San Diego wine culture lingers in the shadows of our city’s craft beer craze, and truth be told, a slew of misconceptions seem to surround it.
Many people think that viticulture is relatively new to the area, when in fact, California’s billion-dollar wine industry has roots in San Diego. Father Junípero Serra and his fellow wine-drinking Franciscan friars planted vines next to California’s very first mission, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, way back in 1769. But when you ask locals if they’ve tried San Diego wine, blank stares or tales of Temecula typically follow. No offense to our neighbors and fellow winemakers, but Temecula is in Riverside County, and all those tour buses and sweet, dessert-y wines have absolutely nothing to do with the fermented grapes and bottled essence of San Diego County.
Our expansive wine region has clusters of vineyards and wineries, about 100 and counting, tucked into diverse topography and terroirs. Ramona is home to two dozen or so boutique backyard wineries, while Escondido’s bucolic countryside of San Pasqual Valley and Highland Valley hosts another 20, many of them sweeping estates. A handful of high-altitude vineyards populate Warner Springs and Julian, and another smattering can be found along Highway 94, southeast of downtown—not to mention the 14 urban wineries that are thriving in our beach towns, industrial warehouses, and city neighborhoods.
Our Mediterranean climate—hot days, cool nights, and coastal breezes—is favorable for grape growing, but success comes to some varietals more so than others. In San Diego we have old vines and young, traditionalists and new-wave winemakers. We are ripe to become a credible wine-producing region.
Read on for a guide to the wineries, trends, purveyors, and players in the San Diego wine scene.
Orfila Vineyards & Winery winemaker Justin Mund “punches” grapes to incorporate the skins into juice during fermentation