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

Valentine’s Day, LGBT-style, in San Diego

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Feel the love in Hillcrest this Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air and for LGBT couples looking for something romantic to do this Valentine’s Day, San Diego is THE place to cuddle close and feel the warmth – especially in Hillcrest, our fabulous uptown “gayborhood” located just a couple of miles from downtown.

Following are a few unforgettable places to wine and dine your significant other or special V-day date.

Start the Night with Dinner in Hillcrest

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine's Day

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine’s Day

In Hillcrest, begin your heart-filled evening at the comfortably modern Heat Bar & Kitchen on Park Blvd. Amber lighting radiates to create a cozy ambiance to enjoy a menu of California fusion cuisine. The steamed local Carlsbad mussels are delish, as is the duck breast and braised lamb shank!

Another tried and true Hillcrest dining option is the chic retro-modern D Bar on 5th Ave. where comfort food based on childhood favorites will have you both smiling from ear to ear – and reaching over to sample each other’s entrees! Highly recommended is the Southern Fried Belgian butter milk fried chicken with sweet potato fries. OMG 😉

After Dinner Drinks in Hillcrest

wine

After dinner, head to The Wine Lover with its intimate little patio to toast your love as you gaze into each other’s eyes. For something extra special, ask for a dessert wine flight (which isn’t on the menu) to sweeten the mood.

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

If decadent martinis or craft beer are more your style, grab a nightcap at Martinis Above Fourth or the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the “World’s First Out and Proud LGBT Brewery.”

Fall in Love on Coronado…or is it Italy?

Enchanting Coronado, a bridge away from downtown and Hillcrest, is gay friendly and welcoming with a renowned romantic French bistro called Chez Loma. Couples are drawn to its private candle-lit rooms and delectable French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon.

The Gondola Company's romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

The Gondola Company’s romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

Before dinner, take a relaxing sunset gondola cruise – complete with a gondolier serenading you in Italian! – through the Coronado Cays. The Gondola Company provides chocolate-covered strawberries, and you’re welcome to bring your own wine or champagne!

Make a French Connection in Downtown San Diego

In downtown San Diego, Café Chloe holds a special place in my heart as the closest thing to a night out in Paris. The café is small and charming, and they usually do something extraordinarily quaint for Valentine’s Day couples, like little poetry verses you can recite to each other. Ahhh… 🙂

> Find more Valentine’s Day ideas and offers on SanDiego.org

Book your dinner reservations now, as Valentine’s Day tables fill up quickly.

Candice

Top Things to Do in San Diego: Nov. 12 – 17, 2013

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Enjoy a children’s classic come to life, take a private wine tour, or shop for some vintage wares this week in San Diego.

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas Opens at the Old Globe

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! opens at the Old Globe Theatre this weekend.

The Old Globe Theatre kicks off its holiday season on Saturday, November 16th, with a top notch stage production of Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In San Diego, we take our Dr. Seuss seriously – which is why this whimsical musical has been dazzling local school children and families for nearly 16 years.  Suitable for ages 5+.

Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Nov 16, 2013 – Dec 28, 2013
Time: Various (11:00 am matinees open to all ages)
Cost: $27-57
>Find out more about Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe.

San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tours

San Diego winery tours

Experience San Diego’s beautiful vineyards up close on a personalized tour.

Take a six-hour guided tour of local wineries with San Diego Beer & Wine Tours, starting with pick-up and drop off right at your door (home or hotel). The guided tour includes visiting three family-owned wineries and indulging in more than 18 tastes from off the beaten path wineries. Meals include a fruit and cheese platter at the first winery and a dinner with spectacular vineyard views at the final destination.

Where: Door to door service
When:  Friday, Saturday or Sunday, November 15-17
Time: 11:00 a.m. pick up – 6:00 p.m. drop off
Cost: $154 (tour guide gratuity not included)
>Find out more about San Diego Beer & Wine Tours 

High Tide Breakfast Buffet at the Marine Room

The delectable breakfast offerings include banana chocolate brioche French toast, poached eggs Florentine and hickory smoked Pacific salmon (just to name a few items), but what makes this breakfast truly special is watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash up against the Marine Room’s giant picture windows.

