A few weeks ago, I did a segment on NBC San Diego’s California Nonstop show about San Diego wineries. This was one of the most interesting assignments I’ve had so far. There’s nothing terrible about having to sample wine and visit wineries, but I truly enjoyed learning about our local wine industry. On the segment, I displayed wines from four San Diego County wineries who also grow fruit here. I’ll tell you about each of them eventually, but I thought it might be best to begin with a little bit of background.
Temecula Is Not In San Diego County
First of all, I was blown away by how many people don’t know that Temecula is in Riverside County. As you know, I love Temecula Valley Wine Country and highly recommend it as a day or weekend getaway. Quite a few online travel publications mention San Diego Wine Country as a recommended itinerary and then highlight wineries in Temecula, when that’s not technically the case.
A Little Bit of History
Grapes were planted at Mission San Diego in 1769 by Franciscan Missionaries. Why? They needed wine for communion. This grape (known as the Mission Grape) continued to thrive in the region. Normally, vines die out because of disease or natural causes, but this time the decrease in production is blamed on prohibition and the strict regulations to follow.
Why Don’t People Know About San Diego Wineries?
Location: As you can see in the map above, our 50+ wineries are scattered all over the county. Some are tucked away while others are in the middle of urban areas. There aren’t a handful of roads connecting them for casual access. Therefore, you’d never just stumble upon some of these wineries.
Ordinances: It used to be that small producing San Diego County wineries (under 12,000 gallons per year) could not have tasting rooms on site. Let’s face it, without a tasting room there isn’t a real reason to seek out a winery unless you are in their inner circle. And now wineries producing under 120,000 gallons per year can register as “small wineries” which allow them to have pre-approved events such as small weddings. And, this is also why we’ve seen a number of tasting rooms popping up in urban areas lately. I’m sure more are to come because this ordinance was passed just last year.
Where to Buy San Diego Wines
Your best bet is at the wineries themselves. Whole Foods La Jolla has a nice local section dedicated to San Diego County and Temecula wines. San Diego Wine Company carries a handful on occasion as well, but you’ll need to call to check their inventory. The San Diego Wine and Culinary Center carries some San Diego wines too. Keep in mind that our wineries don’t have massive production numbers so you won’t see them at BevMo and pay 5 cent sale prices. The ones I sampled were between $16 – $35 per bottle, with quite a few in the $20 range and worth buying.
How to Visit
Print a copy of the map above from the San Diego County Vintner’s Association. While you’re at it, check their calendar of events to see if something awesome is happening during your visit. La Jolla Wine Tours is the only tour company I found that takes tourists and residents out to visit San Diego Wineries. They have a great guided itinerary at a very reasonable price. If you’d like to skip driving altogether, they’ll even pick you up.
It’s a Community
I met some very nice people while researching this project who live and breathe the local wine industry. Our wineries share technologies and buy grapes from one another. They call each other by first name and I just get the feeling that it’s not a competition. All are passionate about getting the word out about San Diego as a wine destination.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I highlight some very special wineries right here, in our own backyard. Have you been to any of them?