San Diego Wine Guy: Jack’s wins awards and wine lovers

Jack’s of La Jolla has added to their singular award-winning reputation by receiving the Wine Spectator’s “Best of” Award of Excellence for their wine service and selection. The only others who have attained this status in La Jolla are the restaurants at La Valencia Hotel.

To be eligible for this recognition, the restaurant list must contain either vintage depth with vertical offerings of several top producers, or excellent breadth from renowned international regions. These wine lists typically offer 500 or more selections, along with superior presentation. Jack’s list exceeds those standards by stocking 800 to 1,000 international bottle choices at any one time.

Myres McDougal, wine director and Jack’s Ocean Room general manager, has been with the restaurant for two and a half years. He originally found his interest in wine as a server at the acclaimed Arnaud’s in New Orleans, the city from which he hails. Cultural influences of the area steered his initial exposure toward classic wines from France. Throughout his 20’s, he traveled to Oregon and Napa to round out his wine education. Now he is responsible for one of the best restaurant wine programs in the region.

When McDougal took charge of the acclaimed program, the first thing he did was to re-price the list at a competitive markup. Pricing, he feels, is paramount to a premium guest experience and can encourage someone to perhaps try something new. Jack’s charges $25 corkage, with the fee waived if a bottle is purchased off their list.

Staff training is a top priority for McDougal. So much so, that most of the upper management of Jack’s will be heading to the Culinary Institute of America this summer to become certified as sommeliers. He feels that attention to details such as this will reflect well on customers and develop repeat business.

Beginning in May, each Tuesday evening downstairs in Jack’s Grill and Wine Bar they will host a $25 wine and appetizer tasting. Guests can expect five 2 oz. pours and an accompanying appetizer. Kevin Sharpe, new manager of the wine bar said, “I’m excited to begin hosting our Tuesday Tastings. Both Myres and myself will be available to our guests as we introduce the food and wine of Jack’s.” White varietals will be featured throughout the month of May.

McDougal works directly with chef/owner Tony DiSalvo on their five-, seven- and nine-course tasting menus. When selecting the pairings, his goal is to provide his guests with a truly international feel; even including Sake as a pairing when suitable. Food and wine pairings rotate periodically to continue to provide their customers a unique wine experience.

Jack’s customers can sign up online to be a Jack’s of La Jolla VIP member. Cardholders receive 20 percent off dining Sunday through Wednesday and can purchase bottles of wine for half price on Sunday and Monday, in addition to many other benefits.

Managing a wine list for Jack’s five lounges and three restaurants may seem like a daunting task. “The ownership allows me to take the list in my own direction,” said McDougal. Having the freedom to experiment and the diverse facilities in which to serve guests keeps his work fresh. He has taken that task, and list, right to the top of the La Jolla wine scene.

For more information on Jack’s of La Jolla, visit


Recommendation: 2004 Lo Zoccolaio Baccanera-Langhe Barolo, $20 at Wine Time. Big and bold as any great Barolo should be. Hugely aromatic with hints of blackberry, green olives and tar. Slightly under-ripe fruit keeps this behemoth from being worthy of the highest merit, though this is a superb value wine. If you are looking for an introduction to Barolo and don’t want to break the bank, this is a great place to start. Serve with penne in a pancetta cream sauce, and decant for at least an hour prior to serving. 14 percent alcohol. 86 points.