SAN FRANCISCO — Wine Institute concludes its California Wine Country Back Roads series this month with highlights from Southern California wine country, extending south from Ventura County to San Diego County. California is home to some of the world’s most famous wine destinations. Yet, even the high-profile appellations have less traveled wine roads, featuring gorgeous scenery, acclaimed wines and fewer visitors. Before the warm weather slips away, explore the off-the-beaten-path wine roads and wineries among the surf and sand in Southern California.
TASTE: Just a short distance from Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, Temecula Valley has been growing winegrapes since the late 18thcentury. With more than 40 wineries within its borders and 2,500 acres under vine, Temecula is Southern California’s largest wine-producing region. The warm climate makes it well suited to growing Syrah and Tempranillo, as well as Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The De Portola Wine Trail, just south of Rancho California Road, is set on the valley’s rural, equestrian side, while the off-the-beaten path Calle Contento Wine Trail offers sweeping views.
Celebrated as the birthplace of California winemaking, San Diego is where Franciscan monks planted the state’s first grapevines in 1769 and made wines for mass at Mission San Diego de Alcala, California’s first mission. San Diego County boasts more than 100 wineries—most of them small and family owned. With a Mediterranean climate rich in microclimates that allow vintners to grow approximately 60 different grape varieties, the region is best known for its Merlot and Chardonnay. San Diego is also famous for its long beaches, making it one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations.
In Ventura County, one hour north of Los Angeles, find the Ventura County Wine Trail. The route features nearly a dozen wineries, located a few minutes away from each other in a relaxed, coastal setting.
The scenic Malibu Coast Wine Trail offers more than 50 vineyards and seven tasting rooms, with the chance to sample wines influenced by the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains.
East of Los Angeles, the Cucamonga Valley was one of the state’s dominant winegrowing regions during the first half of the 20th century, and now hosts a handful of historic wineries, mainly producing Old-Vine Zinfandel and Port-style wines.
TOUR: Sample and sip your way around Ventura’s historic downtown at the annual Ventura Winter Wine Walk or explore the Ventura Pier Beachfront Promenade, one of California’s oldest wooden piers, built in 1872.
In Malibu, stroll along a wide stretch of sand at Zuma Beach or join fellow foodies at The Food Event on Oct. 13, showcasing 40 of L.A.’s best restaurants and 20 boutique wineries.
Take an e-bike tour of Temecula Valley’s wine country, glide over vineyards in a hot air balloon or sample wines from more than 30 producers, plus local restaurants, at Temecula’s annual CRUSH event on Sept. 28.
Explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter’s shopping, galleries and dining, paired with a wine-focused San Diego Food and Drinks Tours walking excursion. Moving inland, visit the gold-mining town of Julian or enjoy locally made wine, food and art in the town of Ramona—15 minutes away from the world-famous San Diego Zoo—at the Ramona Art & Wine Festival Nov. 2.
For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see: San Diego Tourism Authority, San Diego Vintners Association, Temecula Valley Winegrowers and Ventura County Wine Trail.
For all of the wine regions included in this series, use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens and picnic areas, and view winery events around the state.
To see Wine Institute’s Back Roads guides to other California wine regions, visit https://discovercaliforniawines.com/media-trade/news.
About Wine Institute
Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group for California wineries, which produce 80 percent of U.S. wine. As the nation’s number one state for wine and food tourism and 3,900 wineries, California attracts 24 million visitors to its wine regions each year.