Now this is so in my wheelhouse. I sent some emails about doing a review in Laguna Beach, and owner Chris Olsen responded saying yes please come and do a tasting. Good wine and fantastic food, what could be better. Manager Victoria Vaughn helped me along the way, with her no nonsense smarts about all things wine, and giving me some great suggestions. This dinner was an all around treat for me!
About Chris Olsen:
While in college, Wine Gallery Co-Founder Chris Olsen enrolled himself in UC Santa Barbara’s infamous wine tasting class that most students take so they can imbibe while earning course credits. In Chris’ case, this class proved to be much more than a novelty; it unknowingly left an indelible mark on his future career.
Chris began taking frequent trips to the nearby wine region of Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang and before he knew it, he’d fallen hard for the wine culture. After a stint in the mortgage business, Chris decided to follow his heart and open a boutique retail wine store back in the town he grew up in, Corona del Mar with childhood friend, Jeff Schroeder.
In his spare time, Chris enjoys wine making (check out his label, Mile 216), cooking, exploring new restaurants, hanging out with his wife and daughter Tyler and son Tanner, running, and catching the occasional wave
At the helm of this wonderful food experience I Chef Josh Mason. He created so many delectable menu items that it was hard for me to say which one I liked best. Every one of them different, never using similar ingredients in any of the amazing dishes.
About Chef Josh Mason:
Born in Indiana, Josh was raised in Arizona with Central coast family roots. His grandfather owned restaurants in northern Indiana and his earliest memories are in his kitchens. Josh started out catering and working in friends’ restaurants right after high school and throughout college. In 2008 he found himself leaving Phoenix and opening a restaurant in Denver with a close friend.
After some time in Denver the restaurant was sold and in looking for his next project his brother introduced him to Chris Olsen. In February of 2009 Josh flew out to Southern California to cook for the Wine Gallery team and was hired on the spot to open the Corona Del Mar kitchen. In 2012 the Wine Gallery Laguna Beach was opened and we have been going ever since. Although he was gone for a few years to work and travel he has always stayed close to the Wine Gallery family in one form or another.
Cooking is and always will be his passion. Josh cooks the way he would cook for his friends and family, always trying to keep things simple and let the ingredients be the star.
About The Wine Gallery:
The Wine Gallery was originally started in Corona Del Mar (in nearby Newport Beach, CA) by Chris in 1999. Due to his passion for wine developed in college in Santa Barbara, Chris opened up a small retail wine store with that name. Over the years, he expanded the operation to do wine tastings, then took on some additional space and added a small kitchen. It developed a great local following.
His dream was always to open a full-service restaurant in Laguna Beach where Chris lives with his family (around a wine concept), and the Laguna Beach location opened in 2012. We are proud of the reputation we’ve developed as a destination for locals who want a casual place to enjoy great wine, fantastic food under the leadership of Chef Josh, live music and wonderful conversation.
Here’s what I tried:
Broccoli Cheddar soup, a very hearty rich soup, perfect for cold fall weather.
Special Green Goddess Salad with shrimp. The dressing on this salad brought me back to my youth, when green goddess was all the rage, I just loved it.
Funghi Pizza with house made mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, goat cheese, truffle oil, garlic, and shallot. The rich mushroom flavors with the delicate cheese make this pizza my favorite, anything mushroom has my vote.
Calabrese Pizza with organic tomato sauce, house made mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, and Calabrese salami. My bar neighbor Brian shared his pizza with me so I gave him slices of mine as well. This pizza was extremely good, just what you would want from an Italian pizza.
Special Pizza – Pink Sauce Pancetta, and asparagus. If you crave spicy, then this pizza is the one for you. They have their own pizza oven, that just makes the crust explode in your mouth with goodness.
Home made Pasta Shrimp Scampi. Any pasta homemade for me is a treat, and this did not disappoint.
Iberico Presa, with Pork. This menu item is so great. The Chef describes it as a labor of love. Its the part of the pork that is the muscle in the shoulder, it just so flavorful and tender. It is really not on the menu, you have to have special pull to get it and I was happy I did. Simply delicious.
Short Rib Tacos with guacamole, pickled red onions, cotija. Slow braised meats and sauces make this a comfort food taco, the meat is fall off the bone tender and the spices are just right.
Chilean Sea Bass, I saved the best for last. It’s a big thick meaty piece of fish, that is so buttery and tasty, you just want to never stop eating this. There are beautiful grilled vegetables that add to everything spectacular about this dish.
Wines & Beer:
Ellies Brown Beer, rich and dark with hints of mineral and tobacco, it is a very great beer.
2019 – Spellbound, California, Chardonnay.
2020 – Raeburn, Russian River, Chardonnay.
2020 – Rombauer, Carneros, Chardonnay.
2020 – Duckhorn, Napa, Chardonnay.
2020 – Chappellet, Mtn. Cuvee, Napa Valley.
2019 – Prisoner Wine Co., Napa, Red Blend.
2019 – Joseph Wagner ‘Quilt’, Napa, Cabernet.
2020 – Turley, Old Vines Zinfandel, Juvenile.
Every wine was paired correctly with all of the various dishes. My two favorites were the Raeburn Chardonnay, it was buttery, but not overwhelming and paired so good with the Sea bass, and the shrimp dishes. Prisoner Napa Blend was terrific with the Short Rib Tacos and the Iberico Presa. If there was something I did not understand about the wine and food pairing then Victoria would guide me, but for the most part I picked these wines myself to go with my meal. Their wine list is so huge; there is something for everyone and every pairing. The wines are all around you. You can either ask them for advice or look around to see what others are drinking. It’s just a slice of heaven no matter how you order.
There was a private party that took over ¼ of the room. They were loud, but you could tell that they were enjoying themselves. It seems like the more wine that is drank the louder the patrons get, perfect right!
My review would not be complete without mentioning Rafael Ortiz. He was so nice, and was just so helpful, he is a great staff member. Rafael says he feels more like family at the Wine Gallery, owner Chris makes everyone feel that way. Rafael should be given lots of attention, in the form of tips, if you know what I mean!!!
I adore a good wine bar and Wine Gallery has all of their bases covered. Whether it’s a destination dinner or if your already in Laguna Beach, this is a must stop for anyone that likes good wine and food.
Wine Gallery Laguna Beach
1833 S Coast Hwy #110,
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
949 725 8744
*Some Content was taken off of their website.