We may live in the promised land of craft beer and cocktails (true story), but the wine scene is stepping up its game with exotic and varied lists throughout the city.
Not unusual or foreign to their native lands and generations of local winemakers, these varietals may pose a challenge to our California-bred wine minds. Raised on chardonnay, merlot (gasp!), and cabernet sauvignon, we might look askance at these “weird” and “I can’t pronounce that” varietals from other lands.
Fear not, there is unlimited joy to be had in these wines, so as much as you experiment with barrel-aged beer and amaros in your cocktails, try your hand at these worthwhile varietals:
Hailing from the Galicia region of Spain, this fruity and citrusy white is (PER-fekt) for San Diego weather and cuisine. Think grapefruit, tropical notes of pineapple and mango, and zesty lemon.
Find at: Kettner Exchange, Fillaboa Rias Baixas $11; Prepkitchen Little Italy, Salneval Rias Baixas, Spain, $11.
From the gorgeous postcard island of Santorini, this little white grape has taken the wine world by storm. Dream of Grecian holidays while sipping on this varietal, which can show itself in a variety of ways, from racy citrus and minerality to more creamy and full-bodied apple and pear, depending on the producer.
Find at: Juniper and Ivy (from their Leap of Faith series) Sigalas Santorini, and at various Greek restaurants around the city. On the retail side, check out Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Grüner Veltliner (Groo-ner-VELT-leen-er)
Grown primarily in Austria, Gruners are one of my favorite go-to’s on the white wine side of a list. Refreshing and tangy, with a burst of lime (think the wine version of a margarita), white pepper, and a razor’s edge minerality.
Find at: Jaynes Gastropub, Schloss Gobelsburg Austria, $12; Urban Solace, Hermann Moser Austria $12
Also known as Mourvedre (Moor-VED-rah) and Mataro (Mah-TAR-o), the name might be completely confusing by name, but it’s a clutch grape for both blends and stand-alone wines around the world, including France, Spain, Australia and in our own California backyard. Shows itself dark and juicy, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, black pepper, and smoke.
Find at: Banker’s Hill Bar + Restaurant, Juan Gil Monastrell Silver Label, $11 (this popular and delicious classic version can also be found in local wine shops)
There’s a running joke in my old blind-tasting group. If you like it, but you can’t seem to place the varietal, it’s probably Tempranillo. A native of Spain, Tempranillo is the famous grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. It also finds its home in Portugal, and our own neighbor Mexico. Look for notes of cherry and plum mingled with tobacco and leather.
Find at: Bracero, Vena Cava Valle de Guadalupe, $15; Sea 180, Santo Thomas, Tempranillo/Cabernet, Mexico, $12; Village Vino, Lopez de Herredia Vin?a Cubillo Crianza Rioja, Spain, $15
Stay tuned for Part 2 for more exciting varietals for your must-try tasting list. Cheers!
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to firstname.lastname@example.org.