Barely any Italian (wine) spoken, some French, but Californian is extreme in San Diego

Above: Jon Erickson and Jayne Battle, owners of Jaynes Gastropub in University Hts., San Diego.

The old timers will tell you that before WWII, there wasn’t much in San Diego. In those days, it was the last stop before your Tijuana divorce, a border town, a place to seek refuge from Los Angeles oil fields and Hollywood tinsel. The city has come a long way and even though there’s not a lot of great wine to be found here, a number of new and interesting places have sprung up in recent years.

Jaynes Gastropub
4677 30th St (at Adams)
University Hts. (San Diego), CA 92116
(619) 563-1011

The atmosphere at Jaynes Gastropub is that of a chic London… well, gastropub. I went on a Saturday night with my friend Patrick Ballow (who runs the wine shop at Jonathan’s in La Jolla, one of San Diego’s best, and the only place I’ve been able to find any natural wine). The restaurant was packed and patrons seemed to relish the haute-pub-food menu. The gambas al ajillo were excellent and the crispy calamari were melt-in-your-mouth tender. “We fry them very quickly at a really high temperature,” said Jayne. “That’s the secret.” At my waiter’s recommendation, I also had a Jayne Burger, topped with red onions that are brined in clove- and star-anise-infused cider vinegar with a touch of cinnamon. I ordered it rare and it arrived perfectly cooked.

Above: the gambas al ajillo at Jaynes were tender and the grilled bread was drizzled oh-so-lightly with extra-virgin olive oil.

The beer selection at Jaynes is fantastic, the mostly new world wine list small but with some real gems, like an Olivier Leflaive St. Aubin en Remilly 1er Cru 2004, which Jon serves by the glass, a traditional mineral-driven classic Burgundian white. Patrick and I also really dug the Vignobles Brisebarre Vouvray Demi-Sec 1989 that he poured with dessert.

Above: the secret ingredient in the Jayne Burger? Brined red onion rings.

Corkage is only $15: we drank a Lòpez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado 1997 (mine) and a Château Branaire (Duluc-Ducru) St. Julien 1995 (Patrick’s… I know, I know… what am I doing drinking Bordeaux? But this judiciously made thirteen-year-old wine — lip-smacking without being too fruit-forward — was showing beautifully, with great goudron notes and it was a great match for my tasty burger).

Above: Tastes wine bar and shop is shaped like a porter house steak. The space was built out as a steakhouse in the 1940s.

Tastes
641 S Highway 101
(just south of West E)
Encinitas, CA 92024
(760) 942-9549

My friend Robin Starck, who runs a successful wine appraisal and brokerage firm, took me to Tastes in Encinitas (in North County, San Diego).

Even though it has nearly no Italian to speak of, the list at Tastes was probably the best French I’ve seen in San Diego. I really liked the Jean-Luc Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2006, unctuous with gorgeous fruit. Tastes is also a wine shop and serves 50 wine-by-the-glass. Chef/owner Sean Fisher’s food is very elegant (although a bit precious for my tastes), the space warm, and the wine service top-notch.

The outgoing Robin also leads wine-cycling trips through Italy.

Above: owner Mike Kallay loops the movie Mondovino in his off-the-beaten-track downtown wine bar, The Cask Room.

The Cask Room
550 Park Boulevard
(btwn Market and Island)
Downtown San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 822-1606

“Big and obnoxious or feminine and delicate” are the extreme degrees of Mike Kallay’s palate at the The Cask Room in downtown San Diego, where he serves roughly twenty-five wines, nearly all of them Californian. The wine bar is also a wine shop and the prices for his mostly-under-$25 bottles are retail, with $10 added across the board if you consume the bottle on premise. I can’t say there was much for an old-world palate like mine to drink but I admire Mike for his vehement anti-Parker and “no points” stance (he looped the movie Mondovino on a flat-screen throughout the evening I was there). I did enjoy a Domaine Paul Autard Côtes du Rhône 2006 that he poured, made from vineyards that lie just outside of Châteauneuf-de-Pape. Mike is a musician and his wine bar features live music on the weekends (mostly blues, from what I could gather). The outspoken Mike also writes a wine column for The San Diego Downtown News (a monthly rag). You gotta hand it to a guy who can describe wine as “obnoxious.”

The weather’s beautiful in San Diego (and I’m headed back to NYC unfortunately), the burritos are cheap but the ingredients fresh, and there’s a cozy wine bar downtown where they play blues on the weekend. Too bad most of the wine tastes like “chocolate.” Maybe I’ll come back to stay anyway…

I know a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way
There’s a little cafe where they play guitars all night and day

*****

Rosalita

Spread out now Rosie doctor come cut loose her mama’s reins
You know playin’ blind man’s bluff is a little baby’s game
You pick up Little Dynamite I’m gonna pick up Little Gun
And together we’re gonna go out tonight and make that highway run
You don’t have to call me lieutenant Rosie and I don’t want to be your son
The only lover I’m ever gonna need’s your soft sweet little girl’s tongue and Rosie you’re the one
Dynamite’s in the belfry playin’ with the bats
Little Gun’s downtown in front of Woolworth’s tryin’ out his attitude on all the cats
Papa’s on the corner waitin’ for the bus
Mama she’s home in the window waitin’ up for us
She’ll be there in that chair when they wrestle her upstairs ’cause you know we ain’t gonna come
I ain’t here on business
I’m only here for fun

Rosalita jump a little lighter
Senorita come sit by my fire
I just want to be your lover ain’t no liar
Rosalita you’re my stone desire

Jack the Rabbit and Weak Knees Willie you know they’re gonna be there
Ah Sloppy Sue and Big Bones Billy they’ll be comin’ up for air
We’re gonna play some pool skip some school act real cool
Stay out all night it’s gonna feel all right
Rosie come out tonight Rosie come out tonight
Windows are for cheaters chimneys for the poor
Closets are for hangers winners use the door

Rosalita jump a little lighter
Senorita come sit by my fire
I just want to be your lover ain’t no liar
Rosalita you’re my stone desire

Now I know your mama she don’t like me ’cause I play in a rock and roll band
And I know your daddy he don’t dig me but he never did understand
Papa lowered the boom he locked you in your room
I’m comin’ to lend a hand
I’m comin’ to liberate you confiscate you I want to be your man
Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny
But now you’re sad your mama’s mad
And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company Rosie just gave me big bucks

My tires were slashed and I almost crashed but the Lord had mercy
My machine she’s a dud out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey
Hold on tight stay up all night ’cause Rosie I’m comin’ on strong
By the time we meet the morning light I will hold you in my arms
I know a pretty little place in Southern California down San Diego way
There’s a little cafe where they play guitars all night and day
You can hear them in the back room strummin’
So hold tight baby ’cause don’t you know daddy’s comin’

Rosalita jump a little lighter
Senorita come sit by my fire
I just want to be your lover ain’t no liar
Rosalita you’re my stone desire

— Bruce Springsteen

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