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Using Spirits to Spark Conversation and Community in Escondido

Cassandra Schaeg, owner and operator of SIP Wine & Beer on Orange Street is on a mission to inspire her fellow Escondido neighbors to live, work, and play in the local community. “Our focus is on community, culture, and conversation,” said Schaeg, an Escondido resident.

Owner of SIP Wine & Beer Cassandra Schaeg

“The emphasis on supporting our local community is the overall reason why I decided to open SIP,” Schaeg added. “I decided to lay roots here. And in living here, I realized I wasn’t spending my money here. I wasn’t eating here, and I wasn’t involved in the community.” 

Schaeg wanted to change that. She understands how important local spending is to a city and began finding ways to live and spend in Escondido. “When people spend money here, the sales tax goes towards helping the city thrive and building the community. People are paying attention to the importance of local spending and I think that needs to continue because people really need to understand what it means to invest in your community.” 

Schaeg changed her habits and then went one step further by investing in Escondido. “After doing research and realizing there’s an emerging wine presence and realizing there were no wine bars in town, I decided to take a risk and open a wine bar here.”

“Wine is a white-male-dominated industry,” Schaeg added. “However, many of its consumers are women, so for me it is important to highlight that.” 

Formed in 2015 and open since June 2016, SIP has become a welcomed community space. According to Schaeg, it has evolved into a space for women and minorities and local beer and winemakers to showcase their products.

“I am definitely blessed and fortunate to have opened SIP in Escondido. This is a charming city,” she  said. “I am one of very few Black business owners in this city and in all, I’ve been welcomed.”

Schaeg admits she is also one of the few women-owned minorities in the wine and beer industry and she sees this as an opportunity to transform the industry. “It’s really important for me to use the platform to let people know that there are women and minority wine and beer makers out there who are changing the narrative on what the industry should look like,” she said.. “The wine and beer making industry is very small. We all know each other, and so before things started to shift (due to COVID-19), we were on a mission to support each other.” 

As a wine bar and tasting room, Schaeg makes it a point to highlight many of the local beer and winemakers in Escondido and throughout North County. Local beer and winemakers that have been featured at SIP include  Altipiano, owned by San Diego native Denise Clark; BK Sellers, Keys Creek Winery; and Latitude 33 Brewing. Others throughout California have included the McBride Sisters winery owners Robin and Andrea, who own the largest Black female-owned winery in the United States; Kita Wines, owned by Native American Tara Gomez; and Brown Napa Valley, also Black family-owned winery.

“The wine and beer industry in North County knows who I am. The goal is for people to spend money in this city,” said Schaeg. 

Schaeg pours wine in preparation for WineVersations

In addition to SIP, Schaeg produces a YouTube channel show called WineVersations. “It’s the platform to have disruptive conversations with wine or beer being the unifier,” Schaeg said. “When you come into SIP, people here are talking about a variety of topics, such as politics, social justice, and any array of things. Here you can have that conversation, and that’s where WineVersations came in.” 

Guests have included Mayor Paul McNamara and Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez, who have both spoken about Escondido’s changing community and the benefits of its changes; Dr. Steven Jones, owner of Jones Inclusive; and the McBride sisters.

The pandemic has shut down the in-person conversations for now, but luckily Schaeg is able to keep her doors open for to-go orders. She is grateful for this, not only because it is saving her business, but also because being open allows her to stay connected to the community.

“Even though we are closed, being able to still connect with people who are picking up to-go orders definitely makes my heart smile,” said Schaeg. “We’ve all been confined and had very little contact, but the 10-to-15 minutes I get to spend with someone who is coming in here because they need to stock up on their wine is worth it. I’m so appreciative towards the people who continue to support us.”

Schaeg is confident once businesses begin to fully re-open, she will continue to promote all the new and inspiring people who are moving the wine and beer industry forward. “Once we are able to open safely, we will highlight people in the wine and beer industry who are definitely trailblazers.”

SIP Wine & Beer is located at 129-131 S. Orange Street in Escondido. Customers can call (442) 248-8466 to order wine and beer for pick up. 

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