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David Morris | Photo: Robert Benson | January 7, 2013
We catch up with S.D.’s favorite wine guy as he bursts onto the La Jolla scene with Doug Manchester’s new Amaya restaurant—and his leading lady.
Who doesn’t love a good love story, especially when it involves San Diego’s top sommelier, Jesse Rodriguez, the affable kid from Riverside who worked his way up to the French Laundry and Bouchon before opening Addison more than six years ago?
It happened one evening at The Grand Del Mar, when a tall blonde dropped her wine list in the Amaya dining room. “I swooped in to make the save,” says Rodriguez.
The rest, as they say, is history. After spending their honeymoon at the Montage, Rodriguez is back to work, spreading his infectious passion for wine to La Jolla, where an Amaya sister locale is slated to open this winter on Prospect Street. Meanwhile, The Mrs. is the GM at the wildly popular Bankers Hill Tavern.
From the early days, Rodriguez has been educating San Diego’s palates, witnessing an evolution. “The San Diego wine and culinary scene has completely grown up,” he says. “When I arrived I was the only advanced sommelier here. Now there are 10.”
Sure, people still order rote cabernet and buttery chard, but they’re also getting hip to Rodriguez’s boutique finds, which he procures from across the globe. At Amaya, five private labels will include a juicy Central Coast syrah and an Austrian grüner veltliner.
“The market here is definitely different than L.A. and 180 degrees from San Francisco. I consistently go to these places to find what’s new.” Translation: More than 37,000 bottles of wine in The Grand Del Mar’s arsenal. (There’s an extra cellar hidden under the parking garage.) “If I buy a wine, I know exactly where I am allocating it,” says Rodriguez. I do believe a toast is in order.