Thereʼs something special about a taste of home, and when it comes to wine and spirits, San Diego has something for every palate. From urban craft distilleries to abundant green vineyards, from a night out with friends to dinner with the family, our local wineries and distilleries have it all. Read on to learn more about the flavors flourishing in our backyards.
From the Vine
San Diegoʼs sun-kissed vines offer a taste of history for connoisseurs and casual sippers alike. The area is home to California,s first recorded vineyards, planted in the 1700s by Father Junipero Serra. Today, the county boasts over 115 wineries – and more history to be savored with every glass.
Our beautiful climate is a key factor for the success of local vineyards, and diverse conditions allow a wide variety of grapes to flourish. Wine grapes tend to be hardier and more water-efficient than other crops, giving them an advantage during drier years. San Diego-grown wines include Albarino, Cabernet Franch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier – the list goes on!
The More You Know
A hybrid is two grape types genetically crossed, while a blend combines two grape varieties after fermentation.
Terroir is the natural environment for a particular wine – including soil, farming techniques, and climate.
A vintage is a specific year or harvest. A varietal is a wine made from a particular grape type.
While local wine and craft beer have made their mark on San Diego, the craft spirits scene is on the rise. With everything from vodka and gin to whiskey and rum, San Diego,s 14+ craft distilleries are raising a glass to large manufacturers, producing high-quality small-batch varieties with local ingredients and distinct flavor.
Craft distilleries have been allowed to operate tasting rooms only since January of 2017, even further expanding their local reach. Stop in to learn more about the distillation process and get better acquainted with whatʼs going in your cocktail.
The More You Know
Grapes arenʼt just for wine. Vodka can be made from any sugar or starch source – wheat, corn, potatoes, or fruit.
Gin is essentially flavored vodka, but must have a predominant flavor of juniper.
Generally speaking, whiskey (with an “e”) refers to American and Irish spirits, while whisky (no “e”) refers to spirits made in Scotland, Canada, Japan, or elsewhere.
In the Unites States, proof refers to twice the alcohol by volume (ABV) of a spirit. A 40% ABV whiskey, for example, would be 80 proof.
Breezy days full of sun, cool nights, and rocky soils make Ramona a perfect place to grow wine grapes of exceptional quality and why Ramona Valley is recognized as a designated viticultural area by the federal government. With more than 100 vineyards and over 35 wineries dedicated to crafting unique small-batch wines, Ramona is becoming known around the world as San Diego’s wine country.
Crystal Hill Vineyard is one of the newer estate wineries to open its doors. Founded in 2014 with four acres of vines, they have already produced several award winners by focusing on quality at every step of the winemaking process.
The founders, Scott and Miki Warner, take a holistic approach to vineyard management and production. They use only organic fertilizers and manage the land towards natural sustainability. “We make the wine in the vineyard,” said Scott. “In other words, what you taste in the bottle is the flavor of that soil enhanced by the story of the season – its challenges and its triumphs.”
Crystal Hill features great views from its spacious outdoor patio and large porch. There’s also an indoor tasting room with an art gallery and restroom. The service is first class and the vibe is relaxing. They also offer a free tour of the vineyards and cellar with a guide that explains their approach to winemaking and how each piece of winery equipment is used.
They currently offer a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, and two Merlots. Each of the wines includes a description of how it was made and from the tour you’ll learn about the special care that goes into every bottle they produce. For food, they provide some munchies with a wine tasting and also offer a cheese plate for $12. You can even bring your own food and make it a picnic! A wine tasting is $10 or free when you purchase one or more bottles of wine.
Crystal Hill is dog-friendly, kid-friendly, and has ample parking. There’s space for groups up to 40 – just call ahead to reserve your seating and book your free tour.
