May 18th, 2013
Welcome to part two of our Ramona Valley post. If you wish to see part one, click here.
Milagro Farm Vineyard and Winery – production 3,000 cases
Turtle Rock Ridge Winery – production ? cases
Mahogany Mountain Vineyard and Winery – production ? cases
Kohill Winery – production ? cases
If you read part 1 of our Ramona Valley Blog post, you’ll know that the day started out with two leisurely tastings just outside of the Ramon Valley at Altipiano and Cordiano. Unfortunately, that leisurely tasting led to a relatively frantic second half of the day, where we squeezed in four wineries in about four hours.
The drive from Cordiano to our next stop Milagro Farm Vineyard and Winery took a lot longer than we expected. This is not a small AVA and there isn’t a lot in between the two wineries. Like virtually all of the Ramona area establishments, Milagro is a relatively new venture with vines having been planted 12 years ago and their first real estate production coming with the 2006 vintage. We met their winemaker, Jim Hart while tasting and he truly represents the yin and yang of winemaking. Jim is also the winemaker at Hart Family Vineyards, one of the larger, destination wineries in Temecula. It’s just a guess but I would wager Hart makes more wine in a month then Milagro makes in a year. Milagro’s red wines are not for the faint of heart. They are big, new world style wines with generous amounts of fruit and tannins. I expect they will lay down nicely for a number of years. Karen liked the Barbera best and thought it had a good nose and balance. I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon best with its heavy but not oppressive tannins. Just so you don’t think that Milagro is all about Reds though, their Sauvignon Blanc was awarded the best wine of San Diego county. They also had a dry Rose of Sangiovese that was my second favorite wine of the tasting, which is pretty rare because I find a Rose that I really like pretty infrequently.
Out next stop was Turtle Rock Ridge Winery which had to be one of the newest places we’ve ever tasted. If I am reading my notes correctly (always a crap shoot when I am scribbling madly, listening to our hosts and taking notes on what they are saying while tasting and also writing both Karen’s and my impressions of the wine). They had only been open for about 8 months at the time of our visit. Hosts Ian and Laurie are as friendly as can be but if Ian is pouring for you, I strongly suggest you put a recording app on your smart phone so you can play back the experience enough to get everything he was saying. Ian is one of the few people I know who talks faster than I do. Trying to get everything he was saying in one take was a bit like trying to get a small sip of water from a fire hose. They also have a great outside tasting bar and one of the friendliest wine dogs around. Karen’s favorite wine was the Petite Sirah…just a good all around sample of what one should be…big, strong, even inky but with no single flavor taking over. I thought their Sangiovese was the best and one of the best ones we had while we were in the Temecula and Ramona areas. Karen also liked the Zinfandel. It didn’t do much for me but that’s not any really reflection on the wine. I’m just really tired of Zins right now…somewhat ironic because three years ago, that was one of the main wines we were buying. Karen also says give the Chocolate Turtle a try. I skipped it because I wanted to keep my taste buds fresh but Karen really liked it and was quite surprised that it wasn’t too sweet.
Getting to Mahogany Mountain Vineyard and Winery was another exercise in frustration due to underestimating the distance and our nav system’s desire to declare “You Have Arrived At Your Destination” at a rather non-descript hill covered with poison oak with no driveway in sight. We finally got there about 10 minutes late and thankfully co owner Kim was still waiting for us. Mahogany Ridge uses organic practices in their vineyards and the wines that we tasted showcased the characteristics of the fruit rather than the hand of the winemaker. Their Chardonnay was kept in 100% stainless steel so it didn’t have the softer, buttery flavor of the more traditional Chards but it didn’t have the sharp, metallic flavor that non oak Chardonnays often exhibit either. A 2008 and 2009 Mourvedre each showed the qualities of the year that they were produced, with one being quite a bit lighter than the other. Karen and I of course liked different ones. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite and even though I’m not a big beef eater, this one was begging for a big steak to accompany it.
By the time we got to Kohill Winery we were running a little late and hadn’t had time to confirm our appointment until we were on the road there, so once we reminded Mike (the owner) who we were, he generously opened back up for us. Wow, are we glad he did. In addition to being a genial host, his wines were some of the highlights of the trip. It’s one of the reasons that we like wine tasting so much. Having the opportunity to talk to the winemaker and learn why the wine was made as well as how it was made is an experience every wine enthusiast should have. It would be utterly pointless describing which wines we liked best because every one was a star, even Sauvignon Blanc. If you want to know why that is surprising, read our Sauvignon Blanc rant. Mike then grabbed his wine thief and gave us a sneak peak from several of his barrels of what the future holds. The Viognier was restrained, balanced, smooth and not overly floral; a condition that can often plague Viognier. The barrel sample Refosco was also great, even as young as it was. If you are in the area to taste, do yourself a favor and include Kohill in your plans. Incidentally, Kohill is one of the oldest wineries in the area, at a venerable 13 years in business. I don’t know if this maturity has allowed Mike to master his vineyards and these wines are the results or if he is one of those winemakers who just has a knack for finding what shines in every wine he makes, irrespective of the type. If this is where some of the younger and promising wineries are heading, Ramona Valley will be a must see on any wine enthusiast’s bucket list.
The Ramona Valley sits on highway 68, roughly 1 hour north of San Diego. It is San Diego County’s first wine region.
1) To view more information for the Wineries of Ramona Valley (the local regional association), click here and type “Ramona” in the “quick search” field to see their listing on Winery-Sage.com.
2) To find more Wineries in San Diego County, click here and enter “San Diego” in the “quick search” field for Winery-Sage.com’s Winery database.
3) More information can be found for each Varietal that we’ve listed by clicking on the link that we’ve created the first time the Varietal is listed in each post.
Karen – Ken
Check out their tastes and bios here
If you are interested in reading the introduction to this series of wine travel blogs, click here.
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