Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Becky Cullen designs cool labels like this one.

We were the very first customers to visit Cactus Star Vineyard’s new tasting patio. The Vineyard is part of Joe and Becky Cullen’s Scaredy Cat Ranch,  named after a very timid horse. Joe’s engineering job took him to Spain, Italy, Germany and Turkey, where came to know and enjoy wine. In 1995 Becky gave him a winemaking kit for his birthday; the rest is history. The couple relocated from Pittsburgh to Ramona, planting their first grapes in 2001. Their winery – ensconced in a couple of small, semi-underground structures – has been licensed and bonded since 2006. There are now 600 vines on the Cullens' property. Joe makes around 150 cases of wine each year, most of which is estate-grown. His “Two Dogs Barking” label differentiates non-estate wine sourced exclusively from the Ramona AVA.

Two Dogs Barking
We liked everything here, starting with a dry, tasty, 2009 Two Dogs Barking Grenache. The 2009 Scaredy Cat Ranch (100%) Tempranillo is a winner. This grape is hard to grow in Ramona because it’s not heat tolerant, but Joe’s vines are on a slope that gets a marine breeze. It was interesting to compare the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (80% Cab, 15% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec) and the Petit Verdot from the same year (80% Petit Verdot, 15% Cab, 5% Malbec). We ultimately decided on the Cabernet Sauvignon for its well rounded flavor and dry finish.

It was a pleasure to visit and taste these wines. We'll be back! 

Stained glass art adorns the winery structures.
Cactus Star's tasting patio is open on weekends by appointment.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


On our second visit to the Edwards’s beautiful tasting patio, Beth was pouring a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and two distinctive Syrahs: ’04 and ’05. We scored  another bottle of the ’04. Winemaker Victor – indisputably one of the best in the Ramona AVA – and vineyard canine Doc joined us on a perch overlooking the vines.

Victor told us about how, after a harvest, he likes to taste the grape juices and experiment with blending them. For instance, he has four different clones of Syrah that he tastes separately and together. After fermentation, most of his wines are aged in pre-owned French Oak barrels. “You can pick your aroma profile from barrels that are already seasoned and have had wine in them.”

Victor Edwards and some of his Vines
The Edwards will officially release their 2007 Petit Syrah on Saturday Nov. 5, but they were kind enough to give us a pre-taste. Very impressed, we asked to buy a bottle and Victor took us up to the winery to fetch one. There we saw some serious equipment and met dark-faced white sheep, quite a few free-ranging chickens, and of course the winery cats.

The Edwards tasting patio is open on weekends 11:00-4:00. 760.788.0738


Link to first Edwards post...