Sunday, May 25, 2014

5/23-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen fill in for Michael Jordan with guest Gary Pisoni

Gary Pisoni - Founder & Visionary, Pisoni Vineyards
A special place, Pisoni Vineyards expresses the land and climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the spirit of the Pisoni Family. The site is a source of exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
First planted by Gary Pisoni in 1982, Pisoni Vineyards consists of small vineyard blocks arranged on and around the ridges of the mountainous landscape. Ranging in size from one-half to seventeen acres, the vineyard blocks perch at an altitude of 1,300 feet in the granite-laced mountains of the coastal Santa Lucia Range.
Inspired by the Burgundy tradition of having several wineries source fruit from the same vineyard, Gary Pisoni has formed relationships with some of the most prestigious Pinot Noir producers in California. With agreements based on handshake alone, these wineries are guaranteed specific rows and blocks each year. They purchase grapes at a per-acre price rather than a per-ton price, which maintains the focus on quality and not yields.
In addition to supplying fruit to artisan producers of vineyard-designated wines, the Pisoni Family retains a portion of the vineyard for the production of Pisoni Estate wine.
The Practice
Vineyard management is meticulous. Under Mark Pisoni's leadership, a long-time permanent crew of 18 skilled individuals perform all the work by hand. Every decision implements sustainable farming practices and long-term considerations.
This commitment, combined with the rocky soils and cold Monterey Bay weather, produce serious and compelling wines.
The Family
In 1952 Jane and Eddie Pisoni began farming vegetables in the fertile Salinas Valley. A celery-crop profit in 1979 provided the down payment for the Santa Lucia Highlands property that became Pisoni Vineyards. Their love for the land provided the place where their son Gary could realize his dreams.
Gary developed a love of wine while attending college. He started collecting fine French and German wines, and he made his first wine in his garage in 1978 at the age of twenty-five. In 1982, Gary broke ground and planted the first vines at Pisoni Vineyards. He was up against many obstacles, including not having a water source at the time.
Mark Pisoni, the vineyard manager, completed a B.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis, and an M.S. in Farm Business Management at Cornell University. He oversees the meticulous care of both Pisoni Vineyards and Pisoni Farms.
Jeff Pisoni is the winemaker. He earned a B.S. in Enology at California State University, Fresno, and got hands-on experience at premium wineries before becoming the Pisoni Estate and Lucia winemaker in 2002.
The Wine
The Pisoni Family produces one wine each year under the label bearing its name: Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir. Although actual quantities vary with fruit yields, typical production is a mere 500 cases annually.
Often noted for their deep color and intensity, wines from Pisoni Vineyards offer complex flavors and layers of undulating texture. The rocky mountain soil and the long, cool growing season provide the fundamental character of the wine, and the tannin and acid structure contribute to the age-worthiness.
Lucia vineyard designated Santa Lucia Highlands AVA wines.
Lucia is the sister label of the Pisoni Estate wines. Whereas Pisoni Estate is committed to a single expression of the Pisoni Vineyards, Lucia represents the collection of vineyards that the Pisoni Family farms: Pisoni Vineyards, Soberanes Vineyard and Garys' Vineyard (the latter two farmed in partnership with Gary Franscioni).
The wines of Lucia are vineyard designated Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from these vineyards and eponymous Santa Lucia Highlands AVA cuvées with varying percentages of each vineyard blended together.

Lucia wines are made alongside the Pisoni Estate wines using the same exacting standards for quality. They are sold via mailing list and high-end restaurants and retailers. If you are on the mailing list for Pisoni Estate wines, you will automatically have the opportunity to purchase the Lucia offerings.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

