It's almost that wild and wonderful day, Fat Tuesday, where you're expected – no, commanded – to wear feathery hats, colorful clothes, and beads. It's also the last hurrah before the start of Lent, which is a time of fasting and repentance for those who observe the Catholic faith.
The origins of Mardi Gras as it's known today are traced back to medieval Europe, where farmers would slaughter and eat a fatted calf and drink enormous quantities of red wine. In fact, Carnival or Carnaval, as the week leading up to Mardi Gras is called in some regions, comes from "carna vale": farewell to the flesh.
However, the story of these traditions go back even further than that, to ancient Roman or possibly pre-Roman pastoral times, to Lupercalia, the festival of Lupercus, the god of shepherds, and Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus. According to Plutarch, during this festival young people would guzzle red wine and run up and down the streets naked and smacking people they met with "shaggy thongs." It was supposed to ensure fertility in the new year. They also wore fine clothes and feathered masks as they do today, presumably when they weren't running around in their altogethers.
If any of this sounds familiar, it's because this festival also serves as a basis for what is now known as Valentine's Day. (Our Valentine's Day was a little more subdued than that this year, but at least we had red wine!)
If you're looking for something to drink to get into the true spirit of Fat Tuesday and don't feel like slaughtering a fatted calf, here are a few suggestions:
If you're doing it up New Orleans style and eating spicy gumbo, consider a low-tannin pinot noir like Point Concepcion's Salsipuedes Pinot Noir. Its fruitiness plays well off the spicy richness of a gumbo. If you've decided on an oyster po-boy or a shrimp etouffe, pair it with a light, sweet white like ZD Chardonnay. And if you're having King Cake (and why wouldn't you?) any sweet sparkling wine is a must!
There are plenty of beers to pair with your Mardi Gras celebration, but our favorite one comes from San Diego's Modern Times Brewery. It's called Neverwhere. Why do we love it for this celebration? Because its pineappley, mangoey flavor is perfect for the subtropical party atmospheres of Carnaval and Fat Tuesday. It's a perfect pairing with your purple and green beads.
We're off to start baking our King Cake. After all, Fat Tuesday only comes round once a year.
Laissez les bon temps continuer a rouler toujours!
Brooke B., Bead-Tosser
It's almost Valentine's Day! It's the most wonderful day in the world if you're happily in love, but not so much if you aren't. But it could be! If you're looking for something to do this February 14th, or any day in February, we have an idea for you.
Here's our idea: Love yourselves! Life is wonderful, especially with fine wine or beer paired with wonderful food and like-minded people. One of the best ways we know of to pamper yourself and make yourself happy is by indulging in the tastiest of food and drink. And we have the perfect time to do it – on one of our Valentine's tours.
Whether you're coupled up or a singleton, we don't mind. We love bringing people along for our Romantic Tours to show you the best of what San Diego has to offer.
Everybody loves a lover, so love yourself! We love you.
Brooke B., Valentine Clementine
As we've said before, we don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. However, we do believe in constantly working toward lifelong goals and making ourselves and everyone around us happier.
This is nothing new. The New Year's celebration is as old as humanity itself, although many cultures wait until spring to throw their parties. The Romans were the ones who fused Christmas with the New Year, which was in and of itself an offshoot of Saturnalia.
We're particular fans of that holiday, because Saturn, as the god of agricultural bounty, and his consort Ops, the goddess of resources and wealth, were both celebrated with toasts and consumption of a lot of beer and of wine (which in those times was occasionally mixed with seawater; we don't recommend it!) Both were also associated with the notorious Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, the god of the grape.
Ever since those times, people have been making resolutions – probably never to drink again – and breaking them just as quickly. That's why we're simply continuing our work to make the world around us just a tiny bit better. We think, like the ancient Romans, that beer and wine and great food is a wonderful way to start. So, we resolve to bring more of that to you in 2014. Now, that's an easy one to keep!
Evviva, skaal, and to your health in the next year!
Brooke B., Epicure
We can't believe it, but 2013 is nearly over and another year is about to begin!
This was a great year. They all are, but 2013 was particularly fun. We met great people, we tasted wonderful food and local wines, and the beer – well, let's just say that the craft beer in San Diego gets better and more plentiful by the year. New Year's traditions around the world involve spiked punch and champagne, but we really think that the only real way to celebrate the arrival of 2014 is with a California wine or a San Diego brew. After all, what you do on New Year's will set the tone for the next twelve months!
