Shawn’s on Congress
Margaritas may be ubiquitous in Old Town but what if you prefer to drink wine? It can easily be had at Shawn’s on Congress. With ample patio seating outdoors year round and indoors at the lengthy granite bar or back room, the elegantly casual ambiance is a good place to visit for a pre-theatre apertivo, for happy hour (3:00-6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday), or watch a game with the regulars. From the friendly proprietors, Shawn, and his lovely spouse, Karina, to the diverse wine and beer selections, there are bountiful charcuterie plates, flat breads, and salads available. Besides, Shawn also weaves a good yarn and the witty banter between him and the cook, Tony, is very entertaining.
Originally, from Poughkeepsie, New York, Shawn made San Diego his home via his time as a Marine. Now he is the only licensed, bonded, residential wine maker in San Diego under the label Blue Felt Winery. This San Diego “vins de garage” winemaker produced a very impressive Syrah (2014) from Jamul-sourced fruit that is rich in dark berry fruit, savory black olive and umami aromas with a delicate tannic grip. His strawberry Riesling is also quite popular and both are available for purchase at the wine bar.
The wine list contains a nice selection of Old and New World choices from France, Spain and Italy, Chile, Argentina and California. There is a nice representation of sparklers, ports, blends, and reserve wines (Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 1964, for example). San Diego County wineries are also well represented here and I understand that there will soon be at least one Valle de Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico, winery featured. And did I say beer? San Diego craft beers are on draft and change regularly as well as California bottle selections and some ciders from Washington.
Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Or join us on the Winery Train Tour and we'll take you to Shawn's.
Post a photo of yourself on San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours Facebook Page eating or drinking at Shawn's on Congress, tag Shawn's on Congress, and get a coupon for $10 off any of our beer or wine tours, AND a chance to win 2 free tickets to the Winery Train Tour!
Marti Bommarito, WSET 3, Tour Guide for San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours
Father's Day has arrived. It's a great day to take your dad (or any dad in your life) out for a pint and tell him how much you appreciate him. You know that, of course, and maybe you're already doing that.
But what if you want to take it to the next level, and give your dad something truly memorable? How about not just one beer, but a whole beer tour of San Diego? You don't have to schedule it for today (although you can call or email us any time you like) but just gifting the dads in your life with the experience of a chauffeured beer or wine tour, or one of our new guided distillery tours, will make today that much more special.
Giving gifts can be difficult, especially for people who are picky or hard to please. Science makes it easier, though: give experiences, not things. Material things can cause clutter or be forgotten (let's never forget the white elephants we have to haul out when our relatives come to visit) but experiences last a lifetime.
The experiences we offer aren't just some of the best you can get. As you're dining and drinking like royalty and sampling wonderful foods, you're also participating in some of the most environmentally friendly activities you possibly can. All of our food and drink, wherever possible, is locally grown and made, and by taking the train, walking, or participating in a chauffeured tour, you're doing your part to clean up the air and prevent further pollution.
What could be a better gift than that? You're not just honoring the dads in your life. You're also honoring the generations yet to come.
Happy Father's Day!
Brooke B., Wine Taster
Photo courtesy: FritasShack.com
It's one of the hottest holidays of the year for lovers of food and drink — in the United States, at least. Cinco de Mayo (known affectionately as Cinco de Drinko) can be an excuse to drink tequila until you hit the floor, or it can be celebrated the right way: by sampling some of Mexico's world-class food and drink.
Here's the best part: you don't even have to leave San Diego to do it!
San Diego is right on the Mexican border, and so it's dripping with some of the best Mexican foods, brews, and wines that you've ever tasted in your life. Whether you're sampling some of the high-end moles and tequilas of Cantina Mayahuel, or you're enjoying the arts and scenery of Barrio Logan at Border X Brewing, or even checking out the lucha-themed splendor of Lucha Libre Taco Shop, this is one of the only places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in an authentic way!
Cinco de Mayo isn't hugely celebrated in Mexico, and it isn't Mexican Independence Day — it's the anniversary of the Batalla de Puebla, in which Mexican troops scored a long-odds victory against the French. It is acknowledged with parades and parties in Puebla and elsewhere around Mexico, but it isn't a national holiday. It didn't become a big party (much like St. Patrick's Day) until it hit the United States! From there, of course, it spread.
