Wine Taste, Talk at Villa Nova; More to Come

<i> Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to the Times Orange County. Fax, (714) 966-7790; phone, (714) 966-7700. </i>

Vons, vino, Villa Nova.

That’s Italian for: swirl, sniff, sample six to eight wines for $10.

Vons supplies the wines, Villa Nova supplies the waterfront location--and hors d’oeuvres including fried calamari and an assortment of fruits and cheeses--the wineries supply representatives who can speak intelligently about the wines.

Tastings take place every other Tuesday. Upcoming:


* Aug. 22, Piper Sonoma and Rodney Strong.

* Sept. 5, Clos du Bois.

* Sept. 19, Merlot tasting.

* Oct. 3, Pinot Noir tasting.


As part of its new fine wine program, Vons has also scheduled winemaker dinners Sept. 12 at Five Crowns in Corona del Mar (see review, this page) and Sept. 18 at the Ritz in Newport Beach.

Villa Nova, 3131 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. (714) 642-7880.


Knowlwood opened in Laguna Niguel on Monday, the chain’s sixth outlet in 37 years, all in Orange County. The latest posed something of a challenge.

Interiors at previous outlets were suggested by locale. The interior at Fullerton resembles an old-time train depot, Anaheim Hills an agricultural packing house.

“We were having difficulty finding a theme for Laguna Niguel,” said supervisor Jonas Caderao. “It’s a new city. . . . We came up with something a little more funky.”

It’s Hollywood! The decor is reminiscent of a 1930s and ‘40s back-lot sound stage with props, theatrical lighting and billboard-size classic cinema graphics.

The menu--burgers starting at $2.95, sandwiches, salads, three-layer cakes and fountain desserts--remains the same: “We’ve been serving the same food since day one,” Caderao said.


Open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

28601 Greenfield Drive, Laguna Niguel. (714) 831-1593.


John Dominis has slated two out-of-the-ordinary winemaker dinners. Both are five courses.

Wednesday, the wines of Australia’s Wolf Blass will be presented. Highlights include Australian ostrich on apple pear compote with white asparagus and bittersweet chocolate reduction, served with Wolf Blass 1987 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, and, dessert, mini-blueberry pie with vanilla bean ice cream and sugar kangaroo cookie, served with the 1991 President Selection Shiraz. It’s $60 with tax and tip.

Wine’s one thing, but take a shot at matching single malt Scotches with food. Aug. 30, chef Lasse Sorensen’s planned scampi couscous with Cragganmore, baked Scottish salmon and turnips with Dalwhinnie, fanned breast of pheasant and veal tournedos with Oban-Talisker. And he doesn’t balk at dessert--it’s warm pumpkin tart and homemade cinnamon ice with Lagavulin. Cost is $75, all inclusive.

Reception both evenings at 7 p.m., dinner at 7:30 p.m.