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SOMM SERIES: Jesse Rodriguez @ Grand Del Mar

The city's top sommeliers pick the best bottles for your holiday wining.


Bring-a-decent-bottle party season is here. You could stare at the shelves until, in a Rorschach moment, a pretty label speaks to you. You could treat it like a numbers game and just get the least bank-breaking 90-pointer. Or you could let San Diego's top sommeliers' guide you to the best. We've asked them to play down to our level, including one from the grocery store, one from the wine boutique, and one "I just sold my startup/I am Oprah" pick from their personal collection.

The series starts with advanced sommelier Jesse Rodriguez, a vet of Thomas Keller's French Laundry who's helmed the 3,000-bottle collection at the Grand Del Mar since its opening in 2007. Jesse's a soft-spoken, unpretentious sort whose business trips include jaunts to musty cellars across the world. If his picks below inspire you, the Grand offers customized wine tastings with their resort sommeliers—$95/hour gets you a tasting of six wines from different areas and terroirs. To reserve, call the concierge at 858.314.1996.





Grocery Store Selection (under $30): "For whites, I try to look at the grape more than the producer. Since we like to drink high to medium acid driven whites at home, I tend to look at a German Riesling Kabinett or Albarino. These usually provide great values."

Specialty Wine Shop: "Marwan 'Morewine' Bishar at Wine Connection has a nice collection. Ask for his advice on White Burgundy selections. You will always find 1er Cru and Grand Cru selections here that do not break the bank. I personally enjoy a Puligny-Montrachet. Pairs well with a wide array of foods."
"Hello, I'm Oprah" Selection from Rodriguez' Collection: "The Puligny-Montrachet, “Les Combettes” from Leflaive. This is the pinnacle producer in Puligny and the wines age nicely. The 1999 Combettes is a fantastic vintage that has maturity and not readily seen on many wine lists."


Grocery Store Selection (under $30): "I’m a little more particular with my reds and I typically buy them from a specialty store. But, if I were in a supermarket, I would look for a Central Coast Pinot Noir. Especially during the holidays, since Central Coast Pinot matches well with turkey, ham, salmon and rich dishes."
Specialty Wine Shop: "I’m partial to reds produced in the Rhône Valley, either a Grenache-based Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a mature Hermitage. These usually run in the $45-85 price range and are ideal to sip on during the winter months, even in our sunny San Diego climate."
"Hello, I'm Oprah" Selection from Rodriguez' Collection: "The 1942 vintage of Bodegas R. López de Heredia, "Viña Tondonia," Gran Reserva. It is rare to find wines on lists that have 70 years of age to them. When you do find such a vintage, I suggest a try. At the very least, tasting such a mature wine would create a memorable experience."


Grocery Store Selection (under $30): "It’s always great to have a dependable sparkling wine to buy on the fly. My go-to is Piper Sonoma—delicious and inexpensive."
Specialty Wine Shop: "Ask your wine shop if they have anything available from Jacques Selosse or Domaine Vouette et Sorbée—two boutique producers in Champagne. These would each be around $100."
Star of Rodriguez' Collection: "Krug, Brut, "Clos du Mesnil," Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, Grand Cru 1981. Trying champagne with maturity is a treat, but trying one from a small 1.84 hectare parcel that does Blanc de Blancs like no one else is mind-blowing. This vineyard has been protected by the walls (Clos in French) since 1698. It’s obvious that even the Benedictine monks knew that this parcel and the fruit it bares is extraordinary."

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