Craft beer has finally come to Del Mar.
Del Mar’s first brewery, Vigilante Brewing, is due to make its debut later this year, and much-anticipated beer-and-wine-centric Tasting Room Del Mar officially opened its doors last month.
Spearheaded by father-son duo David and Evan Taylor, Tasting Room Del Mar strives to show customers how vines, hops and harvest are inextricably bound.
“We look at ourselves as a three-legged stool,” said co-owner David Taylor. “We elevate each of those to the same level of creativity and high-quality product offering — and that’s craft beer, boutique wine and locally-sourced, farm-to-table food.”
Located at the coastal city’s main intersection of Camino del Mar and 15th Street, Tasting Room Del Mar sets up shop in a roughly 2,600-square-foot space that was formerly occupied by Bruegger’s Bagel and Del Mar Flower Company.
The former bagel shop and flower stand has been transformed into an indoor-outdoor space that features craft beer taps, a boutique wine list and menu of seasonally-inspired plates. With 55 outdoor seats and 30 spots indoors, the tasting room offers Del Mar ocean views on the open-air patio, as well as coveted dining room seats that look into the kitchen. The concept also includes a retail bottle shop selling wine and beer.
“I think we bring more of a trendy concept to Del Mar,” Evan Taylor said about choosing the location. “Del Mar is a sit-down, big plate restaurant place with nothing that’s really creating a unique, sustainable, small plate concept.”
Evan had long planned on launching a craft beer concept, while his father, a wine aficionado, had always dreamed of opening a wine bar.
“I’ve been drinking wine and eating good for a long time,” said David, who recalled talking with friends about opening a wine bar in the Bay Area more than 20 years ago. “It was time to see about executing on that old idea.”
A former Rancho Santa Fe resident, David’s career as an entrepreneur in high-tech start-up companies has spanned more than 30 years in Silicon Valley and San Diego. Most notably, he was the co-founder and CEO of CineForm, a developer of video compression and workflow technology for the professional film and television industry, which was acquired by GoPro in 2011.
Evan, who grew up in Rancho Santa Fe and currently lives in La Jolla, has been deeply entrenched in the restaurant and hotel industries of San Diego.
At 15, Evan got his start at Dairy Queen before furthering his career with positions at Morgan Run Club & Resort, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, and Einstein Bros. Bagels, and accelerating into management with the opening of Que Pasa Mexican Grill in San Diego in 2011. After serving as the general manager of the restaurant for three and a half years, he went on to work as the operations manager of Chula Vista-based Agave Coffee & Café.
Combining their concepts, the two teamed up to create Tasting Room Del Mar, offering more than 120 wine labels and close to 50 beer varieties. The restaurant and bar opened its doors on June 3.
“We thought, ‘Why don’t we roll these together,” explained David, who currently lives just east of Rancho Santa Fe in Santaluz. “In rolling them together, maybe we can do something that’s a bit unique that people haven’t really done before.”
Tasting Room Del Mar features 28 rotating craft beer taps, supporting local San Diego breweries as well as highlighting other brewers throughout California, across the United States and around the world. The California-centric wine list also changes with the seasons and includes a strong international focus from wine regions in France, Germany and Spain.
In addition to beer and wine, the Del Mar spot offers cold brew coffee, kombucha, cider and mead. Tasting Room Del Mar is also equipped with a temperature-controlled cellar, stocked with about 1,300 bottles of wine and 400 bottles of beer available for sale, including bottles from Cordant Winery, David’s winery in Paso Robles.
“Most places that do beer or wine usually don’t do the other one very well. Their focus is one or the other,” David said. “We’re doing both and we pride ourselves on both our beer list and our wine list — and on our food.”
Headed by Executive Chef Steven Lona, Chef de Cuisine Jenny Goycochea and Wine Director Rusti Gilbert, Tasting Room Del Mar’s staff is always on hand to help educate customers and provide pairing suggestions.
“It’s about having amazing products, but also having the staff that knows about those products, how to pair those products together to enhance the customer experience,” David said.
Lona, who hails from Los Angeles, said the restaurant’s menu is focused on sourcing, with all ingredients coming from a 300-mile radius. The carefully crafted menu will rotate every five or six weeks to complement Tasting Room Del Mar’s continuously revolving beer and wine offerings.
“It’s a combination of sourcing, creativity, flavor profiles and plating,” David said.
“We focused on taste of food rather than full entrée portions,” Lona added. “We wanted to really reinforce the idea of tasting, kind of in line with the rest of the concept, and we wanted to maintain a focus on modern cooking but drawing from local harvest.”
The 14-dish menu includes savory and sweet treats. Some of the most popular small plates include the cheese plate, lamb belly and pork.
Customers can also choose a surprise menu. Tasting Room Del Mar’s “Surrender Series” features a three-, five- or seven-course surprise tasting menu.
“With the ‘Surrender Series,’ we get to introduce people to some new things," David said.
“Our goal is to provide consistency in experience, but not necessarily rigid consistency in menu presentation,” Lona added. “It’s the same place and it’s the same really welcoming environment, but things just change. It’s a great environment to be in because what’s going to happen today will be different tomorrow.”
Tasting Room Del Mar is located at 1435 Camino del Mar, Suite D, in Del Mar. The beer, wine and food concept is closed Mondays and open 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
For more about Tasting Room Del Mar, call 858-461-0124 or visit www.tastingroomdelmar.com.