12225 World Trade Dr., Suite P, San Diego, CA 92128
www.KoiZenCellars.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | 858-381-CORK (2675)
Owners Lisa and Darius Miller | Established 2014
Tasting Room: Tues. – Thurs.: 2 – 8 p.m. | Fri.: 2 – 9 p.m., Sat.: 12 – 9 p.m., Sun.: 12 – 6 p.m.
by KELLEY GUSICH | photos by Alex Williams Photography
Even the name says mellow relaxation and big deep breaths: Koi Zen Cellars. This craft urban winery in the heart of Carmel Mountain Ranch has a vibe unlike any other. Like stepping into your best friend’s home, Koi Zen Cellars is a special place for patrons to ‘uncork, sip back, and relax.’ Owner and winemaker Darius Miller’s life was run by pressure for many years, to the point it almost did him in with a stress-induced stroke. After honing his self-taught skills, Darius turned his passion for winemaking from a small-scale project into a beautiful business, allowing guests to reconnect, be in the moment, and take time (and a great glass of wine) to themselves.
Koi Zen Cellars’ welcoming and warm ambiance has turned it into a community hangout for wine loving people. Co-owner Lisa Miller attends the Sonoma State Wine Business program, while steward Jon is a Level 1 sommelier en route to his Level 2. Steward Cat comes from the hospitality industry, and “Her infectious smile is loved by all,” Lisa confirmed. Koi Zen sources their grapes from growers throughout California, “giving guests a unique taste experience from all the major wine regions in the state.” Koi Zen creates fruit-forward, approachable, lively, and fun full-bodied wines – Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone-style reds and red blends among the broad-spectrum list of choices. Their most popular offerings include Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and Zinfandel.
“Koi Zen is as good as it gets! Comfortable seating, which included couches and plush chairs, tables, a koi pond, and abundant room made for a perfect setting. Owners Darius and Lisa were wonderful and accommodated all our needs.” ~ Bunny Block
“My favorite neighborhood craft wine. I was here with my girlfriends sipping wine and catching up on the couch. The setting is homey and inviting. It,s family-friendly and wine is amazing!” ~ Joy Richmond
The San Diego U-T readers’ poll awarded Koi Zen the best local winery for two years running, and their wines have won awards in competitions from local to international, earning points in the 90s. They give back to local charities and schools by hosting fundraisers. Koi Zen even received the Think Local First championship in 2017 by the San Diego North Business Chamber. Their fundraising efforts and Holiday Gift Extravaganza, coupled with hosting local musicians on the weekends and active memberships in local networking groups and the North San Diego Business Chamber, highlight the business as involved community members. Their tasting room and winery can double as a unique event space for corporate, private, and holiday events.
Currently Koi Zen has entered their Crush season, processing 96,000 lbs. of grapes – equivalent to 3,000 cases of wine! They’ll be releasing a Petite Verdot and a few others for the cooler winter months, along with a French-style Stainless Chardonnay.
by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Alex Williams Photography
Since 2007, Principe di Tricase Winery has been making wine the traditional way – no added ingredients or sulfites. “We believe that grape juice should be the only ingredient in wine,” explained owner Alfredo Gallone. Alfredo is committed to making the wine the “ancient way,” following in the footsteps of small-country wineries in Italy. Pairing the rustic, old-world style winery with Italian family ambience makes a tasting at Principe di Tricase an unforgettable experience.
The winery offers a selection of Italian wines, including Aglianico, Nebbiolo, Aleatico, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Moscato. “Our Dark Rose Aglianico rosé style is very unique,” Alfredo explained. “Aglianico is one of the most ancient wine grapes with a special self-preserving capability that is transferred into the wine, giving it a very characteristic flavor.” A number of their wines have been awarded medals from both national and international wine competitions.
Principe di Tricase complements their Italian selection with a number of French wines. The wine list includes Petit Sirah, Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Since the arrival from Italy of daughter Raffaella and son-in-law Alberto, wine tastings are hosted Thursdays through Sundays. It’s a family affair, and Alfredo, Alberto, and Raffaella are proud to personally host guests. They’re joined by Joaco Sanz, a 25-year veteran of the wine industry in Spain. Joaco may look familiar to some as he has been on a number of TV shows about wine and wine pairings. “He was known as ‘El Professor Del Vino,’” Alfredo shared, “the wine professor.” Tasting flights start at $10, but the tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine. Balsamic vinegars and olive oils are also produced in house and available for purchase.
