I won’t forget the first time I stepped into the Tasting Room of a San Diego winery some 15 years ago and saw some 1,200 awards hanging from the ceiling and wrapped around bottles at various displays.
An Italian winemaker named Leon Santoro, who with arms expanded, shouted with a smile, “Welcome to Orfila.” Leon is no longer with us, but Orfila is still making excellent wine. Rico will be reporting on the new and improved Orfila in our next edition.
Recently a festive wine tasting was held by the San Diego County Vintners Association attended by many wine lovers on a beautiful balmy day, with Bernardo Winery providing the perfect setting with its 100-year-old wine farming equipment as a backdrop. 17 wineries provided tastings, from cab sauvignon to Aglianico reds.
All were enthusiastic about their wines, which over the years have morphed from estate-grown cabs and chardonnays which turned out to be dull and unexciting, to exquisite Mediterranean style reds and whites grown at the wineries. These old-world wines made in San Diego County got their start in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
San Diego’s attraction to viticulture actually began in the 18th century when Franciscan monks from Spain found favorable climate and soil conditions for vines. California’s first mission, San Diego de Alcalá was known for winemaking.
After a number of setbacks that stunted its growth, San Diego wineries enjoyed a resurgence beginning in the early ’90s with the move to Mediterranean-style grape growing. Many growers began to replace water-thirsty crops with grapevines which require only about 3% of the water that mature avocados demand.
There are about 140 wineries in San Diego County. I want to share a couple that caught my eye at the recent festival. Principe Di Tiracase and its winemaker, Alberto Sepe, brought a love of Italy into the San Diego wine group that was unmatched. Aglianico was their go-to grape.
It’s a dark, full-bodied, strong wine, rich with high tannin levels and high acidity. The grape dates back to ancient Greece. Winemakers colonized the Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy some 2,500 years ago.
The red Nebbiolo grape originates from Piedmont located in the northwest of Italy, in the districts of Barolo and Barbaresco. As the grape ripens, it takes on a hazy, foggy appearance. As it ages, the color changes to an almost burnt brick red shade. Visit their site at pineandwine.com.
Burtech Family Vineyard on Manchester Drive in Encinitas has eleven pristine acres of vineyards on the family’s Caballos Del Mar horse farm.
It’s there that the Burtech family built a wine culture rooted in the enjoyment of fine wine with good friends. The founder, Dominic Burtech set out to build a winery in 2019. Over 2,000 vines were planted alongside his home and horse ranch offering free wine tasting and a vineyard tour to a willing public.
Some of the more popular fine wine varietals include a 2019 rosé ($36), 2017 cabernet sauvignon ($57), 2018 syrah ($50) and 2019 petite sirah ($95). Get the full story at burtechfamilyvineyard.com. The San Diego County Vintners Association site is sandiegowineries.org.
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival ‘arrives at awesome’ Nov. 11-14!
The SD Bay Wine & Food Festival is so awesome, it was named the winner of the 2019 USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest for Best General Food Festival.
Now, the best in the country is giving you an opportunity to arrive at awesome at their 17th annual, four-day fest, where you can rub elbows with nationally recognized celebrity chefs, legendary winemakers, master sommeliers, brewmasters and lovers of world-class parties.
Choose your venue or get tickets to them all, especially the Grand Tasting extravaganza on Sat. Nov. 13 from 11 to 3 pm at Embarcadero Marina Park North, by the waters of San Diego Bay, full of sailboats and yachts. For tickets and more info, visit sandiegowineclassic.com.
Carruth Cellars in Solana Beach is having their once-a-year limited release and award-winning wine sale with up to 50% off, Sat. Nov 6 from 2pm to 6pm. Enjoy access to up to 50% off deals. Entrance tickets are $40. for general admission and $30 for Carruth wine members, plus wine tastings, live music and bites. Visit carruthcellars.com or call 858-847-9463.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]