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Apr 14, 2004 11:17 AM

Wineries in San Diego area

  • k

My father will be visiting me in San Diego this Memorial Day weekend and I think he'd like to try a nice Winery in the San Diego area. What's recommended? (Temucula, Rancho Bernardo, Julian) ???????????

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  1. There are several wineries in SD. My favorite is Orfelia which is out in the San Pasqual valley. Their reds and whites are both good. This is also the most commerical winery in SD which can be good and bad. A big winery in SD would be a mini winery in Napa. I have found the other wineries in SD to be hit and miss and more miss than hit. Temecula is another story. There are several very good wineries out there. my favorite is Hart Winery. It is small buthtey do have a large selection of wines. Callaway is commerical but their wines are very good. We have also had good luck with Bailey and a new winery Pointe. Thorton is a bit snooty for temecula. Wilson sucks dont go there. There are several nice places for lunch. We have eaten at most of the winery spots. They are good but I found Thorton to be pricey for the food and the service to be slow.

    6 Replies
    1. re: littlestevie

      I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the Temecula wineries. Our favorite lunch spot is the picnic ground at Mount Palomar; a scenic view of the valley and an altogether pleasant spot.

      1. re: littlestevie

        Stevie: I am going to Temecula for the first time this Sunday. Which area do you think would be the best spot for picnicking? Also, can you buy picnic food from the actual wineries, or do you bring in your own "supplies:?


        1. re: Liquid Sky

          I think the picnic area at Mt Palomar is no more. There are some picnic tables set up at Hart and Wilson Creek, the latter being the nicer setting but I don't care for their wines. There are also tables set up outside Wien Winery --they do have good wine. Most wineries specify that you drink only their wine on the premises (state law?) but I've never know them to check. If you're not bringing your own provisions I suggest stopping at Baron's on Rancho California right before you hit wine country.

          1. re: ChrisG

            Hi Chris,

            I'm a little confused about Palomar. Do you mean that they no longer let you use the picnic area? Because it seems that they do sell their own deli sandwiches; it's not just their restaurant.

            Anyway, thanks!

            1. re: Liquid Sky

              The picnic area above the winery, with the nice view, looked like it was bulldozed over. I'm not sure what they are planning, maybe a restaurant? But I'm bummed because that was my favorite picnic spot. They may still have a few picnic tables on the path above the parking lot, and of course on the attached patio next to the tasting room.

              1. re: ChrisG

                Oh... okay. Are there any areas you would recommend if you want to be outside, but not necessarily do a formal lunch? (We want to enjoy the outdoors there as much as we can during a short visit.)

                Maurice Car'rie, perhaps? Aren't their wines decent? And they have a picnic spot...


      2. I'd much rather go to valle guadalupe in baja. if you want to picnic, you can do so at L.A.Cetto. alternatively or in addition, you could eat in TJ or Rosarito.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ibstatguy

          Or if you want upscale dining in the Guadalupe Valley, try Laja. Adobe Guadalupe is making some of the best wines in the GV, as is Casa de Piedra (Adobe Guadalupe's winemaker is from there), but Casa de Piedra is rarely open. Adobe Guadalupe probably requires reservations to taste. Chateau Camou and Monte Xanic are worth visiting as well (don't remember if reservations are required at either). Not that crazy about Cetto. Make sure you have a car with good suspension to visit Adobe Guadalupe, Chateau Camou or Monte Xanic, they're all off a very rutted dirt road.

          1. re: mikec

            Mike - great rec's. re Cetto, the bull ring is a great area for a picnic. Cetto's reserve nebbiolo is preety good, IMO. Re Piedra, a bit over priced wouldn't you say?

            1. re: ibstatguy

              Not really a fan of hot-climate Nebbiolo in general. I haven't tried L.A. Cettto's, but it would have to pass a pretty high bar for me.

