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SAN• DIEGO SD Beverage Times Volume BEVERAGE 2 Issue 3





SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3

Founded on July 25, 2013. we opened our doors to friends & family on September 28, 2014.

We are downtown San Diego’s first distillery. Crafting our Gin from locally farmed botanicals. Honoring our family’s history with a Navy Strength Rum. Collaborating on a Coffee Liqueur with our college buddies. oldharbordistilling.com 1

SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3

Welcome back to the seventh issue of San Diego Beverage Times. In this edition we live vicariously through Mad Monk Tea’s Taylor Drye, profile our local cider & mead makers, visit an Oceanside speakeasy, and get to know a collective of wineries in Escondido. Make sure to give us a follow on Instagram @SDBevTimes and check out our website SDBevTimes.com for more frequent glimpses into San Diego’s diverse beverage culture. For beer coverage, check out our monthly print affiliate @WestCoasterSD; the website WestCoasterSD.com just got upgraded. And when you’re feeling thirsty, please consider visiting the advertisers who make this magazine possible. Salud!


TEAM Editor Ryan Lamb ryan@sdbevtimes.com Publisher Mike Shess mike@sdbevtimes.com Media Advisor Tom Shess Contributors Anita Cheesman Grace Liestman Ian Anderson Ian Cheesman Kristina Yamamoto Philip Rodriguez Tami Wong Art Director Kristin Hardy

Cider & Mead Makers


Mad Monk Tea


No Chaser: Whiskey Bank


Wine @ 298 Enterprise


Beverage Briefs


San Diego Beverage Times is a product of West Coaster Publishing Co. © 2018

A steep Taiwanese mountainside, where tea farmers must rappel in order to harvest the leaves. Photo by Taylor Drye of Mad Monk Tea. See page 8. SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3


CIDER & MEAD L-r: Turquoise Barn Cider’s Pete Lavelle, Patty Lavelle, Kristen Murphy, Sarah Kennedy, and Neil Kennedy. Photo by Grace Liestman.


Apple and honey beverages are gaining momentum across the county, with 18 brands active or in planning.

Bivouac Ciderworks North Park’s first cider brewpub opened early this year, adding French- and English-inspired cider to the craft-rich neighborhood, along with creative farm to table dining, and a unique cocktail program featuring entirely fruit-based spirits. Co-founder Matthew Austin produces ciders ranging from dry to sweet, blending French crabapples with sweeter apple varietals from the West Coast. Bivouac’s set up to produce traditional, fruited, and aged ciders, and future plans include canning, bottling, and adding distilling capabilities. The latter would add to the bar’s selection of brandies and eux du vie crafted to resemble gin, rum, and whiskey.

Bronto Mead Previously known as Bronto Brew, the name change better reflects what this Gwilt family operation specializes in: mead. Bronto’s Miramar brewery and tasting room offers a variety of meads ranging from 4

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traditional to sparkling, and from melomels (fruited meads) to metheglins (spiced meads). It also hosts Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, gaming tournaments, and beekeeping workshops. You may also find Bronto serving mead weekly at a number of North County farmers markets, and at the one in Mission Valley as of late April.

Calico Cidery After three years making cider, this small business on the outskirts of Julian has been busy putting the final touches on a public tasting room set to open this summer. Vintner David Young came back to the area after years operating a winery upstate, making small batches of bone dry cider and perry entirely from fruit grown on a 30-acre family property near Wynola. His father Conrad has made cider here off and on for three decades, but since launching Calico the Youngs have built up the orchards over 24 acres, furnishing 125 varieties of apple and pear made into seasonal blends.

Golden Coast Mead

Hidden Hive Meadery

Now eight years old, Golden Coast stood as the county’s sole craft meadery until only recently. Just about every local methier (mead-maker) has discussed the finer points of mead production with co-founder Frank Golbeck, who pioneered the concept of a San Diego style mead: sometimes sessionable, sometimes sparkling. Lately, Golden Coast hasn’t stopped innovating, and one of the most popular styles in its Oceanside and Julian tasting rooms this year has been a product that never existed prior: sour mead. Whatever the style, Golden Coast’s brand of “sunshine in a glass” focuses on a honey’s terroir, whether sourced locally or from distinctive locations such as the Yucatan.

With plans to establish its own spot in the vicinity of San Marcos later this year, Hidden Hive aims to get started this spring with a series of custom crushes made with the help of a local winery. Founder Chris Roach describes his mead style as akin to wine coolers: something approachable and refreshing that would be great to drink while sitting on a beach. Among his early recipes are a margarita style mead (with agave and lime juice), and another with a salted caramel flavor.

