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All About Food: Costa Mesa store follows owner's passion for wine

Laguna Beach resident Nancy Milby gave up a career in the corporate world to follow her passion for food and wine.

She opened the Laguna Culinary Institute in 2001 under the direction of the highly qualified chef Laurent Brazier. As the small school thrived, Milby opened a cheese shop, bakery and café in the same location.

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Then a space opened up next door and she installed a wine-tasting room, where she often hosted events. In 2004, Peter Neptune, a master sommelier, started teaching classes there.

In 2010, she began to think about moving to a bigger space and sold the school to Brazier. At this point, her interest in wine took over completely. She found the perfect spot in SoCo at the OC Mix in Costa Mesa, where she now runs LCA Wine.

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A small wine bar is in the front and lining the walls of the room are shelves full of bottles, with a heavy accent on French and Italian but also some other very interesting wines.

In the rear is another large room for the Neptune School of Wine, where Neptune, one of only 122 master sommeliers in North America, will teach classes.

Milby is also a certified sommelier and will teach classes as well. Students will be able to earn official WSET — Wine and Spirits Education Trust — credentials.

Space is also provided for events and concerts. Visit http://www.neptunewine.com for information.

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The teachers also offer blind tasting workshops, a course on the wine regions of France called "The Wine Scholar," classes in wine basics and another called "The Aromas of Wine." Private events can be booked. Wine and cheese parties, a wine-tasting seminar and tastings with Neptune are also held.

Tuesdays through Fridays, sample the featured wine for $2. On Saturday afternoons from noon to 5:30, four tastings cost $5. Check the website for special events or new classes. To register for a class, email http://www.lcawine.com.

One wonderful way to enjoy wine is to join LCA Wine's wine club. You won't have to pay tasting fees, and the club has an exclusive tasting on the third Friday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m. Take home two of the wines featured and get tasting cards that will give you information about food pairings, techniques and tasting notes. Members also get a 10% discount on all wine purchases: all this for only $34.99 per month. For more information, email info@lcawine.com.

Milby has also been doing small wine vacations in Europe for many years and has established close relationships with many vintners. From June 8 to 14, she will be leading a trip to Provence, exploring the Roman influence. Call her at (635) 232-0920 for more information.

An exciting new event is coming to the South Coast Collection. "SOCO Uncorked: An Indulgent Food and Wine Experience" will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. April 16 to benefit Project Hope Alliance.

Many of the restaurants at SoCo will serve delectable bites, and more than 30 wine producers will offer tastings, curated by Milby. Live music will entertain.

In addition, a food-and-wine pairing event will take place at Surfas, the huge cooking supply store, which is a treat to visit anytime.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

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