              Piedra, don't know, they've never had anything to taste or for sale when I've been there, which I suppose is a mixed blessing. I've only been able to try their wines a couple of times from friends, but they didn't mention the price. I thought Adobe Guadalupe's prices were OK for what they were (about $25/btl. last time I was there). Certainly not a deal, in any measure.

              1. re: mikec

                I'm no wine growing expert but I'd think that the valle guadalupe, with it's afternoon/evening colling breezes would be a very good location to produce nebbiolo. I'm certainly not going to try to compare an LA Cetto nebbiolo to, if you will, the real thing.

                1. re: mikec

                  I have to agree with ibstatguy; The Cetto Nebbiolo is as good or better than any American Nebbiolo's I've had - though I can't recall ever having a top end, top dollar Nebbiolo from California. And for $12 or so, it's a good deal.

                  Last time I tried to taste there, Monte Xanic required reservations, but that was a few years ago.


          2. Orfila http://www.orfila.com/ is by far the best winery our there, in San Pasqual. Leon Santoro is a great winemaker with lots of experience and is doing a great job.

            Baily Winery http://www.bailywinery.com/ makes excellent dry Riesling, rose and other wines.

            Other possibilities would include:

            -- Thornton Winery (the old Culbertson), which makes some pretty good sparkling wines http://www.thorntonwine.com/ (though they lose points for insisting on calling it "Champagne"


            -- Hart Winery, makers of some very nice reds -- indeed, probably the only Temecula vintner better known for reds than whites http://www.thehartfamilywinery.com/

            -- Mount Palomar Winery http://www.mountpalomar.com/

            -- Ponte Winery http://www.pontewinery.com/

            13 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              Thanks, zin. I think our plan is:

              1) Hit HART WINERY first because I've heard rave reviews, and we drink 98% reds (2% champagne);

              2) Check out Long's Drugstore right on the main road because apparently they have many Temecula wines at 1/3 off (not Hart's though)

              3) Stop at MOUNT PALOMAR for lunch -- they have a deli -- and hopefully picnic on their site... that is, if the picnic site hasn't been "bulldozed" as another Chowhounder recently reported; others have said they have some of the best views from their site

              4) If it doesn't work out with Palomar, maybe try MAURICE CAR'RIE with a similar plan as #3 (nice outdoor views); apparently they serve a great brie w/ bread to help temper all the alcohol

              5) Although I like the idea of touring their cellars, we may not have time to do the tour at CALLAWAY; we'll see if time permits...

              Have heard uniformly bad things about the customer service and general attitude at THORNTON (rude remarks/behavior of staff), so will skip them altogether; HOWEVER will look for their champagne at Long's Drugstore -- hopefully heavily discounted.

              Will concentrate on Cab Franc, Zin, Syrah, Claret, Grenache; maybe Meritage or Sangiovese.

              How's my plan? Cheers, Oenophiles!!

              1. re: Liquid Sky

                That Long's has quite a selection and great prices!!! The bread at Maurice is nice..the restaurant was not good..only ate there once. I had a great experience at Thronton...i enjoyed the "red" tasting on the terrace...the restaurant is decent but quite $$.

                1. re: Ela0427

                  Hi Ela,

                  What would you recommend for us to do for lunch on a Sundady? We don't want to do anything formal or sit-down. An open spot for a picnic would be ideal.

                  1. re: Liquid Sky

                    Picnic at Palomar for sure! there are some picnic tables at Maurice too but Sunday will be busy. My best suggestion would be to stay open minded and see how the day progresses.

                2. re: Liquid Sky

                  I'd skip Maurice Car'rie, and merely remind you that the best wines are at Orfila (IMHO, they are the best winery south of Santa Barbara Co.). But more than anything else . . . have fun!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Thanks, zin. I think we're going to stick to Temecula this time. Maybe on another trip we'll check out Orfila.

                    We're in to the surroundings as much as we are in to the wine. Cheers!