Guthrie Ciderworks This Miramar brand began releasing dry, Englishinspired ciders last fall, and has been preparing a public tasting room that opens June 22. Bottles of a flagship dry cider sell in local bottle shops and markets, a semi-dry at select bars. Both will be available in the tasting room, along with small batch concoctions featuring the likes of locally-sourced apples, fruit and spice infusions, and variant yeast blends. Married co-founders Sara and Horacio Devoto developed the recipes at home during cold winters spent living in Minnesota, and chose to establish Guthrie in San Diego for its decidedly warmer craft beverage climate. At time of press, tasting room hours included Thursday (3:30–8 p.m.), Fridays (3:30 - 9 p.m.), and Saturdays (12–9 p.m.).

Julian CiderWorks Set in a barn on the outskirts of its namesake mountain town, this prolific cidery sources 250 varieties of apple — both from orchards on its own 210-acre property, and others in the area. Co-founder Brian Kenner swears the best apples in North America grow in Julian, and the cidery aims to prove this with a rotating assortment of more than a hundred naturally farmed and produced ciders on tap. Available at the tasting room only, bottles and drafts include single origin ciders, perries, and plum wines — the latter thanks to assorted pear and plum varieties that also grow well in Julian.

Julian Hard Cider San Diego’s oldest active cider business, Julian Hard Cider has been at it nine years, and operates a tasting room within Julian Station, a co-op of shops and drinking establishments (including Golden Coast Mead)

Bivouac Ciderworks in North Park. SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3


Mysterious Mead

in Wynola. Though based in San Diego, the business distributes to more than 20 states, and whether traditional or fruited, most of its hard cider is made with freshly crushed apples where they’re grown: up in Oregon. However, the past couple years, JHC has been producing small batches of cider with Julian apples grown at Apple Lane Orchard, made available in limited release bottles.

Lost Cause Meadery

Longtime home mead maker Jim Allison started developing Mysterious Mead as a side gig four years ago, and it lived up to its name until last year, when the enigmatic brand debuted a trio of melomels in bottles. The Ramona business doesn’t have a public tasting room, issuing about 8 barrels’ worth of bottles and kegs to select local businesses, including dry Meyer lemon and strawberry lime flavors, and a sweeter mixed berry batch. Mysterious has plans to open a tasting room down the line, but it won’t likely be this year.

Newtopia Cyder

Working out of a shared industrial space in Miramar’s buzzing Miralani Makers District, married co-founders Suzanna and Billy Beltz got Lost Cause out to a fast start at the end of 2017, and this March picked up a prestigious silver medal at the world’s largest mead competition, the Mazer Cup. Using innovating methods that are a blend of art and science, Billy practices a controlled fermentation to preserve each honey varietal’s character, then lightly carbonates his finished product to better open these nuanced flavors to the palate, resulting in meads far more refreshing than their 11- to 12-percent ABVs suggest.

In its first year, Scripps Ranch’s resident cidery has given San Diego its first cider gold medal, collaborated with several breweries and distilleries, and produced 3500 barrels of spelled-with-a-y cyder. Co-founder Rick Moreno applies a range of European traditions to Newtopia cider, and craft beer influences as well. Any given cider may incorporate wild or Belgian yeasts, exotic fruits, unique spice blends, or hops. Meanwhile, a first round of a barrel aged ciders are just hitting maturity. But Newtopia’s just getting started. It just opened a tasting room in Block C San Marcos, is planning a Scripps Ranch bistro this summer, and a distillery in year three.

Meadiocrity Mead

Poochie’s Hooch Urban Cidery

This hive-to-glass mead maker doesn’t have a tasting room, but its bottles are available at dozens of shops and restaurants, and through the newly formed Southern California Mead Club, which curates seasonal mead selections. The young business hopes to move into its own place by the end of the year. In the meantime, it’s making mead out of a winemaking co-op in Escondido, and is preparing to release a second round of its estate mead in bottles. Meadiocrity operates its own apiary, likely to grow to 250 hives by the end of 2018, and its estate meads are made to highlight the terroir produced by its own bees.

Currently under construction en route to a summer opening in Mission Gorge, Poochie’s borrows its name from a foster dog of founder Mary Paulson, a former firefighter and LPGA golfer who delved into cider making after discovering she’s gluten intolerant. Paulson fostered the namesake Poochie through the Labradors and Friends dog rescue, and Paulson has pledged 20-percent of gross profits from the Hooch will be donated to the organization. She’s developed 32 recipes over the course of years’ worth of parties in her North Park backyard, incorporating flavors such as cinnamon, caramel, ginger, and a host of fruit combinations.

