a variety of wines. Our favorites: Briar Rose, Hart, Wilson Creek, and Wiens.


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This entry was posted on September 26, 2013 by in Newport Beach, Wine event, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , .
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