It was the first week of 2024 and we wanted to celebrate the new year and explore more of our new home San Diego. Of course, that meant wine tasting too! Off we went to enjoy a tasting at Carruth Cellars.
We had good friends visiting, so we wanted to show them some fun places around the San Diego harbor. Liberty Station began as the Naval Training Center, San Diego back in 1923 and was under Navy control until 1997. A few years later, the city of San Diego assumed responsibility for the grounds, and it is now home to a diverse mix of art, history, and commerce in the repurposed Naval buildings. Carruth Cellars has their San Diego tasting room in one of these buildings. We had previously enjoyed a tasting of Carruth wines in Carlsbad so we were excited to catch up on their wines and experience this tasting room.
Arriving at Liberty Station, we discovered a more than ample amount of free parking near the Carruth tasting area, which immediately put us in a positive mood. We strolled through some shops selling clothing and art as we waited for Carruth’s to be open. Once again, we had overestimated the time it would take to get to Liberty Station. It seems that everything in San Diego is 15-20 minutes away and we’re still stuck in the NorCal mindset of 45-60 minutes to get one town over. Once the Carruth tasting room was open, we stashed our purchases in the car and excitedly entered their tasting garden. The outdoor tasting area was lovely, with plenty of tables with sun umbrellas scattered around the space. We chose a table and went into the tasting room to select our tasting flights.
The tasting room was washed in sunlight and very welcoming. About half of the space was allocated to a long bar, with wine tasting tables along the window line. The other half of the space was all about artisanal food; with salads, sweets, sandwiches, paninis, cheeses, and charcuterie trays available for sale. A very intentional pairing of wine and food, all in one place. It took a bit of discussion to make our food choices because the offerings were diverse and eclectic. We ended up ordering a selection of bread, cured meat, some nuts and olives, and cheese (sheep, cow, and goat) before visiting the wine area so that our nibbles would be ready when our wine tasting flights were ready. That’s just the kind of planning that goes into our wine tasting visits.
We then went to the bar area and met our wine guide for the day, Alon. We learned that there was one tasting flight predefined, just in case we didn’t want to make tough decisions today, but otherwise we could select “Bartender’s choice” instead. This choice is quite the misnomer, in that the bartender is not making any choices, the customer gets to make ALL the choices. The customer selects any five wines from their extensive list of “by the glass” wines. That meant that each of us was able to select just the sequence of wines that fit our particular vibe for the day. In my case, that meant a curated parade of (hopefully) punchy reds. Alon built each custom tasting flight while talking with us about Liberty Station and serenading us with some truly realistic bird calls. A true triple threat! Each flight was delivered to our table as five cute little flasks securely mounted on a wooden tray with a card inserted into an end notch that identified the flight order to avoid confusion. I love this tasting technique because it encourages taking a quick sip from each flask in the flight and then going back to compare and contrast.
We settled in for some wine tasting pleasure. About then, we noticed something about Liberty Station that we had overlooked until then: it is directly under the final approach path for commercial jets landing at the San Diego airport. We were several miles from the airport, so the planes weren’t frighteningly close to us, but close enough to moderate our conversations as each one went over. Not a all a deal breaker at all, just an interesting side note. We even learned a new fun fact: Delta airplanes have the word DELTA painted on their underside. How else could we ever learn this?
I started my Bartender’s Choice with a 2020 Zinfandel. This unconventional starting point paid off, because it was not overly peppery or bombastic. It led with an almost effervescent aroma, leading to nice notes of plum, with no bitterness that sometimes afflicts Zins. It also got me started on the cheese flight, providing a solid underpinning for the creaminess of silky goat cheese. Next up was their 2019 Claret Blend, made with 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. This lovely wine led off our “take home” list, with its aromas of dusty cherries and a festival of fruit across the entire tongue. The crisp finish with residual fruit notes should pair nicely with nearly any meal.
The 2021 Kings X, made from 85% Russian River Zinfandel and 15% Alexander Valley Petite Sirah, was next. I enjoyed the balanced tannins and lingering dark fruit finish, especially as I paired it with Prager Brothers baguette slices. Next in my flight was their 2018 Malbec, which I described to everyone at our table as “heavenly.” A nose of blackberries and chocolate with a rich parade of every dark fruit. A classic Malbec with an amazing back-of-the-tongue fruit finish. Completing my flight was their 2018 Petite Sirah. This was very drinkable now, pairable with anything, but showed enough structure to age well into the future. Aromas of rosemary and notes of strawberry and blueberry on the tongue made this a pleasure from start to finish.
When our tasting/nibbling was complete, we went back to Alon to purchase our wines to take home and headed home (spoiler: it only took 14 minutes). Another great tasting from Carruth Cellars!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?