Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Pyramid Vineyard used to be a Christmas tree farm, tended on the weekends by owner Don Kohorst and his family. As the children grew older their enthusiasm for the business declined, and in time Kohorst decided to get out of tree farming. Retired from his engineering job, in 2000 he started planting vines and learning about winemaking from the likes of Lum Eisenman, who founded the San Diego Amateur Winemaking Society, and Ramona wine guru Johnny Schwaesdall. Later on he took some classes at Mira Costa College and directly from Eisenman, in collaboration with the folks at Belle Marie Winery. Since then Kohorst has become friends with Joe Cullen of Cactus Star Vineyards; he calls Cullen his "taster."  

All of Pyramid's wines are estate grown. There are several Muscats including a dry one - rare in these parts, plus  a couple of light-bodied, full-flavored reds. The 2008 Syrah won a gold medal at the fourth annual Lum Eisenman Ramona Valley Wine Competition.

The Pyramid tasting room – a work in progress when we first visited in 2011 – is now completely enclosed and comfortably furnished, with picnic tables just outside. Open weekends 12:00-5:00. 760.789.4682


Vintners Nathan, Sandy, and Garrett Marsh have just opened a friendly, comfortable tasting room and wine bar right in downtown Ramona, exclusively featuring San Diego County wines and beers. Their place is in the rear of the antique store at 369 Main St. Currently six wineries are represented: Lenora, Mahogany Mountain, Orfila, Pamo, Salerno, and Shadow Mountain. This list is already quite good and will only expand as the Marshes continue to reach out to area wineries.

In a few years the Marshes will be pouring their own El Tesoro wines too. According to Nathan, "If it weren't for Alex and Shadow Mountain we wouldn't be doing this." A visit there is what inspired Nathan and Sandy to plant vines on their twelve acres in Ranchita. Nathan explains his family's leap into vinticulture quite simply: "I just like wine!"

Guests of SoCal Wine Co. may choose five tastes for $8 or purchase wine by the glass or bottle. Bottle prices are the same as at the wineries. The menu below is a sample; offernings change.

760.518.1229 760.518.0296

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It had been a few months since our last visit, and we found plenty new to like at Edwards Vineyard and Cellars. Victor Edwards recently released his 2006 Whale Mountain Red, a delicious and very affordable estate blend of Syrah and Petit Syrah. We also got to taste a not-yet-labeled bottle of 2006 Estate Syrah; stay tuned for this one! Don't let a little wind keep you away from the Edwards' tasting patio; Beth sets up a nice heater.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Matthew Richards started out brewing beer… and one thing led to another. Since 2008 he and his business partner Todd have been making quite a range of very impressive wines. At a recent gathering of wine club members and friends they were pouring at least eight different bottles or barrel samples; our notes document four whites and four reds, but we were having a very good time and may have left out a few. Wines bearing the Matthew Richards label come primarily from Northern California grapes: Napa, Edna Valley, Lake County… while San Diego Cellars features local fruit.


 Honestly, we liked every single thing we tasted. The standouts include 2008 Edna Chardonnay – dry, very crisp, mineral-tinged; 2008 Edna Pinot Noir – grassy on the nose, it reminded us of an Oregon Pinot (or perhaps a pre-Sideways California one). We loved the deep, full 2008 San Diego Syrah; the 2009, not yet bottled, is even more impressive. Matt ages his wines exclusively in French oak barrels, some of which sport pretty cool paint jobs.

In the near future, Matt and Todd's enterprise will have a home in Little Italy at Kettner and Ivy. Right now they're tucked into an industrial park: 7919 Silverton Avenue, Suite 408. Open Fridays and Saturdays 3:30-7:30. 858.527.0944

The Matthew Richards/San Diego Cellars wine club offers a 20% discount on everything, free tastings for members and up to three guests, special wine offerings, and parties. Members can choose the amount of wine they would like to buy and request shipments tailored to their taste.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Co-owner John Stires did some extracurricular winemaking before he and Brian Leventhal, linked by their stints at ExpoTV, took it to the next level and founded the Brooklyn Winery. The 6000 sq. ft. winery, restaurant, and event space opened its doors in October 2010. The winery’s immediate predecessor in what, from the street, resembles a warehouse was a seedy nightclub called “Supreme Trading.” Only a disco ball remains of that iteration. The winery is a comfortable multi-level space with a courtyard that doubles as a dock for receiving and crushing climate-controlled truckloads of grapes.

The Disco Ball
We sampled the three house-made wines on tap, especially liking pleasantly dry “Untitled” Finger Lakes Riesling and a jammy Zinfandel from Lodi, CA fruit. Bartender Greg told us that there’ll be a new-release Merlot in about two months. The printed menu showcases an international selection of wines by the glass that offers very good value for price, plus thoughtfully chosen, high-quality food offerings. One can order a yummy snack or a satisfying meal.

In 2011 Brooklyn Winery’s Finger Lakes Riesling and Chardonnay won gold medals at the New York State Food and Wine Festival. Winemaker Conor McCormack brings a Northern California sensibility to what he does, specializing in boutique custom crush operations and micro-lot fermentations. He likes to experiment, e.g., by aging the same wine in steel plus two different wood barrels. McCormack aims not only to produce the best wine possible from the best fruit available, but also to demonstrate the different styles of wine that can be made from the same fruit.

Clients' Wines
Brooklyn Winery offers an array of winemaking packages tailored to clients’ budgets and the degree to which they want to participate in the process.

213 N. 8th St., Brooklyn, NY 11211 (about a 10-minute subway ride from Union Square)  M-Th 5pm – 12 am, F 5pm – 1 am, Sa 1pm-1am, Su 1pm-12am. The kitchen closes an hour early. 347-763-1506


This is our kind of place! We’d barely removed our hats and gloves when friendly bartender Saida brought us tastes of City Winery’s Petit Syrah. Soon we were sipping out way through the lineup, guided by Raul Mesias, Director of Wine Sales. Soothed by gentle rumblings from the No. 2 subway below, we tasted ten wines on tap: two featuring New York State grapes, the rest from California. Our favorites were Finger Lakes, NY Cabernet Franc; Lake County, CA Barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc; and Lodi, CA Petit Syrah. The comprehensive wine list offers much more by the glass and around 500 bottles representing the best of what just about anyone could want to drink.

The Bar
Bottle Lamps, Streetside at Dusk
The Barrel Room restaurant and tasting bar is a very recent addition to this 21,000-foot space, which Michael Dorf of Knitting Factory fame opened as an urban winery and nightly music venue in 2008. City Winery specializes in barrel ownership, offering hands-on experience in the winemaking process and of course private labels to document the results. Winemaker David Lecomte hails from the Rhone Valley, but he’s open to working with grapes from anywhere, provided that they can be properly transported. A barrel (average price around $8000) yields 252 bottles – quite a lot of a single wine, but barrel owners automatically become “members” in the winery and are invited to classes and private events where they can informally trade wine amongst themselves.

In August 2012 City Winery will open a new spot in Chicago’s West Loop. Meanwhile, check here for current information about the NYC winery's hours and events. 155 Varick St. between Spring and Vandam 212.608.0555