A tipple for all occasions

Beer and wine tasting in San Juan Bautista

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Beer and wine lovers now have a place to imbibe together, the 18th Barrel in historic San Juan Bautista.

The combination craft beer and wine tasting room removes the stress of deciding between the glory of the vine or the pint and let’s patrons have it all.

“It’s an incredible feeling; we’ve accomplished a lot,” said Monica Lopez Ramirez, co-owner with husband, Anthony Ramirez, of San Juan Bautista’s newest hot spot.

”We knew it was going to be a big project. The building was a concrete bunker and we completely transformed the place. My husband Anthony has been the greatest support of all. He took my vision and made it come true. He built the barn doors and the tables that run down the center of the room, he carved them by hand. We are so happy with the outcome and people’s response.”

The 18th Barrel opened on June 18 and features 18 beers on tap and 18 varietals of wine.

“We want to showcase California’s finest wines and beer,” said Lopez Ramirez, 46, who learned about wine working at Fortino Winery in Gilroy, where she moved from tasting room host to manager.

Lopez Ramirez got the idea for a combination wine and beer tasting room while at the Santa Clara Valley winery. “There was always one or two in the party that said they did not want wine and were beer people. I always knew I wanted a wine tasting room, but I started to think – why not taste the best of both barrels?”

Located in a former German-style restaurant, the 18th Barrel is divided into two distinct sections, on the left a wine tasting area and on the right, beer on tap, where patrons can get a pint or a flight of four brews.

Seating down the center of the room allows patrons to meet in the middle.

“That keeps everybody happy,” said Lopez Ramirez. Standouts on the wine side, she said, are Santa Cruz Ser Winery, Fortino and Vino Vargas from Paso Robles.

“Pedro Vargas is a talented winemaker. He used to be the winemaker for Fortino. His 2012 Pinot Noir Rio Ruso is delicious; I can’t keep it on shelves long enough. It’s hard to keep stocked,” she said. “Nicole Walsh, the winemaker at Ser Winery is an inspiration. She is young and doing it on her own, creating her own label and doing it all from A-Z. Her sparkling rosé wine is phenomenal.”

Finding an assortment of craft beer to showcase has been a unique thrill.

“Beer is new to me,” said Lopez Ramirez. “I took an online course to get more knowledge and I’m excited to meet all the brewers. As for me, I tend to stick to lighter beers, but I am getting into the IPAs. The Kaweah Brewing Company in Tulare County produces amazing beer. The Hibiscus Saison brewed by Common Cider has been a hit.”

The location also came with a huge outdoor seating area with stage. Lopez Ramirez has already started booking local musicians to perform.

“There are a lot of artists that live locally and I’m always meeting new musicians that are interested in playing here,” she said.

Doing business in San Juan Bautista was an obvious choice for the Hollister native.

“San Juan has always been my playground, from field trips to going to the local restaurants like Dona Esther and Jardines. San Juan struggles sometime with shops going out of business, but I am so glad we picked San Juan. There are so many people who come from everywhere and we want to give them more options to stay downtown,” said Lopez Ramirez.

18th Barrel Tasting Room, 322 Third Street, San Juan Bautista. (831) 623-4049.

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