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.
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.
Olivetto Ristorante and its owner Angelo Fiore welcome patrons with homey ambiance and selection of modern Italian fare influence by classic recipes. In 2008, the San Diego Reader claimed "it has all the virtues of a 'neighborhood Italian joint' – warmth, spirit, informality, prices not too bad – but the food is better than most," and Zagat's menu rating of "very good to excellent" supports this assertion. They make their own ravioli and pesto in-house and bake fresh loaves of bread. To accompany meals, the café also features a wine selection with refreshing whites and heartier reds from around the world, including authentic Italian offerings. Olivetto welcomes any meeting, from business get-togethers to romantic dinners.
Operacaffe translates the impeccable flavors of Northern Italian fare into beautiful culinary presentations just as easily as it melts opera and caffe into one tangy word. The hand-picked wines rest firmly on solid wooden tables, setting the foundation for an intimate dining experience. Brick walls frame the surrounding views of green nature and incoming sunlight that punctuate any romantic gathering or refined outing with a rustic flourish.
True connoisseurs can taste the character of a city in its beer, especially those cities constructed mostly from hops and barley. Sample the sudsy side of San Diego with today's Groupon: for $89, you get a luxury brewery tour for two from Brew Hop (a $190 value).
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.