Wine in O.C.: Irvine’s Tanaro River Imports

Once, waiting around at the deli counter for my prosciutto to be sliced, I fell into conversation with a guy, also waiting for prosciutto, who turned out to be a UC Irvine professor of criminal justice and Anaheim Ducks fan named George Tita. He’s also the principal of Irvine-based Tanaro River Imports, specializing in French and northern Italian wines. We exchanged Twitter handles, and my bonus takeaway from our chat was the dish he said he was making—which I’ve happily made since from his description—fresh figs, stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto, grilled. Maybe a little olive oil drizzle. Molto bene.

Then, last week, while at Honda Center for a preview of what fans can expect at the arena’s various food-service sites, I saw a dispatch from Tanaro scroll by on my Twitter feed. Wait, wasn’t that photo of one of the wine tables right over there? Yes, as it turned out—there was George and his wife Lisa pouring tastes from their current inventory, selections from which are available at Honda Center restaurants. I tasted Mocenni 89, a limited-production (each label is numbered by hand), 100 percent sangiovese from Tuscany, and a light, delicious Moscato D’Asti, that, at just 5 percent alcohol, is exactly the kind of wine a person could drink all day.

Tanaro wines are available at Wine Exchange in Orange and Wine Club in Santa Ana, and also appear on O.C. restaurant wine lists—notably Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach, which features one of Tanaro’s more unusual imports, an Italian sparkling red dessert wine called Mademoiselle. Tita said he was leaving soon on another buying trip—undoubtedly he’ll return with even more treasures. I wonder where I’ll run into him next?

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