Winemaker moves operations from San Marcos, opens tasting room in East County
By Miriam Raftery
March 24, 2011 (Julian) – Marc Hashagen isn’t your typical winemaker. A firm believer in giving things a go even when the odds seem long, he began making wines with a friend back in 2006 because “we love wine,” he recalled.
Born in Norway and raised in a small English farming town by his parents, both American teachers, he returned to the U.S. after they retired and headed west. “We Googled winemaking in San Diego,” said Hashagen, who teamed up with a friend, Charlie Chabalko, now co-owner.
The first site that popped up on Google, the San Diego Amateur Winemaking Society, had a post by a private vineyard selling grapes. “I said, `Of course! We’ll just buy some grapes and make wine,’” exclaimed Hashagen. “We had 100 pounds of fruit in two buckets, we made 26 bottles, and we had a lot of fun. The wine turned out good enough to want to try again.”
That was in 2006. So in 2007, after finding warehouse space in San Marcos, he recalled, “We rented a truck and bought three tons.”
Blue Door Winery was born. The winery's owners researched the art of winemaking through books, journals, websites, and talks with other winemakers.
The business takes its name from a painting done by Hashagen’s mother, Trudy Kenyon, who will be on hand to sign GK prints of her artwork at Sunday’s opening.
Festivities will also include guitar music by a musician who sings in Italian and performs in Little Italy. “We’ll have cheeses, olives, and breads,” Hashagen added. “Our official grand opening is March 26th, but we are open currently. Come on by and try our wines…Cheers!”
He hasn’t given up his day job yet, but hopes to soon. This month, Blue Door Winery opened up a tasting room located at 1255 Julian Orchards Drive in Julian. The building is the site of the former Jenkins Winery tasting room, situated on ten acres with grapevines and an apple orchard. The Jenkins opted to close their tasting room due to family commitments, Hashagen said. Originally, he hoped to offer tastings of wines from both Blue Door and Jenkins wineries, but couldn’t get permits for both. (A lawyer is currently researching legal options.)
Grapes on the property add ambience, but belong to Jenkins. “We source our grapes from all over,” said Hashagen, who enjoys taking his family and friends along to pick grapes, then bring them back to crush them. Blue Door vintages include grapes from California’s central coast and areas such as Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Temecula and Escondido.
Most Blue Door wines are produced utilizing apple enzymes and egg whites with sea salt, without filtering wherever possible. The results are wines with greater complexity and artisan quality, says the winemaker.
He learned the formula—8-10 egg whites per barrel with a pinch of salt--from an autobiography by famed Napa Valley winemaker Robert Mondavi.
“For his higher end reds—reserves and French oaks, he didn’t ever filter, ” he said, noting that most commercial wineries filter their wines. “So I went to Trader Joe’s and said `Let’s give it a shot.’”
He made the first batch of unfiltered wine in 2007. “The difference was amazing,” he said. “You leave it on about a week, grab the suspended particles and pull off…You end up with a wine that is fuller, richer and has much more flavor.”
Blue Door Winery produces mostly reds including merlot, Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, Barbera, syrah, and cabernet Franc, but also offers a Sauvignon Blanc and an apple wine. Our favorite picks? Merlot, the most popular seller, described in tasting notes as having flavors of “fresh dark fruit with blueberries and blackberries, smoke, leather and spices” and a 2008 Sangiovese with grapes from the Central coast area that promises hints of “butterscotch, fresh-picked cloves and cinnamon.” Among white wines, our tasting team gave a thumbs-up to he Sauvignon Blanc, which claims to offer tastes of “grapefruit, melon, green olives, and lemon grass.”
Tastings cost $8 and includes a glass. If you bring the glass back on your next visit, tastings are just $4. The winery also offers a wine club which already has 65 members; cost for two bottles of wine every three months is $20 a bottle or 20% off, whichever is cheaper. For non-club members, bottles run $19-$29. The tasting room is open from 11 a.m.to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
The vintner thanks winemakers Mike and Nancy Dunlap of Escondido, Mike Menghini of Menghini Winery in Julian, and other local vintners for their help and encouragement. Blue Door is located near Menghini Winery (on the right side as you head toward Menghini from downtown Julian. Just look for the blue door—you can’t miss it.).
“In five or six weeks, this will be blooming and everything will be gorgeous,” Hashagan said, strolling out into the verdant green grass at the base of the apple orchard. “In spring, we’ll have Adirondack chairs in our apple orchard, so you can sit and bring a picnic. We’ll have French baguettes from Candied Apple in Julian, which bakes is own baguettes. If you stop by, swing on by Candied Apple first, grab a sandwich and enjoy.”
If running a winery sounds like a romantic life, it is! Hashagan is now engaged to marry Kameron Robbins, who works side by side with him in the tasting room. Together, they have an even bigger vision for their future. “Our ultimate dream is to have a place like this for ourselves and own the land,” Julian’s latest vintner concludes.
For more information, visit www.thebluedoorwinery.com call (760)765-0361, or visit the winery at 1255 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian CA 92036.