“Sideways” in Oxnard- wine trail to the sea

Celebrating 10th Anniversary of iconic "Sideways" movie

By George Miller

SidewaysOxnardI read Raven West’s new wine column- “A Decade of Decadence Celebrated “Sideways, touting the 10th anniversary celebration of the Iconic “Sideways” movie.  It motivated me to bring my wife to the Ventura County Wine Trail Sideways celebration in Oxnard. Oxnard??? We stopped off first to visit Rancho Ventavo Cellars, located on 741 South A St., 483-8084, where we saw some friends at the bar. Half of the people we talked to there know Raven West, including the winemeister. Two were even at her daughter’s wedding.  It turns about that just about all the wine people in VC know Raven, who has been to every place having anything to do with wine, sampling, reviewing, writing- what a busy wine bee. 
Then we went and had the four course paired wine dinner at La Dolce Vita restaurant – 740 S. B Street, (805) 486-6878, just across the walk, seconds away. It was wonderful!  
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Warm, inviting interior of La Dolce Vita, Oxnard, CA (Photo: Citizensjournal.us)

Now, I’m no gourmet and certainly no oenophile, but I know what I like. The place is beautiful, the people are nice and they just kept bringing glass after glass of delicious wine and charming little dishes. Small, but really tasty. We didn’t leave hungry or unhappy. All this for only $32 a plate (the $28 in the ad was incorrect, but they provided more than advertised). Seems like a real good deal. Or if you’re starving, you can even buy the seven course feast for $55. While it wasn’t the best I ever had, it was very good and an outstanding value for the money.
Our repast started off with a 2012 Vinemark Santa Lucia Chardonnay, poured by our gracious server. We’re not Chardonnay fans but we liked it very much- just dry enough with nice flavor. It went perfectly with the ricotta soprafino flavored with a tasty, tangy mango chutney atop endive spears.
Our server didn’t just dump stuff on the table, she waited until we looked sated then asked if we were ready for the next course, which she would lubricate by first pouring the paired wine selected for it, then sliding the food on the table just about when we were thinking about it.  It helped that the restaurant wasn’t too busy.
Next was another Vinemark- this time Paso Robles Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay must have spoiled us, because this didn’t compete with it. However the Italian pumpkin soup was fine- filled with grilled onions, mushrooms and thinly sliced pumpkin meat in a robust, flavorful broth, it was hearty and delicious.
Management must have a good sense of humor and been in a “Sideways” mood, as they served a surprisingly good 2011 Magnavino Merlot with the third course, well-matched to the Italian Pizetta Sausage in Puff Pastry with marinara and cheese- mmmmm. It was my wife’s favorite wine of the evening, being a merlot kinda gal. I was partial to the Chardonnay. The sausage and tomato sauce were cooked just right- you could feel a slight crunch of the real fresh, flavorful tomatoes on the palate and smell the spicy aroma, savor the delicious smooth, creamy cheese, but the pastry was a bit soggy (below).
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Tasty Italian Pizetta Sausage in Puff Pastry with marinara and cheese (photo: Citizensjournal.us)

They wrapped up their anniversary production with an unusual Pecan Bourbon Bread Pudding finale, notable for its subtlety. The pecans made it tasty and crunchy, the bourbon was restrained but noticeable, the pudding was drier and less sweet than normal ones- an altogether pleasing confection- not at all cloying or soggy. the complementary wine was a dry 2009 Magnavino Zifandel with a little bite.  I must say the combination was synergistic and both tasted better together.
We didn’t even tell them it was our 38th anniversary, or that we were reviewing their restaurant, until the end, so they treated us like they would any customers. 
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Michelle Kenney, the very competent owner and Executive Chef, came over to introduce herself and talk. I told her we learned about their Sideways 10th Anniversary feast via Raven West’s wine column in Citizensjournal.us. When we expressed amazement that such a wonderful place like this was not packed with patrons, she lamented that the new Collection mall has people often waiting almost an hour to get a table at places like the Lazy Dog. L.D. is pretty good, but can’t hold a candle to the charm and quality of La Dolce Vita, in beautiful historic downtown Heritage Square, which is far more authentic and charming than phony replica “villages” elsewhere. The houses in the Square were lovingly and painstakingly restored by expert craftsman to something closely resembling historical authenticity, updated to contemporary safety codes. Nothing against the shiny new uptown Collection, but downtown is unique.
The only thing we would have done differently would be having a designated driver, as I’m not accustomed to drinking anymore.  We didn’t really think they would provide so much good wine for that price, so we walked it off in the cool evening in the parklike grounds of Heritage Square.
This is the pitch we responded to:

La Dolce Vita Restaurant – 740 S. B Street, (805) 486-6878- will pull out all stops by offering special dinner menus and wine parings featuring new local cuisine for “Sideways Weekend” that included: Three-course gourmet experience paired with special release and our specialties from our own Ventura County Wine Trail Wineries and La Dolce Vita, “The Sweet Life” Catering. Three incredible courses will be paired with three awesome local wines beginning at 4 p.m., Friday, October 10, Saturday, October 11 and Sunday, October 12. RSVP required. $28 per person.

We actually received FOUR courses and FOUR wines for $32. This goes on all weekend and lotsa good stuff after that.




The Oxnard wine trail to the sea ends up 10-15 minutes away at the Waterside Cafe on South Harbor Boulevard, by the Sea Fresh Restaurant, at beautiful, cool Channel Islands Harbor.


Article that lured us there: A Decade of Decadence Celebrated “Sideways”

Oxnard, CA | Hotels, Restaurants, Things to Do, Events

Oxnard Welcome Center – VisitCalifornia.com‎




George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.


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