Italy is one of the top wine producers in the world with the word “wine” being synonymous with “culture” for Italians. While Italians were not the first to invent wine, they certainly have applied their well-know passion to it. After hundreds of years of experimenting with wine production, spices, and aging, you can say the culture is soaked in it! In the 20th century, the Italian government began to regulating wine production so that the quality of wines marked with an Italian label met the exacting standards expected of that region.
The varied climate of California makes it an ideal location for a variety of wine-producing grapes. As Italians began immigrating to California in the late 1800’s, Italian wines began growing in California climes. With similar climates but varied soil, wines made from Italian grapes grown in California fields tend to display full and bright fruit characteristics but have lower acid levels than the same grape grown in Italy. This makes the wine more approachable to those tasters who may not be as familiar with the traditional Italian wines.
If you consider yourself an aficionado of either Italian or California wines, then the historic neighborhood of Little Italy in downtown San Diego is an obvious stop. Of course, you know Little Italy for Italian food but did you know it’s home to a generous selection of wine bars? No matter if you are looking for specifically Italian wines, California produced wines or an eclectic world-wide variety, Little Italy has a wine bar that is perfect for you. Many of these stops have wines available in flights, by the glass and also offer bottles for purchase. So without further adieu, our favorite San Diego wine bars:
Located on Kettner just across from Juniper & Ivy, Carruth Cellars is an urban winery in the northern end of Little Italy. As an urban winery, it imports grapes from other Northern and Central California areas and produces the wine in the city of San Diego. They have a lovely garden so you can sip your glass of local wine while enjoying the perfect San Diego weather. Heaters and twinkle lights mean that you can tuck in and chat the night away with your friends. Carruth Cellars offers wines by the glass as well as flights. Their menu has a generous selection of meats & cheeses for a build your own charcuterie board. Carruth sells their wines by the bottle too so you can take your favorite home with you.
While walking down India Street you might almost miss M Winehouse tucked into the shadow of The Q. This historically recognized Gothic Victorian is the oldest house in Little Italy and now hosts a charming wine bar with a patio and upstairs seating. Don’t forget to try their house-made sangria, available by the glass or pitcher. A prime location for cocktails is the upstairs sitting room with a table overlooking a very busy intersection of India St. They even provide board games so you have a good reason to linger.
A generous selection of all Sicilian and Italian wines greet you at RoVino, the Italian rotisserie and wine bar located next to The Waterfront on Kettner. Owned by one of the first Italian families to settle in Little Italy, RoVino won’t want you to go hungry while sampling their wines from Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily, and Lombardy (to name a few). Cozy seating is provided on the patio or inside the lushly decorated dining room.
At the north end of Little Italy you will find Pali Wine, just look for the selfie-worthy Fine Wine & Good Times painted building. This tasting room showcases both the Pali Wine produced Pinot Noir and Central Coast Chardonnay as well as their Tower 15 house wine label which offers premium Bordeaux and Rhone blends. At Pali Wine you can enjoy your glass of local California wine along with a generous charcuterie board featuring select meats, cheeses and fruits you’re sure to love. Wines are offered by the glass and bottles are available for purchase. You certainly won’t be disappointed by their wine list.
Vino Carta is an eclectic wine bar and shop located on India St just south of Ballast Point. At Vino Carta, selection is heavy on small, family-run wineries with sustainable farming practices. They provide an ever-changing selection of wine by the glass as well as a retail store where bottles can be purchased. Wine tasting flights are regularly available, featuring the selection of the week. Don’t forget to bring some cheese and crackers.
Enoteca is an Italian word which literally means “wine repository”. You already know you are on the right track when you step into Enoteca Style. Located on a quieter stretch of India between Beech and Ash, this neighborhood wine bar is a bit off the main path of central India but the location complements the intimate atmosphere inside. The available wines reflect a worldwide aesthetic. Enoteca Style offers a good selection cheese, meat and fruit plates to enjoy along with your wine in addition to full plate items if you want to stay for dinner.
If you are interested in a more detailed tour of the wine options in Little Italy, be sure to check out our Vino! Vino! Little Italy Stroll that runs weekly. This tour is a great option for couples. We also have a brewery tour available.
Street parking in Little Italy can be hard to find but there are valet options around different restaurants. Just drive down India St and you will see at least 2 valet options each evening. There are multiple paid parking lots throughout the neighborhood; just a few blocks walk from the main India St strip. Little Italy is also easily accessible from the trolley line with the County Center/Little Italy stop just down the street from the main restaurant area.0