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
You know that we've spent a long time trying to give our customers and clients the best experience possible when we're out on our beer, wine, and food tasting tours. We have been working hard for years now to figure out what everybody needs.
After meeting with focus groups, tech support teams, and public relations agencies, we're happy to unveil our new Wine Beds. We know you probably don't want to leave after you're done with a tour with us, and now you never have to! We placed them on all our tour vehicles, so that if you decide you want to stay longer, you can take a nice nap and return to taste with us refreshed!
Our new car-bed prototype on its way to its inaugural test! Photo courtesy Flickr/Ed Kohler.
As we'll be renting out the beds in fifteen-minute increments, there will be a minor fee for each nap, and only one person at a time can use each bed to cut down on awkward misunderstandings, but we really feel that this will truly maximize your enjoyment of our services.
"I'm so happy that I got that half-hour in between tastings," said Avril Feules-Dei, 28, who recently tried our mattress prototype on one of our train tours. "I was able to return to the meal relaxed, refreshed, and ready for whatever the world threw into my mouth next."
"It was completely worth the extra $50 for those fifteen minutes!" enthused 32-year-old Joe King. "What a great nap!"
"At first, climbing up on top of that van, I had my doubts," confessed tourist Itza Prainck, 63. "But what a rush it turned out to be, especially when I woke up while we were on the freeway! I've always wanted to do that."
The beds are affixed to the top of our chauffeured vans and shaded by high-quality tarps. All you need to do is climb on up and get some rest in the fresh California air and then you'll be ready for anything — and if we have to drive anywhere while you're in dreamland, you'll still be with us! Just hop on up, tie yourself in, and snooze until you're ready to join us on our next tasting.
We're still testing the train prototype, but we'll get back to you just as soon as we figure out how to get the mattresses to stay put.
We hope you enjoy our latest addition to the San Diego Beer and Wine Tours family. Sweet dreams!
Image Courtesy: Flickr user bayasaa
Here we are once again at the end of yet another year. But what a year it's been!
This is the year that everything started to change. San Diego got on the map as the foodie landmark it's always deserved to be; our region started to make headway in the wine world, with some stellar reviews; and of course, our craft beer scene remained strong, despite the buyouts here and there. It's been so great!
This is the time of year, too, that we take some time out to thank all of you, the eaters and the drinkers, the lovers of all things delectable and tasty, of luxuriant velvety wines and the beers about which songs are written, the fascinating people who join us on our tours of discovery to see the raw beauty of southern California and what it produces. We adore you.
And 2016 is going to usher in all kinds of exciting new innovations in the brew world. Beer bikes will be making the rounds in parts of the state. California just topped 600 craft breweries – an 18 percent increase, and more than any other state – with more to come. And the state's alcohol producers can now tell people where to buy their products on social media.
It's going to be a brave new world in 2016. We're looking forward to experiencing it with all of you.
Cheers from us all!
Brooke B., New Year's Eve
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Image Courtesy: Flickr user vreimunde
We are proud to announce that we are now members of the prestigious 500 Club!
What's that, you're asking? We're tickled pink to tell you. We're just bursting at the seams with pride, in fact, because what that means is that we have now received more than 500 five-star reviews from the TripAdvisor community. Sure, this may come across as bragging, but the truth is we know that we wouldn't be able to make our trips wonderful without the people who come along with us.
Sampling fine foods and delicious beers and wines is a wonderful thing, but without people to share them with, the pleasure is dulled. We're so happy to have such wonderful company along for the ride, quite literally. When we're on the train watching a glorious sunset over the Pacific Ocean, our bellies full of the best meals you can find anywhere, or when we're at one of San Diego's famous (and rightly so!) breweries or discovering a new, unsung one to to celebrate, or when we're just sitting around a table getting to know one another over toasts — the most important ingredient is all of you.
So we wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making all of this possible. We're very proud!
Looking forward to seeing all of you so we can celebrate together,
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Holy crackers, it's the holiday season again.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone, and you can practically hear the collective sigh of relief that the heaviest shopping day of the year is over. Oh, but wait! Cyber Monday's coming up, too!
It's so hard to get people that perfect gift, too. You want to get them something they'll value, that they'll remember, that will make them think of you – but, even if you find a great gift for one person, you can't just blow all your money and time finding the next trinket, and the next, and the next. What's a gift buyer to do?
Relax, that's what! Research shows that it's better across the board to pursue experiences rather than material possessions. The science backs us up, and we love when that happens! Rather than aggregate more and more stuff, spend your money on things to do, memories to make, making new friends, and sharing new things with people you love.
That's where we come in. We love offering the best experience possible for your friends and family. We'll show you one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, introduce you to some of the best people around, and we'll take you around in style while sampling some of the best food and drink you've ever had!
So would you rather deal with the panic of last-minute holiday shopping, waiting in traffic and long lines, and having anxiety attacks over wrapping paper, or would you rather be sipping a glass of wine in a picturesque spot with your feet up with your favorite people as your chauffeur gets ready to take you to the next destination?
Sounds like an easy choice to us. We're available for beer and wine tours all year long. Give us a call! Let's talk.
