Most local winemaking operations set up shop on the rural outskirts while tasting rooms spring up in well-trafficked areas. San Diego Cellars (2215 Kettner Blvd.) balances both at a quaint spot in Little Italy where wines are both made and served.
Nestled among office buildings and interior-décor shops, the location is just a block from craft-beer juggernauts Bottlecraft and the newly opened Ballast Point Brewing on India Street. San Diego Cellars fills a void for wine-lovers, offering a casual setting in a vibrant neighborhood where guests sample wines by tasting or glass.
A friend and I opted for a tasting and, for $10 each, selected six wines to try. Not normally a fan of rosé, I let my friend have at the only pink wine on the menu. However, at her coaxing, I took a sip. The rich flavor of Pinot Noir grapes with only a faint sweetness made this one easily drinkable.
The standouts, for me, lay on the other side of the menu. I tried multiple Syrahs, a Cabernet Sauvignon and an old vine Zinfandel—all of which I enjoyed. The 2009 and 2010 Syrahs topped my list. The 2009 was smooth and tasted like ripe berries and jam. The 2010 had a sharp acidity but held notes of cocoa and pepper. If you're a wine drinker with patience, this would be one to hold on to—also, could you lock a bottle away for me?
One interesting concept here is what they call a CRUzer. Similar to a growler purchased at a brewery, this refillable glass container is an ecofriendly bottle option. Another selling point: the CRUzer is filled to 1,000 milliliters (a bit more than standard 750-milliliter bottles.)
While the modest winery celebrated its grand opening only weeks before my visit, it already has a regular clientele; many patrons knew the bartenders by name and enjoyed their tastings for free as members of the wine club—a perk that convinced my friend and me to split a membership.