14 Must-Try San Diego Wineries (Who Needs Napa?!)

With all the excitement surrounding craft breweries in San Diego, and our more famous vine-growing neighbors to the North and South, San Diego wineries rarely receive much recognition.

But we promise that when you can’t hop a flight to Napa or cross the border to Valle de Guadalupe, our local wineries will treat you just fine! In fact, according to the San Diego County Vintners Association, there are 150+ active wineries in San Diego County, and there is chatter about our region being set to be the next wine hotspot.

So instead of (or in addition to!) planning that next Sonoma weekend, make plans to visit some of our great San Diego wineries!

Here are 14 San Diego wineries pouring glass after glass of attention-grabbing wines.

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.

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, Carlsbad, Liberty Station, Little Italy, and Oceanside.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Koi Zen Cellars

Koi Zen is a craft winery in Carmel Mountain Ranch specializing in full-bodied reds, red blends, and crisp stainless whites.

Their award-winning wines are made with grapes from Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Sonoma, and Napa. They bring the grapes to their location and make the wine there, producing small batches 6-7 tons of each varietal.

Visit their tranquil tasting room with a Koi Pond to enjoy a flight of wine or a bottle with friends or just uncork, sip back and relax with a good book and a glass of wine.

The winery often has live music performances to enjoy on the weekends and is a unique event venue for business or personal events.

Charlie & Echo

This urban winery in San Diego produces natural, craft wine from local vineyards.

Its mission is to produce wines that exemplify San Diego’s terroir, cuisine, culture, and lifestyle. The winery and tasting room offers unique organic wines made from local grapes.

With every bottle or can you buy, a portion of the sale are used to obtain even more carbon offsets – every purchase you make of Charlie & Echo has a positive impact on our climate (not just neutral).

San Pasqual Winery

San Pasqual Winery is a small, family-owned winery located in La Mesa. 

Although the namesake dates to the 1970’s when it was located in the San Pasqual Valley, the winery was later “reinvented” as San Diego’s first urban winery, earning it a spot on Sunset Magazine’s list of “Hot 100 West Coast Trends.” 

The winery is now located in the industrial area of La Mesa, with offsite tasting rooms nearby in the Village of La Mesa and downtown San Diego at Seaport Village. 

With annual production ranging from three to four thousand cases, most of their wine is sold directly from the winery and tasting room locations, allowing a more personal connection with the people who enjoy their wines.

Castelli & Pizarro Family Winery

San Diego Wineries

Just thirty-six miles from downtown San Diego, tucked away in the scenic, rolling hills of Highland Valley Ramona, the Castelli Family Vineyards harvest the highest quality of grapes to craft wines of precise flavors steeped in tradition.

The winery property is gorgeous, and they welcome visits and regularly throw fun events.

Bernardo Winery

Bernardo Winery is a family winery that produces wines from locally-sourced grapes that suit the San Diego Terroir, such as Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Sangiovese.

The century-old building that once was the tractor barn has been updated into a modern winemaking facility, located on the North side of the property.  

Take a stroll through the historic antique winemaking facility of yesteryear, located in the winery courtyard. There you can see the old ways of winemaking, using large-scale redwood barrels that were built over 130 years ago.

Bernardo is a local institution that has something for all visitors to enjoy – go for brunch, lunch, dinner, shopping, the tasting room or one of the many events they throw throughout the year!

See you there!

There you have it! Make plans to visit these must-try San Diego wineries – you’ll be glad you did!

See you there!

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