The short answer to the question of "what are my favorite wineries," is everyone that serves great tasting wine. One of the great pleasures of wine tasting is the opportunity to explore wineries that we have never visited before, and that, of course, is how we have come to favor the few that we visit regularly. To a large extent, our preferences are governed by how close the different wine growing areas are to home. In SoCal, acceptable driving distances include the San Diego area, Santa Barbara (Los Olivos), and Paso Robles. When vacation time arrives, longer drives are in order, and that includes Napa and Sonoma.
So, here are some
of our favorites.
1. AVA - North Mountain Wine Trail (Warner Springs)
While the Temecula area receives the most attention of the San Diego area Wineries, there are a number of AVAs that make up this general area. One of these is the relatively small North Mountain Wine Trail AVA. They make up for their small size (5 wineries) with some spectacular wines, in a uniquely scenic area. Aside from some great wines, the NMWT offers something that you won't find in the "more well known and popular" areas, and that is a pleasant absence of crowds.
While the NMWT is generally located in the Warner Springs area, it is also within a short driving distance to the town of Julian, where there are some great B&Bs and equally great restaurants. If you have a weekend to devote to this area, the combination of some fine wineries, and the lodging and food of Julian, can make for a very rewarding adventure.
So, back to the North Mountain Wine Trail. Wine grapes respond differently to different climates and different soils, and the wines of this area reflect it's uniqueness. Unlike many coastal vineyards, or warm valley vineyards, the NMWT is located at around 3500 feet elevation where snow in the winter is not uncommon, and where the soil is quite rocky (alluvial fan?) While each of the wineries offer a unique wine experience, my favorite is Hawk Watch, for the extraordinarily scenic tasting areas and their wonderful Zinfandel wines.
All of the wineries in this area have two events a year where they offer musical entertainment and food. These are events are not to miss. A good introduction to this area can be found in an article which appeared in the Press Enterprise Newspaper a few years ago, click here: https://www.pe.com/2016/03/27/warner-sp ... cula8217s/
This is the view from Hawk Watch which makes this winery a favorite (from their website https://hawkwatchwinery.com/
2. Paso Robles AVA
There are so many truly wonderful wineries in Paso that it would be unfair and untrue to pick just one that is our favorite, but for the net, I'll just mention one, and for the compelling reason ----- the quality of their Zinfandel wines. For many years the Turley Winery has been our most visited winery and the one that has been the biggest drain on the wallet. Although they offer wines other than Zinfandel, it is the Zin and Petite Syrah which are their primary focus.
In addition to their terrific selection of Zins, they have some unique member benefits, seated wine tastings and periodic celebrations with food and entertainment. Over the years, we have enjoyed several of their Zin offerings, but, with consistency, we have always returned to the Zinfandels from the Ueberroth vineyard. This vineyard gives new meaning to, "old vines," as it's history reveals (from the "zinfandel.org" website):
Any discussion of important Zinfandel vineyards in Paso begins with the Ueberroth Vineyard, which was planted by the Tonesi Brothers in 1885. The dry-farmed site, located close to the Pacific Ocean, is extreme with steep slopes, some reaching up to 45°. The soil primarily consists of rocky limestone, ill-suited for just about any crop except grapevines, particularly Zinfandel.
According to local lore, neither of the Tonesi Brothers produced an heir, with the result that the vineyard changed hands at least a couple of times after they died. Eventually, at some point in the 1960s, Peter Ueberroth (Commissioner of Baseball), then in his 20s, and a relatively recent graduate of San Jose State, purchased the vineyard and changed its name.
Although the vineyard is still owned by the Ueberroth family, today, Turley Vineyards sources 100% of its fruit. Brennan Stover, Turley’s vineyard manager in Paso Robles, fell in love with the vineyard from the moment he first saw it, almost twenty years ago: “I love the Ueberroth because of its extremeness—both the vineyard and the wine. The acidity tends to be higher than other Zins, which leads to depth and complexity.”
Check out the Ueberroth Vineyards at the Turley website:https://www.turleywinecellars.com/vines ... -zinfandel
Some really old Zin vines at Turley:
3. Temecula AVA
Temecula has become one of our most visited wine areas, largely due to it's close proximity to home, as well as the ever increasing quality of their wines. In a sense, the Temecula area is the new kid on the block, certainly when compared to some of the more well established and well known regions, such as Napa. It was unavoidable that the unique climate and geography of this area would combine to make it an up-and-coming star in California's wine community. Being located somewhat equal distance from the metro areas of LA and San Diego, it has become a popular destination for those who appreciate really good wines. At last count, there are some 80 wineries there, with more opening all the time.
While I will not claim to have visited them all (yet), I can state that The Wiens Family Cellars has become one of our very favorites, regardless of location (https://www.wienscellars.com/
.) While the quality of their wines is outstanding, it is this, in combination with their club membership benefits, that has made them a favorite. The one club benefit that stands out, above all the others, is their seated, paired tastings (wine paired with meats, cheeses, and bread.) Included in this level of membership, are 6 such tastings a year, where we are entitled to bring 2 guests. It has been these tastings that have brought members of our family to appreciate wine, all from the experience of our Wiens membership.
Recently, we decided to visit Wiens, during the middle of the week, and we were amazed to find that we were the only ones at the seated paired tasting. With a view of the vineyard, some great wines and food. it could not have been better!!!