Jade Work, owner of Monserate Winery in Fallbrook, grew up in the Gird Valley area playing golf at the Fallbrook Golf Course dotted with 100-year-old oaks and towering sycamore trees.
In 2016, when the 56-year-old property closed due to hard times, Jade and his wife and co-owner, Julie Work, knew the open area was destined for something big.
It is fitting and ironic that Jade’s career included his becoming a pro golfer and then later creating a golf course construction company, Integrity Golf. Later that year, the Works put an offer in to rescue the property from a Beverly Hills speculator with a track record of purchasing distressed golf courses to build sprawling housing developments.
Additionally, since purchasing the property, the Works have been able to establish a conservation easement guaranteeing the space remains undeveloped.
The dilapidated and shuttered golf course went months without being watered, killing all the grass. It would have taken millions of dollars to replant grass and reestablish the irrigation.
After pouring over spreadsheets for hours, when the Works purchased the property in late 2016 for over $4 million, they decided to turn the 116-acre property into a vineyard and winery.
In 2018, after many meetings with county planners to “grease the skids,” Jade submitted plans to transform the former golf course into a state-of-the-art destination location.
Plans include the main facility that houses a commercial kitchen to support a restaurant and tasting room with outdoor patios as well as a 41-foot decorative tower along with three events centers.
One event center is dedicated to wine production including a barrel room, crush pads, and bottle storage room that will also provide bridal/groom suites.
Another event center also accommodates brides and grooms with accouterments for guests. A third venue also provides bride/groom suites as well as a barn for events.
With land in hand, plans in the works, it was now time to find a winemaker, especially one skilled in viticulture. Justin Mund, a graduate of Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo with degrees in viticulture and fruit science, found the Works and the Works found Mund.
With extensive experience in winemaking and wine growing from Sonoma County to the Central Coast and over a decade in San Diego County, he was a perfect fit for Monserate. Frank and I have known Justin for years and were excited when he reached out to us for a tour at Monserate.
“I was excited to come to Monserate to focus on planting, growing, and making estate Italian wine using state-of-the-art irrigation and trellising,” Mund said.
The year 2021 marked the first full production year for Monserate and the vintage produced over 178 tons of fruit. Mund said he loves the location of Monserate in the Gird Valley, noting, “The north winds drain into the valleys, and along with the Santa Margarita River, keeps the area cool.”
During our tour, Justin was kind enough to take us through 8 barrel samples starting with the 2021 Monte Luna (White Moon). Despite it being 100% Montepulciano, the saignee-style winemaking with stainless steel fermentation keeps this wine white in color with hints of peaches and crisp acidity. Next, we had the Fiore, an estate-grown 100% falanghina with tropical notes.
We then tried a new wine, the Greco di Tufo, that had some stainless fermentation and barrel fermentation in new French Oak. We all loved this honey-colored beauty that should be a big hit.
We then shifted over to the reds sampling the following 2021s: Barbera; Montepulciano with big fruit taste; Sagrantino with bold flavors of black, blue and red fruit with espresso on the nose and will benefit from the tannins continuing to settle; Aglianico with hints of anise and licorice, and a late harvest Montepulciano dessert wine that was already tasting great.
Joining us in the barrel room was Vice President, Josh Work. I suspect that Jade and Julie love the fact that two of their sons work closely with them. Another son, Joel, heads up Monserate’s Wine Tasting Room.
Following the barrel room tasting, Josh and Joel had some of their delicious pizzas ready for us in the tasting room. The crust was light and airy using 00 flour that rested for a couple of days. We enjoyed the meatball, margherita, and pesto pizzas.
During our feast, we continued our red wine tasting with the 2019 Fedele, a red blend of Montepulciano, Aglianico, Sagrantino and Negroamaro, 2020 Cellar Select Montepulciano and Monserate’s flagship 2019 petite sirah that Mund says, “Stains your teeth, clothes and soul.”
While Monserate continues to evolve its Fallbrook gem, it currently has much to offer for weddings, private events, wine, and food that will continue to refine into its destination winery. Thank you for the red carpet treatment. More information at monseratewinery.com.
The 4th annual Kex Fest in San Diego, an all-inclusive culinary exploration of cuisine, spirits, wine, beer and good company, will be yours to sip and savor from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 15. The Kettner Exchange invites you to travel the world’s most inventive cuisine from award-winning executive chef Brian Redzikowski. Other top-quality food and beverage luminaries will make the Kex Fest memorable. Buy tickets at kettnerexchange.com.
— The Gator By The Bay Festival, the largest, most-authentic Louisiana-themed music and food festival this side of the bayou, is from May 5 to May 8 at Spanish Landing Park on beautiful San Diego Bay across from the airport. The festival, presented by San Diego’s Bon Temps Social Club, features four days of live music with over 100 musical acts and special performances on seven stages, southern cuisine including 10,000 pounds of crawfish trucked from Louisiana, non-stop live music, dancing and family fun. Details including ticket info are available at gatorbythebay.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Go to recent columns. Reach them at [email protected]