California Wine, a layman’s guide
California, otherwise known as The Golden State, is very well-known for its exceptional wine. The first thing that pops into one’s mind when the words California and wine are mentioned are, of course, Napa Valley and Sonoma. But, it may come as a surprise that they are not the only counties known for high-quality wine. Today, we explore the vast wine-making scene in California, focusing on the San Diego area.
Temecula wine region
Located in the heart of Southern California, the Temecula wine region was first inhabited by the Temecula tribe, for which it is named. Later, Spanish missionaries moved into the region. Grapes have been grown here for at least 200 years, and even though it does not rain a lot, the climate actually suits the grapes. Though one could describe Temecula as a desert, the grapes here actually love the region’s sunny days. Days are warm, nights are cool, and even in the summer months, the heat is not sweltering. Wine-making in the Temecula region dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Once a thriving industry, wine-making was hit hard during prohibition times, as wineries were not allowed to sell wines in bulk. For the last 50 years, San Diego has slowly been coming back, ready to reclaim its wine-fame.
Established in 1889, The Bernardo Winery is the oldest and longest running winery in San Diego. It has been run by the Rizzo family ever since 1937, when Vincent Rizzo bought the estate. During prohibition, the family was forced to diversify, so they began pressing olive oil from the olive trees that also grew on the property, and sold their new product to the San Diego Tuna canning industry. Today, Bernardo Winery produces wines from locally sourced grapes that suit the San Diego Terroir, such as Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Viognier, Chardonnay and Aglianico. Their facilities are open to the public. If you are interested, you can make reservations and visit the estate, stroll through its history, and indulge in some wine tasting.
Cilurzo Vineyards, which opened in 1967, was the first commercial winery in Temecula. Today, it is the Bella Vista Winery. The first vines were planted in 1968. Imre and his wife Gizella Cziraki purchased the former Cilurzo Winery. The Cziraki have been updating and modernizing the winery facility and grounds since the purchase. A visit to this winery is a unique experience, where you can enjoy the lovely scenery of the compound and taste quality-crafted wines.
Escondido wine region
Another underappreciated wine region is Escondido. It boasts a thriving wine-tasting scene that has yet to be recognized, with a microclimate that suits its grapes well. Small wine-making establishments are developing at a fast pace, producing high-quality wines.
Opened in 2000, the Belle Marie Winery is a French-style chateau castle where all the main events are held. They are family and pet-friendly. You may go wine tasting, or book the chateau for your own celebration (wedding reception, corporate event, or charity benefit). Their wines range from different white blends and varietals, rose wines, red blends, and a number of different dessert wines.
Orfila Winery was established in 1994, and has ever since been recognized as an award-winning winery, with over 1,300 medals in national and international competitions. It is situated in the picturesque San Pasqual Valley, located just 30 minutes from San Diego, between Interstate 15 and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Orfila produces critically acclaimed wines using Italian and French varietals, including those from the Rhône Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Experience a rich taste of red blends, while enjoying the beautiful green scenery of the 70 acres compound.
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