Sheri's Palm Springs Area Blog

Whether it be real estate updates, restaurant reviews, events, or highlights of unique homes in Palm Springs, follow Sheri as she covers all that Palm Springs and the surrounding area has to offer.

Dining Around the Desert: Chula Artisan Eatery in La Quinta


Katherine Gonzalez has taken traditional recipes she learned from her mother and opened Chula Artisan Eatery in La Quinta. Everything is organic, made from scratch and light, healthy and delicious. Some of you may remember Katherine as the bar manager from Cork & Fork or teaching tamale making at Cooking with Class.


Michael and I attended a special, evening, music event a few weeks ago that was a real treat. Chula is normally open from 8AM to 3PM Tuesday through Sunday, and therefore I don’t get there as often as I’d like. My team however, gets there for lunch quite often and always has rave reviews. 

They featured a special menu for the evening consisting of some of their most popular dishes.

We enjoyed Chula Fritters, made of roasted green chile, sweet corn, goat cheese, seasoned local greens, and a sweet red pepper aioli. We also had grilled shrimp, veggie and pulled pork tacos and a tasty chile relleno along with a nice bottle of wine.


The menu is served all day and includes breakfast items like Huevos Rancheros, Flapjacks, dessert such as Deep Dish Blueberry Bread Pudding, and lunch and dinner items from Cobb Salad, Grilled Street Corn, Fish Tacos to a Signature Salsa Flight.

We are looking forward to going back as soon as possible. Last year Katherine opened up in the evenings during the BNP tennis tournament and I’d expect she’ll do the same this year.


47150 Washington Street | Suite B

La Quinta, CA 92253


See the menu and more….

Brave New Swirls

The Coachella Valley uncorks a resurrected wine-bar scene.


Photographs by Fredrick Broden

Photographs by Fredrick Broden


A rabbi, a mortician, and a conservationist walk into a bar.

It may sound like a joke, but this diverse trio describes three regular patrons of Dead or Alive, a 2-year-old wine bar in Palm Springs.

Once-popular wine bars have been supplanted over the past 10 years by cocktail lounges and craft breweries, according to Dead or Alive founder Christine Soto — a trend fueled in New York and Los Angeles. “Wine takes a back seat to cocktails if you have a full bar,” she notes.

But as food-loving millennials discover the pleasures of oenophilia, wine consumption is experiencing a steady rise, and dedicated venues for tasting, learning, and discovering are seeing resurgence. “I love wine bars because they provide an opportunity to try different things,” Soto says.

The trend can be seen across the Coachella Valley. “Our guests are adventurous, and they’re looking for an experience,” says Parker Palm Springs general manager Brandon McCurley with regard to last year’s introduction of the hotel’s Counter Reformation wine bar. The clientele, he adds, is “almost 50-50 hotel guests and locals. Our demographic ranges from younger and new-to-the-area to residents who have been here many years looking for something fresh and sophisticated.”

Here’s a look at some of the best places in the valley to swirl, sniff, and taste.


Among the pours at Dead or Alive is Amplify Wines’ Pink Flag rosé of Counoise grapes from Santa Barbara County.

Among the pours at Dead or Alive is Amplify Wines’ Pink Flag rosé of Counoise grapes from Santa Barbara County.

From the name, one might expect an Old West–themed saloon, not an intimate room with the refinement of eclectic music and a pink glow from a neon sign reading simply “Wine & Beer.”

“The concept was to be dark and alluring,” Soto says, adding that the lack of a business-name sign (the exterior is identifiable only by a glowing red circle) “in no way means I want to be secret or exclusive. I want anyone interested in wine and beer to come drink here.”

The long, narrow venue seats 21, mostly at the bar, which features embedded colored lights and a waterfall effect for lower stools at the front end. The tall backs of four unstained wood booths lend those spots to private conversations.

Soto notes that her bar is popular for people on Tinder dates but also attracts a lot of single men (in town on business, she speculates) and groups of women in their 50s and 60s.