A unique pairing on the winery property is the Highland Valley Christmas Tree Farm. “Since we purchased the property, we have been selling Christmas trees, continuing a long tradition,” Alfredo said. For many years, families have been choosing and cutting their Christmas trees on the property. “The smile on the children’s and parents’ faces makes it worthwhile.”
Producing excellent wines and maintaining their strong Italian family ambiance are priorities at the winery. “Principe di Tricase and our family are here for you,” Alfredo said. “Please come and visit us and share in the love of excellent wines and an unforgettable experience.”
13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, San Diego, CA 92128
858-487-1866 | www.BernardoWinery.com
Bernardo Winery is a piece of San Diego history, producing San Diego-grown wine for three generations. Enjoy the ambiance of old California and rustic charm. The Kitchen, a Sicilian-California style restaurant, offers exceptional fresh hand-made pasta and brick-oven pizzas, recipes inspired by the Rizzo family. Explore the winery, gardens, and village of unique shops in the winery courtyard. Bernardo Winery is also the perfect backdrop for weddings, special events, the weekly farmers market, and regular live music.
“At Bernardo Winery, our winemakers Ross Rizzo and Matty Ward strive to produce wines that best suit the San Diego terroir, wines that love our soil and our sunshine,” shared Samantha Nawrocki, Director of Marketing. “It allows them to play with some interesting varietals that thrive in a Mediterranean, warm climate.” Bernardo Winery produces beautiful silky, full-bodied reds like the Syrah, as well as whites like Albarino and Viognier that burst out flavor notes of citrus and creamy vanilla. Regulars on the tasting menu include Syrah and Petite Sirah, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Malbec, and Sangiovese for the reds. For whites, Albarino, Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat are eager to dig their roots in and call San Diego home. San Diego was, after all, the first place that grapes were planted in California, and they thrive well here from the vine to the bottle. “We still, at Bernardo Winery, after 130 years, make our wines in the same traditional ways,” Samantha said, “while utilizing new technology and viticulture practices to produce wines that truly represent the region today.”
2332 La Mirada Dr., Ste. 800, Vista, CA 92081
www.117WestSpirits.com | 760-597-8985
Less than one year old and tucked away in the corner of a Vista business park, 117° West Spirits aims to produce “big ideas in small batches.” A trip to the tasting room will afford you the opportunity to be served by one of the owners and local teachers, Justin McCabe and Archie Kasten. They will be happy to share the story behind the spirits while you enjoy a refreshing gimlet, a mighty fine old fashioned, or a whiskey flight. Whether it’s the Citra-hopped Genever-style Gin distilled from malted grain or the West Coast Whiskey, which takes its inspiration from stout beer, head distiller Justin McCabe is weaving together a variety of products that draw from his two decades of homebrewing experience and a knowledge of chemistry earned while a graduate student at University of California San Diego. When you visit, be sure to ask for a tour of the back to see the one-of-a-kind still that, according to the owners, is key to the often-noted “smooth” flavor profile of all their spirits. For more information visit www.117WestSpirits.com.
16990 Via Tazon #123, San Diego, CA 92127
www.TheCorkandCraft.com | 858-618-2463
Mon.: closed | Tues. – Thurs.: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. | Fri.: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sat.: 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. | Sun.: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Abnormal Wine Co. started six years ago as a small urban winery dedicated to the craft of creating unique wines from around the world. They took a craft beer approach to wine, developing wines that could be duplicated year after year, even using adjuncts to create new flavors and wines that depart from traditional wine culture. Abnormal has since grown to encompass an open-kitchen restaurant, The Cork and Craft, and a craft brewery, Abnormal Beer Co., to complete a truly unique experience for their guests.
