The jewel in the crown of craft beverage producers

SAN DIEGO – Making wine is an art and Eric Van Drunen never tires of creating with the vibrant grapes he gets from San Diego County.

“The Syrah color is just crazy,” he said, stirring a vat of fermenting grapes. “You just want to dive.”

Van Drunen is a former physicist turned winemaker who now runs Charlie and Echo, a winery making a name for itself in the middle of craft beer country.

“To some extent, that’s why I was drawn to winemaking,” he said. “Why and how is vinification done? How does this beautiful basket of grapes turn into large gigantic vats of wine and delicacies? »

Charlie and Echo, which represent the initials of Van Drunen and his wife Clara, are in an area known as the Miralani Makers’ District. Just a few hundred meters apart, you’ll find a unique collection of craft beverage producers, ranging from cider and mead to beer, sake and coffee.

Van Drunen is one of the first and few wineries in San Diego to focus on natural wines: producing very pure and clean flavors, with the least possible processing to preserve the authentic character of the wine, without chemical corrections. He enjoys helping people discover what he calls “San Diego’s hidden craft crown jewel.”

“A lot of people are still finding out about it all the time,” Van Drunen said. “Very common. We’re going to get people to come in and be like I didn’t know this was all here.

The Makers will pit the district against any other place in the country for having so many craft drink tasting rooms in such a small radius.

Council member Chris Cate remembers when the area was just empty storefronts. He says that if Miramar is San Diego’s beer belt, the Miralani maker district is the loop.

“Each owner has their own specific story, their journey of how they got here and I think combining all of that is really a positive force that makes this area very appealing,” Cate said.

Now he enjoys drinking at Protector Brewery, San Diego’s first all-organic beer company. The craft beverage industry has grown into a billion-dollar industry in San Diego, and Cate believes that benefits everyone who lives here. to create more jobs, more choices and more flavors.

“You want good coffee, wine, sake, beer. I mean, this area really has everything you could ask for and it’s great to spend a night here for sure,” he said.

Van Drunen said all Makers in the district believe in collaboration rather than competition, ensuring they all grow and prosper together.

“You know, the neighbor who borrows the sugar cup,” he laughed. “The number of times someone has had to borrow a CO2 cylinder or something and be able to do it walking and having people there to support you like that is amazing.”

The Miralani Makers’ District is also home to unique dishes, like Filipino desserts, cake pops, and even a chip and salsa bar.

Elisha A. Tilghman