Rating: ★★★★☆

Address: Shop 10, 1/F, Causeway Centre (Brim 28), 28 Harbour Road, Wan Chai 灣仔港灣道28號灣景中心(Brim 28)1樓10號舖

Telephone: 2511 4028


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Opened in September 2012, California Vintage in Brim 28, Wanchai is the second outlet of a hip restaurant and bar following the success of its first branch on Wyndham Street. The spacious interior of the restaurant has a laid-back, wine country-inspired set-up, with a row of eye-catching Enomatic wine dispensers placed in the middle of the dining room and empty glass bottles adorning its walls.

California Vintage is known for their unique collection of Californian wines, and has partnerships with 22 family-owned wineries from which they source a variety of wines. This helps to keep costs down and to give customers better value for money as the restaurant doesn’t have to pay distributors for their wines. You can insert a smart card into the automatic wine dispenser to buy wine in one of the three different sizes: taster, half-glass or full-glass. My friends and I love coming here, as the interactive system is great for friends’ gathering. On the other hand, if you come with someone you are not familiar with, the wine dispenser is a great excuse to get away from the table if you run of things to talk about. Last week, I was invited to try out a Chef’s Dinner at the restaurant, and the menu featured 7 dishes each paired with a different wine.

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(1) We started off with the California Taco with Baja Fish, paired with a glass of 2008 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs from North Coast, which was a medium-bodied, brut sparkling wine. The batter-fried fish, served on soft corn tortillas, was simple and satisfying, and the sour cream, shredded cabbage and chopped tomatoes added a variety flavours to it. My only complaint was that it wasn’t salty enough. The acidity of the wine helped cut through the fattiness of this dish.

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(2) The Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Dip was well received at the table. The dip was made with very rich and stringy cheese (which ended up getting all over the table, but we didn’t mind!), and it was irresistible. It was paired with a glass of 2011 Cass “Flying Nymph” White from Paso Robles, with a composition of 56% Viognier, 32% Marsanne and 12% Roussanne. It was a fruity wine, with flavours of white peach, ripe banana and Granny Smith apple, a kick of dried pineapple and finishing notes of honeydew melon and Tahitian lime.

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(3) The Quesadilla with Braised Pork and House made Guacamole was fabulous to snack on while we drank. The braised pork was tender and juicy, and the quesadilla, dipped in guacamole and sour cream, was very tasty. This was paired with a glass of 2011 Acorn Rosato, from Russian River Valley. It was a vineyard blend of 54% Sangiovese, 25% Dolcetto, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Viognier. It was a crisp, dry and full flavoured wine, with notes of bright cherry and hints of raspberry, plum, and white peach.

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(4) This moreishly cheesy Marin Camembert and Mushroom Bruschetta was paired with 2010 Cass Grenache from Paso Robles, an acidic white wine with notes of ripe cherries, dried strawberries, savory charcuterie, cherry, strawberry jam and pomegranate, finishing with notes of cedar. The melting texture of the camembert was alluring, and when combined with mushrooms and walnut, formed a delightful snack.

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(5) The Beef Tri-Tip Slider with Chipotle Aioli looked and tasted gorgeous. The tri-tip sliders were fatty and succulent, and the little bun was indulgent. It was served with some Gilroy Garlic Fries, which was best, I thought, if dipped in lots of mayonnaise! A glass of 2010 Venge “Silencieux” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, a full-bodied wine with notes of blackberry, cassis, liquorice and coffee, was paired with these two treats.

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(6) A plate of Grilled Swordfish with Pico de Gallo followed. The swordfish was well grilled and juicy, and it was of a good thickness. We were also served some San Fran Clam Linguini, but while I liked the plump, fresh-tasting clams, I wished the seasoning of the pasta was a bit heavier. This was paired with a glass of 2010 Stillman St. Chardonnay from Alexander Valley, with medium acidity and tastes of Anjou pear, green apple, ripe grapefruit and peach blossom.

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(7) The portions were manageable, but due to all the wine we drank, I was already bursting at the seams by the time we had our dessert, the Chocolate Pot de Crème. It was wonderfully rich and creamy, and I managed to polish it off (thanks to the presence of my dessert stomach)! It was paired with a sweet wine, NV Kachina Vintage Port from Dry Creek, an intense sweet wine with notes of cassis, currant, and plum.

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Conclusion: California Vintage is a chilled-out place for catching up with friends, and a selection of Californian snacks is available to keep you full while you drink. If you wish to learn more about wines, the restaurant regularly hosts wine tastings, food-and-wine pairing events or wine-pairing dinner menus.