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
Happy Independence Day!
We can't believe that it's already July, but here we are. The rainy season is over and the world is sunny and sparkling. It's such a great time of year to get out and start exploring San Diego, whether you live here or are just visiting!
There are fireworks displays all over San Diego County, so finding a show shouldn't be too difficult. But the really hard part comes after you've plotted out where you plan to go: deciding on the best drink to accompany a fireworks show.
Don't worry, we've got you covered! First, you have to consider the weather. It's probably going to be pretty cool on the night of July 4th, which means you won't have to spend the day chilling white wine (unless, of course, you really want to). Because it'll be pleasantly cool, we recommend a brightly-flavored wine to watch the fireworks by, like Cordiano Winery's Trinity blend, or one of San Diego's famous local beers, like Mike Hess's Grim Ave Session IPA. Are you feeling a little more festive?
You aren't limited to anything in particular, though. There's also a great selection of spirits in San Diego these days. Since you're going to want to stay up a bit later than normal (hooray for the long weekends!) we recommend Kill Devil Spirit Co.'s wonderful Ugly California Rise and Shine moonshine. It's brewed with coffee beans, giving it a natural caffeine kick in addition to the roundhouse blow of 90 proof liquor. Delicious!
We think tippling one of these wonderful choices (or any of the other many, many wonderful options available to you in San Diego) will really add a kick to your firework watching. We'll be out there too, and if we see you, we'll raise a glass to you. Alternately, you could always join us! Give us a call at (858) 551-5115, and we'll tell you all about our 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
Happy Mother's Day!
Here at San Diego Beer and Wine Tours, we love our mothers (and your mothers, too). Everybody has one or two, whether it's your biological mom or someone who filled that role. We honor you, mothers and people who love them!
Mother's Day started out as an attempt to reduce deaths due to violence and unsanitary conditions during the Civil War, and quickly became a day to honor mothers and their tirelessness and bravery everywhere. It's celebrated in just about every country in the world, and rightly so.
Our Shira Bliss not only respects and loves her mother, but she also knows just how hard they work — she's raised five lovely children of her own! That means we at San Diego Beer and Wine Tours have an innate understanding and respect for mums, and how they sometimes might want to unwind with a glass of wine and some really delicious food.
And that's where we come in. We love treating your mothers just as much as we love treating our own, and if you're a mom, that applies to you as well. Join us for one of our famous winery or brewery tours, and relax as we chauffeur you all over San Diego. All you (or you and your mom) have to do is sit back, drink in the scenery, and enjoy some of the best food and drink you've ever tasted, all responsibly sourced and locally made.
And don't forget: Beer is the mother of us all.
Happy Mother's Day to you all!
Brooke B., Mamacita
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
Image via NASA
Earth Day used to be the province of hippies and environmental activists, born out of the movements of the 1970s. Over time, people began to realize that the world needed to focus on the environment after all. In other words, the once-marginalized treehuggers actually were onto something!
We're proud to have carried on that tradition. We think that the world is a beautiful place that needs to be preserved. After all, without cleaning up pollution and championing environmental preservation, we'd have no place to grow grapes and hops, perhaps two of the world's most important crops, because without them there would be no wine and no beer, and really, who wants to live in a world without either?
So how do we do our part? Well, first of all, we strongly believe in recycling, and we're (of course!) big fans of eating and drinking locally-sourced food, beer, and wine. We're lucky to live in such a beautiful place and with such a great array of microclimates and local farms, so that we have an enormous variety of fresh and organic (and tasty!) foods to eat and wines and beers to drink.
We also do our part with our choice in transportation. We love our Coaster tours, and you will too! Not only are we getting around San Diego in a green way, we're also using our train tours to showcase the considerable beauty of San Diego's coastline and inland areas. We're proud of the environment we've preserved, and we want to share it — and when you're tasting the literal fruits of our labors to keep the world a cleaner place, you'll understand why we're so proud.
Come out on one of our green tours and celebrate Earth Day with us. We celebrate it every day! We know you'll love it just as much as we do.
Brooke B., Tree Hugger
Happy National Beer Day!
While you could argue that really, any day is National Beer Day (who wouldn't want an excuse to tip back one or two?) there's actually a really good reason that it's today, on April 7th. That reason stretches back into the last century, all the way back to Prohibition.
