Raise a glass to the growler! For the uninitiated among oeniphiles, a growler is a reusable glass container that holds one liter of the wine of your choice, and at eco-friendly La Jolla Crafted Wines, it's poured into the growler directly from barrels. No cork. No preservatives. No fuss.
"Our customers are getting a better quality wine ... instead of going through a normal bottling process, which requires filtration and added preservative," said Lowell Jooste, who with his wife, Anne, relocated to Southern California from Cape Town, South Africa, five years ago and now owns and operates LJ Crafted Wines.
"Every time you filter something or add more preservative, you take out character. It's simple logic."
The growler system is one with which patrons of urban breweries may already be familiar, but Lowell Jooste, who has "spent my life" in the wine industry, says the process is new to wine-serving and — selling.
"It's a unique system where the staff can serve wine directly out of the barrel. When we started, we did some bottling because we had no idea whether the growler system would work. As things are going now, I don't know if we will bottle again under the conventional way with the cork. We'll just become a filling station."
Bottled wine is available at the Joostes' shop/tasting room, along with the 18 barrels from which you can fill your growler. The wines' grapes are grown in Napa, then the resultant product is shipped south overnight when ready.
The growing up there is supervised by Alison Green-Doran, whom Jooste says is one of California's first female winemakers. "She's grown up in the vineyard world," he said. "I've never come across a winemaker who can walk into a vineyard and get such a good feeling for what the quality is that's going to come out of it. And she's on the cutting edge on the technology side, too."
The LJ Crafted wines for sale and tasting include both reds and whites. "Normally, we have 10 to 12 wines available directly out of the barrel," said Jooste. "We do a lot of educating for the customer about what we're doing. Most of our staff has been here for over a year. They know what's going on." The education — and the wines themselves — must be making an impression: LJ Crafted Wines' wine club has, Jooste said, between 500 and 600 members.
By the way, the LJ name serves to identify not only Lowell Jooste but La Jolla itself, where he says he and his relocated family are happily ensconced. Should he decide to expand in a year or so, perhaps to Los Angeles, don't be surprised if there's an LA Crafted Wines, named for that city and for Lowell's wife, Anne. Theirs is indeed a family business.
LJ Crafted Wines is at 5621 La Jolla Blvd. in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla. Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 1-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2-8 p.m. Sunday. (858) 551-8890. ljcraftedwines.com
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