What makes the perfect wine pairing?
You could get in-depth with flavor profiles and tannins and mouthfeel or any other level of pretentious sommelier discourse. However, if you slide into Five Vines Wine Bar in downtown San Juan Capistrano, you might get an answer that’s a bit more pared down, yet powerful.
“You could have the perfect scientific pairing, but if you don’t like an ingredient or a flavor, just because it pairs well, doesn’t mean you’re going to like it,” says Cole Fairchild, head bartender and Vine No. 4. “The best pairing is really wine you like, food you like, beer you like, people you like. Everything’s just got to go together.”
It’s this simple, personable and passionate approach to wine that, in its 10 years in business, has earned Five Vines Wine Bar 10 consecutive Best of San Juan Capistrano Golden Horseshoe Awards for Best Wine Selection, according to the people’s vote among readers of The Capistrano Dispatch.
Rancho Capistrano Winery earned the Silver Horseshoe for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall.
“If you ask, we know all the answers,” Fairchild says of their wine approach, “but if you want ice in your wine, I’ll put some ice in your wine. We’re not going to tell you how to drink. We’re going to give you a very low-key, educational experience. We’re very passionate about that. It’s us. People have responded to that—a mellow, low-key wine concept that is accessible to everyone.”
The people have responded to the tune of 10 People’s Choice Golden Horseshoes in 2022 alone, along with three Silver Horseshoes. Five Vines earned golds for ambience, appetizers, bar, bartender for Fairchild (his seventh win), chef for Omar Ramirez, happy hour, customer service, place to take out-of-towners, special events venue and, of course, wine selection.
Five Vines earned silver for dinner spot, lunch spot and overall restaurant.
“We’re a mom-and-pop shop,” says Suzy Fisher, owner, mom and Vine No. 2. “They don’t exist anymore in life, and I think people like to support family.”
The smaller, family-oriented approach extends to the wine selection process.
Randy Fisher, owner, dad and Vine No. 1, tastes anywhere between 100-150 wines per quarter to select seven for the Five Vines wine club and to stock up on the 65 or more wines for the restaurant. Fisher says they have a focus on West Coast producers from California, Oregon and Washington and specifically the smaller producers.
While wine varieties found in the grocery store can be made as part of 100,000 cases per year, Five Vines looks to showcase wines from producers of less than 1,000 cases per year.
“Since we’re a family-owned business and we know how hard it is to run a family-owned business, we try to support those family-owned wineries as well,” Randy says. “If you want to make a lot of money, you make a lot of wine. If you want to make a cool product, a passion project, you just make a little bit of wine. We try to find those people and be an outlet for the small winemakers.”
Five Vines celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Jan. 10, and while the wine selection process has stayed fairly consistent, the business has seen plenty of changes, from the growth as an events host in its private room upstairs to the expansion of its kitchen and food menu.
The one good thing that came out of the pandemic period, according to Randy, was the addition of the commercial kitchen upstairs. Randy says that changed the complexion of their business and allowed chef Omar Ramirez to make the menu more robust.
“We were usually a before-and-after place, and now we are the place,” Suzy says.
Ramirez says he cooks from the heart, and when customers ask what ingredient a certain taste comes from, his usual answer is “love.”
While Ramirez is the chef for a wine bar, when it comes back around to the task of pairing food and wine, that falls back on Randy as the wine selector and Cole as the bartender, and luckily for them, Ramirez’s menu makes it easy.
“This may sound like blasphemy when it comes to the wine world, but the reality is, when you’re carrying 65 wines, you can serve darn near any food,” Randy says. “You’re going to find something that pairs with something. We just let Omar go. He makes great flavors. He makes things that taste wonderful, and then it’s our job, of these 65 wines, what pairs well with the things he makes.”
At Five Vines Wine Bar, the wine and conversation flow like rivers of gold.
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