A little history is in order. Don't worry, it's only a little! In 1920, a national Constitutional ban on alcoholic beverages was signed into law in the United States. Alcohol was thought at the time to be a major social vice, and so it was made illegal. Of course, that didn't really stop any dedicated drinkers, and instead of turning the country into a utopia, it opened the door to organized crime and booze cartels, the creation of speakeasies, and had other interesting effects on the drinking culture. But one thing it didn't do was keep Americans from drinking.
The United States admitted that it was wrong thirteen years later, starting on April 7th, 1933. That's when a ban on alcohol was partially lifted, allowing for beer with an alcohol content of 3.2 percent or lower (thought too low to be intoxicating) to be sold in so-called "wet" states. (Prohibition was fully repealed December of that year.)
And the country rejoiced!
It rejoiced so much, as a matter of fact, that it never really stopped. Now we have beer culture (with more than 3,300 brewers in the U.S., a thriving industry that brings approximately $253 billion into our economy every year) and Wine Country and cocktails and, oh yeah, things like San Diego Beer and Wine Tours, none of which would have been possible but for some far-thinking politicians who reversed the ban on alcohol.
So, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate April 7th (also called New Beer's Day.) If you're feeling like a beer, it's right in the name. Open one up and celebrate with some friends! But if you're feeling more historical, try a French 75, one of the more enduring cocktail recipes to come out of Prohibition. We're sure you'll find it absolutely delicious. Or what the heck, why not mix the two and try a delicious beer cocktail on for size? The ideas are absolutely endless.
Oh, and hug a local brewer today. They've been through a lot!
Brooke B., Molly Pitcher
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!
We have seen 2016 from the New Year all the way into springtime, and with all the rain we've been seeing thanks to a friendly El Niño, this is a particularly hale and hearty spring. The air smells like orange blossoms and our lawns are a little (well, a lot) greener than they were this time last year!
Spring comes with its own particular rituals, which we call, unoriginally, the Rites of Spring. In San Diego, that means going to the beach more as the weather warms, heading to the desert to see the blooms, and the big one, which we love and hate in equal measures: Daylight Saving Time.
When you "spring forward" with Daylight Saving, you're not just waking up an hour earlier. You're gaining an hour of daylight in the evening. Why is that important? Because that's an hour more of light that you can use sightseeing in beautiful San Diego, whether you live here or you're just visiting. That's also more flower-fragrant daylight you can use for adventures for you and guests on one of our wine and food walking tours!
Did you know that in addition to our beer, wine, and food tours, we also offer tea, coffee, and dessert on our walking tours? Perfect for springtime! If there's a better way to usher in the season than spending a warm and longer day near the ocean sampling delicious food and drink, we'd love to hear about it.
Springtime is here and it's time to celebrate, so book your rite of spring tour with us today! "Spring" forward with us. It's worth it! And don't forget to change your clocks.
Brooke B., Light Saver
Photo Courtesy: Lauren Manning/Flickr
Happy Leap Day!
This special day only comes around once every four years, and it originates from Roman times, when then-emperor Julius Caesar decided to add an extra day to the year periodically to make up for discrepancies in the calendar. The tradition started in 45 B.C.E., which means that leap days have been around even longer than our current calendar.
Because leap years are relatively unusual, recurring only twice a decade, February 29th has an air of the mysterious and the unusual about it. Businesses that are started on this day are supposed to be successful, according to legend; another legend states that this is the day women can propose to men (that's an old one though, of course — women proposing to men nowadays raises nary an eyebrow, although it's still generally customary for marriage-minded men to make the proposal.)
Antiquated customs aside, Leap Day is still a special day. It's February 29th, after all, and that demands something special. Since we are of the mindset that every special occasion should be celebrated with delicious food and drinks, we dug up this Leap Day cocktail:
It combines 29 millilitres each of Pisco, Campari, and Lillet, two dashes of Angostura Bitters, and a couple of icecubes. Swirl and enjoy!
If you'd really rather have a beer, we've got your back on that one, too. A number of breweries across the country have planned events for this very day, and if you really feel like pulling out the stops, Philadelphia's 2SP Brewing puts out Hop Leap IPA today, and Untappd put out a special badge for this exact day. If wine's more your thing, we couldn't find any especially leap year specific tipples, but we did find a handy list of leap-themed wines.
Hopefully, you now feel prepared for the unusual fun that will undoubtedly come your way tonight. Happy celebrating, and happy Leap Beer! Or Leap Year! Oh, whatever, we'll drink to them both. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow will be March.
Leap Day Lovely