Do you have guests in from out of town? Are you a group looking for a wine or beer pairing luncheon or dinner party. We have the perfect event for your celebration. Call us and we’ll give you a Happy New Year gift of $5 off this wonderful party. Go here for more details.
It’s a busy holiday week for us, here’s some of our popular tours with spots open this week:
TOP SELLER! Winery Train Tour (Mon. – Fri. Start times: 1:40pm and 12pm) Easy-to-get-to start location via walk/trolley/train-usually no need to drive. Available Mon. 12/30; Thurs 1/2 and Friday 1/3
“FUN TIME ON THE WINE TOUR! We had a great time on the winery train tour, the time went by quickly, the lunch was AMAZING and it was great that you could drink on the train so we bought a bottle and enjoyed it with the other guests on the tour.” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
Drink on the train! Optional brewery stop for our beer lovers at no additional cost!
These GREEN tours are about 5 hrs in duration. You'll enjoy ample tastes of fabulous, local wines – about 18 tastes! We start the tour with wine and food pairings (light lunch) at our partner restaurant (delicious fine dining Italian). We enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery as we travel by rail (wine tasting on the train is highly recommended!). We have delightful guided historic walks (about 2 miles total, about 15 minute walks at a time) into the villages for tastings at the boutique wineries (fully operational urban wineries, this is not our vineyard tour) for wine and cheese and wine and chocolate pairings. Optional stop at our brewery for our beer lovers! You can join us on this Coaster train tour easily from most locations by using public transportation (bus, trolley, train, coaster etc.). These popular tours are only $88 per person which includes all your food, wine/beer and fun guided tours. (Does not include Regional Plus Day Pass train ticket which is an additional $12 per person.) Click here to book now!
TOP SELLER! San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tour (Wed.- Sun. Start time: approx. 11am) Available Friday 1/3 and Sunday 1/5
"SUPER SPECIAL AND RELAXED DAY FILLED WITH TERRIFIC WINE AND FOOD! What a perfect way to celebrate! The wine was spectacular. The wineries were beautiful and very welcoming. What took this tour over the top is the food! Cheeses, chocolates, breadsticks and brick oven pizza with breathtaking views. Completely worth every moment and dollar. Don’t miss! Cheers!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
On these popular tours we pick you up from your residence/hotel (from most San Diego locations) and take you to the vineyards of San Diego Wine Country. These fabulous tours are about 6 hrs. and include ample tastings at three wineries (about 18 tastes!). Your guide will entertain you with local history and a wine appreciation presentation. At our first winery we'll savor delicious fruits and cheeses with superb fine wine tastings. During this adventure you’ll get to stroll the vineyards and see how our local wines are made. We'll conclude this amazing day with decadent, local wines paired with a gourmet wood-fired brick-oven pizza dinner overlooking spectacular wineries grounds. Beer options available for purchase. Wine Country tour is all inclusive with door-to-door transportation, cheese platter, dinner, tasting fees, guided tour, bottled water, wine tote gift bag at only $149 per person. Click here to book now!
Wine & Food Walking Tour (Daily. Start time: 2pm) Available Tues 12/31
"YOU EARN YOUR MONEY BACK IN THE FIRST STOP! We had a great time. Excellent food; excellent wine and excellent company. Will do this trip again soon!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
This fabulous 3 to 3.5 hr guided walking tour has tantalizingly tasty tour stops in the beautiful village of La Jolla. You'll be delighted as you taste fine wines and savor delicious, gourmet food. Your expert local guide will educate you in the fine art of wine tasting and food pairing. You'll even be treated with scrumptious wine paired with chocolate! Enjoy a leisurely walk of about 1.5 miles near the ocean, while being entertained with the history and culture of quaint La Jolla by-the-sea. Join us as we partake in the very best of La Jolla’s restaurants and wine bars. These tours are priced all inclusive at only $72 per person which includes all your food and wine, and guided walking tours. Click here to book now!
Salud, cheers, prosit, and here's to a wonderful 2014!
