Founded in 1993, Witch Creek Winery has racked up a multitude of awards for its handcrafted wines, especially its 12 red varietals. Soak up the sun at the original Carlsbad location near the beach, or take in the picturesque scenery of the mountain-nestled Julian storefront while you sample five to seven wines during a tasting ($5). A courteous staff member will tell you about the grapes you're gobbling, guide you through the flavors, and remind you to floss. Then you'll be free to grab grapey goodness such as the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($30), which blends hints of cherries and rhubarb, or the 2007 Lodi Zinfandel ($32), which emits soothing aromas of pepper, cinnamon, and eternity. Or, pick up Witch Creek’s 2008 CB Viognier ($20), which wakens senses with peach and floral flavors.
Like his father, the former governor of the Argentinian state of Mendoza, Alejandro Orfila chose a life of diplomacy. From 1946 until the early 80s, his various public service roles included Argentine Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States and Argentine Ambassador to Japan. But like his grandfather, a winemaker whose 1905-established winery stands to this day, Alejandro harbored a lifelong love of viticulture. In 1994, Alejandro finally pursued that passion by founding Orfila Vineyards & Winery, a 70-acre hillside estate nestled within a 10,000-acre agricultural preserve in the San Pasqual Valley.
These days, winemaker Justin Mund oversees production on the estate, where grapes grow only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Using both the estate's grapes and others from the California coast, Justin crafts wines that have earned more than 1,300 medals in national and international competitions since the winery's founding. Guests can sample said wines in a tasting room overlooking the estate, as well as a second located at the Wynola Farms Marketplace in Julian. Besides tastings, Orfila hosts events ranging from live concerts to the annual Grape Stomp festival, where folks gather to watch traditional wine-making and grapes gather to hold their annual Shirley Jackson-esque lottery.
Keyways Vineyard & Winery–owner Terri Pebley Delhamer presides over the only woman-owned-and-curated winery in Temecula Valley. Enlisting her close friend and designer Deborah Daniel to select the amber stucco walls and terracotta roofs, Terri cultivated the winery's classic mission-style aesthetic. Inside a tasting room that the California Winery Advisor dubbed "rustic yet elegant," head winemaker David Raffaele calls on experience gained during studies in the Italian wine country, crafting numerous varietals that grace the black onyx bar. Raffaele’s adherence to craftsmanship results in limited-run vintages that fill the vineyard’s trim annual production of 4,000 cases, or what Dionysus referred to as pregaming.
When the vintners aren't harvesting plump grapes on their equestrian-friendly property, they keep busy by hosting special events and overnight guests at a recently renovated estate home surrounded by rolling foothills and nearby ranches. Matrimonial knots take hold beneath a dark-stained trellis that caps a paved walkway perched in the foreground of the distant mountains.
Grapes have played a tremendous role in human history—many members of the Hapsburg dynasty were at least half-grape—and they tended to do their best work at vineyards. Today's Groupon treats you to one of the San Diego region's better graperies with $75 worth of gourmet cuisine and drinks at Callaway Vineyard and Winery's Meritage in Temecula for $35. You'll also get 10% off everything at Callaway's wine store (just print your Groupon twice to use it once in the restaurant and once in the store). You may use one Groupon for every two people at your table, so you, your identical twin, and your identical twin dates can all enjoy a night of wacky mismatches and delicious food.
Specializing in Italian varietals, Cougar Vineyards and Winery sprawls across 17 acres of land on the De Portola Wine Trail, cultivating an ever-growing selection of specialties such as vermentino, aglianico, pinot grigio, and brachetto. Patrons can sample a consistently rotating arsenal of flavors inside a tasting room that’s open every day of the week, or take their wine education a step further by taking a tour of the production facility or helming a tell-all interview with one of the grapevines. Cougar Vineyards also plays host to a variety of events every month, including live musical acts on Saturdays.
Miramonte Winery’s estate, vineyard, and tasting room sit on 14 sun-soaked acres in the hills of Southern California's wine country. Drawing from other vineyards around Temecula, Miramonte's resident vintners craft boutique wines such as the lively Grenache rosé and the 2009 Estate syrah, a full-bodied red with notes of boysenberry pie, mocha, and jubilation at finally being released from its dark, lonely bottle.