Benjamin Franklin once said that “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.” And happy is what’s happening at Volcan Mountain Winery and there’s no doubt about that.
Located at the base of the 4,200 foot Volcan Mountain, the picturesque winery sits just outside the historic gold-mining town of Julian. Here Mike Hart and his brother, renowned winemaker and co-owner Jim Hart from Hart Winery in Temecula, have brought the family’s expertise and passion for hand-crafting great wines to the apple pie capital of the world. As a matter of fact, there just happens to be an apple orchard directly across the road from the winery.
An antique Dodge truck sits as a landmark in front of the property, giving it a distinctive countrified charm. The outdoors are celebrated here, inviting visitors to relax in Adirondack chairs, mingle with other wine lovers, or take their wine and picnic lunch to sheltered tables set up near the vineyards. The scenic valley with the Volcan Mountains as a perfect backdrop beckons wine lovers to enjoy Volcan’s wines in bucolic surroundings. It’s a beautiful warm sunny day, and somehow we can tell we’re in for a great experience.
We’re greeted in the rustic tasting room by Melanie known to all as “Mel”. Her bubbly personality and warm friendly manner make everyone feel welcome. Inviting us to the tasting table, she tells the story of the property previously known as J. Jenkins Winery. She’s worked here with wines for years and her expertise regarding Volcan’s wines is extensive. As one loyal patron declared “No pun intended but Mel is truly the ‘heart’ of this place.”
Five estate-grown wines are produced at the Volcan Mountain Winery. Currently one-acre of the vineyard is planted with Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir grapes with new varietals being added. However, almost all of the wine produced here is selectively sourced from local grapes. The property is unique as it also contains 21 varieties of apples. And as an added bonus, those apples are being used to produce some interesting and incredibly flavorful wines.
An impressive variety of whites and reds are available for tasting. Mel not only knows the wines backward and forward, she regales guests with humorous wine tasting experiences and stories about the historic town of Julian.
As we’re sampling these incredible wines, wine club members are coming to pick up their quarterly selections and visiting around the wine tasting bar. Most are on a first-name basis with Mel and to boot, seem to know the names of other patrons. And if they don’t, it doesn’t take long before everyone is talking, laughing and comparing notes on the wines. It’s a place where you may come as strangers, but, you’ll leave as friends.
Wine tastings are $10 for 6 generous pours. Starting with a new-release 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, the grapefruit, citrus and grassy wine was perfect for a warm day. The 2016 Viognier has to be one of the best we’ve tasted in Southern California with floral notes and tropical aromas – you know you’ll be taking a bottle or two home with you. A 2015 Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel, then aged in French Oak is smooth and fruity with a touch of buttery flavor.
The Dolcezza Apple Wine, produced from estate-grown apples, is refreshingly dry and delicate. The saying goes that “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” Well, at Volcan, when life gives you apples, you make apple wine. And this one is a sure-bet winner.
Moving on to the reds, we began with a 2015 Sangiovese, medium bodied with sour cherry and red fruit on the palate. A 2014 peppery Shiraz was a thoroughly enjoyable favorite until we tasted the extraordinary 2015 Shiraz, rich-bodied, spicy, and bold. Definitely one amazingly tasteful varietal.
When wine is made with fruit from a historic vineyard, calling it an Old Vine Zinfandel only seems appropriate and this Old Vine is classic quality with its notes of red fruit, spice and soft tannins. My spouse, who’s not a big fan of Tempranillo, was delightfully surprised by Volcan’s 2014 release Tempranillo with its leathery, peppery and spicy taste sporting intense berry fruit flavors.
Rounding out our amazing experience, the sweet Pommier Apple Port produced entirely from estate-grown apples was delicious and perfect as a dessert wine or an after-dinner aperitif.
Volcan Mountain’s Wine Club is unique in that members are free to choose their own wines quarterly. Wine tasting benefits are extremely generous as each member and up to three guests can enjoy free tastings up to four times per month. Members receive a 20% discount on wine bottle purchases, merchandise and a 25% discount on cases. But wait, there’s more. The winery also hosts pick up parties and wine-club appreciation events. Farm to table dinners and weddings are also held in the orchard.
Relaxing outdoors, one long-term patron of the winery exclaimed “Isn’t this just the best place? One day I came up for the orchard but I stayed for the wine.”
And speaking of orchards, in the fall, winery guests can take a glass of their favorite vino and head to the orchard to pick their own apples.
Family, friendship and extraordinarily well-crafted wines are what Volcan Mountain is all about. The picturesque views, refreshing mountain air and occasional deer passing through property were all icing on the cake.