                    1. re: Liquid Sky

                      call Palomar to find out about the picnic area..that would be a huge bummer if it was closed.

                      1. re: Ela0427

                        Good idea. Also good to have an alternate plan. Which is why I was thinking Maurice Car'rie or Stuart Cellars. Apparently they both have "picnic areas". Also Maurice Car'rie sells food -- aside from their restaurant.

                      2. re: Liquid Sky

                        Just curious . . . ever been to Temecula before?

                          1. re: Liquid Sky

                            i just looked at the Temecula website and you could also try Cilurzo. I have not been there in a while but they used to have picnic tables and lots of gorgeous peacocks walking around. Keyways also says they have a picnic area.


                            have lots of fun and be careful since it is easy to get pretty tipsy!! If you make it to Thornton, try the Nebiolo. I did not see it on the website but i am sure that we tasted it there and also bought it at Longs. Thornton has a great appetizer... bried wrapped in puffed pastry, drizzled with honey and topped with blueberries and walnuts. I have made it at home since I tried it there.

                            1. re: Ela0427

                              Thanks, Ela! We have to make it to our niece's 4th birthday party, so any tasting will be severely limited.

                3. i have to say in 3 years my opinion has not really changed. Hart still is the class of the valley. I would add Wein, they have a beautiful tasting room. Callaways reserves are nice but that tasting room is way too crowded. I think Thorton's opinion of themselves is much higher than the quality of the wines. and if you have a chance Orfilia really is good.

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: littlestevie

                    Hi stevie: If someone has never been to either Temecula or Orfilia before, which would you recommend... and why?

                    We love great red wines. But as stated before, we are as much in to the surroundings as the wine itself.

                    Tours and tastings are fine. We would also like to find pretty, open spaces for walking and picnic-ing. Thanks!

                    1. re: Liquid Sky

                      I would do temecula if I could do only one, because you have so many choices. Bailey has some nice wines as well. My only problem is that the wineries is that they are pretty close togther and fairly close to the main road which is pretty heavily traveled. It just seems that you are out in the suburbs tasting wines. I live in north SD county and I am up in Santa Ynez much more than Temecula because I like the more rural feel of the area. That being said, it is still worth your while to try Temecula wines.

                      1. re: Liquid Sky

                        Temecula is quite a drive - it will definitely take all day to drive up - taste, and drive back. If you just want to spend an afternoon, I'd recommend Orfila. It's a nice setting and the wines are pretty good.

                        Julian is also scenic and pretty (more so than Temecula) but will probably be quite crowded on a holiday weekend.

                        1. re: Alice Q

                          I should have explained that I'm driving very early from Los Angeles to Temecula. Then heading to San Diego (Sorrento Valley) from Temecula for a birthday party.

                          We'd be willing to head to Orfila Winery instead of Temecula, but most people have told us that Temecula is worth the trip.

                          1. re: Liquid Sky

                            That makes sense then - since Temecula isn't too terribly far out of the way. Hope you enjoy it!

                            1. re: Alice Q

                              I don't want to be negative, but Temecula wines just aren't worth it. Viognier may be the best thing they do and even that is not impressive.

                              1. re: WineHog

                                I remember having a wonderful red from Temecula. The name was "Cloviso" (?) I had it a few years ago, and it really stuck out in my mind.

                                Anyway, are you dissing Southern California wines altogether, or just Temecula?

                                1. re: Liquid Sky

                                  I'm not WineHog, but --

                                  Temecula isn't Napa or Sonoma . . . it's not Monterey or Santa Barbara . . . it's not even the Sierra Foothills. Callaway is the ONLY winery from Temecula to ever get widespread commercial acceptance, and one could burn 100 gallons of gas driving around the SF Bay Area (or even parts of LA!) before finding a bottle from Hart, Mt. Palomar or -- heaven forbid -- Cilurzo!

