A few weeks ago, I joined a wine club that curates monthly selections based on a survey of your palate profile—I prefer milk chocolate over dark, for example, and take my tea brewed strong as opposed to iced and sweet. Unfortunately, my first four bottles arrived on a busy evening when I couldn’t indulge in the Kon Tiki cabernet sauvignon from Chile’s Central Valley that I was dying to try, and I fell asleep dreaming about the crashing waves on the label.
Now, I’ll be totally honest: On my way to the coffee maker the next morning, I passed by the bottle on my kitchen counter and paused—paused!—in my pajamas at 7 a.m. “Maybe just a sip…?” Rest assured, my corkscrew was not put to use (thank you, eight-hour workday!), but the moment prompted a question that’s been debated for decades: Is it wrong to drink wine before noon?
Luckily I found my answer easily in Laguna, where wine lists are curated with the same artful intentionality that can be found on the exhibitors’ tables at Sawdust Art Festival’s Winter Fantasy this weekend. When inquiring about morning availability at Forest Avenue hot spot Lumberyard, I was met with incredulous disbelief: “Of course. We serve wine all day.” In this town, the real faux pas is if you’ve never raised a bright-and-early glass of vino at one of the myriad establishments that offer them long before lunch.
For all your AM indulgences, here are the top spots where you won’t be judged for uncorking a bottle instead of ordering espresso—far from it, you might just discover a new routine “resolution” for 2016.
Chef Azmin Ghahreman’s weekend brunch menu is reason enough to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, not to mention the chance to sidle up to the signature Sans Permis cocktail with cava, Cointreau and orange-lavender-infused honey. Choose between entrees like braised pork chili verde and A Study of Eggs Benedict (starring a toasted English muffin, Canadian bacon and unrivaled hollandaise); you could also order a few glasses of Miraval Côtes de Provence rose for the table—the 90-point rated style produced by renowned winemaker Marc Perrin at the French estate owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is a highlight on the wine list spanning the globe. (949-715-9888; sapphirellc.com)
When to go: Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Cliff Restaurant
This hidden hot spot might be one of the more casual eateries in Laguna, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a bottle of Dom Pérignon at 9 a.m. Uncork the Champagne with an entree off the breakfast menu, which features three iterations of eggs Benedict as well as house specialties like Eggs Sardou (hollandaise-drenched poached eggs atop two artichoke crowns filled with spinach) and huevos rancheros. Plus the full wine list is available, so experienced early risers can have their choice between by-the-glass options like Saint M riesling, La Crema chardonnay and Mount Veeder cabernet sauvignon. (949-494-1956; thecliffrestaurant.com)
When to go: Sunday through Saturday, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Sunday brunch includes short rib enchiladas, seafood omelets and Italian frittatas, and the wine list is just as memorable. Red blends include Slo Down Wines Sexual Chocolate (made of syrah, zinfandel and petite sirah), while The Prisoner Wine Company’s “mixed black” style, The Prisoner, tempts tastebuds with roasted fig and espresso aromas emanating from a five-varietal combination. Of course, you could always stick to a classic like Mumm Napa Brut Prestige; just promise us you’ll at least consider the cinnamon-vanilla French toast or ricotta pancakes. (949-715-3900; lblumberyard.com)
When to go: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Bottomless mimosas paired with Mexican breakfast options like torta de huevo (two fried eggs, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, arugula and chipotle aioli sandwiched in a brioche bun) and huevos rancheros make this downtown establishment worthy of a morning stop on the weekend. When you’re ready to move past the traditional brunch cocktail, the full wine list is available in addition to Passion Chipotle Sangria: The combination of Viña Zaco tempranillo, Seagram’s vodka, Bols triple sec, passion puree and chipotle powder is a wake up call worthy of a second glass. (949-393-4888; tortillarepublic.com)
When to go: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Splashes Restaurant and Bar
Surf & Sand Resort’s oceanfront eatery opens at 7 a.m. seven days a week for all your boozy breakfast needs—try the peach salt-rimmed Bellini Sol cocktail with prosecco and fresh peach puree to quench early morning thirst. The weekend brunch menu adds two more wine-based options to the offerings: Rosé & Shine, made of barrel-aged Combier Crème de Pamplemousse rose, Hendrick’s gin, muddled mint and grapefruit, and Sunrise Sangria, with Absolut vodka, mango rum, peach schnapps, orange juice and sauvignon blanc. As for entrees, satisfy your sweet tooth with red velvet pancakes, or stay healthy with a seasonal egg white frittata. Or don’t, since you’re already drinking just after dawn. (949-376-2779; surfandsandresort.com)
When to go: Monday through Sunday, 7-11 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Driftwood Kitchen’s wine flights featuring trios of Sonoma Valley sauvignon blancs or Jackson Family Wines reds should be top-of-mind for oenophiles looking for a fix first thing in the morning—because, why not? For the ultimate weekend brunch indulgence, pair a stack of blueberry pancakes or granola-crusted French toast with a century tasting of 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-year pours of Graham’s Tawny port. The vintages highlight a wine list divided into two sections: “True North,” for varietals true to their region, and “Overboard,” for adventurous drinkers looking to be thrilled right after rolling out of bed. (949-715-7700; driftwoodkitchen.com)
When to go: Monday through Friday, 9-11 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No Laguna Beach breakfast list is complete without the city’s brunch bastion. The restaurant’s four-course Sunday meal, highlighted by Crepes de Laguna (handmade confections filled with spicy Canadian scallops, wild Mexican shrimp and fresh fish with a creamy citrus velouté), includes complimentary Champagne but is worth attending simply for the sangria. A cinnamon-apple style features merlot, Cointreau, Southern Comfort, hand-made sweet and sour, muddled green apple, cinnamon-sugar and a splash of sprite, while Super-Fruit is made of pinot grigio, Veev Acai Spirit, Cointreau, white cranberry juice and muddled peach. (949-497-5434; lasbrisaslagunabeach.com)
When to go: Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
—Written by Kristin Lee Jensen