Where: 2000 Spindrift Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037
When:  Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17
Time: 7:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Cost: $34 per person
>Find out more about High Tide Breakfast at the Marine Room

TNT (Thursday Night Thing) at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

MIHO Gastrotruck at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego TNT

Grab a bite from MIHO Gastrotruck at TNT at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Part cocktail party, part concert and part art exhibition, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego‘s TNT after-hours series proves that museums don’t have to be boring. Stop by the museum’s downtown location for tours, art-making activities, live music from Family Wagon, tasty cocktails, and delicious bites from MIHO Gastrotruck.

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Thursday, November 14
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Cost: Free for museum members, $8 for students, $10 for non-members
>Find out more about TNT at the Museum of Conteporary Art San Diego

Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Del Mar Antique Show and Sale San Diego 2013

Antiques of all sorts can be found at the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Celebrating its 53rd year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, this three-day event for antique lovers features everything from furniture to fine art and vintage clothing and jewelry. The weekend also features a Costume Walkabout: this year’s theme is “A Day in the Fabled Land of Bollywood.”

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Friday – Sunday, November 15 – 17
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Friday & Saturday), 11:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $8 for adults for all three days, free for children
>Find out more about the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

Browse the Event Calendar

What will you be doing in San Diego this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Sarah Weinberg

10 Years of Taste at The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

Celebrity Chefs San Diego Bay Wine Food Fest Festival

Where to start? This amazing series of culinary events that compose the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary from Nov. 18-24, offers opportunities for foodies, wine lovers and craft beer enthusiasts. The SDBWFF hosts internationally known chefs like Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s, Javier Plascencia of Mision 19 alongside local San Diego stars like 2012 Chef of the Fest winner, Tommy Fraioli of Sea Rocket Bistro.

Celebrity Chefs San Diego Bay Wine Food Fest Festival

Make a toast to fine food, celebrity chefs and drinking by the bay at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Fest. Photo courtesy Kevin Hulett.

This year, even fitness fans can join the feasting fun with a Fit Foodie 5K/10K prior to a Grand Tasting. The “main event” of the fest, the Grand Tasting will be held on Saturday, Nov. 23, gathering 170 wineries, breweries and spirit companies, 70 of San Diego’s top fine-dining restaurants and 30 gourmet food companies in the open-air Embarcadero Marina Park North on San Diego Bay to indulge in a food festival experience like no other.

Grand Tasting San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival 2013

The Grand Tasting at the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival courtesy Kevin Hulett.

The food revelry doesn’t stop there.  The SDBWFF features 25 additional events throughout San Diego County, ranging from an Haute French Cuisine & Vintage Burgundy Tasting at Addison to a Fish Taco Challenge at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.

Here’s my “Wish List” of 5 events not to miss at San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival this year:

Monday, Nov. 18: La Plancha Pop Up Dinner

Yellowtail crudo Plancha Baja Med Chad White Tequila Pop Up

Yellowtail crudo courtesy Plancha Baja Med by Chad White.

This unique collaboration of Baja and San Diego chefs includes Chad White of Plancha Baja Med, Javier Plascencia of Mision 19 and Jason Knibb of Nine-Ten. Feast upon six uniquely styled courses with tequila pairings selected by Marcela Valladolid of Hacienda de la Flor and Food Network’s Mexican Made Easy.

Tuesday, Nov 19: The San Diego Classics: Fish Tacos & Craft Beers

Fish Taco Craft Beer Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens

Something fishy and delicious is happening at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens during the Fish Taco & Craft Beer Challenge.

What is more “Classic San Diego” than craft beers and fish tacos? This new event celebrates the two classics along with the featured Fish Taco TKO Competition that will pit the top fish taco makers against each other in a mouthwatering battle hosted at the new Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens location in Liberty Station.

Thursday, Nov. 21: Wine Spectator Celebrity Chef Dinner & Big Bottle Live Auction

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival 2013  chef dinner big bottle auction

Enjoy tray passed hors d’ouvres, a sit-down multi-course meal prepared by 8 celebrity chefs and a wine auction at this event.

After tacos and beer, I thought I’d get in the spirit of the event and indulge in an evening catered by some big names in the restaurant biz. Eight top-notch chefs and 15 legendary wineries make for an unforgettable dining experience at the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.

Saturday, Nov. 23: Grand Tasting Event

SD Bay Wine & Food Fest courtesy Joey Hernandez

Pouring it on by the bay at The Grand Tasting Event during San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Photo courtesy Joey Hernandez.

