Robert Arends

Raise your glass to San Diego's Wine Country!

San Diego may be the “Napa Valley of Beer” with over 80 craft breweries throughout the county. But did you know we have fabulous wine growing regions, especially in the foothills of <a title=”Discover San Diego”s East County” href=”http://www.sandiego.org/discover/east-county.aspx” target=”_blank”>East County.

The Ramona Valley and Warner Springs area near Palomar Mountain are beautiful regions to explore, dotted with dozens of wineries offering tastings and the natural beauty of the backcountry.

Wine in the Ramona Valley

Scenic vineyards at Milagro Farm

Scenic vineyards at Milagro Farm

Ramona Valley, located about 45 minutes northeast of downtown San Diego, has soils rich with granitic deposits and hilly elevations reaching 2,500 feet, providing desirable microclimates and warm summer growing seasons. Cooler ocean breezes also, surprisingly, waft this far inland to make conditions just right for grape growing.

Wine tasting at Milagro Farm Vineyard & Winery

Wine tasting at Milagro Farm Vineyard & Winery

You can find two dozen boutique wineries along Highways 67 and 78, traversing through rustic downtown Ramona and the heart of the online casino valley. A few standouts include Milagro Farm (Tasting Room open Monday-Friday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM), Turtle Rock Ridge (open Friday-Sunday: 10:00 AM to sunset) and Woof “n Rose (open by appointment).

Did you know: Ramona wineries are world-class and have beat French varieties in competition – magnifique!

The Ramona Valley Vineyard Association is a great resource for wine tasting, tours and more. Below is a great at-a-glance map of the area to plan your sojourn through the wine country:

RVWR_map_11-25-2013_Layout 1

Adventures on Horseback is a fun and exciting way to go wine tasting while enjoying the scenic Ramona Valley and Ramona Grasslands Preserve, a sanctuary for hawks, eagles and other birds of prey. Some of the wineries they ride to include Turtle Rock Ridge, Hellanback Ranch, Hacienda de las Rosas, Kohill, Wolf “n Rose and Scaredy Cat Ranch (love the name!).

Warner Springs

View from Hawk Watch Winery

Care for a glass with this view at Hawk Watch Winery?

A little further to the north, Warner Springs – known for its famous hot springs – is a bit higher in elevation and home to four fab wineries along Highway 79: La Serenissima, Orrin Vineyards, Hawk Watch (featuring an incredible scenic overlook) and Shadow Mountain.

As the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association says, it’s “a grape day in the backcountry” – and I couldn”t agree more!

See you in East County. Cheers! 🙂

Robert Arends

Julian Ripe and Ready for Apple Days!

Visitors and locals alike are gearing up for a San Diego tradition as “American as apple pie:” Julian Apple Days, happening this weekend October 6-7!

Every year the historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian rolls out the red (apple) carpet, celebrating its big annual harvest with apple picking and mouthwatering apple pies and ciders. The Apple Days fest takes place on the grounds of Menghini Winery (10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturday & Sunday), featuring music and dancing, children’s games, gold panning, a wine and beer garden, food, vendors, apple-related contests, the coronation of Mr. and Mrs. Apple Days and, of course, Julian’s famous apple pies.

While in Julian be sure to sample the apple pies!

It’s A LOT of fun for the whole family! Admission is only $5; free for children ages 12 and under. The first 250 guests receive a free souvenir pie server!

While you’re in town, following are my Top 5 to Try Julian activities that’ll have you smiling ear to ear this weekend:

1. Pick a Bushel of Apples at Raven Hill Orchard

Sculpture with a Raven at Raven Hill Orchard

Wild Raven Hill sculptures!

Next door to the Julian Apple Days fest is Raven Hill Orchard where you can pick your own apples among a vast orchard of 8,000 trees! Also check out the fantastical metal sculptures dotting the grounds – great photo opps!

2. Pan for Gold at the Julian Mining Company

Family Panning for Gold - Julian Mining Company

Gold panning in Julian!

New in town is the Julian Mining Company, featuring gold panning, pumpkin picking and even an Early American Farm-Life Tour where you can work a real apple cider press!

3. Take a Llama Trek from Wikiup B&B

Couple with two Llamas from the Wikiup Bed and Breakfast

Lovin’ the Wikiup llama treks!

Gidddyup on one of Wikiup B&B‘s exciting Llama Treks through Julian’s backcountry to the Menghini Winery and famous Eagle Gold Mine, where you can take a tour of one of Julian’s original gold mines!

4. Fresh Apple Pies

Julian Apple Pies

Mmmm…Apple pies!

Sure there’s delectable Dudley’s Famous Bakery, Mom’s Pies and Julian Pie Co… But for the most gourmet apple pie in town, nothing beats the Candied Apple Pastry Company‘s sour creamapple pie. It’s off the charts!

5. Spooky Tour of the Julian Cemetery

Yours truly at spooky Julian Cemetery!

Kids will get a kick out of Julian Historical Society’s classic 1888 one-room school house (2133 Fourth St.), open weekends throughout October. For an insider’s scoop on prospectors and pioneers who settled here, join local resident/historian David Lewis on fun guided walking tours that include the spooky Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery!

Quick sidebar: Our local newspaper, U-T San Diego, did a great story on Julian Apple Days weekend!

See you in Julian!

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend

San Diego Asian Film Festival

1. San Diego Asian Film Festival: From October 20-28, International film fanatics will have the opportunity to partake in one of the largest exhibitions of Asian international and Asian American cinema in North America. Along with narrative features, the Festival also showcases documentaries, short films and animation.

Harvest Festival

2. Harvest Festival: The 39th Annual Harvest Festival is kicking off of at the Del Mar Fairgrounds October 21 and running through the 23rd. The festival features more than 300 artists and craftspeople showcasing unique American handmade works, including Halloween and Christmas decor, handmade wearable art, photography, garden decorations, hand-turned wood, ceramics, jewelry, children’s toys and more!

La Jolla Gallery Wine Walk and Taste

3. La Jolla Gallery, Wine Walk and Taste: On Thursday, October 20th, experience an evening of breathtaking coastal views, exquisite art, fresh cuisine and savory wines as you stroll through the beautiful La Jolla Village and visit over 15 of La Jolla’s most prominent galleries showcasing internationally celebrated art, while enjoying various samples of crisp white and bold red wines at each gallery. As you stroll along the streets of downtown La Jolla you will satisfy your appetite with tastings of flavorful cuisine from over 20 of La Jolla Village’s finest restaurants. Tickets to the La Jolla Gallery, Wine Walk & Taste are $40 in advance and $45 on the day of the event.

Broadway San Diego: Hair

4. Hair: From October 18-23, Broadway San Diego brings the Tony-winning musical Hair to the Civic Theatre. This exuberant musical about a group of young Americans searching for peace and love in a turbulent time has struck a resonant chord with audiences young and old. HAIR features an extraordinary cast and dozens of unforgettable songs, including “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Easy To Be Hard.”

Borrego Springs

5. Borrego Days Desert Festival: The 46th Annual Borrego Days Desert Festival is a three-day local tradition that is just abounding with colorful attractions, family fun and exciting events. This free festival takes place on Friday, October 21 and continues through Sunday, October 22. Activities include a parade, local artists, food court, mini-carnival, games, rides and much more. A fun way to enjoy the picturesque desert landscape!