Beer’d Out? Wine Your Way Through One Of These San Diego Wineries

For the last few years, craft beer has claimed the spotlight in San Diego – have you counted how many craft breweries there are in this city? With all the excitement surrounding craft breweries in San Diego and our more famous vine-growing neighbors to the North and South, the local wine scene hasn’t received its deserved recognition.

There’s no need to drive north to Temecula or cross the border and head to Valle de Guadalupe, here are nine San Diego wineries pouring glass after glass of attention-grabbing wines.

1. Gianni Buonomo Vintners

Led by Keith Rolle, whose passion for wine pushed him to leave the corporate life twenty years ago, this Ocean Beach winery only produces 2,000 cases of wine each year. Using grapes from Washington state and the Sierra Foothills, Gianni Buonomo is well-loved for its Sangiovese and Barbera and is the only winemaker in San Diego creating two rarer varietals – Charbono and Balufränkisch.

Open five days a week, be sure to stop by their tasting room to sample a flight, join their happy hour, or attend a blending of their vintage.

2. Carruth Cellars

A native of San Diego, Adam Carruth, started making wines in his backyard in Sonoma County combining concepts learned from beer brewing along with his formal viticulture education. This backyard passion has grown into Carruth Cellars and now has locations in Solana Beach and Carlsbad. Using grapes only from Northern California’s premier wine regions, they specialize in reds and blends, most of which are Bordeaux, but their Sauvignon Blanc is a local favorite.

With their “Pay It Forward” program, they donate a portion of proceeds from select bottles to non-profits such as The Global Mosaic Project and Lois Merril Foundation.

3. Negociant

Located in the heart of North Park’s Boulevard District, this winery was founded by third-generation Italian winemaker, Joe Rinaldi, and wine scholar, Zane Mumford. Taking after its namesake, which means a wine merchant who sources the perfect grapes and unfinished wines from small vineyards, all wines are sourced from smaller growers in Central Coast, Baja and Washington State vineyards.

The wines are then crafted in their custom crush facilities, creating an impressive variety of boutique, small batch, artisan wines. You won’t find Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, they specialize in bigger, bolder, uncommon reds – think Sangiovese, Grenache, and Red Cuvee. Stop in for their latest blend, Concupiscent, a sultry blend of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

4. Pali Wine Company

Dedicated to producing small batches of artisanal Pinot Noir, Pali began in 2005 when entrepreneurs Tim Perr and Scott Knight combined their passions to start a winery dedicated to their favorite varietal. Located in the heart of Little Italy, they offer $15 flights consisting of five different wines and weekly live music. Their tasting room also showcases their second label, Tower 15, which focuses on premium Bordeaux and Rhone Blends.

Since their founding, Pali has grown from 1,500 cases a year to 20,000, but they still focus on making terroir-driven wines at reasonable prices and exceptional quality.

5. Milagro Winery

Located 50 minutes east of San Diego, Milagro Winery boasts a working estate-grown winery, organic farm and orchard, tasting room, scenic vistas and leisure activities such as bocce ball. Trained in Bordeaux, and considered the pre-eminent winemaker in Mexico, Hugo d’Acosta oversees all aspects of production. Be sure to try their 2013 Estate Grown Bellorosso as it won the Gold medal at the Orange County wine and commerce event.

Stop in from Saturday or Sunday to try a designated flight or customize your own at $2 a pour. Bring a picnic basket or grab food from their food truck and enjoy the live music on their outdoor patio.

6. 2Plank Vineyards Tasting Room

College friends, David Bridgeman and Jason Wimp, purchased a vineyard in Fallbrook back in 2010 and have since opened two tasting rooms in Vista and Sorrento Valley. Featuring varietals grown in Napa, Amador, various locations along the Central Coast, and Fallbrook’s Red Mountain Vineyard, this winery produces a diverse selection of high quality, small batch wine. Fan favorites included a 2012 Port and their award-winning 2010 Zinfandel.

Stop by their Sorrento Valley tasting room Thursday and Friday from 3PM – 7PM for a six-sample pour costing $10 or stop by their Vista location for one of their wine and paint nights.

7. Vesper Vineyards

Husband and wife team, Chris Broomell and Alysha Stehly, opened Vesper Vineyards with the goal of proving that San Diego could be included among the great wine regions of California. Combining Alysha’s educational background and Chris’s practical experience, their extensive wine knowledge landed them on the SF Chronicle’s 2014 list of winemakers to watch.

With no established style of winemaking in San Diego, they are working to create their own world of wine. Each wine at this Escondido winery is sourced from a single vineyard, organically farmed, and naturally fermented. Stop by the tasting room from Friday to Sunday to sample five wines for $10.

8. Witch Creek Winery

Located two blocks from the beach, this Carlsbad urban winery was the first coastal urban winery in San Diego County. Focusing on unique single varietal red wines and blends, all of their red wines are made on-site at their Carlsbad facility. Their grapes are sourced from various locations throughout California and in Valle De Guadalupe in Baja, Mexico.

Recognized as San Diego’s “Best Winery” by the San Diego A-list in 2016, Witch Creek produces 24-26 different wines each year, averaging just 100 to 125 cases of each.

9. Orfila Vineyards & Winery

This 70-acre estate, which is owned by an Argentine ambassador, has been the largest producer of San Diego wines since 1994. The wines are made using Rhone, Italian, Burgundy and Bordeaux varietals from the estate and from specially selected vineyards in Sonoma, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara counties.

The recipient of more than 1,300 medals in major national and international competitions, Orfila is the place to go in August when they host their annual Grape Stomp, which features live jazz, a farm-to-table dinner, and the chance to get your feet dirty – literally. Stop by their tasting rooms in Escondido and Julian for live music, food trucks, and of course, wine.

See you there!