The grand finale of the five-day festival is the star-studded Grand Tasting Event held Nov. 23 on the Embarcadero Marina Park North behind Seaport Village. Take in the beautiful San Diego Bay and enjoy the ocean breeze as you partake in the largest, wine and food festival in Southern California.  This is where the “Chef of the Fest” competition takes place.

Sunday, Nov. 24: Celebrity Sunrise Yoga & Brunch

While I’m not so much into “sunrise” or “celebrity,” “Yoga & Brunch” are definitely up my alley. The editors of Cooking Light and Health magazines have created a revitalizing Sunday morning experience. Awaken mind and body during a sunrise yoga session for beginner to intermediate levels at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Afterward, yogis  will gather for a delicious and nutritious brunch.

>Find out more information about the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

Guests must be over 21 years of age to attend all San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival events. NO infants, strollers, animals or exceptions!

 

Candice

Wine and Dine During the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting

November should be renamed Food and Drink month here in San Diego. In addition to the ubiquitous stuffing of turkeys happening at restaurants all over town, November is also host to 10 days of highlighting San Diego’s craft beer during San Diego Beer Week, which conveniently rolls right into 5 days of local food and wine pairings during the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting

Photo: Ken Loyst

The annual celebration of all things culinary comprises nearly 30 separate events. Here are just a few that are sure to tempt your palate:

SWISH: Serious Sips & Urban Eats – November 14, 2012

Start off the festival with a mid-week kick off party including plenty of drinks from up to 25 edgiest wineries and breweries along with food from some of San Diego’s hottest new food trucks.

Location: 57 Degrees
Date: November 14, 2012
Time: 7:00 to 10:00 PM
Cost: $45 (includes $7 voucher for use at any of the participating food trucks)

The Vault: Reserve Wine Experience & Silent Auction

A can’t-miss event for the true wine enthusiast, large, collectable and rare wines will be up for auction at this exclusive event. In addition to the bidding wars, guests can take part in the fun by sampling offerings from 160 wineries and spirits producers.

Location: San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, Marriott Ballroom
Date: Friday, November 16, 2012
Time: 5:30 to 8:30 PM
Cost: $125

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival 2012

Photo: Ken Loyst

Grand Tasting Event

Soak up beautiful San Diego Bay views from Embarcadero Marina Park as you sip and savor offerings from more than 170 wine and spirit makers, 70 chefs, and 30 culinary companies. Plus, find out which chef will take home the coveted “Chef of the Fest” award in an action-packed culinary competition.

Location: Embarcadero Marina Park North
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Time: 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Cost: $125 in advance/$150 at the door

Re-Mixed Official Festival After Party

New this year, the Re-Mixed after party turns the focus from wine to cocktails as bartenders from San Diego’s hottest cocktail joints including Grant Grill, Searsucker, Prohibition, Noble Experiment, Vin de Syrah, Craft & Commerce, Tower 23 and more mix it up for guests.  Be sure to stop by the champagne, oyster and bacon station.

Location: U.S. Grant, Celestial Ballroom
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Time: 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Cost: $50

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival 2012

Photo: Joey Hernandez

Which San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival event are you most looking forward to this year?

Suzzanne

Preview: La Jolla Art and Wine Festival

Kids Painting a car at the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival
Kids Painting a car at the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival

Family Fun at the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival. Photo: Steve Simpson

The 2012 La Jolla Art and Wine Festival returns to La Jolla October 13th and 14th and takes place in the heart of the village, between Prospect Avenue and Kline Street. The two-day juried art show has quickly garnered a reputation as one of the most prestigious art and wine festivals on the west coast.

The free festival is open to the public and will feature over 150 established artists from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Baja and beyond. Visitors will enjoy a little bit of everything from a silent auction, roving entertainment, a gourmet marketplace along with a beer and wine garden, which will include premier wineries from around the world in addition to San Diego’s top breweries. Families can enjoy a scavenger hunt, crafts, games, musical entertainment, even a car to paint!

La Jolla Art and Wine Festival Information

Where: Girard Avenue between Prospect Avenue and Kline Street, La Jolla (map)
Dates: October 13-14
Time: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Cost: Free
Website: www.lajollaartandwinefestival.com

Event Parking and Shuttle Information

Valet parking will be located at the entrance on Kline Street at Girard Avenue for $10. There will also be free shuttles with stops at Muirlands Middle School as well as in front of the Holiday Inn Express on La Jolla Boulevard.