Mjødhall Meadery

Raging Cider & Mead

Although Mjødhall (pronounced myood-hall) has yet to find a location to launch its business, many of its recipes have been brewing in north county for three generations. Methier Eric Olson’s grandfather once lobbied the city of Vista for permission to make mead at home, and the family’s been doing so since, brewing from a Lithuanian tradition. Archeologists by trade, Olson and wife Anya Gonzalez have been plotting Mjødhall’s opening for years, but held off due to family considerations. They hope to be up and running by sometime in 2019.

There’s locally grown fruit in just about every beverage poured by this multifaceted San Marcos producer. Co-founder David Carr consults with local orchards to improve apple and pear harvests, and uses the results to craft dry, funky, and sometimes barrel fermented ciders and perries, most often brewed with the yeasts occurring naturally on their skins. When apple-picking season has passed, he turns his focus to mead, focusing primarily on melomels, or fruit meads, that pair local honey with exotic local fruits, including the likes of pomegranates, persimmons, mulberries, and passion fruit.


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Serpentine Cider Cider maker Sean Harris first encountered hard cider in his native Pacific Northwest. The desert biologist inevitably moved to the Southwest to study reptiles and amphibians, and became the rare San Diego homebrewer to make only cider, never beer. He brought his recipes to Miramar late last year, in a space Serpentine shares with Lost Cause Meadery and Good Seed Food Company. Serpentine adds to the wealth of beverage options available in the Miralani Makers District, contributing a flavorful, rotating selection of fruited, spiced, and dry-hopped ciders that range from dry to semi-sweet.

Turquoise Barn Cider Established in Ramona two years ago, Turquoise Barn does not yet offer public service at its eponymous barnhouse cidery, but private back porch tastings may be arranged in advance. For now, the best places to find Turquoise Barn’s sweet and semi-sweet hard ciders include local bottle shops and craft beer taprooms — plus select vendors at Petco Park! A finished taproom is a part of the brand’s future plans, and that’s not all. While currently supplementing its flavored ciders with outsourced fruit, co-founder Neal Kennedy reports Turquoise Barn has planted 1600 apple trees, counting on a more self-sufficient future.

Twisted Horn Mead & Cider The county’s most mead-friendly surroundings may be found in Vista, where Twisted Horn co-founders Vince Obarski and Michael McCague have built a small, Viking-style drinking hall. Drinking horns are available to buy, and rotating varieties of both mead and cider to fill them. The cider runs from sweet to dry, both in traditional styles and local fruit infusions. The meads take on the character of several honey varietals and include melomels (fruited meads), hydromels (session meads), and the cider-mead blends known as cysers. Now entering its second year, Twisted Horn has started to reveal what it’s been aging in barrels.

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Local Winners at the SD International Beer Festival

Despite its name, the competition portion of the San Diego International Beer Festival also gives awards to meads and ciders. Here are the county operations that earned medals:

GOLD Golden Coast Mead (Oceanside) Spiced Sour (Spiced & Specialty Mead) Lost Cause Meadery (Miramar) Buck It All (Traditional Mead) Turquoise Barn Cider (Ramona) Apple Maple Hard Cider (New England & Fruit Cider)

SILVER Gold Coast Mead (Oceanside) Mirth: Orange Blossom (Traditional Mead) Lost Cause Meadery (Miramar) Zydeco Buzz (Spiced & Specialty Mead) Turquoise Barn Cider (Ramona) Apple Pomegranate Hard Cider (New England & Fruit Cider)

BRONZE Lost Cause Meadery (Miramar) Devilish Grin (Spiced & Specialty Mead) Newtopia Cyder (Scripps Ranch) Blue Dream (Specialty Cider & Perry)


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AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, AS WITHIN, SO WITHOUT By Ryan Lamb. Photos by Taylor Drye.