So for an authentic Cinco de Mayo experience, you should look within the US. We know just the places to go. (And, as always, please drink responsibly!)
Amadora de Cerveza y Vino
Restaurant Week has arrived!
It’s one of San Diego’s best events, now in its twelfth year: all over the county, restaurants of every stripe participate in prix-fixe menus and specials. That means that if you like to eat well (and who doesn’t?) you can not only get some of the best value for your dollar this week, but discover new and exciting places to dine as well.
San Diego has always had its spots to get good food, but in the past year or two, it has begun taking its rightful place in the pantheon of “eater’s cities” across the world, joining all the other places you can get a wonderful meal — but still using recipes and ingredients that feature the best of our unique geographic and ethnic diversity.
We at San Diego Beer and Wine Tours have long been champions of restaurant week, because we feel that the food scene here is underrated and always evolving, and deserves a lot more attention than it gets. Plus, wine and beer are great, there’s no denying that, but pairing them often and well is an art, which takes your tasting experiences to new, unforeseen heights. That’s why we love taking you to restaurants!
Whether you’re here for a visit or if you’re a San Diego lifer, whether you’re an experienced eater or you’re not sure where to start on your tasting adventure, we want to be part of it! Give us a call for some pointers about San Diego’s great food scene (especially if you want to sample some of our region’s fine wine or wonderful craft beer) or schedule a tour. Tasting is so much more fun with other good company!
Oh yes, and for more information on San Diego Restaurant Week, visit their official website: www.sandiegorestaurantweek.com. This time around, it runs through January 24th.
Brooke B., Official Taster
If you're in San Diego, you probably have noticed the fact that it is raining. Not just any rain, either — it's a true-blue El Niño, one storm after another lined merrily up to dump some long-overdue moisture on our parched and cracking soil.
While the rain is undeniably good for everyone in the region, it can put a damper (pun intended) on outdoor activities. The animals are almost all in hiding at the San Diego Zoo, walking around Sea World is a chore, and hiking up a steep and muddy hill? Forget about it.
But, of course, that's what we are here for. Whether you're visiting or you live here, we have delightful and delicious ideas for your activities, all of which, of course, involve wonderful wines, lip-smackingly delicious beers, and some of the best food you've ever had anywhere to pair with it.
We understand that the last thing you probably want to do in one of America's sunniest cities is traipse around in the rain. But we wouldn't make you do that. We'll just come pick you up or meet you, and then take you on a warm, dry tour of the best breweries, wineries, and restaurants in beautiful San Diego.
Brooke B., Rainy Day Friend
Image Courtesy: Flickr user Darren Moloney
The season has begun!
We're not talking about springtime, although that came in last month with scattered showers and even a hint of some May flowers. We're not talking about sports, although there are various events and seasons going on there, too.
No, what we're talking about is that most important of seasons in southern California: that of the craft beer festival. It kicked off this year with the acclaimed Citybeat Festival of Beers, an afternoon fair that offered music and food as well as local beer that ranged from the mainstream to the obscure.
Starting May 1st, and continuing through the 3rd, Temecula is hosting its annual Southern California Homebrewers' Festival at Vail Lake. It ran into some problems last year because of legislative issues, but this year it's going strong and promises to be a fun time, so get yourself out to the campground and see what's brewing!
In June, the San Diego International Beer Festival will be held in tandem with the San Diego County Fair. Nearly 200 breweries from all over the world will be represented, and since knowledge is power, it's your moral imperative to go find out as much as you can about each one! It includes free fair admission, so have fun – and hold on to your hat.
That's just a brief entree into southern California's wonderful beer world. But you don't have to wait until the festivals to have fun – give us a call and book yourself a beer train or chauffeured tour. We'll pair your drinks with delicious meals and show you the best of San Diego.
Mardi Gras is almost here!
This is one of the best times of year to be a lover of food and drink. It’s related to Carnaval, which comes from the phrase “carne vale,” or “farewell to the flesh,” and in the Christian calendar is the time of feasting before the self-deprivation of Lent begins.
The Mardi Gras feasting and partying day is also known as Shrove Tuesday, the day that precedes Ash Wednesday. Both days are known as “moveable feast” days, which got their name because their dates move throughout the year in relation to Easter Sunday, which is always held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere’s spring equinox.
