San Diego as Urban Winery Oasis

Pali Wine Co.’s private tasting room.

Go wine tasting without leaving town at these stylish wineries and tasting rooms.

By Sarah Daoust.

When it comes to imbibing, San Diego is all about its craft beer and cocktails. However, the region is also prime wine territory. With Temecula wine country to the north and Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe wine region to the south, San Diego County is perfectly plunked in between with its own growing wine campus—now home to 115 wineries and counting. Day trips to the countrysides of Escondido, Julian and other rural pockets are always fun, but plenty of new and quaint urban wineries and tasting rooms are popping up countywide—allowing wine lovers to sniff, swirl and sip without traveling too far. Find your favorite among the following dozen hotspots.

While known for its popular outpost in Julian, we love the Clairemont location of Blue Door Urban Winery. The tasting room also houses a full production facility, where guests can witness—and even participate—in the winemaking process firsthand. Don’t miss: the house-made sangria.

In North Park, Négociant Winery is a neighborhood gem, making its own craft wines onsite in an urban-industrial space. The tasting menu is heavy in reds, with an offering of guest wines, draft wines and even ciders. If you need a caffeine pick-me-up afterward, Grinds and Vine coffee shop is attached to the winery. Don’t miss: the 2015 malbec and the 2016 petite syrah.

Urban winery Carruth Cellars offers tasting rooms in Carlsbad and Solana Beach, but our favorite is Carruth Cellars Wine Garden in Little Italy. Sip selections by the bottle, glass or flights of five tastings at this charming urban oasis—complete with an indoor lounge and bar, and an outdoor garden patio. Carruth also pours craft beer and kombucha on tap. Don’t miss: the Bold & Beautiful cheese board and the 2017 Lake County sauvignon blanc.

Also in Little Italy, Pali Wine Co. is a lovely urban wine bar and tasting room, specializing in chardonnay and pinot noir from the Central Coast. Chase a charcuterie board with a wine flight on the rooftop deck overlooking the neighborhood and offering peeks of the bay. Don’t miss: The Wine Spectator-hailed, 2016 Huntington pinot noir. Another favorite: Vino Carta, a casual wine bar and bottle shop focused on natural wines and boutique, family-run producers. Don’t miss: the 2017 Matthiasson rosé from Napa.

In Hillcrest, FruitCraft is a kombuchery, cidery, meadery, distillery, modern winery and event space—all housed in an airy, contemporary building. Fruit is the star of the operation, with wine flights from dry to sweet, plus craft beer, fruit-forward cocktails, “farm-to-glass” specials, small plates and more. Don’t miss: the “frosé of the day.”

An award-winning winery in Ocean Beach? Yes. Welcome to Gianni Buonomo Vintners, owner/winemaker Keith Rolle’s 3,000-square-foot, converted antique store just two blocks from the beach. Sourcing its grapes from the Sierra foothills and Washington State, the winery has won numerous gold and double gold medals from U.S. and international competitions— most recently earning a spot on wine and food columnist Frank Mangio’s “Top 10 Wine Tastes of 2018” in The Coast News Group for its 2015 Charbono. Don’t miss: the six-taste wine flight and cheese plate, enjoyed in its charming tasting room outfitted in repurposed French Oak wine barrel heads and antique jewelry cases renovated into tasting bars.

Up in Oceanside, a stop by the new Orfila Vineyards & Winery Oceanside Tasting Room is a must. It’s the newest outpost for the 25-year-old vintner (whose vineyards and winery are located in Escondido)—a modern, sleek tasting room with industrial ceilings and hanging lightbulbs. Sample locally sourced small plates by Executive Chef Luke Morganstern, along with the Ambassador tasting where you can try eight wines and receive a logo glass. Don’t miss: Orfila’s opening photo: Kevin Connors. ABove and opposite: Carin Babcock. popular Estate Lotus blend.

In Leucadia, Solterra Winery & Kitchen is a full-service restaurant serving Mediterranean small plates and house-label wines on tap, sourced mainly from San Diego and Baja. The property comprises a 1,600-square-foot tasting room (originally built in 1957) and a 3,400-square-foot winery, plus outdoor seating, a fire pit and live music most weekends— making for a hip, coastal vibe. Don’t miss: any of Solterra’s “black label” or “mestizo” wines, which combine Northern California and Valle de Guadalupe fruit.

In the heart of Escondido’s historical Vineyard District, BK Cellars Urban Winery & Tasting Lounge is a crystal chandelier-adorned tasting lounge offering wine blending classes and social hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Don’t miss: BK Cellars’ house-made red wine sangria, available for $8 per glass on Sundays only.

Have an ultra-modern, elegant wine tasting experience at Callaway Winery Wine Bar, open daily in the Gaslamp. Choose a signature flight of five current releases, or a library flight of three vintage wines—including Callaway’s flagship red blend and owner’s private reserve. Don’t miss: any of Callaway’s Rhone varietals or Rhone-style wines.

In Bird Rock, LJ Crafted Wines is a straightforward tasting room that supports a zero-waste lifestyle. This means small-batch, high-end Napa and Sonoma wines served directly from the barrel and poured into reusable growlers to-go. Don’t miss: the 2017 Stewart Vineyard albariño white wine, paired with a trio of hummus and veggies. Cheers!

Photo by Carin Babcock.

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