Brooke B., Auld Acquaintance
We don't just take our wines and beers seriously around here. We also take our food seriously. After all, a delicious meal is at least half the equation when it comes to some serious pairings! We don't make restaurant recommendations lightly for that very reason – we eat so much food that it takes quite a lot to impress us.
That's why it's incumbent on us to let you know about one of our very favorite restaurants in San Diego, Fresco Trattoria & Bar. This little gem (actually, there are two: one in Carlsbad and one in Bonsall) is everything you would want in Italian food.
Its owner, Leone D'Arcangelo, was born and bred in Sperlonga, Italy, and knows his cuisine like the back of his hand. He also insists on nothing but the freshest of ingredients to make his meals, from the Mozzarella Caprese starter all the way to the Ravioli al Formaggio di Capra, ravioli stuffed with parmesan and goat cheese and topped with tomato cream sauce and spinach.
The wines are, thankfully, not fresh; instead, they are aged to perfection and selected to coax out and accompany the best aromas and delicate tastes of every dish. From chiantis to cabernets, Leone has you covered!
We hope you enjoy Fresco Trattoria as much as we do. It's one of San Diego's best. We would know – finding the best for you is our bread and butter!
It's officially time for the holidays! Unfortunately, that means that the day after sitting around with our favorite people and counting our blessings, we're trampling each other in the name of Black Friday sales.
We at San Diego Beer and Wine Tours have the antidote to crass consumerism. We firmly believe that the gift of knowledge is the best gift of all. That's why we're offering $10 off our Chauffeured Winery Tour and $5 off our Wine (and Beer) Train Tour*, so you can bring your loved ones out to learn all about wine, beer, and food pairings.
It's a welcome change from kneeing each other in the face over limited-edition plastic dolls. And it's the gift that keeps on giving! We'd rather spend low-key, fun days eating and drinking and making great memories with the people we love, wouldn't you? And isn't that what the holidays are really all about?
Plus, when you're with us, you get to avoid the Black Friday crowds. We're still up in the air about Cyber Monday…
Catch you on the flip side!
Brooke B., Sales Turkey
Thanksgiving is either a day of relaxing and epic feasting, or a nightmare of cooking and making hasty last-minute decisions for a group of ravenous friends and family members. It all depends what side of the cutting board you're on.
While we can't help you with the cooking, we can suggest a few wines and beers to pair with your meal to make everything go a little easier for you. We consulted with Stephen Ansley, our resident wine specialist, and did some "independent research" during San Diego Beer Week to find the best brews to sip with your deep-fried turducken!
The traditional Thanksgiving meal is especially wonderful, because turkey can be paired with just about everything. If you want a pinot noir, try Cycles Gladiator or an Au Bon Climat from Santa Barbara. The tartness of the pinot cuts through the richness of gravy and brings out the flavor of turkey. The fruitiness of merlots also works well, especially with dark meats or hearty stuffings. Try one of Flora Springs' or a merlot from McManis Family Vineyards.
White wine lovers, take heart! There's plenty of room for you at the table. The butteriness and oaky notes of a good chardonnay is an ideal complement to the sweet and savory combinations you get with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. Try something from Columbia Crest Grant Estates or White Oak.
If you're in the mood for a brew but still want something to pair with the richness of the meal, try a hoppy (but not too hoppy!) brew or one that's complex enough to balance the stuffing and gravy. Our pick is either an Alpine Captain Stout for chocolaty malty goodness, or a Monkey Paw Patas Pale Ale, which has hops that shine through just enough to offset the richness of the food. We have also encountered some excellent saisons that we think would enrich your eating and drinking experience. Green Flash Brewery's Saison Diego has a clever name and a nice complex palate that won't overpower your meal. And last, but certainly not least, porters and their chocolate and coffee notes are a wonderfully rich way to end a meal. Our hands-down and bottoms-up favorite is, and has been, Alesmith Robust Porter. Try it with a tasty tender piece of turkey, dripping with gravy and juices, and you'll know we're right!
We hope these will make your Thanksgiving Day just a little tastier. We want the best for you, because, as always… we couldn't do this without you!
Brooke B., Thanks Giver
This is the time of year that the weather turns cool and the indoors start to look mighty cozy. By the way, did you know that turkey pairs with all wines, from delicate whites to rich reds to all types of roses? It's true! It's just one of the great things about Thanksgiving.
