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! 🙂

Candice

Video Tour: Outdoor Adventure in San Diego

With weather this perfect, it’s hard to stay indoors in San Diego. From hiking and biking to rockclimbing and horseback riding, there tons of outdoor adventures to be had. Join me on a video tour of some of my favorite ways to explore San Diego’s great outdoors.

Guest Blogger

A Ranch Retreat Worth Every Penny

This past weekend my husband, 9 year old son and I headed out to Warner Spring Ranch in San Diego’s east county for a little R&R.  The ranch, which was originally established in 1844 as a stagecoach stop, is a funky and rustic oasis of the best kind. 

Just an hour and a half out of downtown San Diego, the ranch occupies over 2,000 acres at the base of Palomar Mountains in an area surrounded by Native American Indian lands. At the ranch and throughout the area the Indian influence can be felt.  For example, behind the ranch’s art studio you can see granite mortar holes in the boulders where the Indians would grind acorns for food. 

The accommodations are rustic and luxuries are limited (the rooms are sparse and lack a phone or TV) but this actually adds to the serenity of the experience.  Our room had a wonderful wood-burning fireplace, complete with firewood and fire starter, and was so quiet that all three of us slept like rocks. 

On a tip from a friend, we brought along our mountain bikes which was a great call.  The ranch features a host of bike trails plus a very cool off-road bike course with jumps and dirt ramps.  My son rated this #1 on his list of best things about the ranch. 
Number #2 on his list (and first on mine) were the horses.  There’s around 80 of them on the ranch and many of them will come right over to you for a bite of grass through the fence.  We took the 1-1/2 hour trail ride one morning which winds back into the pastures at the base of the surrounding mountains.  We saw rabbits, hawks and lots of wildflowers and native plants.  My son was fascinated by the smell of the wild sages and kept picking the leaves, within reach from his horse, and putting them in his pockets (so he could smell good). Continue reading