                                  After 35 years ITB, I can count the number of truly worthwhile wines I've had with a Temecula appellation on two hands. Part of it is location. Part of it is talent. Part of it is grape selection And just when things appeared as if they might be -- finally -- coming together, there is the presence of GWSS.

                                  There are some good wines made in the wineries in Temecula. There are an awful lot of -- let's say "weak" -- ones, too.

                                  It's fun to go to wineries, and taste wines. It's fun to have a picnic in the sunshine. Lots of people go to the wineries in Temecula and have a fun time. By all means, people should go and have a good time!

                                  But people should not expect world-class wines. They will be disappointed.

                                2. re: WineHog

                                  so true, the weather is just too dry.

                              2. re: Liquid Sky

                                I would head to Orfila, and pass on Temecula, but that's me . . . .

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Okay. Thanks to both of you for your advice. I had heard some great things about HART Winery... BUT it would actually save a lot of time and energy just going to ORFILA and skipping Temecula altogether.

                                  If there is nothing particularly special about the scenery in Temecula, that will be our NEW plan: concentrate all our time in Orfila.

                                  Keeping in mind that we only drink REDS, would zin1953 or anyone else care to recommend some of Orfila's BETTER REDS?


                                  1. re: Liquid Sky

                                    Estate wines -- Syrah, Sangiovese, and even Merlot -- are all quite good. Their Pinot Noir comes from farther north, in Edna Valley -- a better locale for PN than San Pasqual (or Temecula). And their Zin is made from old vines in Cucamonga -- very nice indeed.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Hi Zin,

                                        We made it to Orfila last Sunday and it was a beautiful day, indeed. A number of picnic-ers, but it never felt crowded.

                                        Enjoyed most the Estate Syrah (best red there, in my opinion) and Estate Merlot. The Zinfandel was okay, but I've had better from the North. The Pinot Noir (at $41) was disappointing. Have had better and cheaper from Washington State.

                                        My husband tried the port. They gave him some chocolate to complement it. I'm not a dessert wine fan, and skipped it.

                                        Can you believe they completely sold out of their Sangiovese AND Cabernet? Too bad. Would have liked to try those too.

                                        Really enjoyed the free winery tour they gave too.


                                        1. re: Liquid Sky

                                          Glad you enjoyed it! Too bad about the Sangiovese and the Cab. The Sangiovese is pretty good. I also like their "Lotus" white - it's really nice and fruity - great in the summer.

                                          1. re: Alice Q


                                            How do you like the Orfila wines compared to the ones you've had in Temecula?

                                            1. re: Liquid Sky

                                              I haven't actually tried enough in Temecula to consider myself an expert, but I like the Orfila wines better than anything else I've tried locally, and that includes Menghini and J. Jenkins in Julian. I have really only had Palomar, Calloway and Thornton wines in Temecula, and I haven't been wild about any of them, except that Palomar does some nice dessert wines. I keep hearing good things about Hart in Temecula and I do hope to try that on a return trip.

                                              1. re: Alice Q

                                                Yes, I've heard great things about Hart's reds.

                                          2. re: Liquid Sky

                                            Sorry about not being able to try their Sangiovese and Cab -- they, too, are very good. But it does speak to their popularity, I suppose.

                                            * * * * *

                                            For the non-wine professional (in other words, for the average, casual wine consumer), visiting wineries is -- generally -- an infrequent occurrance that, above all, should be fun! Gald you had a good time overall. You probably will if and when you go to Temecula, too, but I sincerely doubt that the overall wine quality will be as good.

                                            As I mentioned above, I have had a handful of very good wines from Temecula wineries, but that's after 35 years of being in the professional wine trade; only three of those have been truly memorable; and one of those (the only red of the three) came from Sonoma-grown grapes! Nevertheless, you should have a fun time if and when you ever go there, too . . .

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              Zin: What is your favorite red from Orfila? I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in their Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

                                              Overall, how would you compare Orfila's wines to the wines up north (Napa/Sonoma), as well as areas like Santa Inez Valley?

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