There's never a wrong time for wine, and San Diego's Charlie & Echo delivers a unique and natural taste with every vintage.
With the tasting room located in Miramar, Charlie & Echo has spent the last few years establishing itself as a shop to watch with a selection perfect for the most avid of wine drinkers.
A fun atmosphere with a homey vibe brings patrons back time and again to see what the new flavor or theme the team at Charlie & Echo has concocted, and they crush it every time.
The winery and tasting room is run by husband and wife duo Eric and Clara Van Drunen. The couple first opened an operation called Vinavanti Urban Winery in San Marcos in 2007. After a few years there, they moved operations first to Sorrento Valley, then to Hillcrest in late 2015.
In 2017, the Van Drunen's decided the name "Vinavanti" was more of a mouthful than they had intended and went back to square one for a rebrand. Inspired by air traffic control's use of Morse code, Clara offered the idea of Charlie & Echo to represent their names from the Morse code alphabet.
The Morse code theme plays out across their menu (look for the little dots and lines within the wine glass logo), on the bottles, and the whole alphabet is painted on the bathroom wall so anyone can check their names against it, too. As for the code written on the bottles, every year, they change the saying to something different, although their aim is for more "cute" and less "controversial" in their hidden messaging.
The tasting room for Charlie & Echo opened its Miramar location in 2021 after facing some COVID-related delays. The winery is in the back of the tasting room in a separate unit, and the Van Drunen's handle all of the making and bottling on their own.
Charlie & Echo specializes in natural wine. They use an un-oaked vinification with minimal processing alongside no filtering in their natural fermentation. Additionally, all of the grapes are grown from the same San Diego County farm.
The wines are also made with only naturally occurring yeast, which helps provide and preserve the authentic character each wine carries. There are no chemical corrections, and the couple strives to embrace the Old World wine concept reflecting the importance of where it's grown and highlighting the culture, lifestyle, and cuisine of the people living there.
In addition, they are part of the 1% for the Planet group and donate 1% of their sales back to the environment, regardless of profit. They also use "super light" bottles to help offset the carbon footprint of their wines. A portion of every sale also helps them remain climate positive by going toward obtaining even more carbon offsets.
Locally, they also partnered with I Love A Clean San Diego. This partnership sees a lot of donations from the Van Drunens, and they are highly supportive of everything the organization does.
Before anything, let's talk about the epic artwork all over the shop. The wine bottles are designed by Tyler Cristobal and are easily some of the most attractive wine bottles I've ever seen in my life. Paintings of the artwork from the bottles are also displayed as portraits hung along the main wall (and also include the hidden Morse code messages.)
Brian Scanlon is behind all of the robot-themed artwork painted along the walls. His artwork will also be featured in upcoming releases starting in November 2022.
As for the wine itself, drinkers are able to choose from a taster, a flight of five, the YOLO flight with a sample of everything, or just a standard wine by the glass. They also have a couple of different wine spritzer drinks available on tap, including the current Project X release. The snack bar also offers up some cheese and cracker pairings, but most of the attention falls back on the wine.
We opted for the YOLO flight because, well, you really only do live once, so why not? The flight took us through the Rainfall Riesling, the Firefly Sparkling Rose, the Whoa, Jake! Sparking White, the Uncharted Viognier, the Encounter Sauvignon Blanc, the Clara Rose (named after Charlie herself), the Witherfall Syrah, the Darkstar Sparkling Red, and we tried each of the options on tap. For this visit, that gave us a Blood Orange Margarita Slushie with alcohol-free tequila (that's a thing?) and the Lemon Mint Mountain Dew Cooler.
First of all, the Whoa, Jake! was by far my favorite of the vintages. Oddly enough, it's one of their most popular, and it was also made by a mistake after a slight alteration in the process of making the Firefly. Additionally, the Witherfall was a partnership blend from a metal band offering the same name.
As for the Project X section, this is an ongoing series of "experimental wine beverages." The themes change every two or three months, and the flavors change weekly. As of now, the theme is "Coolers," and they are also available by the can outside of the tap version. Although we tried the Mountain Dew, with weekly flavor changes, keep an eye out for flavors like the upcoming Pomegranate Orange Squirt and the Pineapple Coconut Crush.
All of the wines and coolers are available for purchase. They also offer a wine club that gives you $29 in reward points every month, which can be used toward anything and rolls over month to month, 20% off on your order, a free glass of wine for you and a guest on a different day each week, and an annual appreciation party.
There is an online shop that delivers both inside and outside of California. California orders offer free shipping when you spend $150 or more, as well as free local pickup in Miramar or South Park.
The tasting room is open Thursdays and Fridays 4-8 pm, Saturdays 1-8 pm, and Sundays 1-6 pm, although the hours are subject to change.
There is plenty of parking and other shops to check out nearby. Tasters can drink either indoors or out on the patio, but note that there are no outdoor heaters due to their impact on the environment.
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