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Sep 29, 2003 02:00 AM

Best San Diego Area winery - Ferrara?

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Ok, I've only stopped at two so far ... the vastly over-rated, IMO, Orfila and Ferrara. What else is good? What else is swill?

I found Orfila first and the warning bells went off when I saw all the touristy signs, but it DID say it was an award winning winerey (was the award from Wal-mart?)

Five bucks for six sips with a glass to take home. Second radar warning ... how to pronouce common wines ... shar DOH nay.. can you say TAN NIN? Man, the 35 buck pinot noir gave me fish face. I've never been to a winery before that warned you not to open the bottle for a few months ... no kidding ... why give tastes then? The port was deplorable, very raisony. They gave you a Hershey kiss and told you to take a sip before eating the candy and then afterward ... there would be a totally different taste ... well the taste post kiss was reminisant of raisonettes. Yuck.

Of the six tastes I had, I wouldn't buy one. I didn't like any of them. Pretty picnic grounds though and you can take a self-guided tour through the winery.

Ferrara on the other hand was charming. No glasses, but little plastic thimbles to sample the wine ... FOR FREE. They were really generous and I must have tried about eight different wines.

The port is my favorite California port ... anywhere. Better than anything from Napa / Sonoma. It even gives some of the stuff from Portugal competition. Very complex flavors with an overall taste of butterscotch. Well worth the $18 bucks.

At Christmas they do a special port that is only available the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's day. Supposedly it is exceptional.

They currently have three ports available ... generation III is the best. I haven't tried the white port yet since I was starting to get buzzed.

Lovely Barbera with a peppery taste. It is very smooth as well. They do great table wines in two liter sizes at about 7 bucks a bottle. They have the white, pink zin and red table wines in gallon sizes as well. I'd proudly serve these at a party.

The Nonie Gino (Grandpa George) Vino Di Caspanoe is a nice mix of three varietal wines. Very good drinking wine.

I have a friend who likes white zin and Frrara does a nice one for about six bucks. It isn't cloying and sweet like most white zins and has a lovely pink-copper color.

The reds run about $10 a bottle and are a good value for the money.

So what other wineries are worth a trip?



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  1. When I saw the subject line in Hot Posts, I opened your messag expecting to recommend Orfila. Oh well.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      Stanley Stephan

      I was hoping a few people who knew wine would respond to my trashing of Orfila. As I've said quite a few times, wine is not my area of expertise.

      Is there something I should be looking for in Orfila that I'm missing? The three reds I had really had excessive tannin. So maybe years from now the wine would be wonderful. Maybe 1991 is a bum year for Orfila.

      The chardonay also had an edge to it that made it unpleasant drinking. The best of the lot was the Reisling, but I'm new to that variety (thanks to lots of your posts I'm learing to appreciate it). However, that wine had all the qualities of Reisling that I hate of being overly floral.

      I will claim a little expertise in port though and this was awful.

      So am I just being a wine cretin here and missing something in these wines?

      BTW, I am aware that Ferrera is not the type of wine you put in your wine cellar, but what a pleasant and affordable table wine.

      1. re: Stanley Stephan

        wine tasting in san diego? I would rather get up at six on a Saturday morn and high tail it to Santa Ynez and taste a nice
        Curtis or Sanford than taste the swill at the local wineries. Sorry guys, but the wines in SD really stink.

    2. Best wineries in the SD area are in Baja. Try the Guadalupe Valley, just north of Ensenada.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Gayla
        Stanley Stephan

        Thanks for the tip. Any wineries you like in particular in that area?

        I worked in Mexico City in the mid 90's and at that time I was told there was only one winery in the country of Mexico.

        1. re: Stanley Stephan

          For a long time Santo Tomas was the only winery in Mexico. It is located in Ensenada as well. I remember doing a winery tour of their facility back in the early to mid 80s. Very commercial, poor to moderate quality wines. Things have really changed. Many of the old families in the Guadalupe Valley have sent their offspring to either UC Davis or school in France to learn wine making techniques. It is this younger generation that has come home and is really beginning to produce some fine wines.

          Currently I like most of what Monte Xanic produces. There is an exceptional San Giovasese (can't spell that) style wine being produced by one of the wineries in the Valley that is really a very, very nice rendition. It's a great everyday type of red wine at a pretty reasonable price.

          The U/T Food section did a large feature story on the wineries in the Guadalupe Valley within the last year. If you subscribe to the U/T you can go to their web site and try and do an archieve search for the article. If you don't subscribe to the U/T let me know and I'll see if I can access it for you. I could then do a cut and paste e-mail to you with the pertinent data.

        2. re: Gayla

          How do you get to taste there? It's been a few years since I made that beautiful drive, but the last time I was there, I saw no wineries open for tasting, no tasting rooms, nor even any wine retailers offering samples. Have things changed? Did I miss something?


          1. re: e.d.

            e.d., yes, you can do tasting. Not at all of them, of course. But there are now road signs directing you to wineries that will allow you to visit and taste. Some are small and others bigger operations. I'm going to be talking to Gary the Wine Guy in a few days. He operates Wines of Mexico here in San Diego. I'll ask him which wineries now have tasting opportunities. I'll post back when I find out.

            You're right it is a beautiful drive, except for the 20 year old Federales at the checkpoint about 20 miles up Rte. 3 on the Ensenada side. They were toting machine guns and looked like they'd just like an excuse to use them :-O

        3. Dear Stanley:
          I'm glad you found some good wine at Ferrara. As a younger (hah!) man, I lived in Escondido for about five years, and never stopped at Ferrara. In those days I never heard anything at *all* about the wine, so I suppose I succumbed to the stereotypical view that any winery in San Diego County was an heirloom of prohibition days when wine was made and bottled here because there were fewer feds than in the more likely locales.

          Having said that, I *still* don't think anyone is going to mistake Santee for Sonoma or San Marcos for St. Helena. On the other hand, I definitely agree with Gayla that the best wine made in these general parts comes from Valle de Guadalupe. My very favorite fume blanc is the stuff made up yonder by Cakebread (well over $50 in a restaurant), but my second favorite is Chateau Camou from Baja which retails for about $10 when you can find it in the local wine shops here. Someone once told me it was less expensive in San Diego than in Mexico due to the weird tax structure. Anyway, thanks for the tip on the Ferrara port, and do try to arrange a trip to Baja. It's an easy day trip from San Diego.
          . . jim strain in san diego.

          1. I am partial to Witch Creek in Carlsbad. Dave runs a boutique winery with very limited production and distribution, but usually good stuff. I had a cab there a few years ago that was out of this world, even when relatively young. They also have a "cellar club" in which you can get their wines mailed to you with a copy of their monthly newsletter.

            All in all, good stuff.