Vineyards in the Ramona Valley

Vineyards of the Ramona Valley Area

May 18th, 2013

If you are interested in reading the introduction to this series of wine blogs, click here.  This is also a follow up post from our Temecula wine tasting which we did the previous day.  To view it, click here.

Wineries Visited:
Altipiano Winery – production 600 cases
Cordiano Winery – production ? cases

Leaving Temecula for the morning trip to the Ramona Valley, you quickly realize that the two areas could not be more different. Temecula is geared for tourism and there are a number of very large facilities. Ramona Valley is located in San Diego and the county is still wrestling with how best to regulate the nascent expansion of its first viable wine region. Tasting in Ramona Valley is like taking a step back in time in the wine industry…way back. Geographically, it’s a large region with a few small family run wineries interspersed with rural neighborhoods which resemble some of the more remote regions of Sonoma County rather than the bustling and commercialized Napa Valley area. The biggest production that we saw was under 2,000 cases per year, less than some of the large Temecula regions production in a couple of weeks.

The Tasting Patio at Altipiano

The Tasting Patio at Altipiano

Our first tasting was Altipiano Winery, which actually sits outside the Ramona Valley AVA, in the Highland Valley southeast of Escondido.  It was close enough to Ramona for us to include it in our tasting trip. Owners Peter and Denise Clarke are gracious hosts, and Peter regaled us with stories about the early 70’s wine industry in California while trying various tastes. Some of their wines are currently coming from the Paso Robles area and are made by smaller, artisan winemakers, many of whom are known by the term, Garagistes.  The original Garagiste term was a bit of a put down to the European mom and pop establishments, but the movement in Paso Robles has embraced it. If you want to know more about them, we’ve provided a link to the festival in Paso Robles which provides a little more information about them. Altipiano is just getting into making its own wine as its vines are quite young and were planted after a large fire decimated the surrounding Avocado orchards. They are specializing in the Brunello variety of Sangiovese. Of the wines that originated in Paso Robles, we both liked the Cabernet Franc best, but hold out for the estate Sangiovese and rose. Although we tasted barrel samples, they were already showing very well.  They are increasing their estate production as their vines begin to mature.  As of last year, just over half of their production came from estate vines.

Cordiano Winery

View from Cordiano Winery

Coridano Winery is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. To call it a Winery is some what limited and like calling the Olympics “a couple of pretty good athletes getting together for a party”. It has a full license to sell food and the aroma’s coming from their outdoor kitchen is enough to make you want to move in and be part of the family. Their wines are all pleasant and slightly fruit forward – unpretentious would be a good description and they are perfect for sitting down and opening with friends while you enjoy the gastro delights and the view. Like Altipiano, Cordiano is not technically in the Ramona Valley AVA but it’s close enough to enjoy it on the same trip. It also experienced the fire that ravaged the Avocado industry and they also began replanting with wine grape vines. The two wineries are trying to get their region classified as a new AVA but having already tried a number of wines and now being thoroughly engrossed by the wood fired pizza we were enjoying, I forgot to ask what it would be called. The rustic nature of the setting was immediately in evidence when Francesco, our host was called to the family kitchen in their house to remove a large king snake that had crawled in and was making itself at home on one of the counters. Apparently the snake had also heard about the pizza. If you are in the area you must come visit them. It’s one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences we’ve had tasting in years. They are just finishing an expansion of their facility so they can host large events and weddings. Check out their Duetto, wine. They make it on the fly by using different Varietals to blend. It’s the classic, “little bit o’ this and a little bit o’ that” and it’s never the same. The version we had was a great every day wine.

While fidgeting with our nav system to get directions to the next Winery, we suddenly became aware of what we had bitten off. This is a pretty large area and there is a lot of space between Wineries. Karen and I are both fanatically punctual, which is pretty ironic because our older son Justin, considers showing up any time within a month of the specified time to be pretty punctual. We still had four appointments and it was already getting close to 1:00. Because this was a new region for us we really wanted to spend time with the winemakers and understand both the challenges they’ve faced and the successes they had, given that it’s just emerging as a wine producing area. This first part of the day started at a leisurely stroll. Part two of our tour ended up being an all out sprint, not an easy thing at our age and damn…all this wine tasting we throw ourselves on for you people isn’t helping the aging process. I guess we all have our crosses to bear.

General Location:
The Ramona Valley sits on highway 68, roughly 1 hour north of San Diego. It is San Diego County’s first wine region. Listings:
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

2) To find more Wineries in San Diego County, click here and enter “San Diego” in the “quick search” field for’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.

Thank you for visiting, the online Encyclopedia of varietals, wineries, wine events and wine producing regions.  If you wish to visit our main site to learn more about any of these listings, please click here; otherwise, we hope enjoy our blog section.