Wine, Art & Waves
By Linda Kissam and Ginger Giordano
There’s nothing better than good wine. Then again, there’s really nothing more inspiring than great art. But if you think about it, what could be better than an amazing hotel near the beach? Luckily, The Wine Chixs got to experience it all in Laguna Beach.
We decided to visit Laguna Beach when we heard the theme for this year’s Pageant of the Masters was “Eat, Drink & Be Merry!” We thought this was strictly an art town. How could, and why would, the Pageant be built around that theme, and could it live it up to the promise? Well…it could and it did in an exceptional way that may just surprise and delight you… in a wine kind of way of course. It certainly did so for us.
With some great help from Ashley Johnson, Marketing Manager for The Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau (lagunabeachinfo.com)The Wine Chixs spent two days in Laguna enjoying the sand, surf, food, wine, lodging and art of it all. We arrived at our hotel around noon to meet the co-owner Chris Keller in the hotel restaurant and check in. La Casa del Camino (casacamino.com) was built in 1929 as a seaside retreat for Hollywood movie stars. It’s a hip Mediterranean style landmark hotel combining European charm with modern beach style and amenities. Once we met with Chris, we could see why this place is a local and visitor favorite. Chris loves the place and it shows up in the details. He is also passionate about Laguna. “I don’t leave here often,” he told us. “Laguna really has everything I need. We’re not just about art. We’re about wine, food, and family also. I hope your article will help get that message out.” No problem Chris, The Wine Chixs are with you on that point.
We loved the hotel’s K’ya Bistro restaurant. It comes complete with an interesting food and wine menu that speaks to everyone’s taste and pocket book. On any given afternoon and evening the place is packed. The food and wine prices are so well chosen, reasonably priced, and delicious you would be foolish not to patronize it. And hey, the staff is wise and thoughtful. We never wanted for attention or good food while eating dinner or breakfast there. Of course, if the Bistro scene isn’t your deal, then head up to the rooftop for a grand ocean view, nibbles, wine, beer, and cocktails. It too, is generally packed.
All guestrooms have their own unique characteristics and antique furnishings. Rooms have recently been completely renovated. We were treated to rooms in the CASA Surf Project. Think ten rooms, ten designers, ten surf company sponsors. Quirky, elegant and fun, with ocean views AND a portion of the night’s fee goes to a charity, specific to each room. Those looking for great food, premium wines, and a delicious night’s sleep can find it all here.
Our next stop was Las Brisas (lasbrisaslagunabeach.com)Restaurant where we met with executive general manager, Fuoad Ziady. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the stunning Laguna Beach coastline, Las Brisas has been a Southern California landmark since its inception in 1938 as the Victor Hugo Inn. Converted to Las Brisas in 1979, it has become a magnet for locals and for visitors from all over the world. We cannot say enough good things about this place. It’s an OMG experience from start to finish. We were treated to delicious fresh appetizers (Guacamole Tstilo Mexico), seafood (Mero con Tomatillo, Frutas del Mar, Ceviche de Robalo), beef (La Asada) and chicken (Enchilada) entrees, and world-class service. The wine list is appropriate, affordable and interesting. We want to stress that this was an inspiring outing with beautiful food presentation and tastes. Special in every way, but perhaps the “ best dish” on the menu was executive manager Fuoad. He leads this place to the wonderful experience it is. We highly recommend you join him for breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday Brunch, wine, or cocktails. Indoor or outdoor seating completes the picture. Tell him the Wine Chixs sent you.
We didn’t forget the art experience (with a wine twist of course). In the evening, PR specialist Chris Trela treated us to a guided tour of the Laguna Playhouse (lagunaplayhouse.com). It’s a 400-seat equity theatre full of great shows and professional talent. They have an exciting line-up each year, worthy of your attention. Love the fact they serve wine at intermission! Seriously folks, get on the Internet and check them out.
Right next door is the Festival of the Arts (foapom.com) featuring the Pageant of the Masters. We both have been to many performances over the years. It’s always amazing to watch this 90-minute presentation of “living pictures.” Think classic and contemporary paintings made to come alive on stage with real people posing to look like the characters in the paintings while standing in faithful, true to the painting backgrounds. Special make up and stage lighting make it all pop. We couldn’t have imagined that the evening could get more creative than years past…but something about the “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” theme really took wings and made this production fly. We loved all the wine references, and were knocked out of our seats by the Mardi Gras parade of food, wine and foolishness just before intermission. This is a MUST see this year for its upbeat and creative production.
Last stop on our way out of town was Laguna Canyon Winery (lagunacanyonwinery.com). Who knew there was an award-winning, 2,500 case winery in Laguna? We do now, and so should you. Twenty-two small lot wines and two very passionate vintners, make this winery special. The wines are smooth, complex, well thought out. Who can resist an owner whose vision of success is showing up every day and enjoying what he does? The question of course was, yes these are exceptional wines, but who makes them? As it turns out, the grapes come from Napa and Sonoma, but the wines are all Laguna hand-crafted. Co-owners Marlowe and Darin Huber are the winemakers. Marlowe told us it’s quite a sight to see a big semi back into the smallish facility and begin unloading grapes. They have a crusher, storage facilities, tanks, barrels, a labeler, and a bottling line. They also have an event room, a wine club, and plans to open a second facility. The current one is (and will stay) on Laguna Canyon Road right before you hit the art fairs. The second tasting room will be at 680 Glenneyre Street in the middle of the Laguna shopping district beginning in August 2010. Be sure and taste the ’06 Russian River appellation Malbec (75 cases, $34.00/bottle), the ’06 Chalk Hill appellation Sangiovese (150 cases, $32.00/bottle), and the ’05 gold medal Paso Cab (250 cases, $25.00/bottle).