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A Toast to an Award-Winning Wine Made Right in Ocean Beach

Tune in to episode 222 of the Happy Half Hour podcast

By Noah Harrel

Welcome back to Happy Half Hour! Today’s special guest is Keith Rolle, founder and winemaker of Gianni Buonomo Vintners in Ocean Beach. A little over a week ago, Gianni Buonomo won several awards at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Keith moved to OB in 1997 and was running another business before switching gears at age 47. He went back to school to study viticulture and enology, starting his journey into the world of winemaking and grape growing.

Winning these awards in San Francisco is no small feat: It’s the largest competition of North American wines, and takes place right next to huge wine destinations like Napa and Sonoma. The approximately 7,000 entrants are subject to double-blind judging, meaning neither the judges nor the servers know who made the wine. Out of all these contestants, Gianni Buonomo, who source their grapes from Washington state, took home two double gold and one single gold medal. Keith says people often come to the tasting room with low expectations, so he enters his wine in competitions like these to build credibility for the brand and show everyone that high-quality wine can be produced in Ocean Beach.

Coming soon from Gianni Buonomo is The OB Blend. In 2017, Keith decided that for his next field blend, instead of fermenting the grapes separately and mixing them afterward, he would ferment them all together—in this case, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, Blaufränkisch syrah, and sangiovese aged in an oak barrel. He wanted to do something special with this unique wine, so he donated half the barrel to the Point Loma Music Boosters for their fundraiser that supports music programs at local schools. The wine still needs a label, so he put together a competition for people to submit their own art for the chance to win $100 and have it become the official label.

In Hot Plates, the spring edition of Restaurant Week is coming up, April 11–18, offering prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus with lunch starting at $10 for two courses and dinner at $20 for three. Cesarina Italian Restaurant in Point Loma is opening a pizzeria, Angelo, on Voltaire Street by the end of the year. The California Restaurant Federation is offering a grant of $3,500 to single-unit restaurants in San Diego that includes one year of support services; the deadline to apply is April 18. Breakfast and Bubbles, a new brunch spot, is coming to Hillcrest to offer brunch by day and Champagne and oysters at night.

In Two People for Takeout/Two People for $50, Marie recommends Corner Chicken in East Village for their take on Nashville hot chicken sandwiches. Nowadays, Troy’s preferred way to enjoy Azuki Sushi, his favorite sushi in San Diego, is to order takeout and dine in nearby Balboa Park. My pick is El Compadre Taco Shop & More in La Mesa for their Cali Surf ’n’ Turf Burrito, loaded with carne asada, shrimp, fries, and chipotle sauce. Keith stumbled across a new taco spot on Midway Drive called El Sobroso, a hole in the wall serving up TJ-style adobada tacos. David’s pick is a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant, Marino’s, in Pacific Beach for their unique minestrone soup, which has cabbage as the main ingredient and a thinner broth.

Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at [email protected]. See you next week!

Keith Rolle

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