5/9-Michael Jordan visits with Deborah Scott, Maurice DiMarino and Greg Provance

Deborah Scott - Chef & Owner, Vintana, Island Prime and Indigo Girl
Deborah Scott can create a delicious meal with just about any ingredient. When she was a student at Baltimore International Culinary College, she not only had the highest grade point average, she was also awarded the gold medal in the school's Cooking Competition. With only a brown shopping bag of various unrelated food items, Deborah concocted a recipe so delectable she received two awards from judges at the American Culinary Federation.
As a native of Virginia Beach, Deborah perfected her talent of pairing eclectic flavors during her graduate course program from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Deborah quickly gained hands-on experience at the award-winning Clark Cookhouse and Whitehouse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island. She then moved on to be Executive Sous Chef for two years at Monterey Plaza Hotel's Delfino's On The Bay.
After moving to California in 1992, Deborah Scott opened the acclaimed Mediterraneo in Alpine. Her cooking demonstrates a unique creative flair that has built a strong following of loyal clients. Deborah introduced her first Indigo Grill to San Diego's Little Italy in 1994. She created the restaurant's menu, operated both the front and back of the house, and developed everything from the logo to Indigo Grill's unique décor. The restaurant caught the eye of up and coming restaurateurs David and Lesley Cohn.
In October 1995, Deborah met with David and Lesley Cohn about creating a restaurant with a southwestern influence and Asian flair. Deborah Scott has since teamed up with the Cohns to launch Kemo Sabe in Hillcrest. Deborah created a diverse menu of thoughtfully prepared dishes like her now famous Roasted Nut Crusted Fried Brie with jalapeno jelly, grilled squaw bread, chile-rubbed tortilla and honey roasted garlic, as well as the signature Skirts on Fire with Mandarin-serrano relish and chile black beans.
Six years later, the same trio collaborated on bringing back Chef Deborah's beloved Indigo Grill in stylish Little Italy. Guests entering Indigo Grill find themselves transported into a dimension of surreal and symmetrical. It tells you a story as you travel from the arctic region to the South of Mexico. The term "food" is hardly adequate to describe the masterpieces that sweep through the doorway of Scott's kitchen.
Early 2005, David and Lesley Cohn announced that Chef Deborah Scott would become a full partner and they would begin the renovation of a San Diego landmark, the original Reuben's Steakhouse on Harbor Island. July 4th weekend marked the opening of Island Prime/C Level, a dual-concept restaurant a top pylons overlooking San Diego Bay, Downtown and Coronado. Today Island Prime with its "Metro Steaks and Seafood" and C Level with its "View to Dine For" is a destination for visitors and a favorite for locals.
In 2011, Chef Scott jumped at the opportunity to join the booming food truck industry. She created Chop Soo-ey, an Asian BBQ theme, and Ms. Patty Melt, a gourmet, classic sandwich concept. The trucks are mostly used for catering private events and major festivals. Both trucks have been a popular addition to the San Diego Food Truck scene.
In 2012, Chef Scott partnered with the Cohn Restaurant Group once again to open Vintana in Escondido, California. Located on the penthouse level of the Lexus Center, Vintana's 17-foot windows overlook a miniature Bellagio-style fountain. The outdoor 20,000 square foot event space offers cabanas, fire pits and picturesque landscape views.
Guests are pleasantly surprised by the exceptional attention to detail paid by Chef Scott to the presentation of food. "I love to combine different textures on a plate and add an element of creativity to the composition," says Scott. The ability to execute her visions has been recognized by locals and peers year after year in the form of numerous awards from local voters and peers like Best of the Best, San Diego's Favorite Chef to Condé Nast Travelers, America's HOT Tables.
When asked what she thinks of her restaurants, Scott speaks with quiet confidence, her gray-blue eyes shining with a spiritual intensity as they encompass the entire room, "I'd just say it's me. It's everything I'd like to see in a restaurant. It's my vision."

Maurice DiMarino has seen just about everything in his 26 years in the service industry.  From his early days as a host for a local San Diego Mexican Restaurant to his current position as wine and beverage manager for theCohn Restaurant Group, the journey has been a varied and exciting one.  However, it was not until he moved to San Francisco in early 1994 that he became passionate about the industry.  While in San Francisco he had the opportunity to open several landmark restaurants, including Lou’s Pier 47, Foreign Cinema, Alma and Chez Spencer.  During this time, Maurice was able to work closely with sommeliers and renowned chefs.  It was their mentorship and extensive experience that fostered Maurice’s passion for epicurean pursuits.  Beyond anything else though, it was travel that inspired the love for wine and viticulture that guides Maurice to this day.  More than a home, San Francisco became a hub for Maurice to travel.  His free spirit took him to Europe, Canada, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and Australia.  It was in these travels that Maurice discovered the varied and sometimes sacred place that wine holds in so many cultures around the world.

It was love and family that eventually brought Maurice back to San Diego where he returned to a budding restaurant industry.  When he was offered the chance to act as Wine Director for Chef Deborah Scott’s new restaurant, Island Prime, he jumped.  Maurice saw this position as an opportunity to bring his extensive experience with wine, travel and culture into a wine program unique to the San Diego area.  Maurice is now the beverage and wine manager for the Cohn Restaurant Group and oversees beverages for the 16 restaurants.  By the end of 2013 there will be 5 more restaurants added.  Maurice shares his love of teaching through extensive training and seminars with the managers, employees  and guests of the Cohn Restaurant Group.  His goal is to bring attention to San Diego and show the world that San Diego should be recognized among the top cities for food and wine.

Maurice DiMarino’s “Cru” is the wine club that he started through the Cohn Restaurant Group, Prime Cru.  He created this club as an outlet for those not in the industry to come and learn about wine.  He provides seminars for club members ranging from specific grape varietals to exploring the different wine regions of the world.  Prime Cru was also created so that guests can have amazing deals on purchasing wines usually not available outside the restaurant.   He believes wine should be fun and not taken too seriously.  This blog was created to break the pretentious image wine seems to carry and make it accessible and easy to understand.  Be part of the crew, Mauricescru!

Greg Provance is a hospitality and entertainment professional, currently fulfilling the role of General Manager for Vintana, a crown jewel in the esteemed Cohn Restaurant Group family of restaurants.  His career began as a professional actor, where he landed numerous roles for film and television including Dawson's Creek, Homicide: Life on the Streets, Charmed, Days of Our Lives, FOX Family, Showtime, and various independent films. He even hosted an Emmy winning series for NASA and PBS.  He now employs the skills he learned in entertainment to drive his passion for hospitality and personal & business development.  “Every time I go out onto the floor of the restaurant, I feel that I am on stage.  I am known for asking my staff to work like they are on camera… it is their time to shine.”

Greg’s tenure at such establishments as the iconic “Hot Tomato” in New york City, the neighborhood favorite “Chaya Brasserie” in Beverly Hills and the hip hangouts  “Saddle Ranch” on the Sunset Strip & “Jack’s” in La Jolla taught him the skills he needed to sign on to the Cohn Group for the much anticipated opening of Vintana in Escondido.  It is here that he leads an all-star staff, with Chef Deborah Scott at the helm, to bring great food, entertainment and special events of all shapes and sizes to the thousands of guests who come to see what it means to have a top notch restaurant on top of a Lexus dealership.  He currently resides in San Marcos, CA with his wife of 18 years and two beautiful boys.