Grown across 43 picturesque acres in the Valley of the Sun, eight varieties of grapes grow plump on the estate vines of Mahogany Mountain Vineyard and Winery. Hand-picked, crushed, pressed, and tucked away to develop, these grapes transform into syrah, zinfandel, and port, just to name a few of the winery's varietals. Inside the tasting room or out on the shaded patio, visitors can get a taste of these labors, trying sips of the different styles of wine or ordering them by the glass.
The Ramona Valley's long history of winemaking dates back to early Spanish missionaries who settled into the area in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The region’s altitude, high rainfall, and stable pattern of hot days and cool nights nurture the high-quality grapes fermented by Pamo Valley, Shawaesdall, and Lenora vineyards. After assisting with the winery’s operations for several years, Jennifer Jenkin took full ownership of Pamo Valley Winery in March 2007, turning the venture into one of the only women-owned wineries in the area. She produces award-winning wines in limited quantities to ensure that each contains captivating flavor notes and deter mutiny attempts by any one varietal. Schwaesdall Winery lies along 6 acres of boulder-strewn property managed by vintner and San Diego native John Schwaesdall. John first developed a passion for winemaking while working with vineyards planted in the 1950s—a passion that grew into a fulltime vocation after he planted, fed, and clothed 4.5 acres of his own vines. He and his pet turkey Zinny oversee the production of red and white wines, which visitors can sample in a tasting room constructed of straw bales. The rural vineyards of Lenora Winery produce eight distinct wine grapes, which ferment into the winery’s selection of single-origin and blended wines. A screened-in tasting room and separate picnic area allow guests to sample the wines surrounded by countryside scenery and the gazes of jealous sommelier squirrels.
At this Zagat-rated restaurant, 24-year-old chef Jeremy Manley puts an adventurous spin on the California bistro, using an armory of locally sourced organic produce and seasonal ingredients from Julian, Ramona, Borrego Springs, and Valley Center. The ever-changing dinner menu regales diners with bison bratwurst from nearby Star B Ranch topped with speedway stout sauce blended with AleSmith beer and gouda cheese ($18). The california cheddar burger, like an avant-garde portrait of the Hamburglar, provides an exciting new look at the classic sandwich with its smooth coating of avocado butter, mango pico de gallo, crunchy prosciutto, and chipotle aioli ($15).
At Cafe Lily, the vibrant, house-made fare mirrors the pastel storefronts of the Old Poway Village outside. The eatery was described by the Pomerado News as "an energetic hub brewing social interaction and creativity, as envisioned by owner Sean Sassani." A blend of Sean's artistic inclinations and his mother, Lily's, culinary talents, the café doles out steaming cups of Divine Madman coffee, a flavorful, organic java that's roasted in 1-pound batches via eco-friendly and socially responsible techniques. Loose-leaf black, green, chai, and herbal teas hail from global gardens, but breakfast and lunch menus claim roots in Lily's own kitchen. Cold sandwiches and colorful paninis, some stuffed with Boar's Head meats⎯like a deli owner's bed pillow⎯serve as savory precursors to pastries and cakes baked onsite.
Patrons can entertain themselves around a fragmented puzzle, or absorb euphonic sounds during open-mic sessions and sets by live musicians. Creativity continues to run abound in the form of colorful artwork by local artists. Coral walls and a fireplace add to the coffee shop's warm ambiance, which extends to an outdoor deck and induces a sneaking suspicion that you might secretly be on fire.
French Market Grille, a charming sister restaurant to downtown San Diego's Hexagone, celebrates the rich culinary heritage of France with an elegant spread of braised meats, local market vegetables, Mediterranean seafood, and tasty French and Californian wines. The impressive bill of fare treats guests to bistro lunches of salad niçoise and eggplant sandwiches, dinners of roasted rack of lamb and coq au vin, and desserts of crème brulée and apple tarte tatin. It also delights with its bouillabaisse—a fish stew that the San Diego Union Tribune once called “too perfect to pass up.”
Guests sip Beaujolais amid the flowers and sunshine of the brick-walled patio or curl up to the interior's crackling fireplace for a romantic dinner date or even more romantic business lunch.
The concept of the South in evidence at Luc's Bistro is expansive, including not just down-home American comfort foods but historical influences from French, Creole, and Cajun cuisines. In an airy room that's a little fancier than the location tucked away off busy Poway Road might suggest, servers deliver plates accented with spicy touches such as paprika mayo or peppered bacon. Breakfast bites include Cafe du Monde beignets and eggs benedict with ham and homemade hollandaise. For a lighter lunchtime offering, diners might try the crab-cake sandwich or simply suck the helium out of a balloon. Dinner entrees range from Atlantic salmon to old Southern standbys such as country-fried steak and shrimp and grits.