I’m a long-time member of a worldwide organization dedicated to preserving the culture and life-style of Italy, and attend meetings and events at the North San Diego County Lodge of the Sons of Italy.

Among the adventures some of us enjoy is go out as a group and experience wine tastings.  We have self-proclaimed ourselves the Taste Of Wine Grapeheads, dedicated to discovering the next great wine at the next great winery.
The Ramona Valley Wine AVA was officially born in January 2006. It’s roughly East of  Interstate 15, about 139 square miles surrounding the city of Ramona. About 50 commercial wineries grow wine grapes in this 60 acre appellation. It’s only the 2nd AVA in the county and the 3rd in Southern California. 
An improbable event occurred that got our juices going to drive through the Ramona Wine Trail, stopping at three wineries that were linked together by a growing inventory of very good wines. The event was a “Boutique Wine Ordinance “permitted by the San Diego County Supervisors some months ago.  With some restrictions, the wineries are now allowed to open tasting rooms for the public, when up to this year, it was an expensive and exhausting process.  
By my rough count, there are some 25 wineries that have now opened their doors to tasting in the San Pasqual/Ramona/Julian area, either by scheduled hours or by appointment. They have an Association and a neatly published brochure listing the locations with a map, at www.sandiegowineries.org.
Our first stop on Highland Valley Road East of Escondido was Cordiano Winery where we toasted our wine glasses with the Cordianos, an Italian extended family dedicated to fine wines since 2002.  
The view is spectacular from the property which has an outdoor kitchen, patio and events center, sharing space with the family home. The pizza served on the small bites menu is incredibly good as the dough is made fresh each morning.  
Visitors have a choice of toppings or you can choose from a veggie, meat or “Supreme” pizza.  The Cordiano Cabernet 2008 ($24.) or the Cordiano Cabernet Franc 2007 (30.40) is a beautiful addition to your pizza selection.
“The scenic valley below my property reminds me of my homeland of Calabria, Italy,”smiled patriarch Gerardo Cordiano.  “The Italian style of wine making is growing in popularity; wine that is made to be consumed at the table with a favorite meal.  Grapes need to be challenged to be plump, juicy and possess the correct acidity.  We do not use chemicals and very little additives.  We have lots of sun, good drainage and no fog or humidity.” Learn more at www.cordianowinery.com.
That 2nd stop I would recommend is Pamo Valley Winery with its central  in-town tasting location in Ramona.  The passionate owner is Jennifer Jenkin, who has a wide choice of grape varietals, from an Orange Muscat/Viognier Blend to a “Cab On Fire” Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend which was a medal winner.  www. panovalleyvineyards.com.

Wine Maker Jim Hart of Milagro Farm Winery  offers a taste of his barrel aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Further East of Ramona and our last stop was Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery, a 110 acre, 10,000 vine operation with the latest, sophisticated equipment that wine maker Jim Hart has, to produce high quality wines. It’s the biggest winery in the RamonaValley.
Jim is the son of Joe Hart, a veteran wine maker-owner in Temecula Wine County.  “It’s been a work in progress,” he declared.  “When I got here the owner had planted Cabernet and Chardonnay, what he enjoyed drinking.  
I added Italian style wines like Sangiovese, Barbera, Barolo and Agliatico which I made into a dessert wine.  I expanded the Bordeaux style to include Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot.  Whites include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. There are about 1,000 vines of each varietal.” I asked him about this season’s harvest and a grin was evident.  “We were excited to pick over 38 tons of grapes which will convert to 3,000 cases. This is my 7thharvest at Milagro and I believe it will turn out to be our best.”  Find out more about  Jim Hart and Milagro at www.milagrofarmvineyards.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at www.tasteofwinetv.com.  Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.

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