The Coast News Group
The entrance to the underground cellar at Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery in Ramona. Photo by Paul Body
Taste of Wine

Milagro Farm worth the backcountry trip up the hill

San Diego County is a late-bloomer in the booming California wine industry. Maybe it’s because in my home area, we have been so busy building homes and commercial properties, that we forgot our roots — growing and producing wine like the first missionaries in the 16th century.When the Franciscan fathers were sent north and settled in San Diego and Los Angeles, they brought wine grape cuttings from Mexico, which were of Spanish origin. The grapes were simply “mission grapes.”The success of these missions and the growth in population prompted secular vineyards and wineries and by the mid 1850’s, with the gold rush and the “go west” movement, wineries were abundant.

But where California wine making began in San Diego County, it took until just recently to get it going again. The county finally made it easier financially to open tasting rooms, but it was really a gathering of serious winemakers to form a true wine community and that community is the Ramona Valley.

More than 16 wineries now open their doors to wine tasting. An attractive brochure points out the precise locations with an invitation to “come up and taste the wines of Ramona, a high valley community, located minutes from downtown San Diego in the heart of North County.”

Milagro winemaker Jim Hart barrel tastes one of his reds with a customer prior to bottling. Photo by Paul Body

Also helping was the area designation as an American Viticultural Area in 2006, allowing wines to be labeled “Ramona Valley.”

At Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery, Jim Hart is the winemaker. He grew up in the wine business as son of Joe Hart, a legendary name in Temecula Wine County with Hart Winery.

Jim still adds to his winemaking duties at his father’s winery. Milagro has already done well in competition. Its 100 acres at 2,400 feet in the Ramona high country is suited to white varietals like Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Red wine selections include: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of Sangiovese and Barbera called Raggio Rosso and a Meritage with Bordeaux style grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc.
I loved the Cab with its full body flavors and prospect for aging ($32. Wine club price $25.60). A total of 14 acres are under vine. The tasting room is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Wine/Food radio comes to San Diego…and the Winners in San Francisco

Wine and food veteran journalist Ron James along with show producer Mike Bragg kicks off a “feast for your ears,” a food and wine radio show called Wine & Dine Radio on KFSD1450 AM radio starting March 10 from 1 to 2 p.m.

A team of dedicated wine and food experts will guest on the show, including TASTE OF WINE’S Frank Mangio, scheduled to get passionate about his favorite wines on the inaugural show every Saturday at 1 p.m.

Hear a wealth of information about food and wine, and drink it in on 1450, or you can hear the show on your computers and smart phones available on demand anytime.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, largest judging of American Wines in the world is official, with over 5,500 entries, a record. Best of Class included:

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2006 Carneros Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine $28.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2010 Finger Lakes Gewurztraminer $24.
Barnard Griffin 2011 Columbia Valley Rose’ of Sangiovese $12.
McGrail Vineyards 2008 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $36.
Castello di Amorosa 2010 Anderson Valley late harvest Gewurztraminer $35.

Wine Bytes

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas has its first-ever Luau Party March 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. A traditional Hawaiian menu with fun new wines. RSVP required. Call (760) 479-2500. Cost is $35.

Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas has a Pine Ridge Wine Dinner from 6:30 to 9 p.m. $75 per diner. Call (760) 635-1066 for details.

Via Italia, downtown Encinitas brings in Wines from Sicily with special guest Silvio di Silvio and a 5 course wine dinner, Thurs. March 15 at 7pm. Cost is $75. Call (760) 479-9757.

RELM Wine, Beer and Bistro in Carlsbad present Grenache-Domestics vs. Imports March 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. Four tastings with small bites for $40. RSVP at (760) 434-9463. Look for the new RELM in San Elijo Hills opening soon.

PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad brings in distinctive wines from South America March 15 to March 21 in the wine tasting bar. $16 for six pours. Call (760) 729-7377 for times.