Ken Mills and Michael Bartley didn’t stop enjoying global culture when they left their positions as food and beverage managers for Hornblower Cruises. They just brought that appreciation ashore at Wine Steals, their casual wine bar and market. Aided by Ken’s wife, Wendy, and certified specialist of wine Tasha Kuxhausen, they fill the bar’s barrels and shelves with more than 40 international wines.
Like Ken and Michael, executive chef Jeff Cunningham also earned his sea legs, serving in the US Navy and as a galley cook. In addition to arranging artisanal meat and cheese boards, Jeff crafts wine-themed international flavor combinations that either spread onto pizzas or curl up into sandwiches. For example, the pinot noir combo mixes Italian flavors of prosciutto, asiago, mozzarella, and white truffle oil.
Servers suggest ideal pairings to novice and experienced oenophiles as they pass drinks and plates across a 14-seat stone bar topped with European-style zinc. Above the bar, a chalkboard framed by wine barrels lists 40 vintages available by the half glass, glass, or bottle. Throughout the space, plush couches and chairs gather around wine barrels with wooden tabletops for more intimate gatherings or heated staring-contest championships. Wine Steals’ casual approach to wine and eclectic food has earned it the title of Best Wine Bar in the San Diego Union-Tribune's 2012 readers' poll.