Taiwan’s Shan Lin Xi mountains. In early June, I met with Taylor Drye at the “sipeasy” of his company Mad Monk Tea, co-founded in 2009 with logistics expert Ryan Morgan. After a three-hour session, I came away with a buzz, but not just from the caffeine. Drye’s passion for tea runs wide and deep, just like the beverages we sipped that day. After years of travel and study in Asian countries, there’s an unforced mysticism that permeates the tasting room he built in Ocean Beach. What follows are snippets from that June morning session. On what he’s been up to recently: “Over the last year I’ve started to take a lot of my extra resources and invest in premium teas, like really high-end Pu’ers — rare and exotic teas — and cellar them. And I’ve created this space that is kind of like a sipeasy, a speakeasy, for tea; I do private-booking and invitation-only events where we drink really exotic teas. People who know about this type of tea… I’m the only

one in Southern California who has a cellar for this type of tea. And then the bigger customers, whether they be breweries or kombucha companies, when they need metric tons of USDA certified organic tea, or they want to work with somebody who can source a product for them at a really competitive price, and they want transparency, they’ll come to me. The bulk of my business has evolved to B to B — business to business.”

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On what makes tea different: “There’s a bell curve to coffee. You drink the caffeine, your body processes it relatively quickly, after a couple of hours you have a crash. Tea has a bunch of amino acids that bolster the caffeine catalyzation in the system, and so you end up with this really long, sustained clarity and focus throughout the whole of your day. It’s a concept that the Chinese talk about a lot. Tea provides us a lot of endurance, and it’s a very different high. I think that was one of the main things that started to draw me into tea, was that I had an opportunity to be a geek

and be a connoisseur and explore a lot of different flavors, and there’s a lot of travel involved, but most importantly, as a substance I found it really, really valuable in my day-to-day life. To be able to sit and drink a tea in the morning, and be able to have the energy to engage in the world, and in my community… and have that type of core stability throughout the day, without having to constantly drink coffee, or whatever it is, is nice. With tea, you have an opportunity for connoisseurship and for refinement in your practice, but at the end of the day you get a really good stimulant.”

Mad Monk Tea’s Taylor Drye, far right, in front of an Animistic Temple, joined by conservationist Yi Ming Gua to his right; Mr. Wong, who runs a research outpost, and anthropologist Brian Kirbis on the far left. SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3


A village headman in the tea mountains of southeastern China.

An organic tea farm in central Taiwan. 10

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On working with Boochcraft: “One of the best relationships I have, I think predominantly because one of the main ingredients is tea, is Boochcraft. That’s a really good story because they came to me very interested in supporting organic agriculture and sustainable farming practices. So I’ve worked with them since their very first batches of kombucha, to source, ostensibly, the best tea on earth for them. That’s one of the main reasons I was in China recently. We’re working to develop organic grower groups and cooperatives to help supply them with some of the highest quality organic tea on the market.”

A ceramicist’s personal tea setup in Taiwan

On tea’s connection with life and history: “Tea is the axel through which many spokes arrive. It’s the emptiness that makes the cup useful. At the heart of this room is the tea cup, but what makes this room beautiful are the little details. I’ve gotten to study calligraphy, art, photography, interior design, culture, agriculture, ceramics, botany, history… in order to engage in my industry in a more coherent way, I’ve had to engage in cultural and historical context. I’ve been reading about adventurers and explorers and botanists who were there, in places I’m traveling to now, 300 or 400 years ago.”

An artisanal tea workshop, with fresh leaves on the left side. On the right are woks where the tea leaves are heated (by hand) to evaporate moisture.

On the future of premium tea: “There’s a slow opening in the minds of the American public that tea is a premium product, with premium craftsmanship, with thousands of years of history behind it. The thing is, people are always looking for a better high, and it’s my contention that people who stumble across high-quality teas and

high-quality craftsmanship in tea are going to find a totally different experience than they have in coffee. So that movement is inevitable, but I really think it’s still maybe a decade away before that type of movement takes place here. But the rest of the world is on it. Tea outsells coffee, and it’s second only to water in terms of global consumption.”

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Taiwan’s Shan Lin Xi mountains. 12

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A little road leading to a secret tea garden in Taiwan. SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3




WHISKEY BANK By Ian Cheesman • Photos by Anita Cheesman

Over the abbreviated lifespan of this column, I’ve attempted to build consciousness around San Diego’s burgeoning distilling scene. It is an exciting time to be a fan of drinking local hand-crafted spirits that didn’t originate from a sketchy friend’s water purifier. Still, while spirit tasting rooms have their charms, the limitations on the minuscule volume they can legally serve per day make them sub-par spaces to really session in.

However, as with most vaults, the really interesting stuff is inside it.

