Have you ever had a meal that was so good, you dreamt about it all again when you went to bed that night? I never had until last Thursday. Maybe it was my mind’s way of telling me: “That was so delicious, so soul-satisfying – I want you to continue to enjoy it in your dreams, Anne. Let’s keep that dinner going in your subconscious.” I’m not lying. This actually happened. It truly was THAT good.


Last Thursday, July 9th , I had the privilege of attending the Terroir.0 Winemaker Dinner with Escondido’s J.Brix Wines at the intimate 17-seat culinary theater, Playground 2.0 in Downtown Santa Ana. Unlike many meals where the chef prepares the menu and the sommelier must then pair the wine to accompany each course, this interestingly was designed the other way around.

Chefs Jason Quinn, Mark Gutierrez, and Jason Pham were sent the wine list by 2.0’s Host and Sommelier, Rhett Bulter, beforehand and they were challenged to create dishes that would highlight the unique characteristics of each of the wines that evening. The result was a mind-bogglingly delicious six-course meal with perfectly-paired California-grown varietals including J.Brix Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Carignane, and two types of Riesling (view the full menu at bottom of post).


Based in the North San Diego County city of Escondido, J.Brix Wines is owned and operated by husband-wife team Jody Brix Towe and his wife Emily Towe, both of whom attended the dinner to talk about their wines and their experiences as winemakers.


They are a lovely, humble, personable couple with a passion for what they do that comes through in the special wines they create. My personal favorite that night was their 2013 Audire Pinot Noir from the Kick on Ranch Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. Jody and Emily explained this wine is: “named after the Latin command to ‘listen,’ it has something to say.” And it truly does. (To me it said, “Please savor me. And then pour another glass!”)


“From the site to the soil to the growing season, our wines, if we’re doing our work correctly, will speak in their own voices. We adore the variety California has to offer, which means we find ourselves compelled to make tiny quantities of as many different wines as we can.

“We try to add a new grape or style each harvest. So far, our fruit comes from four vastly different vineyards. We use neutral vessels, native-yeast fermentation, and absolutely nothing else, with the exception of sulfur dioxide as necessary. In keeping with this minimalist approach, we choose not to fine, filter or cold-stabilize our wines. Our motto, in winemaking and life: Only Love.” You can read more about Jody & Emily (and purchase their wines) by visiting www.jbrix.com.


Below is a recap-through-photographs from our incredible evening. I’m finding myself looking through them again and again, just to relive the amazing flavors in my mind. That was a night I will always remember, awake or asleep. Be sure to stay tuned to the Playground 2.0 Calendar for more upcoming dinners – including a handful of Winemaker Dinners that are already on the schedule. You won’t want to miss them!

{Follow Anne Watson Photography on Facebook and on Twitter/Instagram @annewatsonphoto.}

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Wine: 2014 Nomine Amoris Pinot Gris Rose

Dish: Bay scallop, compressed watermelon with lime and heat, diced jicama compressed with shiso, puffed amaranth, edamame puree


Wine: 2013 The Augur Riesling

Dish: Octopus, fresh peaches, peach and balsamic agridulce, arugula, almonds


Wine: 2013 Audire Pinot Noir

Dish: Grilled Sockeye, lime & dill, Corn with red onion, baby heirloom tomatoes, shishito-avocado puree


Wine: 2013 Rougarou Carignane

Dish: Grilled cauliflower steaks with cocoa and cherry, hazelnut brown butter, cauliflower puree


Wine: 2013 Grenache

Dish: Fresh housemade pasta with Carrot ragout


Wine: 2014 Pet-Nat Riesling

Dish: Mangosteen Sorbet, Japanese Cheesecake, Blueberries, Chantilly, lemon, graham cracker crunch