Summer Solstice and the Super Moon were big happenings in June.
Finally, it’s summer. Time to sigh. Time to take a moment out of your day and relax. Time to tour the wine country. Time to enjoy the countryside, wines and people. Time to lounge with a picnic at many of the 22 wineries of Ramona, lunch at the Oaks Grille at San Vicente Resort and Country Club, browse antique stores or grab a cinnamon roll at the Ramona Cafe. And, it’s time to have someone else do the driving.
The 3rd weekend in June, Cheryl and Maurice Wright, owners of Transit Van Shuttle, debuted their first Ramona Winetasting Experience. The weekend’s potential itinerary included six wineries, two restaurants, and antique shopping. The concept is you leave your car, with free valet parking, at the company headquarters on Main Street. Here you grab a van shuttle to whatever winery you want to visit on the day’s list of participating wineries, stop and taste wine, grab the next shuttle and go to the next winery. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it at any of the wineries, or after a couple of wineries you may opt to go to the Oaks Grille at San Vicente Resort and Country Club for lunch on the golf course before you resume an afternoon of wine tasting and visiting with extremely friendly people along the wine trail. Vans circulate every 10-15 minutes throughout the wine region. Just hop on and hop off at your leisure.
These unique opportunities will run the 3rd weekend of every month. Currently participating business include an antique shop, Oasis Camel Dairy, Oaks Grille at San Vicente Resort and Country Club, Ramona Café and six wineries: Pamo Valley Winery, Ramona Ranch Winery, Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery, Grant James Winery, Turtle Rock Ridge Winery and Lenora Winery. Plans are for all Ramona wineries to be included in the tour. There will be an east end loop shuttle experience and a west end loop experience.
Our driver, Joyce, shuttled us to Ramona Ranch Winery, where owner and winemaker Micole Moore hosted the bar and shared wines including Cadillac Cab, Zin Sin and a spectacular Petite Sirah.
Then we were off to Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery, here we enjoyed a picnic on the patio while our hostesses offered us six wines. Winemaker Jim Hart had a spectacular line-up including his 2012 Manzana de Milagro, a unique apple sparkling wine. Also for tasting was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which just won Best Wine in San Diego County. A highlight, as always, was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We passed by the Camel Farm and heard about future plans to include Zebras. Won’t that be cool? Zebras in Ramona! The Camel Farm is usually open once a month, check their website for special events or to schedule a private tour. (www.cameldairy.com)
Newcomer Vineyard Grant James, who just opened publicly in June, is an exciting place to visit. Not only because the winemaker is a woman, but because they offer some very unique varietals. Susanne Sapier, owner and winemaker found that some Greek and Portuguese varietals that are very successful with the Ramona soils. This winery will be open every Friday through Sunday noon to sunset. The patio, made fully from rocks excavated from their property, has a soothing fountain, picnic facilities and a lounging area with a fire pit, for cooler afternoons. Susanne’s rosé blend of three grapes; Greco, Refusco and Nebbiolo was a highlight of the afternoon. This flavorful yet light and fruity wine is perfect for sipping on the patio on a summer afternoon. My personal favorite is the Volantis, a Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah blend.
San Diego Country Club Estates is just a hop, skip and a jump away and offers a cool respite from the hot desert afternoon. Relax in the Oaks Grille, next to the golf course; enjoy a salad, sandwich, burger, pizza or small bites plate. You can also dine al fresco or inside at the Par Lounge.
Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard and Winery offers both indoor and outdoor winetasting with an ample patio overlooking their Turtle Rock, who, legend has it, watches over the daily planting, cultivating and harvesting of 3000 vines and the Ramona Valley. Ian Vaux and Laurie Wagner are lovely hosts who make everyone feel right at home. Open every Friday through Sunday, noon to sunset, enjoy a tour of their cave after tasting their delicious wines.
Lenora Winery makes for a great way to end the afternoon and enjoy owner and winemaker Eric Metz’s Chardonnay Port. Lounge in the patio amongst the vineyard before returning to Main Street and Pamo Winery. Pamo’s tasting room is on Main Street, but the vineyards are four miles away on Black Canyon Road. Winemaker, Jennifer Jenkin, honors the feminine in wine and makes her wines approachable- fruit forward and soft on the finish. This winery is growing, like all of the Ramona Valley, and has currently planted Orange Muscat, Viognier, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Jennifer’s wines are extensive including Zinfandel, Primitivo, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah.
The concept of Hop on, Hop Off is a fun, relaxing way to tour the wine country. Let someone else drive you around. Create a unique day just for you. Stop where you want to stop. Your perfect wine country tour. We’ll see you on the wine trail.