OCEANSIDE — A taste of the San Pasqual Valley countryside has come to coastal downtown Oceanside.
Orfila Vineyards and Winery softly opened its new tasting room earlier in December in the Pierside North apartment building in Oceanside, just a few blocks from the pier.
The “ultra-premium,” small production winery and tasting room sit on a 70-acre estate on San Pasqual Road in Escondido, where the wine is produced and approximately 40 acres of wine grapes are grown. Orfila also sources its grapes from vineyards in Sonoma, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and currently has a pinot noir made with grapes from Oregon.
Alejandro Orfila, a former Argentine ambassador to the United States and Japan, opened the winery in 1994. According to Orfila’s website, the winery produces “critically acclaimed wines using Italian and French varietals, including those from the Rhône Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux.”
Orfila first started construction of the Oceanside tasting room in June 2018, but its concept was in the works before that. The winery previously had another tasting room in Julian, but that location has since closed.
Jenn Olson, Orfila’s marketing coordinator, explained that opening a tasting room on the popular coast was a way for the winery to grow. She said Oceanside is a growing, “great beach community” with a good food scene, which made it a prime candidate for the new tasting room.
According to Tom Blankenbeker, the tasting room manager for both locations, Oceanside was a good location because its “revitalization” is still ongoing, while many of the other coastal cities have already undergone that process.
“We were looking for an area that we could get into that we felt like we would bring something to the table and that had room for growth,” he said. “If we’re part of that growth in Oceanside … we’re really excited about that.”
The tasting room in Oceanside offers “the best of both worlds,” Olson said. Its atmosphere blends the rustic, country winery and vineyard feel with an upbeat, urban vibe.
“Our tasting room in Escondido is very rustic — you’re in an old warehouse and there’s only so far you can push that and keep the glam going,” Blankenbeker said. “So with having this location I felt like we really needed to kick it up a notch.”
Blankenbeker said the company essentially allowed him to design the Oceanside tasting room. He also helped with the physical aspect of putting the tasting room together, including hanging shelves and décor.
“It’s all Tom’s blood, sweat and tears in here,” Olson said.
The Oceanside location features earthy tones with a large bar with shelves of wines lining the wall behind as well as two televisions featuring aerial footage of the winery and vineyard.
“This is a preview into (Orfila),” Olson said of the televisions. “You can see where the wine comes from.”
The Oceanside tasting room also features several bright and colorful artworks for sale. Blankenbeker said Helga Orfila, Alejandro Orfila’s wife, acts as the art coordinator for the tasting room. He noted the art might change from month to month, which will also change the tone of the tasting room’s atmosphere as well.
Unlike the main location in Escondido, the Oceanside tasting room has a built-in kitchen and offers a full menu. Luke Morganstern, the tasting room’s chef, said he wanted to create a menu with “delicious, simple and healthy” food that pairs well with the wine.
Morganstern said he sources his ingredients as locally as possible and plans to use produce from the city’s farmers market for entrees. He also plans to change the menu seasonally.
One dish currently on the menu is the Seitan Reuben Bites, featuring a pastrami-spiced seitan (a meat substitute) on rye bread with “Russian dressing,” sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
The tasting room currently features 22 types of wine guests can try and purchase, such as Orfila’s Estate Lotus blend or Estate Syrah. When a guest walks in, the experts behind the bar ask the right questions to help guests choose the right wine.
The last few weeks have served as a “soft opening” for the tasting room. A grand opening will be held Jan. 12 and Jan. 13. Like the Escondido location, the Oceanside tasting room will eventually feature live music and other events as well.
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son