Wine making in the back country of San Diego, Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona AVA
I try to visit the States in the summertime to keep a finger on the pulse of the American wine world and of course, to visit family and friends. This year, one of my first stops in the US was San Diego, Ca. I went to university in San Diego so I have a bit of a soft spot for the region but back in the day, there weren’t many wineries in the back country of San Diego around. Or, maybe there were but back then I was more interested in tequila then wine 😉
Anyway, I attended the first American wine bloggers conference back in 2008 and it was there that I met the owners of Eagles Nest Winery, Dennis and Julie Grimes. They were very friendly and invited me to visit them the next time I was in the area. Forward to 2013 and we’re tweeting each other, arranging my visit to their vineyard.
Dennis and Julie started Eagles Nest about 10 years ago, clearing and planting the hillsides on land they bought in the Ramona Valley. Ramona Valley is in the foothills of San Diego but the beach can seem a million miles away, driving along the dry and dusty hills. That’s what I’ve always like about my home state – the variety of climate and landscapes all encapsulated in one place. Be it rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes or the sea, it’s all here and within easy driving distance.
The Ramona AVA is a relatively new designation but the vineyards there are cranking out award winning wines. The AVA has over 20 wineries, which grow both red and white varieties. As the valley is nestled in the foothills of the coastal mountains, it benefits from the coastal marine layer and fog that rolls in most nights. This being California, the days are hot and the nights are cool, all of which are great for the maturation of the grapes.
At Eagles Nest, Dennis and Julie grow both red and white grapes and have won over 30 awards for their wines in the less than 10 years they’ve been making wine. Dennis makes wine in the Old World style, a style I very much appreciate. His white wines have freshness and acidity while the reds are aged in oak for just the right amount of time. He makes a cracking tempranillo that would not be out of place in Rioja. I tasted through their range and was very impressed with the quality of the wines.
As well as table wines, they also make fortified wines, including a zinfandel, a cabernet sauvignon, a viognier and a picpoul blanc! All surprisingly good and very well made. I enjoyed the fortified viognier very much with the blue cheese served alongside it.
The winery is situated on a hill overlooking the vines and there is also guest cottage with a 3/4 wraparound veranda where we sat and watched the local hawks lazily catching the breeze before digging into more of the Eagles Nest cabernet and homemade pizza (they also have a pizza oven on site!).
So the next time you’re in San Diego, give the beach a break for a day and head up to Ramona for some world class wine. It’s only 30 miles from downtown San Diego but a world away.