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Sipping Pretty

Shop owner shares passion with blossoming wine community.


Lisa Hicks was booking bands for the Ventura Theatre at the start of the year when she noticed the writing on the wall--the future of the theater was in doubt and she had to start looking for another source of income.

Ideally, she thought, she would like to combine work with pleasure.

Which is what Hicks did last Valentine's Day when she opened the Wine Lovers wine bar and shop at 1067 E. Thompson Blvd. Hicks and business partner Jerry Kenton had owned the building for a couple of years, so it was a convenient transition.

Hicks said the first seven months of operation have been pleasantly surprising.

"Ventura is quite the wine community," Hicks said. "It's that way because we have so many great Central Coast wineries right here that are introducing wine to Ventura County residents."

Hicks does a pretty good job making the introductions herself. She stocks her shop with 250 wines and offers wine-tastings daily. Every two weeks she sells a different 25 wines by the glass so customers will get a varied sampling. And she regularly hosts wine dinners and tasting events.

"Wine has been a passion and hobby of mine for five years," Hicks said. "I started seriously getting into it two years ago--going to seminars, big tastings, going up to the wine country, taking courses up in Paso Robles."

Hicks said her interest always was more than simply the taste of the final product. "It was all the different varietals, where they come from, how wine is made, how it is so romantic," she said. "I love how it starts from the ground and grows up--the process of crushing and harvesting and the food that surrounds it."

Hicks shares her interest largely through the special wine events.

"There are people who come to every single one we have," she said. "They want to learn."

Hicks has two upcoming wine events. At 4 p.m. Sunday, Wine Lovers will offer a French cheese and wine tasting. Cost is $25.

At 6 p.m. Oct. 2, Hicks will team with Pierpont Inn chef Louis Ludwig to present a multi-course wine-tasting dinner at the inn, which will feature wines from Napa Valley's Hess Collection. Cost is $75.

The Hess dinner will open with a fruit, cheese and Chardonnay reception, followed by the first course of the meal--a warm salad with cannellini beans, pine nuts and roasted pepper, with smoked polenta, duck prosciutto and a filo dough filled with wild mushroom ragout.

Next will be Pacific salmon and Alaskan scallops with rosemary, lemon grass and rose-petal butter, followed by the main course, a duet of oven-roasted quail stuffed with duck sausage, accompanied by a lamb chop, and served with mashed Yukon potatoes, spinach and brie.

For dessert, Ludwig will prepare a hazelnut brownie and apple chestnut frangipani with a rum raisin brulee.

Each course will be accompanied by a different wine. The Pierpont Inn is at 550 Sanjon Road. For information, call 652-1810.


Barbara Kafka, author of several cookbooks including "Roasting, A Simple Art," will lead a class on roasting at Let's Get Cookin' culinary school in Westlake Village this Saturday. The Julia Child Cookbook Award winner also will share recipes for party-food appetizers and leftovers.

Kafka's extensive menu for the class will include roast turkey, Southwestern turkey salad, beef empanadas with tomatillo salsa, spicy papaya salsa, fresh fennel and tortilla chips, roasted new potatoes with dill, roasted cherry tomatoes with basil, and sugar-glazed pineapple.

The class will begin at 10:30 a.m. Cost is $65. Let's Get Cookin' is at 4643 Lakeview Canyon Road. To register, call (818) 991-3940.

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