“Oh man, bet you could fit 400 or 500 people in here; don’t tell the fire chief,” jokes Adam Carruth, who is in no way planning to test fire-code limits of his company’s massive new wine garden at Liberty Station. On paper, the new Carruth Cellars’ Wine Garden is 12,000 square feet, but Adam says it’s more like 15,000 thanks to the massive garden patio and usable space.
It’s open to wine club members this weekend, and open to the public on July. And it happens the same month they were forced from their Little Italy location.
“We knew we were going to lose the Little Italy spot for a year or so,” Adam explains. “We were thinking about expanding up into Orange County. But my buddy called me about this space. I’d tried to go to Liberty Station 10 years ago but I got distracted. This space is in the ARTS District at Liberty Station, so there’s this great connection to 27 artists who work there. We just took all the plants from Little Italy and filled in the new garden.”
Inside is a 75-foot copper-topped bar, lined with shelves and shelves of Carrurth wine. There’s a long, high-backed white banquette, art from his neighbors is hung on the wall. What Adam calls “a sultry bar.” On the other side of the space is a gourmet cheese shop, with a big case full of world-class melters and stinkers, real similar to Venissimo Cheese. You can buy picnic baskets to take out into the huge parks in Liberty Station. On weekend mornings, they’ve partnered with Prager Bros for breads and coffee.
“We went big,” Adam says. “It’s copper-clad, lit up with LED lights. It’s a glowing, 75-foot bar inside of a long room. We put a lounge in there like our Carlsbad and Little Italy [locations]. Then the cheese shop—I think it works. It’s weird and fun.”
The kitchen at Carruth Liberty will crank out more food than at their other locations (they’ve got the original spot in Solana Beach, plus Carlsbad and Oceanside), with apps like chichette (basically Italian finger food) and desserts to go along with their cheese boards, sandwiches, and salads they do at all locations. There will also be a market section with olive oils, tapenades, salamis, and pantry goods.
Opening their first spot in 2010, Carruth made their name as an urban winery by buying high-quality fruit from Northern California, shipping it down, and then crushing, fermenting, and aging wines here in San Diego. I ask Adam what the key to the success has been. “Our staff has always been really nice,” he says. “And the fruit–we never cut corners. We’re buying super-high pedigree fruit from the same plots as Silver Oak, Duckhorn, even Heidi Barrett at Screaming Eagle.”
They also benefited from low cost of grapes in 2018 and 2019. Growers had a glut, and winemakers like Carruth could get top-of-the-line fruit for half the cost. “We were buying Napa cab for 40 cents on the dollar so we bought a ton,” he says. “It was a strain on the company to buy all that fruit, but we were helping our growers. We made 25,000 cases in 2019 and have barely touched it.”
Carruth wines take about three to four years to hit the table. Two years aging in barrel, another year in bottle, then distributed.
Top sellers are the Sauvignon Blanc and Unicorn Blend (29% Zinfandel, 23% Merlot, 14% Pinot Noir, 12% Grenache, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Syrah). But Adam’s go-to is the BDX. “We get four to five Bordeaux varietals like Cab, Malbec, Cab Franc, and do a co-fermentation like a field blend.”
Come this summer, Carruth Liberty will have live bands on the patio. “Music on the regular,” Adam says.
Carruth opens to the public July 11.