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San Diego Cellars

2215 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy

While not wholly unique, the concept behind San Diego Cellars is fun. The novelty lies in putting a fully functional winery, kitchen, and tasting room within the confines of the city, rather than exiling winemaking operations to the more conventional countryside. Done up in the rustic “barn door chic” style so popular today, the place manages to be hospitable in addition to being functional. It’s a trip, stepping into SD Cellars and walking past oak barrels of future vintages, just chilling out and aging right there on the floor, bedecked with shiny lights for the holidays.

SD Cellars predominantly sells their own wines, with a few from other vineyards mixed in for variety. Since the majority of the wine rests in casks, sale is by the glass or in 1L “cruzers,” which are like growlers for wine and can be refilled. Prices hover at $6-$9 per glass and $20-$32 for a cruzer-full. That is to say, they’re reasonable.

The results vary.

A $6 glass of “San Diego County Syrah?” Tremendous at that price.

Boldly tannic and earthy, it would be interesting to see this wine age a few years.

A $5 glass of Pinot Noir rosé may very well “change your attitude towards 'pink' wines,” as the menu suggests. The change just might not be positive. The bizarre wine has beerlike qualities, as if designed to please the palate of a Belgian farmer. Certainly not the picnicker’s rosé of choice!

Even when flawed, it seems SD Cellars’ wines at least manage to be interesting, and it’s hard to deny the chance to sip around the wine list at such fair prices.

Pork pâté

In addition to the wines, the wee kitchenette turns out a menu of <$15 wine bar standbys. Flatbreads, crostini, cheeses, and salads could come from the menu of any other tasting room. That’s neither bad nor exciting.

Pistachio and burrata flatbread

The pistachio and burrata flatbread, enthusiastically recommended by several diners, makes an impression more with its whole-wheaty crust than with its toppings. It’s hard to get worked up over pesto flatbread, but it certainly does the trick and doesn’t disappoint in any way.

Porcine paté is not a typo for “porcini!” Beyond mushrooms, which are there, the paté includes plenty of pork. Spread thinly over brittle crostini, there could be more of it, but what’s there tastes good enough.

So too it goes with Caesar salad. It works. That is all.

More interesting food would make San Diego Cellars a better destination, that much is certain. But even with a pedestrian menu of snacks, the novelty of the vino alone makes it worth a visit for wine lovers.

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