Southern California Staycation

Southern California Staycation

When the subject of California wine comes up in conversation, the wine producing regions of  Northern California typically come to mind. Encompassing the counties of Napa, Sonoma and more, this region is home to more than half the state’s wineries and grapes that have made California wine famous. The Southern areas are more commonly associated with celebrities, surfing, sandy beaches and Disneyland aren’t usually considered.  

However, the lower part of the state is growing with wineries in just about every county, and the cooler coastal communities and warm inland valleys producing notable varietals. Interestingly, the highest vineyard elevation is in San Diego at 4,400 feet above sea level. In this second part of the California wine staycation, we’ll uncover the tasting possibilities of Cucomonga Valley, Temecula Valley, San Diego and Los Angeles.


Rustic Cucomonga Valley

While the Southern California wine tourism industry isn’t as widespread or strong as it is in the North or Central Coastal areas, there are plenty of wine tastings to experience. The Cucamonga Valley, situated roughly 45 miles to the east of Los Angeles, was once a dominant wine making region in the early 1900s and  home to more than 60 wineries. Although a handful of wineries remain, these founding families produce wines from their original acreage. You can typically find rustic Zinfandels and old-vine fortified wines from this AVA.

One winery to check out is Galleano Winery [link to:], located in the Mira Loma Wineville area.The Galleano family has been in the winemaking business since 1884 and they’re still going strong. They offer daily wine tastings Monday to Sunday, from 9 am  to 5 pm.


Up, Up and Away in Temecula Valley

Although growers have been cultivating grapes in Temecula Valley since the late 1700s, the wine industry in this area didn’t really take root for another 200 years. It wasn’t until 1984 that the region attained AVA status. With an annual balloon and wine festival and warm climates tempered by fog, Temecula Valley is Southern California’s great wine country. While the region is home to 40 wineries, the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association [link to:] is a great place to start if you want to plan a wine tasting excursion in the area.  

One of the more family-friendly wineries is  Longshadow Ranch Wineries and Vineyards [link to:]. Imbued with Old West charm and history, this sixth generation winery still uses draft horses and machinery “from days gone by.”  They offer carriage rides through the vineyards and a family bonfire every Saturday night throughout the Summer.


San Diego - Where California Wine Making Began

When Spanish friars first set foot in San Diego and founded Mission San Diego De Alcala, they quickly realized the region was perfect for growing grapes, and thus viticulture in California was born. With a wide range of topographical influences and variety of microclimates, a number of varietals from Sangiovese and Syrah, to Grenace and Voignier can be discovered. And with more than 115 wineries in the county, the area is poised to become the next great California wine region. Most of the wineries are small, family-owned operations, so you will certainly get the one-on-one tasting experience you wouldn’t with a larger producer.


Star-studded Los Angeles

While the Los Angeles area may be better known for celebrity sightings than wineries, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. The area, including Malibu offers a number of intimate wineries. You may also be interested in The Garagiste Wine Festival [link to:] happening in Santa Monica on July 21. The festival is dedicated to artisan producers and offers “a unique opportunity to discover hard-to-find wineries, taste hundreds of their wines, and meet the winemakers -- for less than the cost of gas for a trip to wine country.”

So, no matter where you are located, California has a lot to intrigue and entice your oenophile sensibilities.

Get out there and enjoy!


Isabella Crisman