A Sommelier Gives San Diego the Spotlight

Elysian Hotel Sommelier Dan Pilkey dishes on why San Diego is a top destination for wine lovers.


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Sommeliers give masterful advice daily on wine and food pairings, but their expertise extends far beyond the dining room. That’s why W.E. tapped Dan Pilkey, sommelier and fine dining manager at Chicago’s hip Elysian Hotel, to tell us his favorite wine shops and wine-focused restaurants in one of his favorite cities, San Diego. Pilkey, who hails from the beachside city, where he served as lead sommelier for Addison Restaurant at The Grand Del Mar Resort and other celebrated restaurants, gives us his tips for a perfect stay.

Two must-visit restaurants:

Market Restaurant:

Award-winning chef Carl Schroeder and his work at Market, located just one mile from the beautiful Del Mar beaches, “is not-to-be-missed in San Diego,” says Pilkey. Schroeder has influenced dining in Southern California with his focus on fresh produce and local ingredients, and a menu that changes daily. In his latest endeavor, he’s teamed up with San Diego’s rising star, Sommelier Brian Donegon.

Donegon and Schroeder have created “a wine list that is definitely the best in the city, as it provides both rare and creative selections at multiple price points,” says Pilkey. “The bar scene is lively and fun with a sushi bar where you can relax before dinner.”

Some of Pilkey’s top picks from the wine list include the Domaine Skouras 2006 Grand Cuvée ($56), which Pilkey considers, “the best vintage George ever made,” and the Siegrist 2007 Riesling 15 Auslese Trocken ($72), which he describes as “a super-rare dry Auslese—you’ll never see this gem on other wine lists.” Pilkey’s must-try dishes are the Market Roll, Orange and Anise Glazed Duck Confit and Hazelnut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin.

Addison:

“Having worked at Addison, I can attest to the fact that is without a doubt in the top five in California,” says Pilkey. Chef William Bradley’s artisanal approach to cooking combines local ingredients with French influences for contemporary results. “The wine program is nothing short of remarkable and is well deserved of every accolade it has received. This is where you take off your watch, pull out your gold card and think about only food and wine,” says Pilkey.       

“A few must-haves are the Five Year Anniversary Menu offered exclusively in October.” This features dishes such as Langoustines à la Robuchon and Lamb Rack Persille. Addison’s wine room, located in the center of the main dining area, emphasizes the importance of the restaurant’s wine program, complete with varietal-appropriate glassware and wine storage.

“If you can’t find [a wine] you like then just ask the sommelier team. From my personal experience, there are some amazing finds in the Austrian, German, Burgundy and Rhône sections of the book.”

Two wine shops to stop by:

3rd Corner:

This wine shop-restaurant hybrid offers 800 wines to choose from at every price point, and specializes in half-cases and mix -and–match cases for stocking up vinos at rock-bottom prices. “It’s the best wine shop and bistro-style eatery in Southern California, period,” says Pilkey. “The ability to find esoteric and exclusive selections usually allocated to restaurants is common at 3rd Corner, making it perfect for filling your cellar at home or popping open a bottle after work.” Two wine selections to seek out include: “the vertical selection from Lebanon: Château Musar ’02, Musar Jeune ’09, from $19-$45, and Olig’s Sekt Rose from Germany, a bargain at under $15.”

Truly Fine Wines:

This direct importer specializes in limited-production German wines, Pinot Noirs and high-end dessert wines. “I’ve known Damon and Sabrina for about six years now. They have changed my life with German wines and food,” says Pilkey, adding, “and at the shop, you’ll find my favorite German producers like  Siegrist, Gutzler and Barth.”

Pilkey notes that, “at the cornerstone of almost every sommelier’s list, there is a pulse of German wine, mainly because of the compatibility with food. However, Truly Fine Wines sources some ‘cork-dork’ approved wines that are cost effective and sure to impress—just perfect by themselves."

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