By John Gregory
The California Fruit Wine Co. has opened its tasting room at the corner of University Avenue and Herbert Street in Hillcrest.
Started by the Haghighi brothers in 2009, California Fruit Wine Co. had lacked a tasting room ever since co-founders Alan and Brian had moved their production facility from Vista to Carlsbad two years ago. Since their headquarters was in a mostly industrial area, the brothers began looking for a tasting room space in a location more to their liking, with a focus on an urban environment.
The search was not easy as the brothers found potential landlords a bit difficult to deal with and other businesses were sometimes chosen for a location the wine company had sought.
At last, the California Fruit Wine Co. worked out a deal with their friends at Vinavanti Urban Winery to take over its tasting room at the University Avenue location.
Now that they have found a more urban location, they hope customers will stop in to sample their wines made from a variety of fruits. Pineapple, mango, pomegranate, cranberry and pumpkin spice are among the wines currently featured in the tasting room.
“We invite beverage enthusiasts of all types to come out and taste the fruit wines and experience a world beyond just red and white,” Brian said.
Customers may sip the wines on the premises and also purchase bottles of their favorites to take home. Beyond a selection of fruit wines and sangrias, the tasting room also carries guest wines from other wineries, as well as a selection of beers for those who are not wine drinkers.
Guests may also sample from the menu of flatbreads, tapas and appetizer-style food available from the kitchen. A basic brunch is offered each Sunday featuring waffles, fruit and homemade syrup.
The room’s seating includes several bar-height communal tables with seating for up to 10 customers. More private tables are available with seating for one or two.
“We’ve added color and warmth to the space,” Brian said. “The focal point for us is our novel and changing list of fruit wines.”
The company rotates fruit used in its wine production throughout the year. These include blackberry, blueberry, strawberry and raspberry, for example.
The company finds itself in a never-ending effort to establish fruit wine as a top wine to be taken seriously and respected.
One of the company’s goals is “to convey the high quality of the category,” Alan explained.
“Fruit wine is an awesome category because you can make it all year long,” he said. “These are the highest quality of products on the planet,” he added. “This category should be perceived as what it is.”
The tasting room also features a small batch production system capable of producing 300 gallons of wine on-site. Wine produced through the small batch system is then placed in kegs so that it can be served on tap. Not only are these small batch wines served at the University Avenue location, they are also sold to bars and restaurants.
Each of the flavors is prepared in four iterations to suit most tastes, Alan said. Blueberry wine, for example, will be available in dry blueberry, sweet blueberry, dry sparkling blueberry and sweet sparkling blueberry.
The effort to promote the quality and increase the popularity of fruit wines is gaining momentum and The California Wine Co. has some sizeable retail customers. Whole Foods Market is the biggest retail customer so far, purchasing approximately 40,000 bottles during the past year. HEB Grocery Company, LP, with 350 stores in Texas and northeast Mexico, is another retail customer.
Tasting hours are from 3-10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; 3-11 p.m. Fridays; noon-11 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays. The tasting room is not open Mondays and Tuesdays.
The California Fruit Wine Co. is located at 1477 University Ave., in Hillcrest. For more information, visit californiafruitwine.com