Monday, March 26, 2012


San Diego County played a significant role in the history of California winemaking. The county’s wine roots extend back to the early 1800s, when San Diego was still part of Mexico. Mission San Diego de Alcalá (its basilica is the heart of Old Town) was well known for wine.

The Basilica, Mission San Diego

Most wine enthusiasts don't know that, back in the day, there were over a hundred wineries in Los Angeles County. Joseph Filippi Winery, established in 1922, is one of the last reminders of the region's viticultural history. The Filippi family still owns 80 acres in Cucamonga, producing around 40,000 cases per year of red varietals and fortified wines. Guests can taste at a bar was cut from the largest redwood wine cask in California. 

A bit of Filippi family history
(Click Photo)

Likewise, European immigrants took up planting, harvesting, and fermenting the produce of San Diego County's vines. The Otay Valley was home to a large community of Italians and, towards the late 1800s, produced more wine than anywhere else in the county. Meanwhile, French immigrants were establishing themselves and their vineyards in the town of Nuevo (present-day Ramona), Julian, and Vista. Early 20th-Century customers at the wineries and wine shops such as Bradley's in downtown San Diego were encouraged to bring their own casks of gallon jugs for filling; bottling was the exception, not the rule. Aged and/or imported wines were definitely not for the average person.

Grape growing increased during Prohibition because grapes could be legally sold for home winemaking. Post-Prohibition there was a short upsurge in commercial winemaking, but during World War II rationing, labor shortages, decrease in wine consumption, and huge profits to be made in growing food for the war effort nearly destroyed the region's wine industry. The post-war generation didn't emmbrace wine the way their parents had; hard liquor and beer becaue the alcoholic beveragees of choice.

Now things have changed again. According to historian Richard Carrico, whose 2007 monograph History of the Wineries of San Diego County informs this post, "San Diego is poised to take its place in the surging Rhone style wine craze and the Cal-Italia surge. Escondido, Ramona, Fallbrook, and Julian may never be Sonoma or Napa but they could become something in the wine world that is uniquely San Diego County.”

Cheers! Carrico is in the process of updating his work; we’ll keep you posted.

Some Historic SoCal Wineries

Bernardo (founded 1889)
Tasting room open daily
13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte
San Diego


San Antonio (founded 1917)
Tasting room open daily
737 Lamar St.
Los Angeles

Joseph Filippi (founded 1922)
Tasting room open daily
12467 Base Line Road
Rancho Cucamonga

Galleano (founded 1933)
Tasting room open daily
4321 Wineville Road
Mira Loma


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