Brooke B., Holiday Helper
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Someone get this guy a beer!
San Diego is a very special place for a number of reasons. First, there's the remarkable weather: mostly gentle and warm, with a Mediterranean climate and miles of the most glorious coastline anyone's ever seen. Then, there are the people: friendly and kind and — not to toot our own horns or anything — but San Diegans have been named some of the best looking people in the country for years, a combination of our lifestyle choices, the outdoor living, and… well, it's probably something to do with our amazing craft beer scene!
But there's another reason San Diego is special, and that's the proximity to the international border. Our culture is deeply infused with all things Mexico, from our whitewashed, ranch-style homes to our delicious San Diego-style tacos to our slang… and our holidays. All over San Diego, people are celebrating Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a colorful and festive party to commemorate and honor all of our loved ones who have passed on to the great unknown. It's not a somber affair, but an exciting and beautiful one, with flowers, dancing, offerings for the dead, and and food and drink for the living.
Naturally, beer is often a big part of honoring our departed loved ones. In San Diego, where beer (like everything else here) transcends borders, you can find Cerveza de los Muertos (Beer of the Dead) beers, courtesy of Cerveceria Mexicana S.A. de C.V. They get mixed reviews, but if you like your beers light, you'll really enjoy them. Plus, their label art is — ahem — to die for. There's also a brand-new, as-yet unrated beer by Unknown Brewing Co. called "El Corazon Que Sangra Morado," their Day of the Dead release (it means "my heart bleeds purple," because it's brewed with purple corn.)
If neither of those floats your boat, but you still want to go with a local, yet binational drink, try a cerveza from Border X Brewing, in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood. Their beers have quickly made a name for themselves, with good reason: they're absolutely delicious, whether you're trying out a Blood Saison (flavored with hibiscus and agave) or an Horchata Golden Stout (self-explanatory.)
Enjoy! Just don't forget to tip one back for your dearly departed.
Brooke B., Cervecerita
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This week isn't just the leadup to Halloween. It also contains a very special day, one that everyone should celebrate, one with a near-universal appeal.
What better time to tell your furry feline friends how much you appreciate them? Sure, they may not understand. More likely, however, is that they just don't care what you think, because they're cats. But you can still show them you love and appreciate them! And you can do so the way you show everyone you care about how much you love them – with beer and wine!
Okay, first of all: don't ever give your cat wine or beer that's intended for humans. Just don't. It'll hurt the cat and plus you want all that to yourself. Right? Right.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, check this out: Wine for cats. Never drink alone again! This concoction, made from grape juice and perhaps a twist of catnip, contains no alcohol, but apparently does taste a lot like wine. Like your cat cares. Once you get a glass or two of catnip into Fluffy, it's a free-for-all and there's no telling what he might do! Er, we've heard.
If you feel like drinking in front of your cat instead of with your cat (and we totally get it), check out one of the many, many cat-themed tipples out there. It seems like cats and drink are one of the most perfect matches on the planet. There's Black Cat Vineyard, Fat Cat Cellars, White Cat, Laughing Cat, and the list goes on and on – and that's just the vino!
Still searching for your perfect drink? How about your perfect cat? How about both? Check out this online quiz and get back to us with your result.
If you're a beer lover, and of course you are, you might be feeling a little bit left out by now. Don't worry. We'll never forget our fellow cerevisaphiles or our fellow ailurophiles. We may have even saved the best for last – you decide. It's an Instagram channel dedicated to beer… and cats. It's called, appropriately enough, Beer Cats. You can follow it yourself (it's got more than 11,000 followers on Instagram!) or add your own #beercat. Either way, enjoy the visual feast.
Even if you don't have a cat, this Thursday is a great time to appreciate one, whether it's when you're drinking away the evening together or simply appreciating photos of your favorite cats and kittens with your favorite beers. The cats in your life will appreciate it, too. Or maybe they won't. You can never tell with those guys.
Cheers, pointy ears!
Brooke B., Web Fursonality
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San Diego has a lot going for it.
Beaches, mountains, great weather, great people, great beer – and great golf. It's a well-kept secret that San Diego has some world class golf courses – more than 90 throughout the county – and they're all great for different reasons. Of course, some are harder to get into than others (some especially dedicated golfers are known to sleep in their cars just to be able to get an early spot at Torrey Pines) but they're all worth a shot. Or a draw. Or whatever.
October 4th is National Golf Lovers Day, so it's a great time to celebrate your love for the game, rekindle affection for it, or learn to love it! It's also a great excuse to leave work early to go spend some time on the course.
But this isn't just about the subtle game of golf and the beautiful places you can play in San Diego. It's also about a topic that's near and dear to the hearts of many players: craft beer. Golf and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly, and if you're not a regular player you might be surprised to know that some of the best places to get an affordable meal and a brew in San Diego, while enjoying excellent views, are golf courses.
Don't believe us? Check out Riverwalk Golf Club, smack in the heart of Mission Valley. Sure, its green is great, but it's easy to get hungry and thirsty out there – that's why its Sunset Grill offers meals, snacks, and – most importantly – a full array of craft brews. But hurry – there are plans to close this course over the next decade.
