I first met Jim and Judi Brady about four years ago in the rustic tasting room of their Roadrunner Ridge Winery in Rainbow. At that time, they were for all intents and purposes brand new, with just two vintages under their belt. Located on the former site of Rusty Acres Herb Farm, they had grown herbs and lavender until wildfire swept through, blocking access to their property. With no access, they were unable to water and without water, they lost everything. In 2007, Jim, a former home winemaker, thought he’d play around with a little vineyard, planting cuttings from a single Syrah vine. Those cuttings on the “Chicken Ranch” vineyard thrived, so they ordered some “real” vines from a nursery. Today they have nearly 4,000 vines on four and a half acres. From 25 cases produced in 2009, they expect to have almost 500 cases of the 2013 vintage. Growth is slow on purpose. It has taken time to establish their name and their reputation.
“We make wine we like, because we might have to drink it” explained Judi, who serves as vineyard manager and assistant winemaker. It’s advice they took to heart from Wes Hagen from Clos Pepe Winery. He told them early on to only grow and produce what they really like. Wine is really hard to sell if you’re not passionate about it, he explained. She follows Jim around to make sure he doesn’t miss any steps. Jim and Judi were both home winemakers when they met 37 years ago. They recall buying grapes from Joe Hart in the mid ’70s before he had a bonded winery. But “when you get involved with something it mushrooms” said Judi. In 1993 they met again through a wine tasting group. Both were divorced.
In addition to the first Syrah cuttings, they have added Mourvedre, Shiraz, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and all five white Rhône varietals: Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc. They blend all five whites together into what they call their Cinq Blanc. They love what they call the “crazy” blends from Paso Robles and have come up with a few of their own. PMS is a blend of Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Syrah. Renegade is a blend of Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah. Petite Shirazin combines Petite Sirah, Shiraz and Zinfandel. Jim says he likes big, bold, extracted red wines and doesn’t want to waste a drop of his precious juice on rosé. They say the rocky red clay soil allows them to cut back on watering, and the morning fog and temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than Temecula make it ideal for growing grapes. They enjoy a spectacular panoramic view, but they admit they have to remember to look at it.
This year marks the fifth year they are participating in the Pechanga Wine Festival slated for February 28th. They like the fact that most of the attendees are locals who aren’t aware there are wineries in San Diego County and just how close Roadrunner Ridge is. Most of the people who stop by for a taste know wine, so they don’t need to educate them. Judi says “the whole thing is top rate.” They cite the service, food and live music. Nearly 100 wineries not only from around the state, but from around the world will be pouring.
If you’d like to visit Roadrunner Ridge, Jim and Judi are there nearly every day. They just ask that you give them a day’s notice because if they don’t know you’re coming they might not see or hear you. Their wine club is at about 35 members now. Shipments are four bottles twice a year with pickup parties in the spring and fall. Members enjoy live music and food at no cost. If you can’t make it to the winery, you can find their wines at Temecula Valley Cheese Company, D’Canters and Wine On A Dime. Roadrunner Ridge is located at 4223 Rosa Rancho Lane in Rainbow. Put in Fallbrook if you’re relying on your GPS. Give them a call at (760) 731-7349. I tasted seven of their 15 wines and was more than impressed. The wines were good when I visited four years ago. They are much better now.