Sip Your Way Through San Diego County’s Winelands
Think of Californian wine—some of the most acclaimed in the world, of course—and you likely think first of the Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River valleys of the North Coast, or perhaps some of the famed wine regions of the Central Coast, such as the Santa Ynez Valley (showcased in the hit film Sideways). But here in San Diego County, we also boast a rich and vibrant viticultural heritage that, in actual fact, claims the most venerable history in the entire Golden State.
With a well-appointed perch at the Sofia Hotel here in Downtown San Diego, you’ve got the wine country of San Diego County at your fingertips—not to mention some fine urban sipping within strolling reach!
San Diego Wine: A Snapshot History
The first California wine grapes were planted in today’s San Diego County by the Franciscans in the 18th century. The inaugural Spanish mission in the state, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, now located within San Diego, installed a vineyard back in 1769.
The local wine industry declined in the early 20th century thanks to such setbacks as the devastating floods of 1916 and (of course) Prohibition. Californian winemaking eventually recovered, but San Diego County’s revival didn’t take off until the 1990s. We’re very glad it did!
San Diego’s Wine Regions
The whole of San Diego County falls within a large American Viticultural Area (AVA), the South Coast AVA, which also encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
Within that broad South Coast designation lie two smaller officially designated wine regions: the San Pasqual Valley AVA around Escondido, which was established in 1981 and composes some 9,000 acres, and the bigger (~89,000 acres) Ramona Valley AVA, established in 2006.
San Diego County provides a unique viticultural landscape courtesy of its astonishingly diverse array of microclimates—spread across maritime headlands, mountain valleys, desert canyons, and more—and the cooling, moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean, both of which help define the overall Mediterranean climate here. San Diego grapevines grow from sea level to better than 4,000 feet up mountainsides, and from the vicinity of Fallbrook in the far north to the “Mountain Empire” in the far southeast along the Mexico border.
The Wines & Wineries of San Diego County
San Diego County’s kaleidoscope of climates, soils, and topography translates to better than 60 grape varieties being grown in its vineyards: from Barbera to Sangiovese, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel, from Riesling to Syrah.
More than 115 wineries call the county home. In contrast to some other Californian wine epicenters, San Diego’s winemaking operations tend to be small, boutique-level, family-run affairs. One of them, Bernardo Winery (13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte), ranks among the oldest continually operating wineries in the state, having been founded in 1889.
Exploring San Diego Wine on a Sofia Hotel Getaway
Touring San Diego’s wine country is a joy: The scenery is exquisite, and the smaller scale of its viticultural operations make vineyard and tasting-room visits that much more intimate and immersive.
You can check out a full list of regional wineries at the San Diego County Vintners Association website and explore some wine-tasting recommendations from the official San Diego tourism website and from Eater San Diego.
We highly recommend forays into the countryside of the San Pasqual and Ramona valleys and other winegrowing corners of the county, but you’ll also be glad to know you’ve got some urban wineries and tasting rooms within easy reach right here in the city of San Diego. They include the Seaport Village outpost of the San Pasqual Winery, only about a mile from the Sofia Hotel doorstep.
Come explore the world of San Diego wine with luxury accommodations at the Sofia: a dream Downtown base camp for any and all oenophiles!