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By Wine Lovers for Wine Lovers

You may not realize you're living in one of the hottest wine markets in the country. So say Mark Davidowski and Jason Ivy, proprietors of the Meritage Wine Market and Tasting Room in Encinitas. The two longtime friends looked all over the country and selected San Diego, specifically the precise location (give or take five miles) they chose to place their store. And, according to ACNielsen in a 2003 study of the largest wine markets, they are right:

"Among the the listed US wine markets, and in terms of value (AKA $ Share), Sacramento (93 percent), San Francisco (90 percent), Las Vegas (88 percent), Los Angeles (87 percent), and San Diego (86 percent) had the highest dollar-share of domestic wine sales. " - Wine Business Monthly, 10/15/2003

Meeting in high school, they remained friends and wine connoiseurs of increasing expertise until they decided to go into a business doing what they liked in 2001. Mark came from a technical sales background at IBM and Jason sold large scale air conditioning equipment. It took them six months to arrange financing and choose their location. Scottsdale lost out to San Diego. They opened for business on May 7th 2002.

"We wanted to put together a shop that dealt with wine in the ways we like," says Jason, "sometimes we'll stock a wine we're not even sure we can sell, but we know we like it."

Their Encinitas store is tucked in a tree-grown mall at the corner of the end of Manchester (it turns to Rancho Santa Fe Rd headed north) and the end of Encinitas Blvd (it turns to La Bajada headed East). The walls are lined with bottles with floor stands filling the rest of the main retail space. At one end sits a waist high bar and an outside patio where they host regular tastings when distributors and even the wine makers themselves do the pouring..

In addition to a regular schedule of tastings, Meritage has joined with The Savory restaurant to offer a menu of hors douerves and desserts on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mark and Jason split the duties. Mark does the scouting and the buying where Jason takes care of operations, getting the bills paid and handling the other human resource, tax and business matters requiring attention. Both are capable of performing each other's tasks and do on occasion.

"We chose San Diego because people here really know and appreciate wine," Mark says. "We're having no trouble signing even hard to get wineries for our second annual summer 'Rollout the Barrel' event. Last year, we had vintners telling us how pleased they were with the attention to the wine given by San Diegans attending the event - and how knowledgeable they were. This is no go-for-the-free-wine drinking crowd, they told us. But we knew that. It's why we're here!" This year's event will be July 16th and feature than two dozen wineries offering barrel tastings with s share of the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The store stocks two major price categories of wine: high quality, high value vintages in the $10 to $20 range and hard to find, boutique wines in the $40 plus category. "We look for small growers that produce a quality wine at both price points," Jason said. Mark echoes that focus on value. When he goes out, he might pay a lot for a wine if he thinks it's a good value and value is critical. "The other night we were out and I was eyeing the rack of lamb, but I couldn't find a good Shiraz on the list to go with it. So I ordered a vodka tonic and the sashimi."

Details »
  • City: Encinitas CA 92024
  • Phone: (760) 479-2500
  • Name: Meritage Wine Market & Tasting Room
  • Address: 162 South Rancho Santa Fe Rd