A level-one sommelier, Soto selects only noncommercial wines. “There is no point in opening a wine bar to serve what someone can buy at the grocery store,” she says. “There is no discovery and experience in that.” She encourages patrons to “order something you don’t know — that you can’t pronounce.” 

Soto hosts monthly wine tastings and the occasional Wine Wednesday, with half-off 
bottles. The bar lacks a kitchen, but there are snacks such as gourmet potato chips, olives, 
nuts, and vegan cheese.


Counter Reformation at the Parker takes a democratic approach: All wines on offer, such as Château de la Liquière Faugères from Languedoc-Roussillon, cost $7 per 3-ounce pour.

Counter Reformation at the Parker takes a democratic approach: All wines on offer, such as Château de la Liquière Faugères from Languedoc-Roussillon, cost $7 per 3-ounce pour.

Down a tree-cloaked path beyond the lobby of Parker Palm Springs lies a wine bar in a former storage space. With its “hidden” entry, low ceiling, lack of windows, ’70s playlist, and Reformation-era pictures on the wall, the place feels a bit naughty. But that’s OK, because Counter Reformation also features an authentic confessional from Italy.

Adding to the time-shifting juxtaposition are the resort’s signature Jonathan Adler touches, such as midnight-blue subway tiles over custom orange-and-white patterned tiles and matching Annick de Lorme barstools.

“The hotel owner, executive chef Herve Glin, and I love the caves à manger of Paris,” McCurley says of the bar’s inspiration. “In the initial design, the counter was the core, with people standing and interacting. But Paris and Palm Springs are two different things; sitting is more approachable here.”

However, interaction remains key, so all 20 seats are along the zinc bar; Glin himself regularly engages with guests.

“With one counter, it’s so easy,” Glin says, emphasizing that he is “having fun” creating small dishes to complement the diverse wines, such as braised baby artichoke hearts, oysters, and caviar with crème fraîche and quail egg.

Small-batch wines that, McCurley says, 
are “not available anywhere else in the 
Coachella Valley” rotate onto the menu. 
To encourage discovery by removing the decision-making process based on price, all wines cost the same: $7 for 3 ounces, $12 for 
6 ounces, or $42 per bottle.

“People come before and after dinner and find it so relaxing that they end up trying two or four wines,” he notes.


From 2002 to 2014, The River at Rancho Mirage offered the desert’s only winery tasting room, Tulip Hill. In late November, a new one opened in the same space.

Owner Salvatore Evangelista, a wine importer for many years, previously operated the Gaia Italian bistro a few doors down. Concurrent with embarking on winemaking in Paso Robles, he opened the Rancho Mirage lounge to feature his own label (made with purchased grapes), as well as imported wine, and beer from Thousand Palms–based Coachella Valley Brewery Co.

Differentiating itself from Tulip Hill, which served only its own wines and included a retail component, Coachella Winery uses the space to accommodate seating for 60 at tables, pairings of loveseats and easy chairs, and a bar. Living room–style furnishings, low-hanging light fixtures, and lounge music inject warmth into the high-ceilinged expanse.

“We get customers ranging in age from 20s to 80s,” says Luca Ricca, Evangelista’s nephew and bar manager.

Wines under the house label can be purchased by the carafe, glass, or in a flight of four. A separate menu lists wines from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy, sold only by the bottle. There’s an extensive Italian-leaning food menu too.

Coachella Winery discounts select wines 
and snacks during happy hour Monday to Thursday and brings in a DJ to spin tunes on 
Friday evenings.


Old Town La Quinta’s Wine Emporium veers from the cozy atmosphere of other venues, 
with capacity for 60 people indoors and 
70 more on the patio.

Owner Marcie Johnson uses the space adjoining her Old Town Coffee Co. to keep the buzz going well into the evening, when live music or DJs are on the bill.

“During the day, we get locals that want to hang out, like groups from country clubs. It’s really night and day between night and day,” manager Dustin Miller says.

A seven-piece country band draws “a huge crowd” on Tuesdays during the season, he adds. “Once the music gets going, people dance, and everybody parties.”

The bar attracts sports fans (two flat-screen TVs show football games) and beer aficionados. “We sell a ton of craft beer,” Miller notes, “but the emphasis is on wine.”

