The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Paving new ground on the Ramona Wine Trail

I’m a long-time member of a worldwide organization dedicated to preserving the culture and life-style of Italy, and attend meetings and events at the North San Diego County Lodge of the Sons of Italy.Among the adventures some of us enjoy is go out as a group and experience wine tastings. We have self-proclaimed ourselves the Taste Of Wine Grapeheads, dedicated to discovering the next great wine at the next great winery. The Ramona Valley Wine AVA was officially born in January 2006. It’s roughly east of Interstate 15, about 139 square miles surrounding the city of Ramona. About 50 commercial wineries grow wine grapes in this 60-acre appellation.

It’s only the second AVA in the county and the third in Southern California.

An improbable event occurred that got our juices going to drive through the Ramona Wine Trail, stopping at three wineries that were linked together by a growing inventory of very good wines.

The event was a “Boutique Wine Ordinance “permitted by the San Diego County Supervisors some months ago. With some restrictions, the wineries are now allowed to open tasting rooms for the public, when up to this year, it was an expensive and exhausting process.

By my rough count, there are some 25 wineries that have now opened their doors to tasting in the San Pasqual/Ramona/Julian area, either by scheduled hours or by appointment. They have an Association and a neatly published brochure listing the locations with a map, at

Our first stop on Highland Valley Road, east of Escondido was Cordiano Winery where we toasted our wine glasses with the Cordianos, an Italian extended family dedicated to fine wines since 2002.

The view is spectacular from the property, which has an outdoor kitchen, patio and events center, sharing space with the family home. The pizza served on the small bites menu is incredibly good as the dough is made fresh each morning. Visitors have a choice of toppings or you can choose from a veggie, meat or “Supreme” pizza. The Cordiano Cabernet 2008 or the Cordiano Cabernet Franc 2007 is a beautiful addition to your pizza selection.

“The scenic valley below my property reminds me of my homeland of Calabria, Italy,” smiled patriarch Gerardo Cordiano. “The Italian style of wine making is growing in popularity; wine that is made to be consumed at the table with a favorite meal. Grapes need to be challenged to be plump, juicy and possess the correct acidity. We do not use chemicals and very little additives. We have lots of sun, good drainage and no fog or humidity.” Learn more at

That second stop I would recommend is Pamo Valley Winery with its central in-town tasting location in Ramona. The passionate owner is Jennifer Jenkin, who has a wide choice of grape varietals, from an Orange Muscat/Viognier Blend to a “Cab On Fire” Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend which was a medal winner;

Further east of Ramona and our last stop was Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery, a 110 acre, 10,000 vine operation with the latest, sophisticated equipment that wine maker Jim Hart has to produce high quality wines. It’s the biggest winery in the Ramona Valley.

Jim is the son of Joe Hart, a veteran wine maker-owner in Temecula Wine County. “It’s been a work in progress,” he declared. “When I got here the owner had planted Cabernet and Chardonnay, what he enjoyed drinking. I added Italian-style wines like Sangiovese, Barbera, Barolo and Agleatico, which I made into a dessert wine. I expanded the Bordeaux style to include Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gri and Sauvignon Blanc. There are about 1,000 vines of each varietal.”

I asked him about this season’s harvest and a grin was evident.

“We were excited to pick over 38 tons of grapes which will convert to 3,000 cases. This is my seventh harvest at Milagro and I believe it will turn out to be our best.” Find out more about Jim Hart and Milagro at


Wine Bytes

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse in La Jolla presents the great wines of Ferrari Carano of Sonoma with wine maker Aaron Piotter in a special wine dinner Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. Four premium wines will be served with a four-course steak dinner. Cost is $95 per guest. Call to reserve a place at (858) 535-0078.

Roppongi in La Jolla is having a tastemaker small bites dinner with Michael David Wines Nov. 13 starting at 6:30 p.m. $20. Call (858) 551-5252.

Firefly Grill & Wine Bar hosts a Baker & Olive Wine Dinner with 50 Row Wines Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Napa Valley based wines are featured in each of the four courses. $60. RSVP at (760) 635-1066.

Europa Village in Temecula unveils a French musical with a gourmet four-course wine-pairing dinner Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m., with performances from Europa’s own Singing Waiters. $79. Contact at (951) 506-1818.