If you think wine can only be made out in the middle of nowhere where there is a lot of rolling hills, then think again. I recently visited a winery slap in the middle of San Diego’s little Italy where small batches of really excellent wines are being made and introduced to the locals.
The grapes are purchased from various growers and the wines are produced out back right off the patio area. Step outside and you will see the bins where the grapes are going through their fermentation process.
There is a tasting room where you can enjoy the array of wines created by owner and vintner Todd Hipper and a lot of them are on tap! Yes, on tap! This is the coolest part: a lot of the wines are available for sale in a CRUzer, a 1000ml glass bottle, an ecofriendly refillable, swing-top bottle. The CRUzer is to wine what a growler is to beer and you can buy any of the wines on tap in this CRUzer and then bring it back to be refilled again.
On the evening of my visit, I met Rich Stern, CEO and Business Manager of San Diego Cellars, who chatted with me about my likes and dislikes and then helped me with a tasting of wines which would pair well with the nibbles we were having. He even was kind enough to pose for me when I requested a photo of him dispensing wine from their wine taps!
I started with a pour of the 2012 San Diego Cellars, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Rose ($5 glass/$20 CRUzer). This refreshingly light wine with a nice hint of fruitiness. It went really well with the first plates which arrived.
The winery’s in-house chef Samantha Roach is a graduate of the Art Institute and was right on site making sure everything was spot-on. She stopped by to chat for a little bit explaining the small bites she has created as ideal pairings for the wines.
Daily Charcuterie Plate ($15) changes from time to time, but tonight, it was prosciutto, Point Loma Salumi, pork liver pate made in-house and pickled vegetables.
I was blown away by how absolutely sublime the pork liver pate was. Creamy textures filled with savoriness and aromas from the spices and herbs used. This was my favorite thing on the plate besides the pickled vegetables which Chef Roach created. The amount of tartness combined with the crunchiness of the vegetables are in perfect harmony and I couldn’t stop eating them.
The Gourmet Cheese Plate ($15) was next and comprised of some of my favorites: double cream brie, Humbolt Fog, Point Reyes blue and gouda. There was both fresh and dried fruit as well as a delectable house-made fig jam.
My next pour was the 2008 San Diego Cellars, San Diego County Syrah ($6 glass/$25 bottle) which I loved so much I bought a bottle to take home with me. Even though it was aged in oak barrels, it wasn’t overpowering and possessed a really pleasant mineral finish.
The Crostini Appetizer ($9) we chose was the heirloom tomato jam with burrata, micro basil on seasoned crostini. The heirloom tomato jam is predominantly tomatoes and sugar but packs a really flavorful punch pairing well with the creamy burrata.
I went ahead and tasted the next two syrahs on offer from consecutive years. I enjoyed the 2009 San Diego Cellars, San Diego County Syrah ($6 glass/$25 CRUzer) just a tad more than the 2008, but unfortunately they didn’t offer it in a bottle and I don’t live close enough to come back to refill the CRUzer.
The 2010 San Diego Cellars, Santa Ynez (Paradise Road Vineyard) Syrah ($8 glass/$32 CRUzer) was the other one I tasted.
Flatbreads ($10) make a great accompaniment because the carbs help soak up the alcohol you won’t be able to resist drinking here. Pistachio Pesto, heirloom tomato, burrata with micro basil is a great vegetarian offering……
….. however, I enjoyed the Arugula Walnut Pesto with prosciutto and parmesan with dressed mixed greens tremendously. It’s probably the added saltiness from both the prosciutto and the parmesan and everyone knows what a salty palate I have!
My final tasting was a 2011 Mignanelli Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($8 glass/$32 bottle), a fabulously easy to drink, yet full bodied red. I love pinot noirs so I might be a little bias on this one.
Those of you who love wine will delight in San Diego Cellars’ unique array available to the public. They make great Christmas presents and the CRUzer, a unique one if you are giving away as gifts to friends living in San Diego. Go check them out as soon as possible! You won’t be sorry.
San Diego Cellars
2215 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101