To that end, Wine Emporium offers 2-ounce tastes, as well as wines by the glass. Bottles can be purchased for consumption on-site or taken home. The venue occasionally hosts tastings with winemakers and operates a wine club, for which it hosts monthly pick-up events. The food menu includes cheese and charcuterie plates, sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads.

“Wine bars have evolved,” Miller notes. “We have live music, and that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds.”


As owner of a Santa Barbara County boutique winery, Mark Cargasacchi traveled hundreds of miles to market Jalama Wines in person. 

“Palm Springs was one 
of my best areas for sales, and I realized this was a wine-drinking community,” he 
says, noting that shops in 
the area bought 10 to 15 cases at a time, compared to 
those in Los Angeles buying two to three.

Because his winery license allows only one off-site tasting room, Cargasacchi shuttered the one he had in Lompoc 
and in December opened 
a Jalama Wines tasting 
room in downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza. 

“When I announced on Facebook that I was closing it, I was scared a lot of people would discontinue the wine club. But most of our club members are from Los Angeles, and the feedback I got was how awesome it was that I was moving to Palm Springs. They said, ‘You will get me to Palm Springs before you will get me to Lompoc,’ ” says Cargasacchi, whose operation has vineyards in the Santa Barbara County and Santa Rita Hills AVAs. In one month here, he gained 10 
club members.

The tasting room’s ambiance reflects the Cargasacchi family farm, he says, with redwood-lined walls and black-and-white photographs of the ranch 
and vineyards under dramatic skies. “I am trying to bring 
the ranch down here.”

Wine and Dine

Now in its sophomore year, Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is soon to be a desert classic.


The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is back Jan. 30—Feb. 2 at Rancho Mirage Community Park.   PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY RANCHO MIRAGE WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL

The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is back Jan. 30—Feb. 2 at Rancho Mirage Community Park.


Rombauer Vineyards has teamed up with Roy’s Restaurant for a five-course dinner and wine pairing Jan. 30 to help kick off the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival.

“We do an extraordinary amount of business in Palm Springs,” says Alison Sturgeon, national sales manager at Rombauer Vineyards. “It’s a very wine loving territory, so we try to do a lot of events and participation. Chef Joey Domingo [of Roy’s Restaurant] tasted through the entire portfolio of wine styles and made notes back in October and is planning his menu around his choices.”

Rombauer will bring in Alan Cannon, a certified wine educator, who has been with the vintner for 20 years — the last five as director of distributor relations and education, traveling the United States and telling the Rombauer story.


“Sometimes festivals aren’t just about the wine, they’re more about the food or food with a little bit of wine or they’re so expensive or there are so many brands, you can get lost,” Sturgeon says. “The boutique nature of Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival was quite captivating to us. And that’s why we’re coming to participate.”

That is exactly what David Fraschetti, the founder of the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival, had in mind when he created the event. “We attended 18 different winery festivals over a two-and-a-half-year period doing market research,” he shares. “We always asked the wineries the same questions: What did you like about particular festivals, and what would you change? We took notes. The overwhelming response was get rid of the beer, get rid of the spirits, and make it about the wine again. If you’re at a wine-tasting event, you need to have a fresh palate.”

Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is not Fraschetti’s first go at a wine festival. He also founded VinDiego Wine and Food Festival, which has been pulling in crowds of oenophiles since 2011. Besides the Rombauer/Roy’s mashup, there is the Riboli Family Winery Five-Course Dinner at Pinzimini, a restaurant in Rancho Mirage, with a menu by James Beard Award–winning executive chef Joel Delmond. Also, there will be three wine seminars — one with Rombauer, another being a blind test with Sonoma wines , and a third with co-owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Cynthia Lohr, the daughter of legendary winemaker Jerry Lohr.


The big events are Feb. 1–2, beginning with the Special Sunset Rare and Reserve Tasting (Feb. 1). Limited to 300 seats, the event provides attendees an opportunity to try rare and reserve bottles, some that are impossible to buy and are no longer in distribution.

