With its temperate Mediterranean climate, fertile soil, and thriving vineyards, San Diego is one of America’s up-and-coming winegrowing regions. We look at some of the best wine producers in San Diego County and the surrounding area.
In the quiet town of Rancho Bernardo, located 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, lies one of the county’s best-kept secrets. Bernardo Winery features a wine tasting room as well as a coffeehouse, restaurant, and cluster of shops within its elegant gardens. Owned by the Rizzo family for more than 125 years, Bernardo Winery specializes in Italian, French, and Spanish grape varietals. It is the oldest continuously operated winery in Southern California.
The grounds also include more than 400 olive trees, as well as avocado, fig, guava, and citrus orchards. Nopal cacti are cultivated on site as well. The vineyard contains 2,500 vines that produce a range of grape varietals, including:
- Petit Sirah
- Cabernet Franc
Bernardo Winery also stands apart because it relies on organic agricultural techniques and uses no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers on any of their crops. The tasting room is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and no appointment is necessary.
La Finquita Winery and Vineyard
La Finquita, meaning “the little farm” is an eight-acre winery featuring a natural well spring. It also offers impressive views across the Ramona Valley. This rural area is home to an array of wildlife, with red-tail hawks and roadrunners often spotted on the property.
The vineyard was originally developed in 1988. Charlie and Jess Koehler bought the establishment in 2013, becoming the youngest vintners in Ramona.
La Finquita’s wine cave is one of its most interesting features. Built into the side of a hill beneath the main tasting room, the wine cave features a medieval-style chandelier and sweeping banquet table. Here, surrounded by ceiling-to-floor wine racks, visitors can enjoy some of San Diego’s finest wines.
La Finquita produces a variety of wines, including Chardonnay, Viognier, Muscat Canelli, Mourvedre Rosé, Merlot, and Syrah.
San Pasqual Winery
This small-scale, family-owned operation is located in La Mesa, which sits to the east of downtown San Diego. San Pasqual Winery specializes in handcrafted wines produced from grapes sourced both locally and from renowned vineyards across California. Its unique passionfruit wines are consistent award-winners both regionally and at international events. San Pasqual Winery has two off-site tasting rooms: one in La Mesa Village and one at Seaport Village, where guests may taste and buy its award-winning products.
San Pasqual Winery produces sparkling whites, including Toast of the Town, which contains hints of citrus and pear as well as floral aromas. Its whites include Seabreeze White Blend,a fusion of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a hint of Viognier. Meanwhile, the Nebbiolois an earthy red that features aromas of leather and smoke and pairs well with Italian food. San Pasqual Winery’s tasting rooms offer a range of delicious snacks to complement its wines, including cheese, sausage, hummus, nuts, and biscotti.
Nestled at the base of Volcan Mountain lies this winery, tasting room, vineyard, and orchard. Volcan Winery is situated two miles outside the historic town of Julian, whose roots date back to the 1870s gold rush. Julian is also known as the gateway to the scenic Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego. City dwellers looking for a quiet country weekend come to Julian for the horse-drawn carriage rides, historic buildings, and homemade apple pie.
Volcan Winery produces a range of white wines. It received the Toast of the Coast Wine Competition’s Silver Medal for its 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. Other offerings include the Pomme D’Amour, a sparkling apple wine produced from fruit grown in the estate’s orchards. The 2016 Muscat Canelliis a sweet white that exhibits classic aromas of apricot and peach along with green apple and sweet grapefruit. Meanwhile, the 2016 Old Vine Zinfandelis made with grapes grown in Ontario’s Cucamonga Valley, which was once one of California’s largest grape-growing regions. It is a fruity red with soft tannins and hints of spice.
Witch Creek Winery
Urban wineries are growing increasingly common, with winemakers sourcing grapes from remote locations and bringing them to accessible urban facilities for crushing, fermentation, and aging. Witch Creek Winery is San Diego’s oldest urban winery. The establishment sources its grapes from vineyards located in El Dorado, Valle De Guadalupe, Paso Robles, Clarksburg, and Napa Valley to make some of the region’s finest wines.
All of Witch Creek Winery’s products are natural. The winemakers do not filter wines prior to bottling, nor use additives of any kind. This technique creates wines that are as pure as can be—as close to “straight off the vine” as you can get. As La Coulée de Serrant’s Nicolas Joly puts it, to have zero technology in the cellar requires an artist in the vineyard. For this reason, the winery uses only the highest quality grapes.
Witch Creek Winery predominantly concentrates on red wines, such as its 2015 Syrah, which features aromas of tobacco, clove, rosemary, licorice, chocolate, and vanilla; and its 2015 Tempranillo, which contains flavors of leather, plum, cherry, and fig.