The winery has grown a barrel program, including aging wines in spirits barrels, working with local distillery Malahat Spirits and Newtopia Cider to forge truly Abnormal partnerships. These collaborations enable Abnormal to bring truly unique products to the market that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
2919 Hill Valley Dr., Escondido, CA 92029
760-690-6617 | www.ChevalWinery.com
Thurs. 4 – 7 p.m., Fri. 5 – 9 p.m., Sat. 1 – 9 p.m., Sun. 1 – 7 p.m.
Cheval Winery’s journey began with the origin of its name, Cheval, which translates to “horse” in French. Founders Dr. Randy and Donna Kaufman were originally looking for a property for their champion show horses, when they discovered this breathtaking location tucked away in Eden Valley. With a burning passion for loving people, fine wine, good times, Donna (AKA Bubba) is the heart of Cheval Winery. Grand Champion Consulting Winemaker Duncan Williams is thrilled to have recently joined the herd and bring their luxury wines to their highest potential. With live music every weekend and frequent events such as line dancing, you’ll want to make this your go-to spot. Lasso a glass at the Tipsy Barrel Tasting Room then trot down to The Stompin’ Grounds to see their champion show horses that the varietals are named after. Cheval Winery strives to put an edgy, modern spin on wine tasting, so giddy up and experience the best in show!
Though the Forgotten Barrel tasting room in Escondido opened in 2017, the property itself is steeped in history. Forgotten Barrel Winery occupies a historic winery, which was established in 1886 as one of the first vineyards in San Diego County and Southern California. It was then purchased by George Ferrara in 1928 and re-opened in 1932 with the passage of the 21st Amendment ending prohibition. During the following 75 years, Ferrara Winery grew to prominence in the California wine industry, and was designated a California historic point of interest in the late 1970s and a historic site by the City of Escondido in 1989. It was operated by three generations of the Ferrara family until 2010.
Forgotten Barrel Owner Rodger Grove purchased the winery in 2016, working hard to restore this historic property while continuing to tell the story of the Ferrara family. The winery now offers wines produced on location in Escondido as well as wines produced at its Napa Valley winery. Forgotten Barrel’s winemaker sources grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Central California, and San Diego County. The property’s rustic charm provides a one-of-a-kind setting for weddings, birthday parties, or corporate events, either in the barrel room or in one of its outdoor venues.
Forgotten Barrel is proud to be part of the history of the Escondido and San Diego County wine industry. For more information visit www.ForgottenBarrel.com.
18351 Woods Hill Lane, Ramona, CA 92065
760-789-5555 | www.TurtleRockRidge.com
Wine Tour: 2nd Sat. of the month 2 and 4 p.m.
Fine wine is a passion, and Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery wants to share that passion with you. The winery is family-owned and operated by Laurie Wagner and Ian Vaux. The vision of Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery began in 1998. “We had always dreamed of growing grapes and making wine from this amazing property,” Laurie shared. “Our heart and soul fill each bottle, and our focus is on crafting the best wine possible.”
Each year, the Turtle Rock Ridge family anticipates the grapes that are crafted into the annual vintage mother nature provides. “As a wine-making family, we embrace the intimate relationship between our land, the grapes, and the production process,” Laurie explained. “We invite our guests to share in our experience at our home here in Ramona Valley.”
Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery has been voted #1 in the Ramona Sentinel Readers Poll for Best Wine for six consecutive years and Best Tasting Room for five. It’s located 25 miles northeast of San Diego. Discover more at www.TurtleRockRidge.com.
Wine & Spirits Directory
117° West Spirits
2332 La Mirada Dr., Ste. 800
Vista, CA 92081
117° West Spirits is a small batch distillery in Vista, CA producing high-quality, hand-crafted spirits including rum, spiced rum, genever gin, bourbon, rye, and whiskey.
