I have been writing frequently about the surge in Urban Wineries, smartly located in large communities with high traffic volume and offering high quality branded wines by the glass or bottle.
TASTE OF WINE has found another remarkable play on the urban winery format in the Birdrock area of La Jolla — LJ Crafted Wines. What’s different here? Plenty!
Guests at the indoor or outdoor tables and bar in the tasting room are served wine direct from the barrel that made the wine, thanks to a revolutionary device called the “Wine Steward,” a pouring device that allows the wine to be served from the barrel while it is aging, and all the while maintaining the integrity of the remaining wine.
The barrels are displayed in bold, easy to read labels that show the vintage, varietal, vineyard and appellation.
On the day we were given a walk-through by owner Lowell Jooste, himself a fourth-generation, 20-year winemaker from South Africa, the barrels represented some of the finest to be made from Napa and Sonoma vineyards. Favorites were a 2014 Pinot Noir Rosé ($8/glass, $24/bottle) from the Sonoma Coast with a lilting light raspberry, strawberry twist to it.
Drop in a hint of honey and you have a spritzy refreshing wine. LJ Crafted Wines also offers a tropical flavored 2015 Viognier with a slightly lemon-drop hint, with the bedrock tropical fruit that makes it special ($11/glass and $32/bottle).
On the red side, my heart belonged to the 2014 Petit Verdot Napa Valley ($14/glass, $40/bottle) with a big elegant nose of violets, molasses and vanilla, and lots of plum on the palate.
I mention bottle, but many of these juicy wines are offered only in a re-fillable “growler,” a liter-sized vessel with a flip top cap, previously only used in breweries. This gives the customer an extra 6-ounce pour. When joining the wine club, a complimentary wine growler and tote are received. Growlers are filled with your favorite wine selection straight from the barrel with the wine steward. When you’re finished, you return it for more or something different from the many barrels available.
Seasonal gourmet small bite plates are also offered. LJ Crafted Wines is open seven days a week. See more at ljcraftedwines.com.
Beautiful Beaujolais, the Seasonal Wine
Beaujolais wine is meant to be consumed young, in some cases the same year as it’s harvested. The French play it up as an every-day party wine. They have about 120 celebrations in November in the Beaujolais region north of the Rhone Valley.
It was fitting that La Gran Terraza Restaurant on the USD Campus has the best San Diego celebration. Manager Emma Van Dusen welcomed a full house, along with John Yelenosky, the Beaujolais specialist from American Wine & Spirits. Yelenosky talked about the seasonality of Beaujolais and its timely distribution during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Its genetics are sourced to old world vines from the Gamay grape.
Occasionally you will be able to find aged Beaujolais like what was poured to pair an entrée at La Gran Terraza with their beef tenderloin. This was a 2013 Chateau Des Labourons Fleurie, a “cru Beaujolais” from a single village, made by Henry Fessy ($16). That was the most expensive bottle of Beaujolais that evening, an amazing value. See other wine dinners and info about the restaurant at lagranterraza.com.
Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula has its popular Wine Blending Experience Jan. 21at 6 p.m. Find your inner winemaker in you. Guided by a winemaker, you will taste, evaluate and blend selected varietals and create your own bottle of wine. Includes appetizers, and you get to keep your own creation. Priced from $80. Call (888) 98WIENS.
Pechanga Casino in Temecula presents its 9th annual Wine Festival and Chocolate Decadence Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Check out the details at pechanga.com or call (877) 711-2WIN.
Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas continues their top shelf wine events on Fridays at 6pm. On Jan. 27, it has The Noble Six wine tasting. Cost is $30. Call (760) 479-2500 for details.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwine.com and reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.