Whenever I wish to have a few drinks in celebration of a personal victory (or require the time to conjure excuses for the far more common defeats) I crave four simple components: a copious volume of whiskey, mood lighting (ideally somewhere between “contemplative“ and “sullen”), a comfortable chair, and a large abandoned bank vault. It’s a pretty specific list to be sure, but I know what I like. And while establishments like The Whiskey House, Seven Grand, and Aero Club have the first three on lock, sometimes I’m just not willing to compromise. That’s when I head over to URGE Gastropub and Whiskey Bank (2002 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside).

It feels tacky sharing details about a secret bar in the public domain, but undercover bars are notoriously hard to market and I’m wagering you might not hear about it otherwise. More importantly, I received the full endorsement of Grant Tondro (one of the “brothers” in the 3 Local Brothers restaurant group that owns this establishment) to spill the beans. “We built this cool space with the idea to have people come and enjoy it,” he said.

The restaurant’s name is not just a fanciful way of referencing its treasure trove of nearly 300 whiskeys. In a prior lifetime this building was, in fact, a Bank of America, complete with a concrete-walled vault. That imposing vault door currently stands next to the main bar as a set piece that fully justifies the name. 14

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What was once home to stacks of bearer bonds and bank tellers trying to sneak in a quickie over their lunch break is now 101 Proof, a speakeasy concept whose name pays homage to the freeway it’s adjacent to.

If you intend to gain entry to 101 Proof, I highly recommend befriending a group with advanced cryptography knowledge and possibly a functional understanding of Latin. Those skillsets aren’t needed to get inside – a reservation on 101ProofOceanside.com or inquiring with the hostess will accomplish that – but would it kill you to have more interesting friends? Once you and the remainder of the Ocean’s 11 crew have finagled your way into 101 Proof, a very different experience from the bustling restaurant awaits.

The dimly lit space is adorned with vintage Vanity Fair advertisements, green bankers lamps, and pressed copper ceiling tiles. The din from outside is diminished by the swinging sounds of 1920s-era Big Band music. It just feels...sexy. The glimmering mirrored bar shelves are sexy. The shapely curves of the Glencairn glassware are definitely sexy. In the moment it even feels possible that the room has likewise rendered me sexier, though it doesn’t seem prudent to poll fellow patrons for confirmation. More importantly, it legitimately feels like a hideaway from the space just outside. It’s easy to dwell on the speakeasy since it’s such a unique element in the space, but it’s only one facet of the overall Whiskey Bank experience. I merely wanted to highlight it as an opportunity that would otherwise be easily overlooked. And if the time I spent there in a reverie mulling over the anise and piloncillo-tinged depths of my double oaked Woodford Reserve is indicative of what others will experience, it deserves to be witnessed firsthand.

that your inner scotch-fiend craves. Even those who have already sipped their way around the globe a few times over will find something novel in the exclusive single-barrel options sourced exclusively for URGE.

Though departing the safety of this whiskey-womb may seem daunting, fear not. Just outside its confines resides the sultry amber glow of a towering wall of whiskey ready to soothe your nerves. As one might imagine, this behemoth display represents a mix of all conceivable whiskey variations, from the unassuming blended Canadian whiskey to decades-old Japanese single malts. Rest assured, you’ll find all the “Glens”

If this massive monument to malted mayhem leaves you a bit snowblind, I strongly recommend ponying up for one of the specially curated whiskey flights. The options will rotate throughout the year, but will always represent the opportunity to enjoy three thoughtfully grouped one ounce pours. Until the day comes when I can feasibly afford to place an order of “I’ll have all the whiskeys, please” this is a good compromise.

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One area where I must insist you do not compromise, however, is in the ordering of their Fried Butterscotch Bread Pudding to go along with your whiskey. Even if you’re not a bread pudding person (which I am not), this is required reading.

When that drizzle of salted caramel and butter bourbon sauce collides with the fruity spice of your Whistle Pig Rye, your tongue will embark on a fantastical journey.


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All I ask is that you maintain a respectable volume with the inevitable groans of pleasure it will usher forth. This is a family restaurant, you deviant. All of the above is more than sufficient to pinpoint URGE Gastropub and Whiskey Bank as a singular whiskey-savoring experience in San Diego, but more is yet to come. As I type this, multiple Mason Ale Works (the resident 3LB beer brand) selections are in the Henebery Celebrated Whiskey pipeline to become whiskey themselves. That means you can

potentially have a pint of Cash (their Imperial Coffee Stout) alongside a Cash-based whiskey and even Cash barrel-aged in Cash whiskey barrels. Per Tondro, this “turducken of beer and whiskey” should be available in early 2019. I know Oceanside may be a sizable hike for many of you. If my enthusiasm still hasn’t fully justified the hefty Lyft fare you’ll contend with, allow me to offer one more consideration. There may be loads of places you can drink whiskey in this town, however, there is one speakeasy in San Diego bearing a whiskey list of this magnitude that is also capable of withstanding a nuclear blast.* Should the apocalypse suddenly arrive, would you rather be in the position of repopulating the earth with bug-eyed doomsday preppers or fellow whiskey drinking sophisticates? Checkmate. *The 3LB Restaurant Group has not explicitly endorsed 101 Proof’s capacity for withstanding nuclear fallout. But I know where I’m going.