It's also a great time to try some new beers. Because there's so much caramelization in Thanksgiving meals, dark and chocolatey stouts are sublime, but the light hoppy brews are great as well. It's a veritable feast of beer and wine, and you can't go wrong with Thanksgiving! We're thankful for that, too.
Don't forget the champagne, either. Bubbly is great with everything, whether it's the meal, the post-meal game, or the post-game coma.
As you can see, we love to count our blessings while we're stuffing ourselves with cranberries and turkey. There are many things we're thankful for, but most of all, we're thankful for you.
Thanks for everything!
Brooke B., Stuffed Turkey
Halloween is coming, so don your masks and grab your bags and get ready for some old-fashioned trick-or-treating! If you want a real treat, though, join us on one of our many craft beer or winery events, such as one of our guided walking tours through San Diego.
There are many good reasons to learn about craft beer and local wine, not just because San Diego offers such an exciting array of both, but also because the more we learn about beer and wine, the more we appreciate them!
This month is particularly interesting, especially in light of the great pumpkin beer debates, because the history of Halloween in the United States is also wrapped up in its long tradition of pumpkin beer.
You see, when the first pilgrims settled in the vast sweeps of what was now called New England, there were pumpkins everywhere. Green pumpkins, blue pumpkins, yellow and pink, and mottled ones littered the ground along with the traditional orange. They were so common and easy to grow in the fertile ground that they were seen as an everyday and delicious staple.
Their proliferation guaranteed that the thirsty settlers would use the sweet squash, first called pompions, to make the first pumpkin beers. A seventeeth-century poem went, in part:
If Barley be wanting to make into Malt,
We must be contented and think it no Fault,
For we can make liquor to sweeten our Lips
Of Pumpkins and Parsnips and Walnut-Tree Chips.
It wasn't until the 1800s, when Irish immigrants began swelling the ranks of the American population and bringing Celtic All Hallows' Eve traditions of carving gourds with them, that pumpkins were eyed as something other than food and the makings of beer. In fact, the fat orange pumpkins you see today were specifically bred for carving, which is why they don't make for very tasty eating. If you want to taste pumpkin pie like the Native Americans used to eat, try finding the multicolored squash at farmer's markets or growing them from heirloom seeds yourself.
But no matter what, despite how much fun it might be, don't knock pumpkin brews for being trendy. They're part of an ancient and proud American tradition! It was also considered a especially healthy drink.
So that's the not-so-scary story of pumpkin beer. You know what's really terrifying, though? Drinking bad beer in San Diego. That's why we're here, to help you get to know the craft brew scene around here. Call us at (858) 551-5115 to book a tour with us and we'll show you what we mean. Costumes, by the way, are always welcome.
Brooke B., Hallo-wino
Holy cow, it's nearly the end of September again. How did this happen? (We know, we know, the same way as always.) While San Diego's summer is filled with interesting and fun things to do, truth be told, our biggest open secret is that autumn is hands down our favorite season around here.
“But San Diego Beer and Wine Tours,” we hear you say, “there are no seasons in San Diego!” Ah, that's where you're wrong. There are four distinct seasons here, made all the more beautiful by their subtlety, and this is the best one of them all. It's not just because of the warm winds that sweep up from Mexico, or the way the angled sunlight makes ocean waves extra glittery, but also the wealth of opportunities to go out and have fun!
One such event is San Diego Beer Week. This amazing event, which is going on from November 1st through November 10th 2013, is now in its fifth year. You may have noticed that Beer Week lasts ten solid days. That's because it's too big to contain in a mere seven!
San Diego Beer Week was dreamed up as a way to showcase and promote our vibrant craft beer community. It's a wonderland of tastings and pairings at a variety of price points. From piney to sour, to barrel-aged beers, all brewed locally, there's sure to be something to make everybody happy. It certainly keeps us thrilled and eager to go explore the little-known nooks and crannies of San Diego's craft brewing scene.
That's just one reason we love the fall in San Diego, and it's a big one. If you don't believe us, check out some of the events going on. We promise you'll love it.
See you there at one of the great events of San Diego Beer Week. Remember: Drink, don’t drive. Call us at (858) 551-5115 for a ride to the awesome events! Mention “San Diego Beer Week” and we’ll give you $5 any of our tours throughout November!
Brooke B., Cerevisaphiliac