San Diego Wines, from San Diego County grapes

We attend a monthly wine tasting and pot luck, where we choose a particular wine reagion of the world and each show up with at least one bottle of wine fromn the region and a food dish that is representative of the region. We have done dozens of the usual suspects (Champagne, the Loire, Burgundy, Piedmont, Priorat, Rhone, Alsace, etc.) This month it’s San Diego County! Lots of good stuff happening from Los Pilares, Cactus Star, Orfila, Stehleon, Vesper, and Volcan Mtn. Have been particularly impressed with wines from Vesper (Chris Broomell), Los Pilares (a group effort), and Stehleon (Alysha Stehly). From Vesper their El Nido vineyard (Rancho Santa Fe) Pinot Noir was truely eye opening and was very much in a traditional Burgundian style, and their Rancho Guejito white and rose are both pretty tasty. Stehleon’s Sangiovese was also surprising good for just just 6 year old vines grown in Rancho Santa Fe. Very much like a traditional dry Italian Chianti. Los Pilares has been getting some terrific press and accolades from many in the wine world and their minimalistic natural wines are very food friendly and truly unique. Their standout wines are a pet nat spakling Moscato and a Carignane / Granche blend. Very different and both very enjoyable.

Do you have any San Diego favorites? Has anyone been on the SD winery tour?

Will report back after this weekend to let you all know what pleasant surprises and or disappointments were encountered at our tasting!

I guess Temecula is Riverside County, huh? I think Vesper rocks. Sister winery Stehleon good too. Family-related Triple B Ranches not so much.

Your two favorites are the best. We actually enjoyed Hungry Hawk, nice family. I did not like Hacienda de las Rosas when they were down in Old Town and I have not had the desire to go back since they moved up to Ramona. If you stay with the reds at Orfilia, they are good. Don’t like the stuff that they make for the tourist trade. I liked Milagro, but I am not sure of the future of the winery with the property sale.

Thanks Steve,

There are more than 100 registered wineries in San Diego County now and I have tried only a small fraction of them. I’ll look out for Hungry Hawk. I understand that Milagro’s winemaker has left and is now the winemaker with his brother for Volcan Mountain (Jim and Mike Hart). Have not tried any wines from Volcan, but hear some good things about their Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio.

Yes, I think the best grapes go to Vesper and Stehleon. Triple B gets the left over fruit and isn’t really promoted by Alysha or Chris even though I believe Chris is the winemaker.

Yes, Temecula is in Riverside County. Here’s a publication that talks about the wineries that are in San Diego County – and only SD County.

The Wine tasting went very well. Top favorites were the Vesper Rancho Guejito White (grenache blanc, picpoul, and rousanne), and their Grenache Rose. Edwards 2010 Syrah was another crowd favorite as was the Stehleon Sangiovese from Rancho Santa Fe which drank just like a modern Chianti. The Coyote Oaks Zin / Petit syrah was a little flabby, but still quite quaffable. The Los Pilares unfined and unfiltered “pet nat” Muscato was probably the biggest surprise for people as it was so untraditional and so damn good. Can’t wait to try their “Pet Nat” Cabernet Sauvignon!

Los Pilares “Pet Nat”

Chris Broomell is terrific. Who in the world does Picpoul… let alone in San Diego!!!

Yes Midlife, Picpoul seems to be the new darling (white wine) grape of California. Lots of central coast wineries (Adelaida, Tablas Creek, Luna Matta, Villa Creek, Broc Cellars, Epoch, Lone Madrone,Terry Hoage, and many others) now producing wines from picpoul grapes.

I’d like to enjoy a San Diego County wine that truly impresses. Which, of all the varieties and vineyards that have been mentioned in this thread so far, is your favorite red, and where can it be locally purchased?

Vesper and Stehleon have a tasting room/winery in Escondido out by the mile of cars and not far from Stone Brewery. Only open Fri - Sunday. Right now Im pretty impressed with Stehleon’s sangiovese from Rancho Santa Fe. Vesper’s Pinot Noir from a different vineyard in RSF is supurb. I have one bottle left, but believe Vesper sold out some time ago. Their granache/carignan is also quite good but I believe they may have sold out of that as well. I tried their first harvest mouvedre and wow was it wild. Not sweet, but very pronounced jolly rancher watermelon coming through. Not bad, but very different from anything I’ve ever tried.

Highly recommend visiting Chris and Alysha at their tasting room and winery. If they aren’t too busy running a tasting ask them for a tour of the winery. Very cool stuff and now they have some new concrete fermenters that look like giant brown eggs. Personally I’m a huge fan of these types of fermenters as they seem to provide soft earthy notes to the wines without imparting much external flavors. Their website lists a whole bunch of places that carry their wines so even if the winery is sold out of something you may be able to find it elsewhere.