13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte
San Diego, CA 92128
The historic, third generation-owned Bernardo Winery has been crafting artisan wines from San Diego vineyards for 130 years. From the roomy tasting room to the Sicilian Old California-inspired Kitchen restaurant and unique shopping village, it,s truly a destination tucked away in Rancho Bernardo, just minutes off the I-15 Freeway. Wine tasting daily, regular live music, farmers market Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Special event venues.
Blue Door Urban Winery
4060 Morena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92117
118 S. Cedros Ave.
Solana Beach, CA 92075
2919 Hill Valley Dr.
Escondido, CA 92029
Cheval Winery is an exclusive, modern winery with champion show horses on property at 2919 Hill Valley Dr., Escondido. Cheval Winery provides a luxury experience overlooking the breathtaking vineyard you won’t want to miss!
Copper Collar Distillery
8733 N. Magnolia Ave., Ste. 126
Santee, CA 92071
Crystal Hill Vineyard
24067 E. Old Julian Highway
Ramona, CA 92065
Enjoy award-winning artisan wines from our expansive patio with sweeping valley views or from our cozy indoor tasting room with art gallery. Free tours of vineyards and winery. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
1120 W. 15th Ave.
Escondido, CA 92025
Visit Forgotten Barrelʼs registered historic site and taste premium wines produced at the winery in Escondido as well as their Napa winery. Tour the beautiful grounds and experience a piece of California history. Available for weddings, events, and private dinners.
Fruitcraft Tasting Room & Kitchen (Distillery & Wine Tasting)
1477 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Hatfield Creek Winery
1625 California 78
Ramona, CA 92065
Hungry Hawk Vineyards
3255 Summit Dr.
Escondido, CA 92025
12225 World Trade Dr., Ste. P
San Diego, CA 92128
Uncork, sip back, and relax with San Diegoʼs first certified craft winery. Awarded best local winery for two years running, Koi Zen gives guests a unique taste experience from all the major wine regions in the state.
La Finquita Winery
23123 Vista Ramona Rd.
Ramona, CA 92065
8706 Production Ave.
San Diego, CA 92121
1150 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, CA 92036
Old Harbor Distilling Co.
270 17th St.
San Diego, CA 92101
Principe di Tricase Winery
18425 Highland Valley Rd.
Ramona, CA 92065
Sip award-winning flavors of Italy, Greece, and sunny California at the Principe di Tricase tasting room, or join the family with monthly Wine Club options to suit all palates. Open Thursday through Sunday, noon to sunset. Wine tasting starting at $10, Wine Club at $35. Salute!
San Diego Sunshine Craft Spirits Co.
432 Maple St., Suite 6
Ramona, CA 92065
San Diego Sunshine is a family-owned and operated distillery located in Ramona. In the tasting room you can sample rye whiskey, brandy, and some specialty spirits, along with some delicious craft cocktails.
Shadow Mountain Vineyards & Winery
Warner Springs, CA 92086
Solterra Winery & Kitchen
934 N. Coast Hwy. 101
Encinitas, CA 92024
Speckle Rock Vineyards
16138 Highland Valley Rd.
Escondido, CA 92025
The Cork and Craft
16990 Via Tazon #123
San Diego, CA 92127
Abnormal Wine Co.ʼs craft approach to wine creates unique wines and a unique experience for guests. A collaborative barrel program, open-kitchen restaurant, and craft brewery add to the Abnormal possibilities.
Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery
18351 Woods Hill Lane
Ramona, CA 92065
Turtle Rock Ridge is a family-owned winery located in Ramona, California. Their wines are made from the best grapes grown within the Ramona and California wine regions.
Vineyard Grant James
25260 Old Julian Hwy.
Ramona, CA 92065
Voted the number-two small winery in the US by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Winemaker Susanne Sapier invites you to experience her award-winning wines while overlooking her picturesque vineyard.
You & Yours Distilling Co.
1495 G St.
San Diego, CA 92101