Balboa Park Golf Course, which is also in a really central part of San Diego (surprisingly enough, in Balboa Park) boasts two courses, but also the timeless charm of Tobey's 19th Hole and its tasty diner-style fare and generous drinks. It's delicious, reasonably priced, rarely crowded – and, oh yeah, offers local beers for great prices. Go there and tip one back while you look out over the untroubled green. You also get to sit high up, so you can pretend you're in your own private castle. Or maybe that's just us.
Mission Bay Golf Course is one of the few places in San Diego, if not the only place, that offers night golfing. There isn't a dedicated sit-down restaurant on site, so it's a little different, but it's blocks from the beach. The course is short, so you can stop by, finish up in a couple of hours, and then wander over to the Iron Pig Alehouse for upscale BBQ, or Luce Bar & Kitchen for upscale Ameican cuisine and tip back a cold, fresh local beer while you're at it. If you finish up early enough, you can get some great happy hour deals on grub, too!
Golf and beer are a winning combination no matter how you look at it, especially here in San Diego, where it's one of the best places in the world for both. But they're not just great fun together. They're the secret to living a long and happy life – which, in the end, is the best reason to enjoy yourself on a local course of all. We're not kidding! This lady said so, and she's an expert. Plus, she's any indication, you'll look great in the process.
Just keep in mind one thing. Imbibe responsibly! As the great golfer (and drinker) Dean Martin once said: “If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt.” Words to live by.
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October is here, again! Already! It's a wonderful time of year. Time to break out your best pumpkin carving skills and Halloween or Day of the Dead decorations, because the autumn winds are blowing away the last bits of El Nino humidity and making it the beautiful season it always is in San Diego!
It's possible to find some scary good wines out there to augment your grown-up costume party, and it doesn't have to be a terrifying experience. So if you're looking around for something new, try one of these ideas on for size.
If you're rushing to the supermarket, don't just grab the same tired old chardonnay you've been getting for the past couple of years. In fact, don't get chardonnay at all. Everybody loves chardonnay, so try something different. Plus, it's fall. Go for a big bold California red! But not too big. Don't get one of those oversized wine bottles – they're not going to be great.
Buy local. San Diego's wines are finally enjoying a moment of good press, but the fact is, they've been here a long, long time. Some of California's oldest vintages, in fact, come from here. And a lot of them are really, really good. If you can't find San Diego wine, grab a California wine.
But if you're going the grocery store route, buy young and fresh wines, not older vintages. That's because they're likely just getting moved around on the shelves and stored properly, so the older a wine is, the more likely to be bad it is going to be. (There are exceptions to this rule, we know! But for last-minute party shopping, this is an excellent rule of thumb.)
You can also use a list like this one from Wine Folly, which shorthands what wines to look for from which regions. Mapping out what you like beforehand can be enormously helpful when you're trying something new.
And if you're in a real pickle, like you have ten minutes and need fifteen to get ready, we have to heartily recommend technology. Wine apps for your smartphone can take the most complex palate issues and break down what you're looking for to just a few easy-to-find bottles, all while staying within your price range.
But, if you have the time, don't ever forget the two best ways of all to keep your wine knowledge up-to-date and well-balanced: tasting as much wine as you can at any time, experimenting to find out what you like the most, taking note of where they're from, and keeping track. That's one. And if technology and personal experience fails, don't forget about asking your friendly local sommeliers what they're into! They can cut straight to the chase and help you track down just what you're looking for.
So there you go. Finding a new wine on short notice doesn't have to be a scary experience. That's what the morning after the Halloween party is for.
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Labor Day is almost upon us again – already! It's been an odd year, thanks to an El Nino that has kept things unseasonably warm, but now that warm weather is going to be a blessing, because this is the official weekend Americans love to get out and fire up their barbecue.
Burgers are the traditional grilled food of choice, but there's no need to worry too much about pairing your beer to your food. Since Labor Day is a time to hang around outside with friends, consider pairing your drinks to the weather instead!
Since the odds are that it's going to be a warm day, stock up on light beers with light flavors and a relatively low alcohol content so that you don't get thirsty and end up taking an impromptu nap and missing the party!
IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are the granddaddy of the San Diego beer scene. They're almost always a great choice in San Diego, but they can run a little strong. If you are really looking forward to an IPA-filled day, Ballast Point's Sculpin seems to be one of the most popular choices – it's so tasty, and an all-around crowd pleaser.
If that's a bit much for you, give your tastebuds a break and try a saison (like Fallbrook Homegrown Saison!) or a Belgian-style witbier like Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment's cleverly-named Witte Snake (get it?!)
Helm's Brewings' O.G. Wheat is an odd little Gose-style beer: it's sour and brewed with coriander and salt. It sounds weird, but it's absolutely delicious at any time of year, particularly in the heat.
There are, of course, plenty more beers to choose from in this wonderful town, and we're happy to take tips on how to best enjoy both the weather and the beer here. So bottoms up, have a tip-top time, and enjoy your holiday weekend!
Brooke B., Summer Spirit
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