Just a 45-minute drive from the San Diego coast lie mountains and valleys that provide abundant microclimates perfect for growing wine. Increasingly, the 30 wineries around Julian and Ramona have distinguished their neck of the woods as a destination to rival any in California or Baja. Whether by car or by horse, the charming dirt roads that crisscross the region hold many surprises for wine lovers and explorers alike. Don’t forget to pack a picnic—many of the wineries encourage you to enjoy lunch on their grounds.
Where: 23123 Vista Ramona Road, Ramona, CA 92065
La Finquita, or “The Little Farm”, sits on a beautiful 8-acre property growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah. Lounge on the patio with a glass of the 2014 Syrah. Keep an eye out for one of the friendly neighborhood roadrunners that roam around the property. Or, savor your glass in the Wine Cave built into the side of the hill beneath the tasting room.
Where: 17872 Oak Grove Road, Ramona, CA 92065
The Castelli Family Vineyards grew from a hobby to 3,000 vines and award-winning wines. Stop by their Italian-style tasting room and order your favorite from the list including Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Tempranillo.
Where: 18750 Littlepage Rd, Ramona, CA 92065
Along with 11 grape varieties, Milagro’s 110-acres in Ramona boast an organic farm as well as abundant fruit and nut orchards. Visitors can bring a picnic and try their hand on the bocce court. Inside, the tasting room is newly renovated with a bit more of an upscale feel than the mostly very casual tasting rooms in this neck of the woods.
Where: 910 Gem Ln, Ramona, CA 92065
This Ramona vineyard grows 5.5 acres of zinfandel, sangiovese, cabernet franc, and a few other grape varieties from which they make all of 600 cases of wine they produce per year. Their stone fireplace is a cozy place to savor local wines on a chilly day.
Where: 1255 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian, CA 92036
Julian’s newest tasting room offers samples of the winery’s sparkling apple wine, whites, reds, roses, and dessert wines including sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, and sangiovese. Picnics are encouraged on their grounds at the base of Volcan Mountain which produces more than 20 apple varieties.
Where: 1150 Julian Orchards Dr, Julian, CA 92036
Set in a Julian apple orchard, this winery produces 4,000 cases a year of chardonnay, cabernet, sauvignon blanc, merlot, and muscat. You can sample a variety of wines on their grounds. Bring a picnic and stop by their shop to purchase some cheese and olives to pair with their wines.
Where: 17073 Garjan Ln, Ramona, CA 92065
Producing just around 300 cases of wine each year, this small winery specializes in cabernet Franc and other Bordeaux varietals. Tasting takes place on an outdoor veranda taking in a view of the Ramona Valley.