On my way back from a recent trip to the beach, I stopped into one of the newest addition to San Diego's growing list of Urban Winery & satellite tasting room locations. LJ Crafted Wines located in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla is a modern winery by every standard. The winery offers indoor or outdoor seating, is designed with clean steel & glass architecture, all while boasting something a little different right under the counter. Wine barrels with tubes & taps attached run the length of this all glass bar, where you watch glasses get filled directly from those very barrels.
Wine on tap, straight out of the Barrel
While watching your wine come out of a tap attached to the top of a wine barrel, you will know that this is not your average winery. The wines are served directly from the barrel through a newly patented innovative technology. This patented & trademarked technology known as a Wine Steward®, allows wine to be repeatedly served directly from the Lowell in which it is aging, without the remaining wine losing integrity. Jooste hopes this innovative technology will change several aspects of the wine industry & tasting rooms. Never done with innovation, he has begun development with a partner to improve the system for a version 2. The hopes is that the improvements will give the system a broader industry appeal, while also providing crucial business data to users.
Supporting a Zero-waste Lifestyle
If you talk with the founder Lowell Jooste for any period of time, you will come to understand that reducing environmental impact has became more than just a pillar of his business, but a true philosophy of how he does things at LJ Crafted Wines. A perfect example of this is their new delivery service in development, with more than 80% of the wine club living within a few miles, they procured an electric run-about vehicle. This fully electric car will be used to help club members get their wine allocations, while providing an environmentally friendly delivery option. His winery also uses refillable growlers for to go orders of wine. No wine opener here, just stop in when you need more and get a top up of your favorite or check the menu for a new Napa Valley wine arrival to try. In yet another example of how his team was able to adapt what was already in use for the bar & food service instead of purchasing a separate machine, they were able to find a way for the current dishwasher to sterilize the growlers all while reducing the environmental footprint.
Wine education is key to all who enjoy wine
Lowell's enthusiasm about all things wine is evident through this ear-to-ear grin that permeates his face while discussing any thing vino. From discussing the local winery scene, to my personal wine education journey, to discussing his upcoming vintages in barrel, the level of excitement never dropped off. His demeanor extended right into talking about how they at the winery to help all visitors learn something on their stop at LJ Crafted Wines. When novices come by to taste the wine, they may receive an intro of how to enjoy their drink, with an overview of the "6 S's" of wine evaluation. Then another customer may inquire after the vineyards or the wine making process, all while a softer conversation is happening on a deeply academic level with Derek Bacciocco the staff wine educator & sommelier. Mr. Jooste and his tasting room staff were very welcoming and engaging with visitors to the winery. The team of winery were very informative and knowledgable, discussing at length the winemaking techniques & varietal characteristics. They also host food & wine pairing events, so be sure to check their events calendar to get more information about what is coming up.
Napa Valley in San Diego
The wine itself at LJ Crafted Wines is sourced from grapes grown in vineyard locations in Napa and Sonoma counties, where the selected varieties have excelled. The winemaker, Alison Green-Doran, processes the grapes in Northern California before then shipping the barrels to the winery in San Diego. She has a Fermentation Science degree from UC Davis & been making wine for several decades. You can taste in her wines that she understands the terroir of the local mountains & valleys were they source fruit, along with the coastal influences that unevenly effect that grape growing regions of Northern California. Each barrel captures a unique expression of site specific wines. This is a unique experience and I highly suggest that anyone in the area stop in to try LJ Crafted Wines.
After a tour of the facility & talking with the owner, I sat down to taste the current selection of wines 'on tap.' As soon as we were finished he headed strait to the bar to greet guests who had just sat down and ask if they had been in before. Getting right back to one of Lowell's favorite parts of owning a winery, interacting with people.