County eases rules for wine tasting

Small wineries and vineyards in San Diego County breathed a collective sigh of relief last week when the County Board of Supervisors eased its chokehold on wineries in the county and allowed them to present their wines in tasting rooms, without the major use permit that went as high as $250,000. This should coalesce a severely fractured wine industry and boost the profits of an up-to-now struggling group of some 50 wineries in the county.
Chinook Vineyards, founded recently by Elaine Lyttleton and Norm Case on Highway 78 in Ramona, are planting fours acres of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel and currently can only allow “guests” on the property by invitation only. They have cultivated a club member list and “adopt-a-vine” sponsors to develop brand loyalty. 
“There are 17 bonded wineries in the Ramona Valley,” Lyttleton said. “So far, there is only one tasting room. There are strict rules for these small wineries in terms of hours of operation, events, percentage of estate grown grapes that must go into the wine, but they are all conditions we can live with in order to sustain a viable wine business on agriculturally zoned land, without bankrupting ourselves in the process,” she said. 
There are nearly 3,000 wineries and vineyards in California, up from 1,500 in the year 2000. With the lifting of impossible restrictions, San Diego County could be the next growth area for wine.
It’s grape stomping season
Orfila Winery, a well-established vineyard and winery in Escondido kicks off the Grape Stomping season in California with one of the earliest and best-organized “stomps” you will see. 
The big event takes place on from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28 with grape stomping in a huge 5-foot barrel, full dinner buffet, dancing to live Italian Festa music, hay rides, wine tasting and tours for $85 per person. 
The 70-acre winery has hosted this anticipated event since 1993, when legendary winemaker Leon Santoro created this replica of an Italian “Vino” celebration. Santoro has recently passed away. His successor, Justin Mund, is carrying on his legacy. Tickets may be purchased by calling (800) 868-9463 outside of San Diego County.  If within San Diego County, call (877) 727-9463. The website is www.orfila.com.
Wine Bytes
— Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe presents the first of a wine dinner series from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22 for $110 per person. Meet Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji of Miura Vineyards and enjoy a four-course dinner. For more information, call (858) 759-6216.
— Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas hosts a Tolosa Wine and five-course dinner from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 25. Taste Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet.  Price and menu information available at (760) 635-1066.
— A Taste of Italy awaits you at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Bistro West in Carlsbad. All Italian varietals are being poured with cuisine from several districts in Italy. The cost is $65 each. RSVP at (760) 664-5850.
— Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has an Italian Wine Expo from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 27. The cost is $20. Call (760) 599-1200 for more information.
— Opolo Wines, a premier vineyard from Paso Robles, will be pouring at La Costa Wine Company from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 27. Cost is $25. Guests will be asked to blend their own version with a special kit, with a prize awarded for the best. Call (760) 431-8455 for details.

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