Vineyard farmer Leonard Ciarmoli makes a point with Tuscandido owner Jim Tondelli at Tondelli’s 5 1/2 acre Italian style winery. Photo by Frank Mangio
Community Community Escondido Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: San Diego wineries stage coming out party

As I write this column, today is National Wine Day.  No one that I know has the day off; there are no big celebrations or advertising going on.

The only interesting story I see is that Millenials (the 21-to-35 year olds) now account for 42 percent of all wine purchased in the U.S. That is very bullish for wine sales.

San Diego wines are on their way to stardom and a key event recently gave them the juice in the right direction.

A Food & Wine Festival was staged at the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo with over 30 wine and food booths generously pouring at least twice as many of their top wines.

Linda McWilliams is the president of the San Diego County Vintners Association.  She is also the owner of San Pasqual Winery, with a tasting room and winery in La Mesa and a tasting room in downtown San Diego at Seaport Village.

She gets her wine grapes in the San Pasqual Valley, as do many other wineries in the region due to the lush soil properties and proximity to the coast.

She features a Bordeaux Blend, Italian, Rhone Valley and Spanish varietals. “There are 116 commercial wineries in two AVA’s, Ramona and San Pasqual Valley in San Diego County,” she revealed.

“We have maps with links to all our member wineries for easy direction.”

Visit and

A fascinating wine with strong Italian links was the Principe Di Tricase Winery and its Aglianico varietal, found in Campania, near Naples.

Spokesman Alberto Sepe said, “Naples has a climate similar to San Diego.  The grapes love heat, producing higher sugar.  We keep our production of wine simple and straightforward… no rocket science.”

Veteran winemaker Jim Hart, shown with his wife Christine, now own Volcan Mountain Winery in Julian featuring apple sparkling wine. Photo by Frank Mangio
Veteran winemaker Jim Hart, shown with his wife Christine, now own Volcan Mountain Winery in Julian featuring apple sparkling wine. Photo by Frank Mangio

Veteran winemaker Jim Hart and his wife Christine, after years of making wine at his father’s winery in Temecula and time spent making wine at nearby Milargo Farm, now has his own winery, Volcan Mountain near Julian.

He was pouring a 2015 apple sparkling wine, a 2015 Viognier and a 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel. His 10-acres have many Julian apple trees on the property.

Visit at

San Diego was California’s first wine producing area back in the days of Spanish missionaries and is just now showing up in a few large international competitions. It just might be the next great wine country in California.


Visit a Little Bit of Tuscany at Tuscandido

San Diego wineries are popping up like corks at a New Year’s Eve party.  My email messages are full of them.  One such email stood out a few weeks ago, from Tuscandido in Escondido.  Was I going to pass this one up?  I grabbed my Italian vineyard farmer friend Leonard Ciarmoli, and we visited the owner, Jim Tondelli.  He had just won three Silver medals at the San Francisco Chronicle tasting for his Sangiovese, Syrah and Barbera.

Tondelli began planting Italian vines in 2010.  His 2013 bottles are now released and with “hard work and experience,” Tuscandido wines are starting to make their way into the wine market.

“Oh yes, the name,” after I asked him about it.

“I just sat on a rock on my 5 ½ acre property and thought it was the same view as some I’d seen in Tuscany, and we went for it.”

Tuscandido is all-natural in its vineyard management.  It is fertilized by two active Alpacas and mushroom mulch. No pesticides or herbicides are used.

“We harvest by hand, getting rid of any small, unwanted grapes and thinning out clusters early,” Tondelli said.

Two of the San Francisco award winners are my favorites: A 2012 Sangiovese with a Brunello clone from Montalcino Italy ($45) and the 2013 Barbera with 10 percent Merlot ($22).  Nearby restaurants Vintana and Stone Brewery both have the brand on their wine lists.

Learn more at


Wine Bytes

The 2nd annual Brew and Food Festival is on its way June 4 from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at Waterfront Park on Harbor Drive at the Embarcadero, downtown San Diego.  There will be 70 breweries pouring 200-plus craft beers. Celebrity chefs include Javier Plascencia of Bracero and Chad White from Top Chef Season 13 with live culinary demonstrations throughout the day, and Chef Justin Kingsley Hall from Las Vegas’s SLO-Boy.  Two live music stages and dueling DJs.  Tickets for this event are $40 general admission, $50 early entry and $80 for the Mad Craft VIP area with added perks and chef-inspired dishes.  Go to for tickets.

The San Diego mountain town of Julian has its Fiddle and Pickin’ Contest and June 4 and June 5 at the town hall on Main Street.  Details at

A Walk-around Chardonnay Tasting “Shoot-out” will be presented by WineSellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Valley, June 4 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Taste over 20 different Chardonnays.  Cost is $27.  Reserve now at (858) 450-9557.

Attend the annual “Toast of the Coast” Wine Festival June 11 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds with two events from noon to 3 p.m., and 4 to 7 p.m.  Taste more than 100 judged wines.  Tickets are $61 or $68 with a Fair Tripper.  Purchase online at

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.  View his columns at, and reach him at  Follow him on Facebook.

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