Liberty Station, the fast-growing mixed-use community located at the former Naval Training Center, is being treated to an injection of La Jolla hospitality.
Phil and Paula Cutting, who live in La Jolla, recently opened a wine bar called Mellow at this new Point Loma hub. This is their first entrepreneurial venture and it was guided by their yearning to combine their vocation with their avocation.
The Cuttings first arrived in La Jolla in 1989 when Phil, a hotel industry mover-and-shaker (mostly the former – the couple and their children moved around a great deal and Phil was known to travel an average of 25 days a month), was transferred here to help build the Sheraton Grande Torrey Pines, now the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. Once the work on the hotel was complete, Phil was given an assignment in Los Angeles. When he told his wife it was once again time to pull up stakes, Paula said, “You can go, but I’m staying!”
Love is a powerful force - and so is Paula. Phil heeded both and the two settled down in La Jolla. Paula ran the Pearl Street Sylvan Learning Center while Phil continued getting hotels up and running across the nation.
A decade later, Phil decided it was time to retire and bid farewell to the breakneck pace of the hotel industry. But for this ambitious duo, it wasn’t long before they determined a sedentary retirement was not for them.
The venture has allowed Phil and Paula to pool their individual talents and to share their appreciation for wine with customers.
It has also allowed Phil the opportunity to cook, which is something he loves. He’s the creative mind behind every dish on the establishment’s vino-friendly menu.
Phil incorporates a variety of tastes and textures - such as the herb-marinated tomato bruschetta with prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and sweet balsamic syrup - that are designed to pair with Mellow’s extensive inventory of wines.
Many of the wines are from boutique wineries; others come from well-known vintners such as Peter Franus, Anthony Bell, Robert Hall and the Flood Family Rancho Sisquoc Winery. Wines from Argentina, Australia, France and Spain can also be found in the giant case that lines one wall of the bar.
Wine education is as important to the Cuttings as the wine itself and that’s where Paula’s penchant for teaching manifests itself.
“We love wine and we enjoy introducing it to people,” said Paula, who regularly makes her way around the bar while Phil stands behind it holding a notebook containing just about every fact one could ever hope to find about wines from all around the globe.
This vast compilation of data was amassed during the Cuttings’ travels to some of the world’s most fertile and popular wine-growing regions and their informational journey through an extensive line of wine certification courses.
“Before we attended professional classes, I thought I knew a lot, but I learned I really didn’t know squat,” Phil said. “The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know.”
Rather than be deterred by their lack of knowledge, the Cuttings soaked up every bit of information their industry-expert instructors served up.
Fast forward to present day where Phil and Paula combine to provide a veritable fountain of knowledge.
The Cuttings have instituted a series of educational events at Mellow. One, dubbed “Wine 101,” takes place on Tuesday evenings. The class features tastings, as well as presentations by vintners and wine experts.
During happy hour, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, bottles of wine are placed on top of the bar so customers can pick them up, study the labels and smell the wines before ordering them. The Cuttings have even been known to offer patrons a taste or two before firing up the cash register.
Why do this?
“The key is loving to get up in the morning and do what you do,” Paula said.
Brandon Hernández is a San Diego-based food writer. He has been featured on The Food Network’s “Emeril Live” and is the author of the cookbook “The Restaurant At Home.” He can be reached via e-mail at