San Diego’s Growing Wine Industry
When people think of California wineries, they often look to Napa or Sonoma, areas well-known for creating some of the finest wines. Few people consider San Diego when they decide to venture out on a wine tasting tour. However, San Diego is a county with many microclimates that make it easy to grow unique grapes that create interesting wine flavors. This has led to a growing wine industry in the region as any FAQ guide to staying in San Diego will attest.
Southern California Wine History
Wine making has been prominent in southern California since 1781 and surprisingly, that history began in San Diego. Mission San Diego de Alcala began producing wine using their own grapes and continued making it until around 1850. The first commercial winery in the area was Asher Maxcy’s vineyard that was founded in 1870. Wine making in San Diego remained scattered between the 1860s and the 1870s until a wave of German, French and Italian immigrants settled in the area. The Ferrara Winery, founded in 1860, is thought to be the oldest continually operating winery in the area. Prohibition caused many of the wineries to replace grapes with fruit and nut trees. There was a small surge of wine making immediately after Prohibition, but it was short-lived due to World War II and the war effort. In the 1970s and 1980s, wineries were reborn near San Diego and the industry has continued to grow ever since.
Highland Valley Area
One area where wine is making a comeback in the San Diego area is the Highland Valley where Ugni Blanc and Pinot Meunier are being grown among boulders, chaparral and other plants. There were 752 acres of wine grapes harvested in 2012, a crop that produced more than $5.53 million, five times as much as what was harvested in 2011. San Diego is more dry and humid than areas in Northern California, but the climate is not much different than areas of eastern Washington or Lodi where wine grapes have thrived. The key many vineyard owners say is planting the grapes more to capture westerly winds than for sun exposure in order to retain the acidity necessary to create wine.
The most difficult part, say many wineries, is getting the recognition the area deserves for their wines. The area has remained off the radar of many wine consumers as they are relatively new to the wine scene. One of the problems is that San Diego is wedged between Riverside County with 58 wineries in one concentrated area and Mexicoâ€™s Baja Californiaâ€™s 50 wineries. This creates significant competition for San Diego with their small number of wineries, although the number of vineyards is growing. In addition, San Diego faces water concerns like the majority of California which can affect the growing season. In addition, recent legislation passed by the county Board of Supervisors has created some confusion about creating wineries in the area.
San Diego State University does not currently offer an enology or viticulture program, although their College of Extended Studies offers a wine professional program. Enrollment in the program has grown from 118 to 279 since it began in 2004, averaging 30 new enrollees each semester. This indicates the growth of the wine industry in the San Diego area and the potential for even more wineries to start there in the near future.
This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a travel website that offers customers a fast and easy way to find the best travel deals.