A Bird Rock business is revolutionizing the wine bar business, creating craft wines and pouring innovation into every glass. Lowell and Anne Jooste, the married owners of LJ Crafted Wines on La Jolla Boulevard in the heart of Bird Rock, explained how they’re helping to improve the community, one beverage at a time.
Lowell, a fourth-generation winemaker from South Africa, said he worked in Napa vineyards as a visiting student at UC Davis before returning to his native Cape Town to finish his finance degree. Working with Anne at the family winery in South Africa, he was deeply entrenched in the wine-making business. When the winery was sold several years ago, the couple embarked on a new adventure, settling in La Jolla with their four children.
They opened LJ Crafted Wines (Lowell’s initials fortuitously match La Jolla’s), and the innovative wine bar is celebrating four years in wine production and distribution next week.
The “wine industry is in my blood,” Lowell explained of his passion. “There’s nothing like LJ Crafted Wines anywhere in the world.” He points out the taps and equipment on the barrels, tools for which Lowell has patents in the United States and four European countries. This equipment facilitates better pours for Lowell, Anne and staff, as they serve their customers tastes of their craft wines.
Patrons of LJ Crafted Wines can indulge their desire for wine at the bar, tables, or on the patios. With a menu of rotating, seasonal bites to accompany each glass, one can sip a glass (or a few) after work, as a stop during dog walking, or any time the mood strikes for a Chardonnay or Merlot. There are tastings available, so wine-lovers can try several varieties.
The wines crafted by the couple start in Napa and Sonoma. The Joostes do not own land, but purchase grape varietals there, and then make their own wine in facilities located in Napa. The wine is then transported to their Bird Rock bar, housed in barrels that reveal their contents in bright, chalked letters. LJ Crafted Wines produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and many other wines.
However, LJ Crafted Wines doesn’t only function as a wine bar. The real uniqueness of the business, Lowell claimed, is its focus on sustainability. Following a global movement, LJ Crafted Wines aims to provide a zero-waste experience. “There’s a lot of very good programs that are vineyard-related,” Lowell said, “but there’s only so much you can do in the winery itself.” Single-use packaging is the industry’s biggest challenge, and LJ Crafted Wines meets that challenge by distributing its wines in custom, reusable glass growlers.
“These are reusable bottles with a swing top,” Anne explained. “They prove you can run a high-quality business with reusable packaging.”
The growlers are primarily used with another component of the business: its wine club. Wine Club members take home a growler of the “wine of the month,” and return the bottles for sanitation and refilling. The response among the Wine Club’s 850 members (most of whom live within a half-mile of LJ Crafted Wines) has been nothing but positive: “They really embrace the concept,” Anne stated.
To demonstrate the enormous impact of the sustainability movement specific to the winemakers’ efforts, Lowell gestures to a map of La Jolla on the wall that shows wine bottles lined up from LJ Crafted Wines in Bird Rock, up La Jolla Boulevard all the way into La Jolla Shores. The bottles represent the number of disposable wine bottles replaced by the growlers, a staggering number. In just under four years, LJ Crafted Wines has saved more than 31 tons of single-use bottles with their introduction of reusable growlers, Lowell said.
Once a year, the Joostes and their staff invite their members to participate in the wine-making process.
“We make one barrel of wine here,” Anne explained. Affectionately referred to as “From Bird Rock Alley, not Napa Valley,” the wine is made at the rear of the bar and is in high demand by its members. LJ Crafted Wines is “very much a community business,” Lowell mused, adding that they are lucky to have customers stop in for an evening, whether on bike or car or foot. “It’s what makes Bird Rock special.”
LJ Crafted Wines is open 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 1-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and 2-8 p.m. Sunday at 5621 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. (858) 551-8890. ljcraftedwines.com
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