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Solterra's wine associates Felicia Pomare (left) and Kristin Asimakoupoulos along with general manager Sean Carlson. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Solterra's wine associates Felicia Pomare (left) and Kristin Asimakoupoulos along with general manager Sean Carlson. Photo by Rico Cassoni
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SIP the City comes to Escondido

Perhaps some of our readers are familiar with SIP, but it is worth sharing a bit of the organization. SIP San Diego is a nonprofit collective of urban wineries, meaderies, and cideries across San Diego County. The group aims to promote local artisanal wine, mead and cider while fostering a collaborative community among San Diego’s skilled city craft beverage makers.

Amidst small businesses’ challenges during these trying times, SIP urges San Diegans to embrace “Sip Small” whenever possible by choosing locally crafted libations over mainstream brands. SIP’s dedicated members meticulously source top-quality ingredients to prepare award-winning beverages, embodying the essence of San Diego’s craft beverage renaissance.

Initially established in 2013 as San Diego Urban Wineries, SIP San Diego expanded its mission in 2020 to include meaderies and cideries. Membership consists of the following: Carruth Cellars, Charlie & Echo, Gianni Buonomo Vintners, Golden Coast Mead, Grafted Cellars, Koi Zen Cellars, Lost Cause Meadery, Negociant, Propaganda Wine Co., Raging Cider & Mead, San Pasqual Winery, Serpentine Cider, and Solterra Winery.

Gianni Buono Wine Educators, Casey Mackereth (left) and Jessica Flora along with Winemaker/Managing Director, Keith Rolle. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Gianni Buonomo wine educators Casey Mackereth (left) and Jessica Flora, with Keith Rolle, winemaker and managing director. Photo by Rico Cassoni

SIP San Diego recently hosted its annual SIP the City event at Escondido City Hall, featuring various craft beverage makers. While most members showcased their beverages, Café California Poppy’s owner Eszter Szatmary stood out by serving delectable on-site freshly made pizzas and charcuterie to delighted guests. Szatmary’s new Sorrento Valley café offers guests breakfast, lunch, pastries, custom cakes, catering, and mobile pizza service. We will soon be doing a full review.

I was excited to encounter familiar wineries like Gianni Buonomo, Carruth Cellars, and Koi Zen, alongside discoveries such as Propaganda Wine Co. and Solterra Winery. Additionally, I had my first taste of mead, a fermented honey beverage, thanks to Jessica Donyes, events coordinator at Golden Coast Mead.

A fascinating tidbit I learned was that a single honeybee visits 50 to 100 flowers in one collection flight, requiring 2 million flowers and 55,000 miles of bee flight to produce just 1 pound of honey.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Keith Rolle, Gianni Buonomo’s winemaker and managing director. At the show, the winery showcased the 2019 Maestrale, Blaufrankish (aka Lemberger), and Le Grein, aged for a minimum of three years, with at least two years in 100% once-used French oak barrels.

Ezter Szatmary, Proprietor, Café California Poppy, serving guests fresh pizza and charcuterie at SIP the City. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Ezter Szatmary, owner of Café California Poppy, serves guests fresh pizza and charcuterie at SIP the City in Escondido. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Between floating around the event and engaging with guests, including their wine club members, Rolle found time to answer questions at the booth where wine educators Casey Mackereth and Jessica Flora poured their wines. This event served as a delightful reminder of my past tastings of all three wines.

Another familiar winery was Carruth Cellars. Hayley Wadsworth and Nicole Tackimas were pouring their new 2022 Saignee Rose sourced from North Coast, CA and their 2019 Claret Bordeaux blend from Sonoma County. The Merlot 50%, Cab Sauv 45%, and Petit Verdot 5% composite has blackberry, plum, vanilla and clove on the palate with medium tannins, a “drink now or hold” wine.

I also ran into Carlotta Addante, Carruth’s Event Manager, who co-planned the SIP event along with Gianni Buonomo’s Wine Club Manager, Al Dorvinen.

Propaganda Wine Co. stood out at the event, led by chief alchemist and owner Steve Michaliszyn. Despite being open for just 10 months, Michaliszyn and partner Joe Deutsch have already garnered an impressive 400-member wine club, a feat that usually takes years.

Propaganda showcased a selection of wines, including a 2022 Chardonnay with a unique blend of 50% new French oak and 50% steel tank fermentation, a 2021 Pinot Noir Rose, a 2021 Napa Valley Cab Sauv, and a 2019 Alexander Valley Petit Verdot. With this rapid rise, Propaganda is firmly on our shortlist for a comprehensive review.

Carruth Cellars, Hayley Wadsworth, Server, and Carlotta Addante, Events Manager and SIP the City co-planner. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Carruth Cellars server Hayley Wadsworth, left, and Carlotta Addante, events manager and co-planner of SIP the City. Photo by Rico Cassoni

I also found Solterra Winery, recommended by fellow wine enthusiasts at the event. Meeting Solterra wine associates Felicia Pomare, Kristin Asimakoupoulos, and general manager Sean Carlson proved advantageous. The winery’s 2022 Cab Sauv Rose, 2019 Zinfandel, and 2019 Malbec were impressive, leading me to plan a review for Taste of Wine & Food to share with our readers.

SIP members displayed their collaborative community spirit at the event, offering a mix-and-match deal where guests could select 12 wines from various wineries for a 10% discount. Alongside local wine, mead, and cider, Café California Poppy served delightful appetizers, arts and crafts were available for purchase, and Silk Button Butchers provided lively music, making SIP the City a resounding success. For additional information, visit

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Sal Ercolano, owner of West End Bar & Kitchen, is hosting Rombauer Wine Dinners at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28 & 29. Guests will experience an evening with wines from Napa Valley’s Rombauer Winery. Ercolano and Chef Noe have expertly paired the five-course dinner with Rombauer wines. The main course features Garlic Tri Tip and Rosemary Grilled Wagu paired with 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost is $95 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858-259-5878.

Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at Reach them at [email protected].

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