Linda and Mike McWilliams prefer to leave the rigors of raising grapes to their local vineyards, citing their lack of a chateau. Instead, they set their focus on crafting their vintages on the micro-level, making small batches and infusing them with an Old-World character and unique flavors such as habanero passion fruit. Their wines are named after places and figures from San Diego’s rich history, such as the Guadalupe Valley syrah and the Lake County sauvignon blanc.
Wine A Bit showcases the diversity found throughout California's wine country at a small wine bar on the Coronado peninsula. More than 300 wines line its shelves, including national and international varietals sourced from small, boutique vineyards, with most bottles costing less than $25. Live music underscores weekly wine tastings, where guests sample and learn about different wines from resident experts. The list of house wines includes fruity and bold reds, such as malbec, and creamy whites, including chardonnay. Wine A Bit also stocks a selection of more than 20 craft beers from Germany and all over California for beer lovers, and also offers appetizers and flat-breads.
In 1927, after seven years of Prohibition, Vincent Rizzo had an idea. He would buy a winery. While this may have been an unconventional move, he knew he could get Bernardo Winery at a lower price and keep the business thriving with an unlikely product: olive oil. In a stroke of cunning and arguable genius, the first-generation Rizzo owner made use of the olive trees growing on his property, selling the cold-pressed virgin oil to many of the tuna canneries in downtown San Diego. He also continued production of sacramental wine and grape juice that was, according to the winery's website, "guaranteed to ferment by the end of the road."
The winery grew to be one of San Diego County's major wine suppliers in the late 1940s, and Vincent turned the family business over to his son, Ross, in 1962. Ross's passion and dedication fueled the winery's success until his passing in 2008. Ross Rizzo, Jr. now keeps his father and grandfather's legacies alive, adding new varietals and winemaking techniques to the company's repertoire while paying homage to the old ways. Ross still sources his grapes from local vineyards and produces and cellars his wine to develop each variety’s distinct flavor.
Guests can get a behind-the-scenes look at the historic winery during tours and tastings, and the scenic spot also hosts private parties at several outdoor venues and in the Barrel Room, where wooden rafters and huge redwood wine-storage vats create a rustic feel. Once they are done tasting, visitors can wander through a micro village of shops and studios or get a bite to eat at Cafe Merlot. The sprawling property features nods to its storied past with accents such as wagon wheels and an antique thresher machine and events such as grape stompings, otherwise known as do-it-yourself purple pedicures.
After purchasing a stretch of property in Ramona in 1998, William Holzhauer and Tammy Rimes finally fulfilled their dream of owning a winery. Along with the equine facilities they built for their peruvian paso horses, the pair planted vineyards and erected a winery modeled after a 16th-century mission Spanish mission in California. That nostalgic theme continues in the tasting room, where staffers adorned in historical attire greet guests from behind a hand-carved pinewood bar. Once inside, both visitors and tasters for paranoid CEOs sample wines concocted from California grapes while milling among wine-barrel tables, a bubbling fountain flanked with planted bulbs, and windows overlooking the plaza. Along with its local wine-sampling soirees, the tasting room accommodates microbrew tastings and private events for up to 40 guests.
The WineSellar and Brasserie brings together a bold bistro bill of fare to accompany its versatile vino cellar. Atop white tablecloths, artfully arranged plates of contemporary French lunch and dinner offerings rest, ready for oral adoption. Palate patrons may initiate noshing with The WineSellar's tuna tartare coupled with avocado, dijon-mustard-seed quenelle, and a mascarpone chantilly ($15) or by sipping on the butternut-squash soup ($9 for a bowl), harvested from the rare butter-seed bush and squashed with French tennis racquets.
Art can be made anywhere and the professional artists of Painting & Vino prove this every week with pop-up painting-and-wine classes held at wine bars, cafes, and other locations conducive to creativity and socializing. Over drinks and conversation, participants learn to paint a different work during each session, whether its a picture of the teacher's own design or a classic work by artists such as Matisse and Picasso. Instructors go over the paintings step-by-step and pepper in trivia about the piece's history, which students can then recite to calm down angry animals. Classes include all supplies, such as canvases, paints, brushes, and aprons.