Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wine Blogging #18

Vintage Wines LTD, San Diego, California.
My first WBW and I have to praise a wine shop! Good thing I’m used to giving my favorite wine shop plenty of exposure, although it is usually on my other wine blog Tasting Notes.

Why continue to play favorites? Why not branch out and look for another wine shop in San Diego that feels the love? San Diego and surrounding counties are full of wine shops and wine bars doing great things for wine drinkers, just check out the events listed on Local Wine Events.Com. And then check out places like Wine Street , Carlsbad Wine Merchants , 57 Degrees , The Wine Encounter, Bacchus Wine Market & Tasting Room, Wine Sellar & Brasserie, Varietals Wine Merchants - the list goes on and on.

Even with such a large listing Vintage Wines has to be at the top. This wine shop, hidden away in a small mall on Miramar Road, is special to me for several reasons. First, I have along history with them. This goes back to some time in the mid-1980’s when I returned to California after I had returned to Australia; its not as confusing as it sounds, we can talk about it later. At that time I heard that there was this wine shop that had tastings on a Saturday morning. Once I started to attend the tastings I found that they also had a reasonable selection of Australian wines, long before Aussie wine was fashionable in the USA. Second, over the years their selection of Australian wines has grown so that they always have an excellent selection of wines on hand in all prices ranges from Yellow Tail to Torbreck. Third, they offer wine at attractive prices, very attractive prices. Fourth, the staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and diverse in their tastes. Very diverse! Fifth, they have a wide range of wines. American, Australian, French, German, Italian, New Zealand, Spanish, etc. And yes they have shelf talkers, and they will list the points – although for Australian wines you are just as likely to get Halliday’s scores as you are Parker’s.

Sounds like just another good wine shop? Vintage Wines is much more than that. One small example is the email conversations I have had over the last two days with Steve Frederick, the store manager. Yesterday I asked if they would be getting any of the John Duval Entity Shiraz. He replied that he would find out if his distributor is getting any of the wine. Then today I came across the press release confirming the rumors that Paterno Wines would be distributing Two Hands wines. Chasing up that news I rediscovered that Yabby Lake wines are also handled by Paterno. I’d tasted and really liked Yabby Lake on our last visit to Australia and so I fired off an email to Steve about availability. The reply came back with information on estimated pricing, vintages, and availability, and the little added extra that they also have Heathcote Estate Shiraz available – Tod Dexter is winemaker for both Yabby Lake and Heathcote Estate and I’d tasted wines from both vineyards with him last December. Money and wine will soon be changing hands.

Another of the features of Vintage Wines is the variety of wines available for tasting. You can always drop by for a taste from the Wine Bar (except Sunday). Changed every Friday the Bar consists of 5 whites, 6 reds, and 1 dessert wine offered by the taste or glass. The Wine Bar is set up by Bob Bartnett. Bob has been at Vintage for as long as I’ve been going there. Once the owner of a Mustang with the license plate ZINFAN, Bob knows and loves wine, especially Old World. If you are into over-oaked, high alcohol wines don’t ask Bob for recommendations. When Zinfandel was the topic of a Saturday tasting Bob would run it. I pretty soon figured out that we had different palates, but even though I tried I could never get my ordering of the wines to jibe with his. I could almost always come close when John Lindsey, the owner, ran a tasting but Bob could always fool me.

Those semi-structured Saturday tastings that initially drew me to Vintage Wines have long gone. Fortunately they have been replaced by more value orientated tasting schedule that can be done at your leisure. The $2 tasting usually consists of 5 wines under $15/bottle that are considered to provide the best bang for your dollar. The $5 tasting will get you 6 wines based around a varietal, style, or country of origin. Both tastings last from 11AM to 3PM. It is not unusual to find me at a table surrounded by glasses from the $5 tasting as well as few selected tastes from the Wine Bar. If Miranda comes we will often bring some nibbles, as do many of the Saturday regulars.

An event I try not to miss is the monthly Third Thursday tasting. This is a structured event run between 6.30-8.00PM. There are usually 8 top quality wines that are tasted single blind (i.e. you know the identity of the wines but not their order). Votes are taken for 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed wine, and then the identities are revealed. After that discussion and excuses ensue! For the cost of a reasonable bottle of wine (between $40-60) you can compare some outstanding examples of the winemakers art. The folks that attend these tasting can be quite diverse and I have often sat at tables with both novice and expert alike. The discussions can be interesting.

That’s Vintage Wines. If you are ever in San Diego, especially on a Saturday, drop by and spend $7!

No I don’t have a tasting note to go with this WBW commentary. But if you link to Tasting Notes you will find a bunch of notes on $5 and Third Thursday tastings from Vintage Wines.

Vintage Wines LTD, 6904 Miramar Road, Suite 101 San Diego, CA 92121
Tel: (858) 549-2112, Fax: (858) 549-0557, Email:
Storefront Hours: Sun & Mon 10AM-6PM, Tues 10AM-7PM, Wed through Fri 10AM-9PM, Sat 10AM-6PM

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