The idea for California Fruit Wine was hatched in 2009, when a friend of Alan and Brian Haghighi introduced the twin brothers to small batches of homemade fruit wine. Since those first sips, Alan, Brian, and their older brother, David, have continued to help wine drinkers break free from grape-based conventions, utilizing such fruit as peaches, strawberries, plums, and pumpkins as the foundation for an ever-growing arsenal of flavors. From dry to sweet, the winery fills glasses with unique bouquets, and—like the microbreweries throughout Vista Business Park—buys its ingredients from local sources rather than growing them or stealing them from the refrigerators of napping bears. California Fruit Wine's spacious facility, which is stocked with a stage, bar, and pool table, can also be rented out for parties and private events.
At the helm of his urban winery in the heart of the Cedros Design District, winemaker Adam Carruth handcrafts award-winning wines, including the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best in Class Alexander Valley Cabernet, from grapes he fastidiously collects from all over California. His team handles the production of each varietal from crush to finish, aging juices in barrels that line the walls of the industrial-chic tasting room. The final products—which range from a crisp sauvignon blanc to a bordeaux-style Surfing Madonna—slosh into customized stemware for patrons’ enjoyment seven days a week. Also in the tasting room, guests can peruse the exhibited work of local artists, break into crunchy baguettes from Bread & Cie or nibble on cheese.
The sounds of conversation and laughter compete with the clinking of glasses in The Wine Artist’s lofty venue. The space sprawls over 2,500 square feet, with plenty of room to host wine tastings, networking events, and cooking classes. During these classes, students perch on wrought-iron stools around marble countertops as they learn to prepare food with wine or the cuisine of faraway countries such as Italy, Thailand, or Narnia. Afterward, they savor their creations amid the pale tiled floors and dark-wood accents of the Tuscan-style space.
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.
Atop a hill that overlooks Ramona Valley, the workers at Eagles Nest Winery move from row to row, hand picking cool, dewy grapes in the early morning. Gently crushed and subjected to two rounds of fermentation, these grapes eventually emerge from natural-oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks as fine wines. Myriad varietals are served and sampled in the winery's tasting room, including full-bodied merlots, dry chardonnays, and ports laced with notes of vanilla, blackberries, and licorice shoelaces.