San Diego County moves up the wine vine

San Diego County’s wineries recently were doing the Bacchus boogie and toasting a state court when it sided with a county ordinance that is bringing in a lot more boutique wineries to the backcountry.

It made permanent a lower court ruling of a winery initiative reducing costly regulations and allowing public tasting rooms through a tiered permit system tied to the size of the operation.

According to SD Metro, the on-line business news source, the Ramona Valley now boasts 20-wine tasting rooms recently, compared to one when the ordinance was approved a few years ago.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the spearhead of this movement is leading efforts to craft a similar ordinance for microbreweries, cheese operations and other agri-based ventures in rural areas.

One winery that looked forward to the new, more favorable climate for winemakers is Altipiano with long-time San Diegans Peter and Denise Clarke. She came out of the Air Force and he came out of the world of law. Their vineyard is now in its 5th year with 12 tons of grapes now being picked. They now have built a tasting and barrel room. Varietals include Cabernet Franc ($38), Zinfandel ($35.), Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), Merlot ($28), and Chardonnay ($19). A Super Tuscan blend is coming as work commences on a Sangiovese and a Barbera grape. Both are Italian favorites.

Just beyond Ramona, the sophisticated Milagro Farm has 10,000 vines with 11 estate varietals, making it the largest in the Ramona AVA. Their newly released 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was awarded “Best of San Diego County” and a Double Gold Medal at the California-wide San Diego County Fair Wine Competition. The winemaker is Jim Hart, a second-generation winemaker whose family owns Hart Winery of Temecula.

Last year’s county Avocado crop was way down due mainly to water costs. Some farmers who are now in that business, are planning to switch to wine grapes and expect to save thousands in water bills and attract visitors, thanks to the easier rules regarding tasting rooms. Stay tuned, lots more wineries to come in San Diego County.


“I Love This Business!” — Joey Alfano, new owner of Tuscany.

After some 12 years of managing other restaurants in North San Diego County, Joey Alfano finally gets to be captain of the ship with his purchase recently of Tuscany, the popular Italian Restaurant and Lounge in La Costa. “I love this business,” Alfano said. “If you don’t like people, you don’t belong in a restaurant. Tuscany has a great base of customers; after 23 years it needs to get to the next level. My business partner and musician Danny DiCarlo and I have plans to improve the wine and food menu and introduce a supper-club atmosphere, along with a new patio-dining feature. We’ll have concerts once a month and live lounge music every night.” We brought in Robert Gaffney from La Costa Resort as Tuscany’s Executive Chef and are already making improvements in the menu.”

Howie Ovedia has been the talented “flair” bartender at Tuscany for 20 years. Regulars all know him for his great smile and his shows with flair bottle acrobatics, and he mixes a great drink. “Cosmopolitans and Martinis are still in demand these days,” he declared. “With red wines, everyone loves blends. Our house Bordeaux is the most requested.”

My favorite Italian wine with the “Branzino” fish dinner was the Symposio Principi Di Butera 2010 from Sicily ($45). It was a Bordeaux Blend and paired beautifully with the dinner. Visit for more.


Wine Bytes

Encinitas Wine Merchants will be pouring Champagne Aug. 22 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Winners include: Ruinart, Cliquot Rose, and the 2004 vintage of Moet & Chandon Brut, plus truffle popcorn. $38. Details at (760) 407-4265.

Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula presents Garratt Wilkin and the Parrotheads Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band, Aug. 23 starting at 7 p.m. Public price is $35. Wine club $25. Call (951) 699-9463 for more.

San Diego State University has its next round of wine classes starting Aug. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m., with Exploring Wine. Call (619) 265-7378 for full information,

Vittorio’s at Del Sur in San Diego has its next wine dinner Aug. 29 at 6 p.m., with wine pairing from King Estate in Oregon. $49.50 cost. Call for an RSVP at (858) 538-5884.




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