Rodger Grove, the owner of Forgotten Barrel winery, which replaced the old inactive Ferrara Winery in Escondido. Courtesy photo
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Taste of Wine: Fiddler’s Green’s ‘secret sauce’ is wine by the glass

Since 2005, Taste of Wine’s goal has been and continues to be the discovery of wine that will please your palate. We search many venues from our home base in San Diego, and all parts of the globe, to deliver on that promise.

One such recent discovery is a fascinating marina restaurant by the name of Fiddler’s Green. The name was taken from 18th century sailing lore, when seamen worked with a nautical tool called a “fid” and dreamed of a heavenly home port where their dreams and desires would come true. Kinda sounds like San Diego and the nautically themed Fiddler’s Green, captained by owner Steve Rock and located at the entrance to Shelter Island on San Diego Bay.

Rock has built up strong links with the sailing community, evidenced by the more than 300 yachts and boat models hanging on the walls and ceiling of Fiddler’s Green. He’s even got life-size models of the stars of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“They were a gift from Walt Disney’s nephew, the late Roy Disney, who had a yacht at Shelter Island,” explained Rock. “This is like an old Hollywood restaurant, but with a nautical theme.”

Let’s place the spotlight now on the “secret sauce” of why you should know about Fiddler’s Green and what’s really attractive about the restaurant’s wine list.

Food service at Fiddler’s Green is perfectly presented by Nicole Cadden, a cheerful longtime favorite server, shown table-preparing a steamed artichoke with fresh herbs and spices, served with sundried tomato aioli. Courtesy photo

Through personal relationships with a handful of the top wineries in Napa and Sonoma, names like Ferrari Carano, Keenan and Frank Family, Fiddler’s Green not only lists these wineries by name, it also has a list of their best grape varietals by glass or bottle at a 30 percent to 50 percent discount, anytime.

And there is no corkage fee if you want to bring in your own bottle!

Fiddler’s Green has a traditional steak and seafood menu plus other flavorful choices, with no extra charge for dinner specialty sides and a choice of soup or salad.

Try the delicious 16-ounce Ribeye steak for $26.95, or the grilled salmon for $20.95. RSVP at 619-222-2216, or visit


The Story of the Forgotten Barrel

Rodger Grove is a wine lover and a fortunate man who has fulfilled his dream of owning a winery in San Diego County on a piece of property in Escondido that was earlier declared by the city as a historic site. It was formerly Ferrara Winery, founded right after prohibition ended in 1932, and lay dormant and closed for some eight years in a residential area. The key to the success of what is now Forgotten Barrel was the historic site designation, and after a year and a half of clean up, fix up and positioning all the rusted machinery and barrels left by the Ferrara family, the artisan style tasting room was ready for business. The only vines left by Ferrara were a half-acre of Muscat of Alexandria, a white wine on the sweet side.

The other varietals are purchased and brought in with the Forgotten Barrel label. Be sure to ask for the 2013 Carneros Chardonnay, an intense apple/lemon flavor with a spritz of melon and pear ($32). Another favorite for me was the 2013 Lot 6.1, a blend of one-third Zinfandel and two-thirds Syrah, named after the 6.1 earthquake that struck Napa that year ($32).

Helping Grove with his Forgotten Barrel success is Lisa Kaplan, the general manager, and John Eppler the seasoned winemaker.

Forgotten Barrel? Yes there is one that was left on the property to rust along with the other museum-like pieces. Grove got curious about it after he found it, and managed to get it open without spilling its contents, about one-third of a barrel of richly endowed, possibly 100-year-old port which he intends to sell in bottles at a big premium. Currently Forgotten Barrel is only open on weekends, so call first for hours at (760) 518-1104.


Wine Bytes

  • Winesellar & Brasserie in San Diego has a wine dinner with Sleight of Hand Cellars, at 6 p.m. June 24. The wine is a favorite from Washington State in Walla Walla. Cost is $89 each. RSVP at (858) 450-9557.
  • Tamara Golden presents a Vineyard Tour and Sherry Tasting in Vista at the Brooking Vineyards from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. June 24. Eric Brooking will talk on his award-winning Angelica sherry and port. For more, visit com.
  • World-class wine meets world-class cheese at Gianni Buonomo Vintners Winery in the Ocean Beach district of San Diego from 6:30 to 8 p.m. June 29. Cost is $30 per person. Cheese celebrity Rob Graff will present. Call (619) 991-9911.