Southern Promise

Challenging San Diego's beer supremacy

San Diego is a brewers' county.

From stalwarts like Stone to new outfits like Prohibition Brewing Co., the area is awash in alcohol made from fermented barley and other grains.

But we were recently reminded that there are also grapes in them there hills, and newcomers Los Pilares have proven that delicious alcohol can be made with the local vinous crop.

Made with a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Carignane grapes harvested from dry-farmed vineyards in the Ramona and Pauma valleys, Los Pilares' 2010 vintage ($22 for 750 ml) is a domestic take on the kind of wine we usually seek from foreign producers: light, aromatic and low in alcohol.

Surprisingly spicy and attractively musky when first opened, the wine's sweet red fruit component develops into a strong strawberry note that'd be at home in a rosé.

In the past, we've mistakenly associated San Diego wine country with gimmicks, thinking it a place where hot-air balloon rides and partying-bachelorette limousine brigades take precedent over what's in the glass. This Los Pilares bottling, which is made with very little chemical manipulation, shows that wines from points south can speak for themselves without any distracting bells and whistles.

The 2010 Los Pilares Red is currently available at K&L Wine Merchants, Buzz, Domaine LA, Sotto and L&E Oyster Bar.