Tuesday, April 17, 2012


There's excitement in the air as Matt and Todd prepare to move their operation to nicer digs in Little Italy. They expect to open the new place on Kettner and Ivy in early June. Besides offering their amazing wines by the taste, glass, or bottle, the master plan includes patio parties, a full kitchen, and wines on tap - straight from the barrels. Imagine a Saturday morning spent stocking up on produce at the Little Italy Mercato, visiting a few of neighborhood's excellent Mediterranean food shops to enhance your provisions, and then stopping by Matt and Todd's place to refill your bottle(s) with affordable, premium wine and/or to relax over a nice lunch. We can hardly wait for this place to open!

Matt using the "wine stealer" to extract a few tastes

On our most recent visit to Todd and Matt's winery on Silverton Street in Mira Mesa we sampled some  yet-to-be-bottled wines from the barrels. One of our favorites is a 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir aged a ridiculously long time (38 months!). The eucalyptus notes are prenounced but not overwhelming. Matt told a great story about discovering a little vineyard and camping out in a yurt on the owner's property. We also love the 2010 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. Stay tuned for these in the new venue, and in the meantime stop by the present location to taste and buy a few bottles to take home. One couldn't possibly go wrong with the 2008 Edna Chardonnay or the 2008 San Marcos Syrah.

7919 Silverton St., Suite 408. Open Fridays and Saturdays, 3:30-7:30. 858.527.0944


Wine lovers mingling at 57 Degrees in San Diego

A fun event on April 13 pitted - in a good-spirited way - three French wines from long- established wineries against three estate wines from San Diego County's up-and-coming Ramona Valley AVA. The official double-blind competition - judged by local winemakers, sommelliers, and chefs - was conducted according to American Wine Society rules. Later on nearly 200 guests tasted the same wines with the labels in full view, and voted for their favorites. Here's the lineup:

Sauvignon Blanc
2009 Simmonet Febvre from Saint Bris
2010 Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery from Ramona Valley

Cabernet Franc
2010 Thierry Germain from Saumur Champigny
2008 Woof 'n Rose Winery from Ramona Valley

2007 Vidal Fleury Saint Joseph
2006 Edwards Vineyards and Cellars Syrah

The medals...

And the winners are... Milagro, Woof 'n Rose, and Edwards! Woof 'n Rose's Cabernet Franc got top honors in both judgings.

Congratulations to these and other winemakers who are putting Ramona on the map!

Luci and Audrey of Milagro Farm pouring Sauvignon Blanc

Woof 'n Rose proprietors Marilyn and Steve Kahle pouring Cab Franc

Victor and Beth of  Edwards Vineyards and Cellars

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BLUE DOOR WINERY tasting room

Blue Door Winery’s tasting room is expanding and there are new offerings. We really liked the crispy 2010 steel tank Chardonnay from Santa Barbara grapes; this would be a great oyster wine! Our other favorites are the 2009 Barbera – nicely tannic, and ooooh, the Merlot. The 2010 vintage was made from local fruit (Hidden Meadows in Escondido) and aged in brand new French oak barrels. After only eleven days in the bottle, this wine was redolent of pipe tobacco and leather with a dry, fruit-scented finish. We had to bring some of this home.


Cactus Star Vineyard "Scaredy Cat Ranch" 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and Woof'n Rose 2009 Eglantine (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) both won gold medals in the 2012 Finger Lakes (NY) International Wine Competition.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Retired pediatrician Jim Jenkins has been making wine for many years, and doing so commercially since 2003. He and his wife Jeanne have ten acres of vines and apple trees just two miles north of Julian. Their estate grapes include Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir; Jim sources additional grapes from Ramona and other SoCal vineyards.

We were happy to find the Jenkins’ original tasting room re-opened after a hiatus. And we liked the Dolcezza apple wine! With only 0.5% residual sugar, it'll be a pleasant summer sipper. The 2009 Estate Pinot Noir has mineral notes and more weight than we generally encounter; it would be perfect with salmon. But the 2004 Syrah with its smoky and grassy nose won the day. What an amazing find for $25 – and the grapes came from Pyramid Vineyard, just down the road in Ramona.

The Jenkins estate includes kid- and dog-friendly picnic spots. In early fall look for a farm stand too, with tomatoes, pears… and of course apples and cider.

The J. Jenkins tasting room is open Thursday – Sunday 11:00-5:00.  760.765.3267


The Bottling Truck

March 14, 2012
April helped out with bottling at Milagro this week. Home in San Diego after a long day, her first thought was, "Wow - I'll never look at a wine bottle the same way again!" Here are the details:

Our work started with re-stacking and moving pallets to make room for all the newly bottled wine. Most of the heavy lifting involved a forklift or pallet jack navigated by winemaker Jim or farm managers Tony and Olga. We volunteers made sure that plenty of wine was ready for the tasting room crew.

Moving stuff around
While we rearranged things, bottling truck owners Dan and Rebecca were busy sterilizing and preparing the system that would transport a big batch of Sauvignon Blanc from its tank to theirs.

Prepping the lines
In the blue wheel, nitrogen sterilizes the bottles

Filling bottles of Sauvignon Blanc

We finished the day with a small batch of Rosé.

This machine seals foil capsules over the corks.

The wine travels through a filter into the bottles, which then pass through some rather ingenious corking machinery. After that come foil caps, labels, quality control, and then the bottles are ready to box up and stack on pallets. With competent humans stationed all along the production line, it all functions like clockwork, right? Well, maybe on a really good day. But next time you look at a  bottle of wine, pay attention to its shape, the material the label is made of, and the label's position. Then think about how easy or difficult it would be for a machine to smoothly attach that label to bottles coming along a conveyor belt. We certainly encountered some challenges during the day's first bottling, but nothing will go to waste. The experience made me seriously consider, for the first time, the effort boutique wineries put into their packaging - from the color and weight of the glass to the size and composition of the cork to, of course, the label. At the end of the day we'd bottled almost 500 cases. Besides the satisfaction  of a job well done, we'd made new wine-lover friends. I wouldn't want to do this every day, but I'd certainly do it again.

April 9, 2012
Update: The next day another crew helped bottle two more Milagro Estate wines (vintage 2010): a classic, well balanced Sangiovese and a standout Barbera with dry cherry on the front and nice tannins on the finish. Mmmm... We had the Barbera with dinner last night.

Link to first Milagro post...