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SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3



Stashed away in a cul de sac behind the Escondido Auto Park is an industrial complex like many others. Low white buildings on each side house various businesses, but one in particular is special. Suite D of 298 Enterprise Street is home to five winemakers making six labels. Two of the brands are distributed in big cities around the country, one released their inaugural vintage in 2017, and another will release their first this year. Sometimes the family you choose has as much impact on your life as the one you are born into. The story of 298 is a mix of both kinds of family. I am pleased to introduce you to each one.

J. Brix “Who is that couple drinking Lopez de Heredia Rosado? They chose that without anyone recommending it,” was my thought when Jody and Emily Towe stopped into the wine shop and bistro where I had my first wine buyer gig. My wine selections reflect my penchant for the eclectic and obscure, and it takes an intellectually curious and adventurous drinker to choose such wines for their dinner. The Towes frequented the shop, and always drank something cool, so we hit it off right away. One thing led to another, and the first J. Brix wine on my shelf was the Los Alamos Syrah. Nomine Amoris, their skin contact Pinot Gris done in amphora, frequently appeared on my tasting menus. When the Rougarou surfaced, I snapped it up. Rougarou is a Creole shapeshifter, an apt description of the McCormick Ranch Carignan, which does indeed shift from sip to sip and bottle to bottle in the best possible way.

L-r: Chris Broomell, Brad Diskin, Alysha & Cole Stehly, Alex Urbano, Lisa Stehly, Jody Brix Towe, Al Stehly, Mare Williams, Duncan Williams. Photos by Kristina Yamamoto

50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache. Sourcing their grapes mostly from Santa Barbara, they have since found new sites as far away as Calaveras County, and as close to home as McCormick Ranch in Pauma Valley. Tiny hand-made lots of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Pinot Noir, and their newest variety, Merlot, sell out quickly. 2017 provided a fruitful vintage in California, ballooning J. Brix’s production to 1500 cases. They are still small enough that they drive the grapes down themselves and employ traditional techniques like pigeage, which is French for foot stomping. I am going to go ahead and give them credit for exposing me to the concept of minimal intervention in winemaking. Emily refers to it as “telling a nonfiction story.” This is the idea that if you grow top quality grapes, then you don’t need to use any additives or tricks to make good wine; let the grapes speak for

Jody and Emily started J. Brix with three barrels in their garage in 2009: Syrah, Grenache, and one SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3


themselves. There is a lightness of texture, even in the more full-bodied wines, to which I attribute the lack of additives. As the flag-bearers for natural wine in San Diego, J. Brix sells out rapidly in all the major metropolitan areas around the country.

Vesper Vineyards I first tasted Vesper in a tasting group, where the purpose is to practice blind tasting for sommelier examinations. Participants are supposed to bring classic wines from classic areas, produced with classic methods, because that is what is shown in testing. Pinot Noir from Rancho Santa Fe does not fall into that category, so my friend Aaron Epstein who brought it got an earful. The thing is, that wine was very clearly a well-made Pinot Noir. I was intrigued. Shortly thereafter, Aaron hosted a dinner at the restaurant I worked at, and Alysha Stehly and Chris Broomell attended. Alysha and Chris both grew up in farming families in Valley Center. They may have even ridden the same school bus, but did not connect until after college. Partners in life as in wine, Stehly works as Vesper’s enologist in addition to making Stehleon brand wines. Broomell started Vesper in 2008 after a formative stint working harvest at Jaffurs in Santa Barbara. Each Vesper wine comes from a single vineyard, 100% of which are located in San Diego County. Broomell works with eleven different vineyards growing Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Picardan, Picpoul, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Mourvédre. Some of these end up in blends with Marsanne, Roussanne, Cinsault, and Grenache. The two most well-known cuvees, Tye Dye Lollipop (Grenache and Carignan) and Alcala (Marsanne and Roussanne), take traditional French blends and make them San Diegan.

