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San Diego Wine Country Uncorked

While many people seem to believe wine is relatively new to San Diego County, the area’s legacy of viniculture reaches back into the 18th and 19th centuries when the Franciscans tilled the San Diego Mission lands, as the favorable climate and soil conditions allowed the vines to flourish.  The city’s first urban winery came to be in 1889 when Italian immigrant Virgil Bruschi started producing wines at Fifth and J Street to the delight of the Italian community in Little Italy.

Today, there are more than 100 dynamic wineries in San Diego County, as the local industry is booming. But truth be told, some misinformation seems to surround San Diego’s wine industry. For example, to the surprise of many, Temecula is not part of San Diego County. No offense to our fellow winemaking friends in Riverside County, but we are not one and the same. Another common misconception is that the area’s winemakers are inexperienced and mostly produce sweet dessert wines; and that a hot climate prevents winemakers from producing world-class wines. Once you start to explore this region, you’ll discover passionate winemakers with interesting pedigrees, growing a wide selection of varietals, thanks to the incredibly varied topography. San Diego has more distinct microclimates than any other single county in the USA with its coastline and canyons; mesas and mountains; desert and dry washes.

And according to John Alongé, local wine expert and author who founded wineheretic.com, all of this diversity fosters great variety within the local wine industry. “Vineyards and wineries are located in all corners of this vast county. Micro weather conditions, soil composition, orientation, drainage and exposure can vary dramatically from property to property. Grape selection, an ongoing experiment here, currently supports dozens of different varieties, from the usual California suspects to selections from France’s Rhone Valley, Italy’s Southern Peninsula and beyond. Wineries tend to be small, family-owned affairs here and they are not afraid to experiment.”

San Diego wines are getting better and better as you can find floral Viogniers, flirty Chardonnays, dry roses, and grassy Sauvignon Blancs, along with medium-bodied Sangioveses, robust red blends, rich and dense Petit Sirahs and more!

In San Diego County, there are no busloads of tourists and hyper-manicured wine tasting sets, rather friendly folk at intimate boutique wineries.  Here, you can stroll through 70-year old Zinfandel vines growing on a mountain side at 3500 feet, hitch up your horse and sip a Spanish Albariño at a charming hacienda property, enjoy  live opera, art, and Ruby Cabernet on a Sunday afternoon or sit back on a sunny, dog-friendly patio and taste a provocative Petite Sirah.  “San Diego County aspires to become known as a place with a great variety of hand-crafted wines to be sampled in the intimacy of small, owner-driven wineries,” explains Alongé. “Ideally, this is a place where true wine lovers are able to establish a personal connection with artisan wines as San Diego County provides a wine experience on the most human scale.”

From the mountain vineyards of Warner Springs and pastoral countryside of Ramona to the warehouses of Valley Center and urban wineries of downtown, San Diego has something for everyone.
Meet the Members of the San Diego County Vintners Association and get a San Diego Wine Country map here.

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