Nov. 2 2015 04:11 PM

Urban winery production, tasting and more with a neighborhood feel

Taking a page from the craft beer playbook, a number of local wineries are opening locations in high-traffic, central locations. These urban wineries offer the tasting room experience within the production facility with the added comfort of a neighborhood locale. For those of us who don't want to trek to wine country for the winery experience, I'm happy to report Vinavanti Urban Winery will soon open in Hillcrest (1477 University Ave.).

The new corner location should afford plenty of foot-traffic, plus added space to allow for table service, light food items (think tapas and pinchos) and live entertainment.

Another element that makes Vinavanti a fine fit for this neighborhood is Van Drunen's all-natural approach to wine making. Without the aid of added yeast, sulfites or other additives, this rogue winemaker allows his wines to develop on their own.

"[He wants] to produce a terroir-driven wine," explained marketing and events manager Heather Newman. "He really wants the grape to speak for itself."

There is no filtering, fining or oak barrel-aging here. Thus, Vinavanti has been the first and only certified organic winery in San Diego since 2013 (which also results in the wines being vegan). As unconventional as these methods are, the wines follow suit—unique in flavor and style.

While sampling at the Sorrento Valley location, I was struck by the herbal qualities of Vinavanti's reds. The "Maverick," a blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot, is aptly named for its complex notes of herbs, berries and (just as the menu described) pencil lead.

My other favorite was just as full of unexpected flavors; both the still and sparkling Viogniers wowed with a powerful, peppery punch. But the latter, called "L'Héritier," stole my heart. It is a unique wine with naturally occurring bubbles and a strong yeasty nose. If you like sour beers or anything with a certain funk this is the wine for you.

Now that I've piqued your interest, you'll have to wait just a tad longer. Vinavanti has closed its Sorrento Valley location and the Hillcrest soft opening is due in mid-November, with a grand opening in early December. I'll be there to pop a bottle of that sparkling Viognier when the doors finally open.


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