Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hawk Watch Winery in Warner Springs has been open to the public since 2008. It's always a pleasure to stop by and chat with the congregated locals and taste the latest batch of handcrafted, European-style reds. Resident cats Zena and Zoro are so big that no hawk would dare mess with them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Cordiano is one of our favorite San Diego County wineries.  Gerardo (Jerry), his wife Rosa, and their little dog Bella always make us feel welcome - almost like we're relatives.  Jerry’s family has a history of winemaking in Italy.  He and Rosa came to the U.S. many years ago and for some time owned and operated a chain of pizza restaurants in New Orleans.  Now they’re living their dream on a beautiful piece of hilltop acreage, producing lovely old-world style reds. They’ve expanded their venue to include an outdoor tasting bar, a patio suitable for parties, and a brick pizza oven. 

Jerry and Rosa
Cordiano's "Primo Amore" wine club offers two 6-bottle shipments per year at a 20% discount, and invitations to private events.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


We’ve long enjoyed Orfila in Escondido for its beautiful picnic grounds, but for a time we could barely find a wine that satisfied our craving for earthiness and distinguishable tannins. This changed gradually but we’ve never been as impressed as we were this month. Of special note: 2008 Estate Sangiovese, 2008 Estate Ambassadors Reserve Merlot, and several Syrahs. Both the Escondido winery and the Julian tasting room are festooned with flags from all over the world. Mr. Orfila was Argentina's ambassador to the U.S. He figured that when people see their flag, they feel at home.

View from Our Picnic Table on Orfila's Escondido Grounds
Orfila's wine club offers quarterly 3-bottle shipments taylored to members' preferences for $45-$82. Members also get free "V.I.P." tastings in Escondido and Julian, 20% off additional purchases, and invitations to special events.

The Escondido tasting room is open daily 10:00-6:00. 760.738.6500
The Julian tasting room is open Friday-Tuesday 10:00-5:00 760.765.0102



Menghini is one of two wineries located in Julian, a small town in the mountains east of San Diego. The property includes six acres of vineyards, an apple orchard, and an outdoor dance floor/performance space. Owners Mike and Toni Menghini are super friendly an very knowledgeable about wine and everything else in east San Diego County.  A number of cats and a dog here and there help greet visitors who stop by for a tasting or a picnic on the veranda. The Menghinis want us to drink their wines now, which is not hard to do! The whites are crisp an fresh; the reds are medium-bodied and very food friendly. During the summer the winery hosts several music and art events.


According to their website, South Coast Winery Resort and Spa was “judged BEST CALIFORNINA STATE WINERY OF THE YEAR FOR 2008/09 and 2009/10.”  Amid throngs of visitors lining the expansive tasting bar, Gary expertly communicated what we were looking for, even employing the term “armpitty” to connote off-beat earthiness. Two pourers tried their best and we enjoyed tasting 2007 Petit Verdot and Carter Estate Syrah.  The big winner (and best value) was a 2004 Thunderbolt Block Cab.  

South Coast offers an array of wine club memberships; see for details. The tasting area is open daily 10:00-6:00. Tours are available. 951.587.9463


The folks at Lorimar are fairly new to their piece of acreage on Berenda Road in the Temecula wine country.  Brothers Lawrie and Mark seem to have fallen into winemaking by accident but they’re having a good time with it.  Their Old Town Temecula tasting room is also a music venue on Saturday nights.  The wines are young but we like the direction they're moving in, particularly the 2008 Duet (Cab-Morvedre) and Crescendo Petit Syrah.

"The Concerto Club of Lorimar" offers several membership options and a 25% discount on additional purchases.

Lorimar's tasting room is open Monday-Thursday 12:00-6:00, Friday & Saturday 11:00-9:00, Sunday 11:00-6:00.951.240.5177


The last time we set foot in Mount Palomar Winery we left without tasting anything because we were desperate to picnic, but they have a strict “no outside food” policy.  This time we weren’t starving and much more open to whatever we might encounter.  Established in 1969 by a San Diego pop-radio magnate, this is the third-oldest winery in the region (after Maurice Carrie and Bella Vista).  The place is upscale-beautiful and bustling, with restaurants and wines for all palates.  We enjoyed the Casteletto Sangiovese, Trovato (=a good find), Merlot, and Cab – all 2006.

Mount Palomar's Family Wine Club offers several membership options. All members receive complimentary tastings and invitations to special events.

Mount Palomar's tasting areas are open daily. Hours change seasonally. 951.676.5047


We thought we’d been to every winery in Temecula, but after a year or so off we discovered that this was far from the truth.  First of all, new places are popping up all over.  Second, we’d been steadfastly avoiding some of the bigger, tour-bus-friendly wineries, assuming that they all cater to throngs of young “alcoholic Kool-Aid” drinkers who are way more interested in raucously socializing with each other than in learning about or appreciating wines. The latter is not untrue, but sometimes there’s another side.  Our best example is Wiens Family Cellars on Via Del Ponte.  Pouring for us, Chris quickly picked up on the fact that we’re into serious reds; then the good stuff came out.  We'll be back.

Wiens offers four wine club options with shipments every other month. Additional benefits include complimentary tastings, parties, and 20% off additional purchases at the winery.

Wiens Family Cellars is open dailn 10:00-5:00. 951.694.9892


Founded in 1945, Shadow Mountain in Sunshine Summit (near Warner Springs), is the Grande Dame of San Diego wineries.  It’s definitely worth the drive – even better if you spend the night in one of the nicely appointed tent-cottages.  Vintner Alex McGeary and his wife and tasting room manager Pam preside over an impressive estate of beautiful old vines. At present our favorite wines are the 2006 Zinfandel, 2007 Carignane (grassy!), 2008 Merlot (mocha, dark cherries), and 2007 Cabernet aged in both American and French oak.

Shadow Mountain's wine club members receive three bottles quarterly, a 20% discount on additional wine and on lodging at the winery, and invitations to a yearly members-only special event.

Shadow Mountain is open Wednesday-Sunday 10:00-5:00 and holiday Mondays 10:00-5:00. 760.782.0778

Saturday, June 4, 2011


We finally made it to the convivial San Pasqual tasting room in La Mesa. This urban winery, located in a Pacific Beach warehouse, added the La Mesa outlet about a year ago.  We sampled an impressive pre-release Merlot by winemaker and co-owner Linda McWilliams, who is carrying on in the tradition of former winemaker Eric Humphrey. (Humphrey's wines constitute the current tasting menu.) Skipping the passion fruit wines and anything off-dry, there was still plenty to enjoy. Our favorites were the 2008 Dry Creek Chardonnay – very lightly oaked, Balboa 2005 Tempranillo, and 2005 Cab/Merlot blend – both with pleasant tannins, and an outstanding, slightly smoky, “Ranchero” 2001 Cab/Nebbiolo blend.

The "Friends of San Pasqal" wine club is just getting started. It includes one non-San Pasqual wine per shipment (contact the winery for timing and price), free tasting, and a 20% discount on additional purchases.