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A  column for East County wine and beer enthusiasts

16765 Bernardo Center Dr., San Diego CA 92128
(858) 673-7512;


By J.J. Gold, guest columnist


April 7, 2009 (Rancho Bernardo)—Could a place that received both theWine Spectator 2009 award of excellence and the Wine Enthusiast 2008 award of distinction possibly live up to the hype? I headed off to the Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo, determined to find out. Much to my delight, the wines that I sampled were both unusual and highly pleasing—and the food was equally delectable.


With more than 250 wines to choose from, the toughest part was narrowing down the selection to a handful of vintages ranging from $5 to $9 a glass, though the menu includes far pricier options. On this cold and blustery spring day, I nestled down on a leather sofa beside a patio-view window and chose a selection of red wines to sample. First was a 2006 Greg Norman cabernet/merlot that was rich and velvety smooth, with subtle tannins—an ideal companion for Mama’s Brie-a special appetizer of warm brie topped with raspberry preserves and candied pears baked in a puff pastry shell and served with fresh apples.

A 2007 Carmel Road pinot noir was even more pleasing, aromatic with flavors of red currant, cherry and spice. But my personal favorite was a 2006 Cinnabar merlot from Pasa Robles. The menu described it as having hints of blackberry, mocha, smoke and vanilla complementing a palate of deep ripe berries and spice. I can’t say that I could detect a smoky taste, but the sensation was definitely pleasing to my palate!


The most delectable surprise from a culinary standpoint was the “Sweet and Salty” appetizers—bacon-wrapped dates. Served with a savory mustard, these tidbits virtually melt in your mouth—the perfect aphrodisiacs.


For an entrée, I selected Ravioli Florentine, a menu special with spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese and marinara sauce. Other options on the menu included Paninis, salads, Cajun lamb chops, jambalaya, steak, poultry and seafood. My meal was deliciously rich, though the portion was modest. Still, I was sufficiently sated. Next time, I look forward to returning and sampling desert—certain it will be every bit as satisfying as the wines and gourmet foods I’ve already feasted upon. If you’re looking for an upscale yet moderately priced restaurant to while away an afternoon or evening while savoring distinctive wines and foods, I highly recommend The Barrel Room.


J.J. Gold is a wine aficionado who has tasted her way through California’s wine regions in the Napa Valley, California’s North Coast, Temecula, and now SanDiego County.

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What a lucky girl to be tasting wine as a job. It does look like you need a good palette though.
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