Photo Courtesy Of Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery

Photo Courtesy Of Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery

Ramona Wine Country

A Community Connected Through The Vine

— Charlene Pulsonetti

Just an hour’s drive east of San Diego is a valley abundant with award-winning wineries and tasting rooms with breathtaking views. More than 30 wineries reside within the Ramona valley, each offering a unique blend of varietals and plenty of warm hospitality. 

Ramona has become known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Tempranillo, to name a few. 

“There are wines that you find elsewhere in the world, that you don’t find very often in California,” says Bill Schweitzer, president of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, who notes that the microclimates within Ramona, which he calls “The heart of San Diego County,” present a unique opportunity to cultivate them here.

Common factors connect wineries around the world, which aids in the success of high-quality wine production. Ramona’s altitude, sunshine, soil composition and diurnal shifts are just right for this. 

According to Schweitzer, the 2006 designation of the Ramona Valley American Viticultural Area marked a key moment for winemakers in the region. Not only could they now include this information on their bottles, it also put the region on the map.

“In 2000, we had one commercial winery. In 2018, we have 36,” says Schweitzer. 

Many local winemakers also cite the help of San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob in establishing the allowance of boutique wineries as the second key moment in the region’s history. In helping amend the county zoning ordinance to include a four-tiered winery definition, which includes boutique wineries, this allows small wineries to avoid costly major use permits and open tasting rooms.  

Schweitzer is optimistic for the future of the region, with new wineries on the horizon and vineyards coming into maturity. “We can grow wonderful grapes, our winemakers continue to learn how to use them to make great wine,” he says, and it’s only going to get bigger with outside recognition of the quality of Ramona wines, and the growth of the direct-sale market.  

With these exciting prospects, there’s always a reason to come back and try something new — including wine events that are doing even more to distinguish Ramona’s unique locale.

Imagine an afternoon sampling award-winning wines, mingling with passionate vintners and meeting local artists — with the beautiful Ramona Grasslands County Preserve as the backdrop. 

It’s not a fairytale — it’s the Ramona Art and Wine Festival! This annual event brings art and wine lovers together to appreciate the handiwork of local artisans, with the highlight being painted barrel auctions to benefit the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Mural Project. 

Visit www.ramonaartandwinefest.net.

Crushed grapes fly through the air as participants of the Ramona Grape Stomppair up to squeeze the most juice using just their feet. Participants are encouraged to get creative through team names and themed outfits, making it a hilarious occasion the whole family can enjoy! Adults can sample local wines and shopping from artisan vendors, while kids can enjoy face painting and games. 

Proceeds from the event benefits local charities. Check www.RamonaGrapeStomp.com for more information. 

In addition, there’s more than just wine in the Ramona valley — spirits, beer and cider are also a delicious presence on the adult beverage scene. 

Smoking Cannon Brewery’s 19th century saloon style and Civil War décor create a rustic, pensive atmosphere, perfect for enjoying one of its house-made brews — each named after a different Civil War cannon. Proprietors also make their own iced coffee and sodas. Visit 780 Main St. and smokingcannonbrewery.com to find out more.

Scenic vistas, stunning wines and popular brews make Ramona a destination to sip, stay and play. ■