Ramona and Highland Valleys might be two of the youngest wine regions in the state, but with Temecula (although technically in Riverside County) named one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations by Wine Enthusiast last year, and local winemakers steadily garnering accolades, San Diego’s wine scene is booming.
From Albariño to Zinfandel, today, more than 60 grape varieties are grown commercially throughout the county with small, often family-owned wineries producing a wide range of whites, reds, and rosés, plus sparkling, port, and dessert-style wines. Whether estate vineyards or coastal tasting rooms are your jam, here are 15 San Diego Wineries worth a day trip to try some of them.
Founded in 1997, this family-owned and operated micro-boutique winery is well known for its big reds (the 2016 Salute, a Petite Sirah and Malbec blend, and 2016 Syrah are both award-winners) and private collection of racing and vintage motorcycles. Tastings run $15 to $25 but for a one-of-a-kind experience book Doffo’s Cork ‘N Torque Tour ($65), which ends with a private premium tasting
Specializing in a dozen Italian varieties from Arneis to Zibibbo and sustainable viticulture practices, there are three elevated estate-grown wine experiences available at BOTTAIA. Take your pick from a seated tasting with charcuterie, a barrel room tasting, or get hands on with the wine blending lab.
Ponte’s pretty tasting room and adjacent hotel are set on a 300-acre vineyard in the heart of Temecula wine country. Grape growers in the region since 1984, the Ponte family are considered boutique producers with a classic line of single grape varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese - blends, plus sweet and sparkling wines, including a Sweet White Moscato.
Founded in 2002 by Gary Winder and Mike Rennie, Leoness produces a Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, White Merlot, Muscat Canelli, and Cinsault Port, among other wines. There are several tours available, including a Wine & Tapas pairing on weekends ($65) and Vineyard Tour & Taste ($75).
Set in the foothills of Palomar Mountain, Jack Simon is a family-owned 100-acre wine estate best known for its Rhone and Iberian varietals, including Albariños and Rosados. The Valley Center vineyard is open to wine club members once a month for wine and nibbles or by appointment, but a new tasting room is just about to open at 216 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside
Hungry Hawk first opened in 2008 with a vineyard block of Bordeaux varietals, now fifteen different grapes are grown on the property, just four miles from downtown Escondido. Open Friday through Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. tastings range from $15 for classic to $35 for a vineyard tour and tasting combo.
Blue Door converted Julian’s old livery stables into their charming and dog-friendly tasting room just a few steps off Main Street. Predominantly focusing on red varietals, the tasting room is open seven days a week from noon until 5 p.m. a tasting of five wines costs $12 and visitors can bring their own snacks, too.
Owned by the former Argentinian Ambassador to the U.S., this picturesque estate grows everything from tart Sangiovese to floral Viognier grapes. Enjoy six wine tastings for $15 or jump on the complimentary tour at noon for a behind the scenes look at Orfila’s winemaking process from vineyard to cellar.
In business since 2006, and currently overseen by distinguished Mexican winemaker Hugo d’Aosta, this boutique winery produces a few thousand cases of estate-grown reds, whites, and a sparkling rose each year. Open Saturday and Sunday a full tasting costs $12 and wines by the glass $10 (white) and $12 (red).
Founded in 1889 and family-owned and operated by the Rizzo’s for three generations, Bernardo Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in Southern California. Taste a flight of six wines for $16 or pick out a glass and enjoy on the patio before exploring the village shops and artist studios on site.
Carol and Andy Harris grow Malbec, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Albariño on their four-four-acre property in Ramona. The tasting room and dog-friendly patio is open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with complimentary fresh-made sourdough and olive oil served alongside flights.
Grapes might be sourced from vineyards in Northern California, but Carruth crushes, presses, ferments, barrels, ages, and bottles all fruit on-site at their new facility in Oceanside. With four San Francisco Chronicle Wine Awards under their belt this year, including a Double Gold for the 2017 Alexander Valley Syrah, it’s the perfect time to go for a tasting; a six sample flight costs $15 at their Solana Beach flagship, Carlsbad tasting room, and Little Italy Wine Garden.
Specializing in natural and craft - mostly sparkling - red, white, rosé, and dessert wines using grapes from local vineyards Charlie & Echo’s winery and tasting room is located in the Miralani Makers’ District off Miramar Road. Open Thursday through Friday individual tastes cost $2.50, a choice of five $12, or there’s the YOLO tasting of all nine varieties for $19.
Order wines by glass or flight at this boutique tasting room in Bird Rock, which was also one of the first to offer growler fills in San Diego. Founded in 2015 by Lowell Jooste and his wife Anne, wines are produced primarily in Napa Valley. January’s “Barrel of the Month” is a 2017 Chardonnay.
Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are standouts here or try Pali’s second label, Tower 15, for premium Bordeaux and Rhône Blends. Try a wine flight (five pours cost $15) before heading upstairs to enjoy a favorite glass and a selection of small plates from the kitchen on the charming rooftop patio.