By Jen Lothspeich
Known for its flagship location in Solana Beach, and more recently, a tasting room in Carlsbad, Carruth Cellars has ventured south. San Diego wine lovers can now enjoy their offerings in an alluring new setting in Little Italy.
Carruth Cellars Wine Garden set up shop in a quaint building previously occupied by another urban winery, San Diego Cellars. The opportunity to take over the space was “too good to pass up” for owner, winemaker and native San Diegan Adam Carruth, who felt the location had a lot of potential.
Along with a fresh look on the exterior — using a bold charcoal paint and eye-catching copper signage — the indoor space has been revamped with a fresh modern look. There is bench seating in one area, along with a long bar top, lots of enticing displays of wine and various merchandise available for purchase.
But the real magic of this place awaits outside.
Behind the building lies the actual wine garden, with lush greenery and flowering plants dotting the patio in wooden boxes and large pots. Cafe lights hang over long tables and bar stool seating, offering an added romantic touch.
Like most wine bars, Carruth serves wine flights, but with a bit of a twist. The menu includes three flights to choose from with five wines each, and if you’re so inclined — and you should be — there are corresponding cheese boards that can be paired with each flight.
For example, their “Bordeaux” flight includes a sauvignon blanc, merlot, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux blend.
The “bold and beautiful” cheese board, which is the flight’s recommended counterpart, includes a light and creamy goat cheese called Queso Leonara; a salty sweet sheep’s milk cheese called Ewephoria; and three other selections, each intended to pair with one of the wines in the flight.
The result is an enhanced tasting experience, as the wine and cheeses complement one another so well, bringing out different flavors in each.
Of course, if you’re more of a choose-your-own-adventure type, you can select your own cheese assortment along with some other tasty accoutrements, including pickles, olives, nuts, spreads and more.
Or, if through the paired flight and board combo you find that a wine (maybe the smoky, yet tart, malbec) goes particularly well when married with a certain cheese (in this case the rich and tangy Midnight Moon), you can go all out with a glass and a single order of cheese to indulge in.
Carruth recently showed off their new digs with an inaugural celebration that filled the garden — as well as the inside bar — with groups both large and small.
“I think the grand opening went really well,” Carruth said. “I saw a lot of new faces and think we have gotten the word out. I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
What actually comes next will include additional food options, possibly extending to a full menu or at least some pastries because, as Carruth put it, “Who doesn’t love dessert?”
And as for the already aesthetically pleasing and enchanting garden, the team at Carruth also plans to host private events in the space, incorporate live music sooner rather than later, and possibly serve up some five-course wine-pairing dinners.
Carruth Cellars Urban Wine Garden is located at 2215 Kettner Blvd., in Little Italy. Open daily and hours are Mondays through Fridays from 4–10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon–10 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can make a reservation. For more information, visit carruthcellars.com or call 858-847-9463.
— Jen Lothspeich is a wine-drinking, cat-cuddling native San Diegan who dreams of writing a best-selling true crime novel. Find her on Twitter at @Jen_Evel.
What about the wines (and cheese)?
With grapes sourced from Oregon and Northern and Central California vineyards, the grapes are pressed, fermented, barrel aged and bottled within Carruth’s urban facilities.
Carruth Cellars Wine Garden in Little Italy serves up about 10 wine selections — each with a corresponding cheese you should consider pairing with it for an indulgent sensory experience.
2016 Pinot Noir
A beautiful representation of Willamette Valley pinot. The Pacific Northwest knows what to do with the finicky varietal and this one is no exception. Flavors of cola and tart berry are balanced by a smooth vanilla finish.
Pair with Vlaskaas: A sharp and nutty cow’s milk cheese from Holland.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
This complex wine has an abundance of vegetal characteristics with green bell pepper notes and a hint of earthy mushrooms.
Pair with Ivy’s Reserve Cheddar: An English cow’s milk cheese that is rich and salty.
Luscious and rich on the palate, this wine has ripe berry flavors with a subtle spiciness. Pair with Queso Leonara: An herbaceous and creamy Spanish cheese made with goat milk.