Nature plays a central role in the lives of the McClellans. As avid gardeners, they relish plunging their hands into the dirt and planting new seeds, especially those for Rhone grape vines. Yet even as the owners of Highland Hills Winery, tending the vineyard isn't their only means of communing with nature. Local coyotes and birds of prey from the on-site lake help to keep rodents away from the vines and occasionally feed on the grapes, giving the signal that everything is ready for harvest. As a gesture of thanks, the coyote and the surrounding Ramona Grasslands are featured on the labels that adorn Highland Hills' six wines. These barrel-aged styles range from a rich, fruit-forward petit syrah to a bright and citrus-tinged blended white. Every Saturday and Sunday, they're available for sampling in a climate-controlled, ADA-approved tasting room that's furnished with iron cafe tables and cushioned chairs.
Tucked away in the sunny and picturesque Ramona Valley, Lenora Winery bottles beautiful wines in an equally beautiful setting. Amongst a wide range of varietals crafted from the eight types of grapes that flourish along the vineyard's sun-drenched hills, Lenora boasts a number of award-winners, including their 2012 Lenora Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Visitors can enjoy samples of the wines at the 22-seat tasting room, or drink in the views on the outdoor grape arbor with seating for 44 people. During tastings, guests sample white, rose, red and dessert wines as well as blends procured from several vintages. Winemakers lovingly hand-craft each elixir, with many bottled into fewer than 25 cases.
Sprawled across 20 acres on Sunshine Summit, La Serenissima produces premium, handcrafted wines. To develop its complex varietals, the Venetian estate winery follows traditional winemaking practices that have been passed from one generation to the next. Such a process begins with remarkable grape quality, which La Serenissima achieves through organic farming practices. The winery's process also includes meticulous harvesting, oak barrel fermentation, and aging timed by taste instead of pouring the wine into a giant hourglass. La Serenissima showcases this process during winery tours, during which visitors taste wines in different stages of aging straight from the barrels.
The impressive stone veranda at Vineyard Grant James allows visitors a view of the property in all its grandeur. Lush vines and grassy paths stretch across its 3 acres, just the beginning of a larger vineyard to come. But the vineyard is more than a breathtaking view; it's settled in the perfect climate for growing a wide variety of grapes. Elevations of up to 2,200 feet, decomposed granite soil, and an average temperature of 64 degrees contribute to the perfect atmosphere for cultivating syrah, merlot, sangiovese, orange muscat, greco, refosco, and nebbiolo grapes—which its winemakers mix into five smooth varietal blend wines.