What do you do when you want to ratchet up the authenticity of your wine bar, which just happens to have the name “Sangria?” You bring in the experts.
Owners Robert and Colleen Mann of Sangria Wine and Tapas Bar in Carmel Valley Village, recently hired the talented and engaging Pablo Antinao, as the new general manager. He is a long time Monterey resident, who originally hails from Los Angeles, Chile, a city of around 3,000. Antinao, a social worker by trade, who decided to pursue his real passion in the wine industry, joins Sangria from the recently shuttered Bakai, a wine bar concept he helped establish in Monterey in 2016.
Antinao, whose background includes working at Hotel Del Lago, a five-star hotel and restaurant in Chile, credits his father, who was a concessionaire of the Union Club in his hometown, for fostering his innate interest in hospitality. He traveled extensively, managing bars and teaching private bartending classes, eventually making his way to California in 2004. Here, he earned a certification in business management at Fresno City College, then practiced physical therapy, mostly in nursing homes, after which he put his social services degree to work for at risk youth. You could say he’s extremely well-rounded.
But wine kept calling to him. After taking a distance-learning class from U.C. Davis in Viticulture and Winemaking, he moved to Napa Valley to study at the Culinary Institute of America. There, he became certified as a wine professional. He then moved to Spain where he obtained a sommelier certificate from the Spanish Academy of Sommeliers in Barcelona, in 2008.
In 2017, after more than five years of writing, Antinao published his first book, called “Taste: The Secrets of Wine and Food Appreciation.” Available on Amazon, it is, according to Antinao, a comprehensive wine guide for the modern wine drinker. He says the book is aimed at enhancing the understanding of the fundamentals of wine production, wine making, wine tasting, and wine and food pairing.
We wondered how he landed this new gig. He tells us that while leading a wine tour in Carmel Valley Village, Antinao stumbled upon Sangria while wine tasting next door and met the Mann’s. Thus, he’s writing the next chapter in his adventure-seeking life.
Sangria’s founders, Robert and Camilla Mann, have always made a habit of keeping busy. Earlier this year, they debuted their unique wine and tapas bar, in the heart of Carmel Valley Village. When asked, why Carmel Valley? Robert told us, “The Carmel Valley and especially the Village, offers a culture that runs the gamut from mountain residents to cutting edge high-tech folks. Throw in the worldwide tourists, and you have a very interesting destination escape.” They’ve gone decidedly international in their approach by hiring Antinao. They’ve also changed their business model considerably, by dropping the breakfast and lunch concept during the week, and moving strictly to afternoon and evening hours, except for weekends, when they open at 11am.
Now that he’s at Sangria, Antinao gets to put all his international knowledge and experience to work, telling us, “We are doing interesting changes, from a food and wine perspective. I have a great chef, so I can be very playful with Sangria’s food menu! Our concept is focused on Spanish cuisine, but also we incorporate some Latin American elements like empanadas, chistopan (chistorra sausage with chimichurri sauce on baguette) among other delicious dishes!”
Sangria’s wine program features a national and international wine selection, with a focus on Monterey County wines, along with selections from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Chile and Argentina. “My focus is to offer great quality wines with great value, but also I’m especially inclined to work with smaller wineries or producers with a great history behind them, and great integrity from the viticulture prospective and wine-making practices. Soon you’ll see some natural wine producers as part of our program,” Antinao explains.
Asked about the auto-dispensing Napa Wine Stations, Antinao says they are a big hit. “People love it! They can try tastes of different wines and also access some iconic and expensive wines without the need to buy a whole bottle.”
Adding paella to the Sangria lineup was a natural for Antinao. He muses that when the Manns decided on that name, they might not have realized that there is nothing more Spanish than Sangria. Says Antinao, “Great paella is a must, so I had to search for a good chef who can delivered that, and after trying a couple of people, finally I found what I was looking for in chef Daniel Pulido. He hails from Bogota, Colombia, where he began his culinary background in diverse cuisine. He graduated as a cook and pastry chef from Mariano Moreno Culinary School and then moved to Spain to work in many different restaurants including Cuatro Restaurant in Cadaqués, a place dear to Salvador Dali. Pulido recently came from the Spanish restaurant, Coqueta, in Yountville, to join our team and provide Sangria with a unique dining experience. And, he will be doing a lot more than paella!”
Antinao explains that paella is a staple food of Spain, meant to be eaten with friends and family. “It’s a festive ritual and we want to offer a similar experience here in Carmel Valley Village. Because we are a new business, paella is going to be offered only on weekends, and for special private parties, with reservations made a minimum of 48 hours in advance.” He promises lots of delicious surprises in the food department, and hopes to offer flamenco dancing at least once a month, and music on a regular basis as well.
Come by Sangria Wine & Tapas Bar for an authentically Spanish experience, and enjoy some sangria, or a glass of wine: Antinao will happily guide your tastebuds to nirvana. New summer hours: Tuesday—Thursday, 3pm—9:30pm; Friday, 3pm—10pm, Saturday, 11am—10pm, and Sunday, 11am—8pm. The patio is available for private BBQs or paella parties, from 10 to 35 people.
Visit sangriawinetapasbar.com or call 831-298-7281or 831-233-2286.
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.