As a fairly recently-converted beer lover, I have noticed the difference in quality of a draft beer I drink at a brewery and the bottles I consume at home. There’s definitely a freshness to the draft, and for good reason.

I never considered that this would also apply to wine until I visited LJ Crafted Wines in La Jolla, California. I might have been expecting just your average wine bar, but I was far from right about that.

Modest Surroundings for Such Innovation

Walk into LJ Crafted Wines (located in the Bird Rock neighborhood of La Jolla), and nothing seems unusual. The place, which opened nearly a year ago, is creatively decorated with wood from barrels on the walls. That wood was salvaged from the barrels destroyed in the 2014 Napa earthquake. The lights are recycled bottles surrounded by the metal band from the destroyed barrels wound into an attractive design. Wine cork table tops? Check. So what makes this place unique?

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Trust me, it’s the wine.

The Magic’s in the Barrel

It’s not overly apparent what makes this place unique until you hear the story or watch one of the wine stewards pour a glass. Rather than opening bottle after bottle to serve guests, LJ Crafted Wines removes that middle man (the bottle) and pulls straight from the barrel. The couple who own the space have invented a patent-pending apparatus that taps a barrel for a glass (or a growler; more on that in a minute) of wine. The amazing part? The last glass is as fresh and wonderful as the first.

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Color me impressed.

I mentioned growlers. If you love craft beer like I do, you’re familiar with the concept of filling a large glass container with copious amounts of beer. The same can be done at LJ: you can fill a growler (which is 1 liter) of any of the wines available.  Why would you want to? The wine is fresher than what you’d buy at the liquor store, and and they use less preservatives than they would in a normal bottling process. The best benefit? You’re not contributing to the massive number of wine bottles in the world that are not recycled.

LJ boasts that they have saved 10,500 bottles since they opened! Now that’s making a difference!

So you are rewarded for taking sustainable action with wonderful, fresh wine!

Yea, But How Does the Wine Taste?

At the travel blogging event I attended, hosted by Travel Massive San Diego, we were given 6 different wines to taste. They were all really impressive, but my favorites were:

  • 2014 Pino Noir Rosé: Sonoma Coast, Lakeview Vineyard: I love a good Rosé. This was sweet without being heavy.
  • 2015 Viognier: Alexander Valley, Hoot Owl Creek Ranch: I don’t typically like white wine at all, but this was light and ebullient (look up the word).2017-01-18 19.07.59-3

The interesting thing about the wines is that they are vineyard-specific. Apparently it is customary practice for winemakers to take grapes from a region (Alexander Valley) but not one particular vineyard. LJ makes the wine in Napa and Sonoma, and the grapes in each finished wine comes from a particular vineyard. The results are amazing wines.

There’s Even a Wine Club

I’m always hesitant to join a wine club because they tend to force you to take whatever bottle they’ve selected for the month. But here, it’s a little different. While there are several options for their wine clubs, the Growler Pick Up Club lets members choose from the available wines to fill their growlers each month. They also get 20% off additional growler fills and cork-sealed bottles, and 25% off of cases. But wait! There’s more! Members also get 2 complimentary tastings a month.

Members simply bring their empty growlers in and trade out for a clean one. This is the bottle tree of growlers waiting to be filled.

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That’s reason enough for me to visit La Jolla more!