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LA MESA -- It was the kind of late summer afternoon vintners love.
It was hot, really hot. The kind of heat that stresses the grapes on the vines and gives them the best flavors possible.
And on this August afternoon in La Mesa, some of those grapes were picked and raced down to the nascent San Pasqual Winery on Center Street -- not at all a pastoral setting.
Yet as of today, La Mesa is now officially in the wine making business.
Linda and Mike McWilliams, owners of the newly located winery, are the first people to take advantage of a city legal change that for the first time allowed a commercial winery to operate in the city limits.
The grapes -- these were malbecs -- were trucked in, cleaned by hand and then placed in a crusher/de-stemmer, a sort of large auger that strips the grapes from the stems and discards the non-grape elements.
The crush, which occurs without people actually stomping on the grapes, is then transferred to large bins where McWilliams took out any leaves or small pieces of stem that had eluded the previous step. The crush was then prepared for the year long process of being transformed from grape juice so something a bit more sublime (and expensive).
The crush will go on for several weeks now as the McWilliams fill the fermentation vats that were newly installed at the new venue. The winery had been making its wine in Pacific Beach but relocated as soon as the city changed the zoning laws to allow this operation.
San Pasqual also operates a store and tasting room on La Mesa Boulevard in the Village.
Mike McWilliams, above, talks about the first steps in winemaking.