That’s a mouthful, so to speak. But we love moveable feasts so much that’s what we do! Every tour we take you on is a moveable feast, because there’s so much deliciously good food and drink in San Diego that we can’t limit you to just one place. That’s why we have our train tours as well as our walking and chauffeured tours. We can’t choose just one.
Best way to celebrate Mardi Gras? Book one of our February tours, and laissez les bon temps rouler! We’ll even find you a chicory coffee and a beignet to wash it all down, but you may have to bring your own beads if you want some lagniappe.
Happy Fat Tuesday!
Brooke B., Krewe member
Today's the day!
Superbowl Sunday always gets people worked up, whether they're fans of the teams, enjoying the high drama (especially this year), or just watching the Puppy Bowl instead. Either way, beer and food are integral parts of Superbowl (or Puppy Bowl) Sunday! We know this, love this, and think everyone should make the most of it.
Since salty foods are a big thing for any football game, here's our tips for enjoying every moment of today:
Get bitter! San Diego's signature Double IPA style is a great match for Superbowl foods. Salty burgers, fries, and chips and guacamole are all perfect foils for your favorite hoppy brews. Try Alpine Beer Company's Exponential Hoppiness for a breathtaking match for your game viewing. Not hoppy enough for you? If you look very, very carefully, you may be able to find Russian River's elusive Pliny the Younger, their limited-edition Triple (!) IPA, in the wild. This superb and complex Sonoma County brew is difficult to find at the best of times, however, so best of luck!
If you aren't a hophead, go sweet. But not too sweet. A sweetish American Brown Ale like Monkey Paw's Sweet Georgia Brown has caramelly notes that are also ideal for savory red meats, anything with cheese, and vegetables. Ritual Brewing Company's Brown Ale is also a fantastic choice, and AleSmith Nut Brown a perennial favorite. Watch out, though — these ales go down easier than a linebacker on a slippery field!
These beers are a great starting point for today's parties. Please drink responsibly, and may the best team win! But you're drinking great beer, so you know who the real winners are no matter what.
Brooke B., Baller
San Diego Restaurant Week is almost here!
It should go without saying that we love San Diego's food scene. We may be San Diego Beer and Wine Tours, but tasting beer and wine without knowing what foods to pair them with takes at least half the joy out of the whole experience!
That's why we always offer food on our beer and wine tours. When you correctly pair, it brings out nuances and dimensions to your drink – and your food – that you never knew existed. It's like a voyage of discovery with every meal!
San Diego's craft beer scene has been extolled and admired as one of the best on the planet for years, and with good reason. Its wine scene is also gaining attention, too, as more people realize how wonderful it is. But the food scene here is one of the region's best-kept secrets.
We're committed to changing that, and that's why we're such huge supporters of San Diego's Restaurant Week. Everyone should get out during the week of January 18th through the 24th and check out the menus! Participating restaurants offer special, prix-fixe menus so that you can sample as many as you like without a big dent to your wallet. It's totally worth it to be able to explore!
And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that as huge supporters of San Diego's food scene, we also organize food and drink tours that showcase some of the best, most scrumptious meals (and beers and vino too) that you can find anywhere.
So eat, drink, and be merry with us, because tomorrow… well, tomorrow there will be more of the same!
Here's to a delicious life,
Brooke B., Gastronomix
Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
-William Butler Yeats
Happy Valentine's Day!
February is such a great month in San Diego. Not only is it when springtime begins around here, but it's also the month of love!
Valentine's Day is a tradition that's been going on for centuries – and probably millennia. The tradition of Valentine's Day is murky, but it's thought to come from a 5th century Roman fertility rite called Lupercalia. The rites were supposed to honor Faunus, the god of agriculture, and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who according to legend were raised by a she-wolf. The rites consisted of parties and sacrifices, but most importantly, wine.
Over time, it became much more about romantic love than agriculture. Much of the ancient festival has changed (although it could be argued that it's still a fertility rite) but we've held onto the wine, because wine is love… and let it never be said that we don't believe in love!
That's why we think the best thing you can do this Valentine's is head out to one of our winery tours; we recommend the Chauffeured Tour! If you're feeling more like a beer, we love bringing people along on our new Beer Trolley Tours. Don't worry, beer is love, too!
This February, come join us! It doesn't matter if you're with your sweetie, your best friend, or if you just want to be with us. We love having you and sharing Valentine's with you, and we know you'll love it too.
Here's to amore!
Brooke B., Vinamorata
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