With its Mediterranean climate, fertile soil, and diverse range of terroirs, San Diego is rapidly developing a reputation as an up-and-coming winemaking region in California.
Wine producers to the north in Temecula and to the south in Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley have historically drawn more national attention. Nevertheless, San Diego’s wineries are quickly building a reputation as hidden gems in the viticultural world.
There are wineries all along San Diego’s coastline, up in the mountains, tucked away in fertile North County farmland, hidden amid the East County’s rugged terrain, and even dotted among commercial and urban neighborhoods. Most are small, family-owned ventures. Many San Diegan wineries are open to the public for tours and tastings. In this article, we explore seven of the best wineries in and around San Diego.
1. Volcan Mountain Winery
Volcan Mountain Winery is situated at the base of scenic Volcan Mountain. The winery, vineyard, orchard, and tasting room are only a two-mile drive from Julian, the historic town established in the 1870s gold rush.
The vineyard is currently planted with Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio grapes, and the owners plan to add more varietals this spring. The orchards feature more than 20 different varieties of apples, from which the winery makes a comprehensive range of apple wines and ports, including a popular sparkling apple wine called Pomme D’Amour.
2. Orfila Vineyards and Winery
This small-scale, premium wine-producing operation is a 30-minute drive from San Diego, in the picturesque San Pasqual Valley.
Orfila’s tasting rooms and terrace overlook the 70-acre estate, which features tree-lined, family friendly areas complete with picnic tables.
Renowned for its Italian and French varietals, Orfila showcases blends from the Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhône Valley regions. Since its inception in 1994, Orfila Vineyards has received more than 1,300 awards in national and international competitions, a testament to the opulence and complexity of Orfila’s premium wines.
3. San Pasqual Winery
Located due east of San Diego, San Paqual Winery is a small, family-owned operation situated in the industrial area of La Mesa. The winery has off-site tasting rooms located in downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village, as well as in The Village of La Mesa.
San Pasqual wines are created from grapes sourced from local vineyards that are handcrafted in small batches. The winery is well-known for its prize-winning passionfruit wines, including Hot Passion, a habanero-inspired offering.
The wine list also features a robust selection of traditional grape varietals and blends, including the renowned 2010 Malbec.
4. La Finquita Winery and Vineyard
A beautiful, eight-acre property, La Finquita Winery and Vineyard was established in 1988. La Finquita, or The Little Farm, was bought by current owners, Charlie and Jess Koehler, in 2013. The couple are the youngest vintners and winery owners in all of Ramona and among the youngest in the County of San Diego.
The Koehlers’ passion for wine facilitated the creation of this award-winning winery that features a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. La Finquita offers breathtaking views across the vineyards, San Diego County Estates, and Ramona Valley. Red-tailed hawks are frequently spotted in the area, riding the thermals above the winery. Roadrunners can also be seen on occasion.
5. Bernardo Winery
Located 25 miles from downtown San Diego, Bernardo Winery offers a slice of local history. The winery is one of the best-kept secrets of San Diego County.
Nestled in the North County hills, the attraction comprises beautifully manicured gardens, as well as a coffee house, restaurant, wine tasting rooms, and a village filled with boutique shops.
Passed down through three generations over the past 125 years, Bernardo Winery is owned by the Rizzo family. Over the years, the winery has transitioned from growing styles established by early European missionaries to a focus on family heritage winemaking with the production of Spanish, French, and Italian varietals.
6. Forgotten Barrel Winery
This artisan winery presents a wide selection of premium, hand-crafted wines, made from grapes sourced in San Diego County, Sonoma, and Napa.
This winery and tasting room takes pride in its heritage at the heart of the Escondido and San Diego wine industry. Rodger Grove, the estate owner, purchased the winery in 2016 and commenced renovations in 2017. The renovations are now complete and include a welcoming wine tasting room.
Forgotten Barrel’s wine shop features a wide range of varietals and blends, including Barbera, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
7. Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyards
This award-winning family estate is located in Temecula wine country. The friendly, relaxed feel lends a homey atmosphere to the bustling tasting rooms. With its gourmet food and award-winning wine list, Wilson Creek Winery is a popular venue for weddings, concerts, and year-round private events.
For those who wish to learn more about the winemaking process, Wilson Creek Winery offers behind-the-scene tours. The wine tours, which are approximately one-hour long, comprise five wine tastings. Participants also receive a complimentary wine glass.