I have enjoyed the history and progress of Little Italy in downtown San Diego for some time. The colorful 10-block area just north of city central is brimming with restaurants, small grocery stores, high rise condos and a proud cultural neighborhood unlike any other in this beautiful coastal city.
Enter Pali Wine Company, the first urban winery in Little Italy.
Pali is an interesting story. The two founders began in 2005, when entrepreneurs Tim Perr and Scott Knight of Pacific Palisades, a suburb of Los Angeles, pooled their passions and resources and settled into Lompoc along the Central Coastal area of California. Being smart people, they quickly sized up the potential for Pinot Noir (must have seen “Sideways” since they opened same year.)
In the years that followed, Pali Wine Company went from 1,500 cases of wine produced to 20,000 cases a year. Their business model is to “make terrior-driven wines and to bring these wines to the consumer at the best possible prices without compromising quality.”
Pali Wines may have found the way to do just that: Urban Winery Tasting Rooms! What’s that you say? These are small shops with a bar, tables inside and outside and a single brand of wine usually in a downtown district. After opening in Lompoc and Santa Barbara, the San Diego Little Italy tasting room opened for business late last year on India Street with a lineup of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A second brand, Tower 15, was created to cover Rhone Valley and Bordeaux blends. You can purchase a select number of wines by the bottle, but the consumer is fascinated by the wines on tap, with a daily chalked menu of what’s to taste and how much. Also, there is a “growler” program. This is a glass bottle with a stopper, holding about a liter of wine that is purchased, then recycled back to the tasting room for a refill.
The kitchen offers creative small plates serving fresh, seasonal local produce including cheeses and meats. The Little Italy location offers an overlook balcony, great for people-watching over India Street. A barrel room is available for private events.
Here’s a tip. Try all the Pinot Noirs, and make sure Manager Frank Quattrocchi pours you some of the 2014 Summit Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills from the Central Coast ($29). Its 14.8 percent alcohol will get your attention as well as the candied black cherry and Asian spice flavor. Call the San Diego location at (619) 569-1300, or see more at Paliwineco.com.
On Board for the New Ferrari-Carano Releases
Another unique way of introducing new wines is by pleasure yacht and that’s how Ferrari-Carano gets the attention of restaurants, bars and the media. The El Dorado docks at Shelter Island San Diego every year with the latest wines, hosted by Regional Manager Mike Hurst. He and bar manager Nate Martin popped the corks on several varietals of Ferrari-Carano new release wines as the luxury yacht El Dorado toured the bays and inlets of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego style.
Wines included the very popular Fume Blanc, Chardonnay, Siena Tuscan blend and Cabernet Sauvignon. I revisited the Siena a couple of times. Several supermarkets carry this extraordinary value wine ($21). It has a Sangiovese base plus a Bordeaux-style blend, making for a delicious flavor of pomegranate, plum and cherry, mocha and licorice plus soft tannins from the get-go.
Look up more at Ferrari-Carano.com.
- WineSellar and Brasserie in San Diego has Craggy Range Winery of New Zealand pouring Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, Wednesday May 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. Call (858) 450-9557 for details.
- Vittorio’s family style trattoria in Carmel Valley San Diego presents Foxen Wines and dinner, Thursday May 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. Kaitlin Hite from the winery will moderate. Enjoy Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a lovely Volpino Blend with a gourmet menu. Cost is $59.50 each. Call (858) 538-5884 for an RSVP.
- PALA Casino Resort and Spa is hosting a Trefethen Family Vineyards five-course wine dinner, Thursday May 25 at 8 p.m. in PALA’s underground Cave. It’s a $72 cost to enjoy the gourmet food and one of Napa Valley’s finest wineries. Call (877) 946-7252. Location is Hwy. 76 in Pala, San Diego County.
- Dolce Pane E Vino in Rancho Santa Fe and Pacific Highlands in Carmel Valley now has half-priced bottles of wine with dinner Tuesday nights at Rancho Santa Fe and Wednesday nights at Pacific Highlands starting at 5 p.m.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web. View his columns at http://tasteofwinetv.com. And reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.