And even if you’re a red wine drinker, the pet nat muscat rose from Los Pilares is so different and so good it needs to be tried to be believed. It made a couple national top 100 wines lists. They are making a pet nat cabernet sauvignon that is also supposed to be different and amazing though I haven’t tried it yet. They can be found at the Vinavanti tasting room/winery off of Mira Mesa blvd.


Occasionaly SD Wines carries Vesper and Vintage Wines carries Los Pilares. But Vinavanti is so close by you might as well go directly to the source

Yes Triple B is Chris’s father’s label and hobby project.

I believe any left over Vesper or Stehleon fruit goes to that label. I tried the wines when i visited the winery and vineyards many years ago. Dont remember much about the Triple B wines, but I do remember that I didnt buy any. Vesper and Stehleon no longer make wines from the home winery as they have a new (3yo) winery in Escondido.

SIP the City Urban Wine Tasting event kicks off tonight at The Headquarters. Lots of wine to taste with food and live entertainment for just $20!

This kick off event will take place in the beautiful Headquarters outdoor courtyard. Not only will you get to sip the award-winning wines of many of our unique urban wineries, but there will also be great food and live entertainment!
Tickets are $20 per person. This is a 21+ age event.

2Plank Vineyards
BK Cellars Urban Winery
California Fruit Wine
Carruth Cellars
Gianni Buonomo Vintners
Koi Zen Cellars
Negociant Winery
San Pasqual Winery
Solterra Winery
Stehleon Vineyards
Vesper Vineyards
Vinavanti Urban Winery
Witch Creek Winery

There are thirteen urban wineries located throughout San Diego and North County, buying grapes from the country and making wine in the city for your enjoyment. San Diego Urban Wine Week, June 2 - 8, is your chance to go out and explore the urban wineries in your neighborhood!

Sip The City

Thanks, RISD. Yes, Vesper’s Pinot Noir is sold out, according to their website. All of the reds listed on the Vinavanti website are from out-of-county vineyards, and I’m really only interested in wines from SD County (proper) grapes. SD Wines doesn’t have any of these in stock. The good news is that Whole Foods in Hillcrest carries Stehleon (it says here), so I think I’ll stop by and see if they have the sangiovese.

BTW. Stehleon sangiovese is mentioned in the Kindle book that I referenced earlier. The author calls it “…a big, bold Sangiovese that will revise your impression of this grape”.

Hey Doc, the Vinavanti tasting room-winery is also home to Los Pilares. And even though not on the website, Los Pilares wines are tasted and sold there (I know because I have tasted and bought Los Pilares wines there). I believe that they now are also made there, but could be mistaken.

Both Stehleon and Vesper make a SD sourced Sangiovese. Both are good, but I like the Stehleon from the Rappaport Vinyard in RSF the best. It is a pretty big but well balanced wine. A Chianti style no doubt, but a big one (15% abv) almost like a Super Tuscan without the cab. The Vesper sangiovese is from The Hidden Gem Vineyard in Ramona, it’s a more refined and restrained wine made in a more traditional chianti style. Still very good.

Hey Doc, per the Los Pilares website they make their wines at Vinavanti:

We partner with Vinavanti in San Diego to produce our wines. Drop by and taste their great wines in addition to ours at: 1477 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103.

In addition to the Los Pilares wines, Vinivanti usually carries at least one Vesper wine as well. Their website says that they currently carry the Vesper Granche Rose, which is a wonderful and refreshing summer wine. So great with BBQ especially when served nice and chilled on a warm day.

Also since it’s SD Urban Wine Week this week, Vinavanti have tastings of some SD sourced wines from Vesper, Stehleon, Los Pilares and San Pasqual.

Tried to convince my darling wife to attend last night’s event, but she did not want to stray far from home.

Don’t forget about the Toast of the Coast at the SD fair on June 11th. There are going to be wineries from the central coast and the Napa/Sonoma region, but there has always been a pretty good representation of SD county wineries. There seemed to be about the same number of wineries as the last SD County Vintners Assoc. festival at RB winery I attended. Plus it is a much nicer venue than the RB Winery. Not that RB is bad, but they had the wine tasting along those pathways between all the buildings at RB not out in that lovely grass area to the east.

Yes thank you for the heads up Steve. I have been hearing adds for this on KPBS, but have never been. Might be interesting. I’m all for supporting our local vineyards and winemakers.

Yes, Vinavanti makes the wines, but the red wine grapes that they use (except, I now notice, the Syrah) are from out-of-county vineyards. I was looking on this website:

Have you had the Vinavanti Syrah?

I think I’m still going to try to get a bottle of the Stehleon sangiovese first.