Stehleon Vineyards Al Stehly grew up in a farming family in Valley Center. After earning a degree in accounting, he returned home, and along with his wife Lisa established Stehly Grove Management in 1990. Their company manages avocado and citrus groves, but was asked over ten years ago to install a wine grape vineyard. This single vineyard captured Al’s imagination, particularly because grapes require far less water than citrus or avocado trees. He took classes anywhere possible, including at UC Davis, and studied viticulture and enology. Referral after referral for new vineyard installations led to the Stehlys planting and managing over forty acres of vineyards around the county. Their personal vineyard, Sunrise Ranch, crowns the top of a hill in Valley Center. Time and experience will bear 20

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witness, but I believe some of these sites will be the Grand Crus of San Diego wine. It didn’t take long for Al to figure out that there is greater profit to be made making the grapes into wine than selling the grapes, so he enlisted his daughter Alysha to be the winemaker for Stehleon. Alysha’s UC Davis education provided her with the academic and scientific chops to be the backbone of the operation. It is neat how Alysha and Chris collaborate and support each other’s work, yet maintain their individual styles. A deeper richness of texture sets Stehleon wines apart from their winery-mates. Torrontes, Grenache Blanc, Malvasia Bianca, Grenache Rosé, Syrah, and Sangiovese comprise Stehleon’s current releases, adding up to a grand total of about 700 cases. Stehleon Grenache Blanc convinced me that Grenache Blanc is San Diego’s Chardonnay. While our microclimate varies enough that there may be good sites for Chardonnay, generally speaking, it is just too darn hot here. Grenache Blanc is a clone of Grenache Noir and thought to be native to Northern Spain. According to GuildSomm.com, Grenaches prefer hot, dry stony schist or granite. Guess what? Decomposed granite, perpetual sunshine, and chronic drought define San Diego County. At the same time Alysha took Stehleon’s production from a custom crush facility in 2013, Vesper had outgrown its facilities and so had J. Brix. The search began for the proper space for three fledgling wineries. “It was a hot, warm day, and we had looked at many warehouses… a lot over a few week period,” said Alysha Stehly. “As soon as we drove up the road I knew it was the place for our co-op winery. It was an urban warehouse, yet didn’t feel like endless warehouse after warehouse. It’s close to the freeways, and it had the right ceiling heights we needed.” And so 298 Enterprise Street Suite D became their home, with Stehleon serving as the host winery. This is different from a traditional cooperative because each winery here is bonded as its own separate entity; they just happen to share space. Old World cooperatives are frequently places where farmers in the area bring their excess grapes. There, the co-op employs a full winery staff that vinifies the town’s grapes on their behalf and sells the production. The old joke goes, “How do you make a small fortune in wine? You start with a large one.” Tremendous amounts of capital are required to make wine in your own winery, and it takes many years to see any revenue at all. This arrangement creates a little breathing space for everyone. Shared rent,

“Wine geek” Joey Hollacher pours Vesper. SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3


equipment, and maintenance expenses run 70-80% of what it could be solo. The financial benefits are obvious, but there are many intangibles. Collective brain power and varied experience of the like-minded and passionate raise the bar no matter what the profession. Each winemaker tastes the other wines, which defends against “cellar palate.” Then harvest arrives. The grapes wait for no one. Wave after wave of half-ton bins pour into the building. Nobody sleeps. Those who source from outside San Diego drive up to the vineyards, participate in harvest, and drive the grapes down. The buddy system pays off when everyone is at the winery and exhausted, but they watch out for each other and tag team when possible. This is super important when heavy machinery is involved.

Jack Simon Vineyards Located atop a hill in Valley Center, Alex Urbano and Brad Diskin named their estate in honor of Brad’s father, Jack Simon Diskin. The senior Diskin’s father committed suicide after locusts decimated their farm in Argentina when Jack was a child. His mother returned with Jack and his brother to their hometown of Danzig, Poland just as Hitler rose. His mother sent him to the U.S. alone, at the age of 13, to live with her cousin. She perished along with the rest of his family in the work camp at Treblinka. Jack hustled his way through New York City, the Army, and later, the Colorado School of Mines, to establish a long career as an innovative mining executive. Jack and his wife Gini visit the tasting room often. A stunning and ambitious project, Urbano and Diskin enlisted Al Stehly to start planting the estate in 2008 with mostly Iberian grapes: Albariño, Arinto, Cariñena, Garnacha, Graciano, Loureiro, Monastrell, Macabeo, Picardan, and Tempranillo. The two acres of Picardan are the largest planting in the world, with a little bit at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, and under an acre surviving in its native Chateauneuf du Pape. 2018 sees the release of their inaugural vintages, made by Broomell, starting with rosé and Albariño. Look for great things coming from here.