At press time, the Grand Tasting (Feb. 2 from 2 to 5 p.m.) lineup features 47 participating wineries and 18 local eateries. If you want to be one of the first to swirl, sip, and taste, opt for the Grand Tasting Early Entry package; it will get you in the door one hour earlier than regular ticketholders.

Sample of variety of food choices from Greater Palm Springs restaurants.

Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival, Jan. 30–Feb. 2, Rancho Mirage Community Park, 71560 San Jacinto Drive, Rancho Mirage;

Mello-Roos Explained


Courtesy of Lawyer’s Title

When purchasing your new home, your future monthly payments will be made up of principal, interest, real property taxes, and insurance, but what is the tax for the Community Facilities District, otherwise known as a Mello-Roos District?

What is a Mello-Roos District?

Mello-Roos District is an area where a special tax is imposed on those real property owners within a Community Facilities District. The district has chosen to seek public financing through the sale of bonds for the purpose of financing certain public improvements and services, which may include streets, water, sewage and drainage, electricity, infrastructure, schools, parks and police protection for newly developing areas. The tax you pay is used by the district to make the payments of principal and interest on the bonds.

Are the assessments included within the Proposition 13 tax limits?

No. The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 severely restricted local government in its ability to finance public capital facilities and services by increasing real property taxes. The “Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982” provided local government with an additional financing tool. The Proposition 13 tax limits are on the value of the real property, while Mello-Roos taxes are equally and uniformly applied to all properties within the district.

What are my Mello-Roos taxes paying for?

Your taxes may be paying for both services and facilities. The services may be financed only to the extent of new growth, and services include: police protection; fire protection; ambulance and paramedic services; recreation program services; library services; the maintenance and lighting of parks; parkways, streets, roads, and open space; museums and cultural facilities; flood and storm protection; and services for the removal of any hazardous substances. Facilities which may be financed under the Act include: property with an estimated useful life of five years or longer; parks, recreation, parkway, and open-space facilities; elementary and secondary school sites and structures; libraries; child care facilities; construction and undergrounding of water transmission and distribution facilities; natural gas pipeline facilities; telephone lines; facilities to transmit and distribute electrical energy; cable television lines; and others.

When do I pay these taxes?

By purchasing real property in a subdivision within a Community Facilities District you can expect to be assessed a Mello-Roos tax which will typically be collected with your general property tax bill. These special tax payments are subject to the same penalties that apply to regular property taxes.

How long does the tax stay in effect?

The tax will stay in effect until the principal and interest on the bonds, along with any reasonable administrative costs incurred in collecting the special tax, are prepaid, permanently satisfied, and canceled in accordance with law or until the special tax ceases to be levied and a notice of cessation of special tax is recorded in accordance with law.

What is the basis for the tax?

Most special taxes levied on properties within these districts have been structured on the basis of density of development, square footage of construction, or flat acreage charges. The Act, however, allows for considerable flexibility in the method of apportionment of taxes, and the local agencies may have established an entirely different method of levying the special tax against property in the district in question.

How much will the Mello-Roos payment be?

The amount of tax may vary from year-to-year, but may not exceed the maximum amount specified when the district was created. In the case of the purchase of a new house within a subdivision, the maximum amount of the tax will be specified in the public report. The “Resolution of Formation” establishing the district must specify the rate, method of apportionment, and manner of collection of the special tax in sufficient detail to allow each landowner or resident within the proposed district to estimate the maximum amount that he or she will have to pay.

How is the special tax reflected on the real property records?

The special tax is a lien on your property, essentially like a regular tax lien. The lien is recorded as a “Notice of Special Tax Lien” which is a continuing lien to secure each levy of the special tax.

How are Mello-Roos taxes affected when the property is sold?

The Mello-Roos tax is assessed against the land, but is not based upon the value of the property, therefore, the possible increased value of the property does not affect the amount of the tax when property is sold. The amount of the tax may not exceed the original maximum amount provided in the Resolution of Formation. Any delinquent payments must be satisfied before the sale of the real property since the unpaid amounts are a lien against the property.