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend in San Diego

1. San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival: The region’s largest wine and culinary event takes place November 16-20. Held at venues throughout downtown San Diego, the festival includes gourmet food, celebrity chefs, wine tastings, an elegant reserve and new release tasting event and more.

2. America’s Cup World Series: the AC World Series is in full action this weekend. This regatta gives the public an opportunity to watch the world’s top sailors as they compete in the state-of-the-art AC45 wing-sailed catamarans. San Diego Bay’s natural sailing environment allows fans to get close to the action, offering spectator access along numerous points along the picturesque waterfront.

3. Annual Mother Goose Parade: San Diego East County’s annual holiday kick-off celebration features celebrity appearances, whimsical floats, clowns, bands, equestrians and more, Sunday, November 20.

4. Santa vs. the Snowman: Enjoy a holiday treat at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s IMAX theatre with the showing of Santa Vs. The Snowman. Starting November 18 and running through the holidays, visitors can catch the first-ever IMAX animated holiday feature film. The film tells the heartwarming story of a lonely Snowman who at first is swept away by the magical wonders of Santa’s village, only to ultimately wage war on Santa because he is jealous of all the attention that Santa gets during Christmas time.

5. FLUXX Nightclub with Sid Vicious & Ricky Rocks: On Saturday, November 19 hit up FLUXX in the Gaslamp. One of the coolest clubs in San Diego, this is a party you just can’t beat! Get ready to dance the night away.

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!

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend

1. MCAS Miramar Air Show: Part of San Diego”s annual Fleet Week celebration, the year”s air show will celebrate the centennial of San Diego”s naval aviation, September 30-October 2. Among the planes featured in the salute are vitnage biplanes, Air Force Thunderbirds, a Navy Super Hornet and numerous stealth fighter jets.

photo by Steve Simpson

  1. La Jolla Art & Wine Festival: This unique two-day festival, October 1 and 2nd will be held in the Village of La Jolla on Upper Girard Avenue and will showcase online casino over 150 juried fine artists, the Green Dragon Wine and Beer Garden, live entertainment at the Village Stage, a gourmet marketplace and Geppetto’s Family Art Center.

3. Oktoberfest!: Not one but two Oktoberfests kick off this weekend. The first in La Mesa runs from September 30-October2 and features a traditional German celebration with dancing, food, Bavarian bands, arts and crafts and commercial booths in the city of La Mesa.
El Cajon”s Oktoberfest runs from September 30-Octber 2 and October 7-9. Hosted by the German-American Societies of San Diego, this popular annual festival features authentic German food, pastries and a beer garden along with traditional German musicians and dancers, games, contests, vendor and craft booths.

4. San Diego Film Festival: This annual festival, September 28-October 2 in the Gaslamp, offers a fresh take on film premieres, featuring American and international features, thought-provoking documentaries, short films and music videos.

5. Julian Apple Days Festival: This two-day festival, October 1-2, at the Menghini Winery in Julian features music and dancing, an antique tractor display, children”s games, gold panning demonstrations, apple-related contests and more.

Suzzanne

5 to Try This Weekend

1. Meet an Astronaut: On Friday, August 26, the San Diego Air & Space Museum is offering a special opportunity to meet Al Worden, command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971. Worden will give a talk relating his fascinating moon-travel experiences, and sign copies of his new book Falling To Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut’s Journey to the Moon.

2. Ride the Bridge-Bike the Bay: On Sunday, August 28th, take advantage of a rare opportunity to ride over the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge. This popular, noncompetitive 25-mile ride along Bayshore Bikeway passes through the cities of Coronado, San Diego, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and National City. Registration is required.

3. Julian Star Fest: Professionals and amateur enthusiasts explore the world of astonomy during this four-day festival from August 25-28. The festival takes place at Julian’s Menghini Winery and will include exhibition areas, guest speakers and an astronomy equipment swap meet.

4. Sleeping Beauty Wakes, La Jolla Playhouse: Extended through this weekend is the popular Sleeping Beauty Wakes. The story follows the characters after a father brings his sleeping daughter in to a sleep disorder clinic, staff and patients mysteriously find themselves sharing the same dream. With beguiling characters, hypnotic lyrics, and a rocking score from GrooveLily, this musical about a father, a daughter and an unlikely suitor dives into the magical space between dreaming and waking.

5. Orfila Grape Stomp: When their fruit is harvested in late August, Orfila Vineyards and Winery in Escondido hosts this fun-filled event so guests can help stomp the grapes and enjoy great food, live music and tractor rides through the vineyards.