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New winery decades in the making

SOLANA BEACH — Adam Carruth spent 20 years preparing for the day he’d open a winery. That day arrived on Sept. 8 with the debut of Carruth Cellars on South Cedros Ave.
Visitors typically begin dropping by when the doors open at noon to purchase wine by the bottle or to linger and enjoy a glass at the tasting bar. If they are lucky, they’ll catch Carruth at work, sometimes even stomping the grapes with his feet.
That happened two weeks ago when Carruth loaded up three tons of freshly picked grapes in Healdsburg, Calif., in the famed Alexander Valley, which he drove to Solana Beach for a premium merlot he was making. When his crusher-destemmer machine started to lose power he was left with no option other than to roll up his pants’ legs and crush grapes the old-fashioned way — which he did until 2 a.m.
The event might have been a hiccup for Carruth but didn’t deter the experienced winemaker’s progress.
“It’ll ferment for about eight days, then we’ll put it in French oak barrels to age,” he said. “It’ll be another one to two years before it’s bottled.”
Carruth began wine making as a hobby following graduation from Carlsbad High School in 1990 and going on to UC Riverside. After college graduation he moved to Sonoma County and studied viticulture at Santa Rosa Community College. In 1998, he began making wine with friends and fellow wine enthusiasts. When he returned to North County in 2001, he continued to truck grapes to North County from Northern California’s premier wine regions. In 2006, Carruth’s backyard wine making transitioned into Carruth Cellars, which initially operated out of Fifty Barrels, a collaborative winery in Oceanside.
Today Carruth’s offerings include four winners from the Orange County Fair: 2007 Sonoma Valley “Old Winery Road” Syrah, Gold Medal; 2007 Lake County Malbec, Silver Medal; 2007 North Coast Barbera, Silver Medal; and 2007 Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon Port, Bronze Medal.
Under the Carruth Cellars label, his wines have been featured in more than 60 locations, including The Poseidon, Sbicca Bistro, Wine Steals, The 3rd Corner, Vigilucci’s, The Wine Loft and Maestro’s. This week the Carruth label debuted at Claire’s on Cedros.
Bottle prices range from $30 to $50. Free membership in the Carruth Cellars Wine Club includes a 20 percent discount, invitations to special events and private winery tours, and tastings by appointment. Another perk is an opportunity to thief, or sample wine, directly from the barrel.
In addition, every season 250 people are invited to bring a reusable bottle and participate in draining the barrel.
“One hundred and twenty five members have joined the club since opening on Sept. 8,” he said with a sense of pride.
Carruth also boasts special edition wines such as “Muse,” a blend of Italian varieties and cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley he created for his operations manager and girlfriend, Anne Millikin.
“It’s ‘soft, young and vibrant,’’ he said smiling.
Carruth and Millikin have big plans for the winery that includes movie nights, barrel tasting parties and fundraising events.
In hindsight, he admits all the work, including transporting fresh grapes from Northern California to Solana Beach, has been worth it.
“We bring the best of two worlds together in an organic way,” he said. “There is nothing mechanized about this. It’s something wild and audacious we’re sharing with our community.”
Carruth Cellars is located at 320 South Cedros Ave., Suite 400 in Solana Beach behind Coles Fine Flooring. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
For more information, visit or call (858) 847-9463 (WINE). Carruth Cellars friends can also be found on Facebook.
See video of Carruth grape stomping at