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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Solterra Winery & Kitchen Opens in Leucadia

I'm all for keeping Leucadia funky.  I like the eucalyptus trees, the train blowing its horn as it speeds through town and the flip flop traffic up and down Highway 101.  But Leucadia is growing and when I heard that a winery was opening in Leucadia I was skeptical.  And when I heard that the winery would be serving food, my thoughts went to Temecula where the wine and food scene are both mediocre at best.

Well,  I'm happy to say that Solterra Winery & Kitchen is not only a great addition to Leucadia but is also making some of the best wines south of Paso Robles.  Open from noon to 10pm Sun-Thurs and until midnight on Fri and Sat, it's already becoming one of North County's brightest hotspots.

The winery is the brainchild of Christopher Van Alea, a friendly guy who got his wine chops from his time in Sonoma.  He's been making wines for over 11 years and sources his grapes from San Diego and Mexico to Paso Robles and Sonoma.  The wines have a depth and flavor that has more in common with Napa than Temecula, and that's a very good thing.  And I like that Chris uses some local grapes for some of his wine, proof that not every local wine has to taste like sweet almond champagne.  Come on Temecula, seriously?!!

The viognier is an often overlooked white that has a nice, clean finish and the reds are deep and flavorful.  Chardonnays, zins, cabs and blends, there are plenty to choose from.  You can do a wine tasting for $10, highly recommended for your first visit. Whether you're a newbie to wine or an experience oenophile, you're going to love the wines.  Come in on an afternoon when it's slower and sit back and enjoy each sip as the staff explains and describes each one as if they have been doing this for years. 

In fact, that's why I love this place so much.  The vibe is ultra friendly and neighborhood-y, it feels like home.  I love the way the front of the winery opens to the street so you can say hello to passerby's and when the train blows past you know the people on it are wishing they could trade places with you.  Chris did a good job with the building, keeping the original funky room on one side and building a more modern barrel facility on the other.  It fits into Leucadia as if its been here for years.

And since this is a beach town it's nice to know you can also sit on the open patio.  Super casual, come straight from surfing or shopping and you'll fit in just fine.  You'll be surrounded by barrels and if you're lucky some live jazz.  What's also nice about this place is the diversity of age group of the crowd.  The Third Corner's crowd can get a little old, and Union Tap and Kitchen a little young, but Solterra Winery is a good balance of all age groups.

So the wines are good - I mean, the wines are great! - but what about the food?

The cheese and charcuterie plate ($24) is huge, a wonderful sampler to keep 4 people sipping wines happy.  I hate it when a wine bar serves up "happy sized" cheese plates where you have to share little mouse sized nibbles.  There are cheeses, meats, sausages, nuts, figs, marcona almonds, olives, grapes and bread and all of it is top quality - happy happy happy!  The perfect choice for that late afternoon stop-by with a glass of wine.

If you want something hot there are plenty of tapa sized plates.  The fried calimari with safrito aioli was outstanding ($10) and the scallops ($13), well, just look at them!  You can also get entrees that are big enough to share - the lamb shank is fantastic and there's even a vegetarian paella option.  Hey, vegetarians are people too and this is Leucadia, afterall.

The menu is surprisingly robust with the usual suspects (flatbreads) as well as some great surprises (skewers, empanadas).  Lunch is served noon to 3 and dinner starts at 5:30 and even if you just stop in for a glass of wine I defy you not to order something when you see some of the great food coming out of the kitchen. 

So get yourself into Solterra Winery. Stop by for a tasting.  Stop by for a glass or a bottle to go.  Sample some food, or stay for dinner.  Just get in here and find out for yourself why Solterra Winery and Kitchen is the best thing to happen to Leucadia since tie-dyed t-shirts. The times are a-changing and Solterra Winery & kitchen is a welcome addition to funky Leucadia.

934 North Coast Hwy 101
Leucadia, CA 92024

Phone: 760.230.2970

DIRECTIONS:  On Old Highway 101 just north of where it intersects with Leucadia Blvd.

Local Wally's Guide to San Diego:
Local Wally's Guide to Napa:
Local Wally's Guide to San Diego Beer: 
Local Wally's Napa Store:

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