Rancho Guejito Vineyards Stehly Grove Management planted mostly southern Rhone grapes in the vineyards on the last remaining Mexican land grant starting in 2010. Rancho Guejito covers over 23,000 acres. The remains of the old winery building, built in the 1800s, remind me of the album cover of the fourth Led Zeppelin 22

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album. Broomell makes upwards of 10,000 cases a year of Counoise, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Mourvédre, Picpoul, Roussanne, Torrontes, Sangiovese, Malbec, Malvasia Bianca, Petite Manseng, Ugni Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Clairette Blanche, Cinsault, and Terret Noir. They also work with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Merlot that are purchased from other vineyards along the Central Coast. You may enjoy these wines at the San Pasqual Valley tasting room which opened on site last fall.

Williams & Haim I first met Duncan Williams when I was a young server and he was the winemaker at Fallbrook Winery. Today, his day job is at Falkner Winery in Temecula, but Williams joined forces with Alan Haim, his wife Mare’s boss, to establish their very own in 2014. A family operation, Mare tends to marketing and administrative duties for the winery. They moved into 298 Suite D in the fall of 2014. They source Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc from Coombsville, and Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands, to produce around 500 cases a year. Their wines are available at select retail outlets, as well as the wine list at Addison. 2017 brought Williams his thirty-sixth harvest. He brings a wealth of experience to the building. One of his mottos: “Work with good vineyards, match the right barrels to the right grapes, and don’t screw it up.”

Sans V Tasting Room So, where can I taste these wines? The people of 298 remodeled the tasting room and reopened in May as Sans V, or “without vines.” You will always be able to taste a rotating selection of current releases from Stehleon, Vesper, and Jack Simon. To check out the other wineries, contact them directly for an appointment. The urban winery experience may not be as scenic as a traditional winery, but the arrangement makes it possible for a talented, passionate group of people to make our lives a little bit more delicious. J. Brix’s Emily Towe summed up the experience best: “It’s great when we have tasting appointments with Europeans, where visiting a winery typically means sitting among the vines on the property of an ancient chateau, or trekking underground into a mysterious hillside cave. They are often quite skeptical when they arrive at our utilitarian, industrial-warehouse park… and then they taste the wines. Many times people have said, ‘I guess you really can make good wine anywhere!’ The building removes any romantic, chateau-filtered expectations, and allows the wines everyone makes here to be experienced for what they are.”

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Ozeki Sake reps at the Beer & Sake Fest. Photo by Philip Rodriguez.



San Diego is now home to 154 breweries, according to our affiliate publication West Coaster. The latest to join the fray are Attitude Brewing, Julian Beer Co, and Beach Grease.

Harrah’s Resort Southern California hosted the 16th Annual Beer & Sake Festival (pictured) on June 1, benefiting the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana.



Save the date: Hard Core Cider Tour returns to the Embarcadero Marina Park South on October 20, with six local operations already signed on to participate.

After a fire shut them down in September of last year, San Diego Distillery re-opens June 30 in Spring Valley. At time of press, 619 Vodka’s opening in North Park also appears imminent.



In June, Manzanita Roasting opened a new coffee house next to their roasting facility, which is part of the Bernardo Winery village of shops.

Oceanside tea bar The Loose Leaf turned two on June 3. In addition to their storefront, The Loose Leaf participates in several local farmers markets.



The Fermenters Club, organizers of the San Diego Fermentation Festival, will host a hands-on kombucha workshop at cocktail supply shop Collins & Coupe on July 15.

Pure Water San Diego, the city’s multi-year program to provide one-third of our water supply locally by 2035, offers informative public tours: SanDiego.gov/water.

MEAD Golden Coast Mead recently celebrated eight years in business, while Bronto Mead turns two on July 20. Both will pour at the SoCal Mead Fest at Long Beach’s Great Society on August 4.


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WINE Nat Diego, San Diego’s natural wine festival, is back on July 27 and 28. Read a Q&A w/ co-organizer Tami Wong at SDBevTimes.com.

SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3



SD Beverage Times • Volume 2 Issue 3

Profile for Advanced Web Offset

San Diego Beverage Times Summer 2018  

San Diego Beverage Times Summer 2018