Last Saturday was a beautiful day in the valley and a great day to get out and visit some of the new tasting facilities with my wife, Peggy, and two friends from the San Francisco Bay Area.
First, we visited . Edwards recently opened a tasting patio just off Highway 78 on the way toward Julian. Beth Edwards was pouring the wine on Saturday. This is one of the treats you get at smaller wineries. The person pouring the wine is likely to also be the person who works the vineyard and makes the wine.
As Beth poured some of her winery’s vintage Petite Syrahs and Cabs, she pointed to a row of vines a few yards away from us. She noted that each row of vines was 335 feet long.
“When you’re going up and down the rows with a weed wacker you learn how long the row is,” she said.
She is like other valley vintners who feel strongly about what they do and are interested in sharing it with visitors. Beth described how they grow their vines “unilaterally, out of one single cordon.” She said this is a method “to speed up growth without harming the plant.”
Beth also talked about her husband Victor's efforts to achieve that crucial balance between the tastes of fruit, oak and alcohol in their wine.
Ramona wineries offer visitors something else that's special — the views.
Edwards is at 2,500 feet, looking down on the Ballena Valley in the northeasten area of Ramona. Beth pointed out two peaks of the Cuyamacas across the valley, then had us turn our heads in the other direction to see the aptly named Mount Ballena, Spanish for whale, which gave the valley its name.
From Edwards we motored back down through the heart of Ramona to Mussey Grade Road, heading up to .
There were more spectacular views as we pulled up to their new tasting room. Once inside, we were welcomed by co-owner Kim Hargett. Her husband, Michael, was out working in the vineyards.
Kim proudly displayed the two medals won by Mahogany Mountain in March at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in upstate New York. Their 2007 Syrah won a gold medal while their 2008 Merlot garnered a bronze.
As we tasted those medal winners along with Zins and a Mourvedre, Kim offered us more owner insights, such as this one: “Zinfandel does very well here. They love the hot weather. Beautiful clusters.”
In one of my previous columns, Kim said she and Michael were bitten by the wine bug on a visit to French vineyards in the mid-1990s. On our visit to her winery, she shared another root of her wine interest.
“I grew up in Vietnam and there was a strong French influence there then, especially in South Vietnam,” she said. “My father spoke French and visited France. I learned French, and on special occasions, my family enjoyed champagne. I remember my parents and their friends sitting and drinking wine.”
For natural ambiance and accessibility to actual winemakers, the Ramona Valley clearly has a lot to offer.