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A selection of wines at DaVine Food & Wine. Photo: Andrea Swayne
A selection of wines at DaVine Food & Wine. Photo: Andrea Swayne

Discovering and enjoying good wine is a lifelong pursuit. Luckily we have some great help right here in town.


By Jim Kempton

There’s no denying the pleasure of wine.

It can make almost any meal an occasion, give every table a little elegance and provide every conversation an added sense of satisfaction.

Although I’m a rank amateur as wine enthusiast’s go, I learned a bit about the topic while living in France. Miki Dora, one of surfing’s early icons and bona fide bon vivant, knew the venerable Rothschild family, France’s greatest vintners—and on the odd occasion invited me along. So in those “salad days,” while surfing France’s southwest coast, I had the chance to taste a Premier Cru Classé Merlot, savor a Chateau Mouton Cabernet Sauvignon and try Chateau d’ Yquem, Bordeaux‘s great dessert wine. From then on I was hooked. Even today French reds are the only ones I know enough about to buy intelligently without the help of a wine connoisseur.

That’s not to say I don’t love California wines; far from it. I once acquired two cases of 1974 Beauleau Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet for $216 a case. A year later it was selling for $120 a bottle. You might think we would have held some of that Napa nectar for later years. But when you have a couple of cases of great wine lying around, its hard not to break it out every time good friends come over—which in those days was pretty constantly. We went through those two cases in about eight months. But it was one of the best strings of dinner parties I ever remember.

Luckily for Dana Point we have several wine spots that rank among the best in Orange County. Coincidentally, they offer a varied and distinctive range of choices. Here are just a few:

Monarch Beach Market at 24040 Camino Del Avion is an upscale version of a deli /convenience/wine store that just so happens to carry a dazzling array of wines and a strong beer selection as well. New owners Mosen and Ali Hashemi have stocked some prized California varietals in the store’s “Cabernet Corner” of big reds. And out of hundreds of wine shops in Orange County it is rated fifth on the OC Hot List.

DaVine Food & Wine at Dana Point Harbor in the Dana Wharf area, across from Golden Galleon and Waterman’s Grill, has brought a new level of casual elegance to the local wine experience. Steve and Marla Balmuth not only carry hard to find vintages, they offer a formidable selection of gourmet foods too. And their evening wine tastings—complete with guest wine connoisseurs and musicians—create the perfect place to nurse a big red.

The Wine Bistro on La Plaza, next door to Hennessey’s and across from Hobie Surf Shop brings a full restaurant with special $20 wine dinners that pair chef’s creations with a well matched vintage and are a total bargain. Late night happy hours, great food and nightly entertainment, offer a late night option in a predominately sleepy town. The young crowd creates a constant din, but it’s worth the effort to sample many of the world’s best regions and a wide-ranging menu.

Pay a visit and discover the beauty of these gems. After all there are only a few things that get better as they get older—sterling silver, good books, longtime friends, and vintage wine. To top it off, the word is that 2015 should be a very good year for wine—maybe even one for the ages. I heard it through the grapevine.

Jim Kempton, a professional writer and amateur wine lover, has personal proof that wine improves with age. The older he gets the better he likes it.

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