San Diego is often thought of a beach town where young people and college students get rowdy seven days a week. While this may be partially true, it must be mentioned that San Diego also has a growing sophisticated side. San Diego has blossomed in the last few years as people with refined tastes have voiced their needs for new evening activities. What do people with refined tastes drink? Wine.
While you can enjoy a glass of wine at most bars in the city, wine drinkers know there is an ambience issue with sipping vino next to frat boys who are downing shots of Jäger. If you are looking for a sophisticated, upbeat wine atmosphere there are a handful of gems sprinkled throughout the city.
First is The Turquoise, located in North Pacific Beach right outside all the mayhem of the beach club scene. This café bar was created to be a haven for those who wish to whisk themselves away to the European café’s of the western Mediterranean Sea. The ambience is reflected in dark wood, brightly painted walls and dim lighting. The feeling is romance and magical and worlds away from this lively beach town.
The owner, William Cervavolo, wanted to create a place where mature people could come slowly sip their wine and feel rejuvenated. The menu is surprisingly deep. You can choose to sip on one of their signature cask wines and sample on small tapas or you can indulge with some of their larger dishes and desserts.
A few of my favorite tapas are the wild mushroom risotto, the marinated peppers and the seared Ahi. If you choose to eat a larger entrée you must try the spicy pasta or vegetarian panini. If you aren’t already salivating over the menu, The Turqoise also attracts crowds for their live music. Their lineup is constantly changing but Latin Jazz night is usually on Saturdays and is a great opportunity to relax, enjoy some wine and meet other refined locals.
Another option for sophisticated wine crowds is The Vine in Ocean Beach. This wine bar and café is a surprise amidst the laid back hippie/beach vibe of the neighborhood. The Vine provides a European feel without being pretentious. Their "around the world" wine list is constantly changing so be sure to ask the server what may be new.
Their beer options happen to be some of the best in Southern California. You will find rare brews that are seen only in specialty shops around the world. Happy hour is an excellent time to come to The Vine if you wish to sample more than one brew (daily 4-6.)
They too have a delectable tapas style menu as well as larger dishes to pair with your wine or beer. You can order "boards" to share with friends that may include meats, cheeses, baguettes or olives. If you want to try something unique to The Vine try the Black and White Float. This is a creamy vanilla gelato with Alesmith’s Speedway stout: a refined way to enjoy a "beer float."
Last but surely not least is The San Diego Wine and Culinary Center. The wine tasting here is a one of kind experience because the center carries locally produced premium wines and John, the owner, may even be the one to pour your first glass.
Another neat detail is their absence of a corkage fee! This is unheard of and is even more of a reason to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends. You can call ahead of time to schedule a wine tasting or you can simply stop in and request one of their wine tasting options on their menu.
The Center turns into Dizzy’s Live Jazz Club on specific nights which one of the most well known places to go for a live jazz experience in San Diego. For something soulful in San Diego also check the center’s online calendar for the concert schedule.
In addition to all of this it is vital to mention that every Wednesday at the center is Canine (K-9) and Wine night from 5-9pm. This event invites all dog lovers to bring their pets to the spacious patio to sample an eclectic mix of wine along with their canines for a social outing. The City Dog Pet Shop holds activities centered around the dogs including fashion shows, costume contests and more. If you own a dog this is the place to be.
As San Diego continues to be developed a greater number of wine bars and eateries may pop up, but as of now these locations are some of the best. Whether you feel like being transformed to Southern Europe, sampling fine wines, beers or tapa’s and taking in some smooth jazz for the night, one of these places is sure to give you that sophisticated satisfaction.
What & Where:
The Turquoise (873 Turquoise St; 858-488-4200)
The Vine (1851 Bacon St; 619-222-8463)
San Diego Wine and Culinary Center (200 Harbor Dr, Suite 120; 619-231-6400)