Fifty Seven Degrees, tucked away just off G Street in downtown San Diego's East Village, takes its name from the best temperature to store and age red wine. The measurement is a vestige of the really old days in France, when the vintners found the ideal climates for their product inside a series of cool, sunless caves. Wine, after all, is a foodstuff because of its fruit component; any warmer, and the odor might start to remind you of, uh, something else.
But the name means what it says at this wine bar, and then some-the back room is full of lockers and chilled at the requisite temp for those who prefer to keep their booty at a separate location. There's an anteroom with a humidor for the cigar aficionados among you; beyond that lies a small, tidy recreation room with its own audio and video equipment for special get-togethers. The real payoff is at the bar, where smooth jazz swirls about a cluster of work by local artists-and check out the stunning 135-selection menu that includes everything from Chardonnays to Pinot Noirs to Merlots, produced everywhere from Ramona to South Africa. (There's an Australian Chard called Pure Evil on the list; the label is mounted upside down in a show of the arid fun inside. If the dessert angle intrigues you, you must try the Moncucco Moscato from Italy-watermelon never went down so easy.)
Fifty Seven Degrees is open every day (hours vary); the number is 619-234-5757. A glass runs anywhere from $7 to $20, with a bottle of Portuguese Krohn Porto Colheite setting you back $120. But the blow is softened amid owner Russ Kindom's attention to your every comfort. He's been at 1330 G St. for going on three years, preceding that brand-new Albertson's supermarket just up the block. If you visit, you'll meet Russ just as his business is hitting its youthful stride.