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A Dream Realized at Kohill Winery in Ramona

The tiered winery ordinance was the key to taking their business to the next level, Mike Kopp says.

It’s been a busy fall for Mike and Aurora Kopp, co-owners of Kohill Winery. The name combines their family name with the winery’s hillside location.

When Mike Kopp spoke to me on the evening of Nov. 9, he said they’d just wrapped up this year’s harvest.

“We just finished pressing the last of our whites this morning,” he said. “Our biggest crop this year was our cab, which came in at 3,000 pounds.”

Simultaneous with the harvest season was running his winery’s tasting room, which is now open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Kohill, like many other valley wineries, was able to sell its wines only wholesale and through its website until the passage of San Diego County’s . Now, Kopp said, Kohill’s sales come primarily out of the tasting room.

“The ordinance was the key in taking the business to the next level,” he said.

Kopp also has another ball to juggle—a day job as an engineering manager at Qualcomm. Yet speaking in a low-key, matter-of-fact manner, he seemed to be taking it all in stride as he works to build what he calls his “family dream.”

“We’ve always been entrepreneurial-minded,” Kopp said. “We tried a couple of different businesses but they never satisfied our desire to have something from the ground up.”

He and Aurora had always enjoyed wine, and when they bought eight acres in Ramona in March 2000 they saw the opportunity to create a destination winery and vineyard.

They designed and built their own home on the property, moving in a week before Christmas in 2001. Then they began work on the vineyard, starting in 2002 with the planting of 450 cabernet sauvignon vines. Plantings of sauvignon blanc, barbera, refosco and semillion soon followed, along with the construction of a 1,400-square-foot winery.

Kohill’s first releases came in 2008: 50 cases of a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blend—named Aurora’s Red—and 15 cases of 2007 Sauvignon Blanc.  They have since followed with a 2007 Merlot, a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2008 Viognier.

Kopp studied winemaking under at MiraCosta College and completed the winemaking certificate program at U.C. Davis.

“Most people that try our wines seem to like them,” Kopp said.

I can vouch for that after spending some time at the Rancho Bernardo Tastings Festival Oct. 2 at the Bernardo Winery. I witnessed Kohill and several other Ramona wineries attracting a lot of tasters. Two hours into the four-hour festival, Kopp ran out of wine and had to head back up the hill to get more.

“We started out pouring our viogner, then went to a recent release of sauvignon blanc. They were both going like crazy,” he said.

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