By Noreen Kompanik
When I heard that Oceanside has a winery with its very own vineyard and a catchy name-I had to check it out for myself.
Oceanside is a classic Southern California coastal beach town considered the gateway city between San Diego and Los Angeles. With miles of white sandy beaches, a pristine Cape Cod-like recreational harbor, and the longest wooden pier in southern California, Oceanside is the perfect place to experience the legendary California beach culture.
In their home, a few blocks from the beach, George and Kimberly Murray began experimenting making wine for their own personal consumption in 1998. Their studious efforts and creativity through a combined 30 plus years of winemaking experience, demonstrated a knack for making quality wines pleasing to the palate. This was initially merely a hobby as both were fully employed as high level managers at a local nuclear power plant. With the announcement the plant closing was imminent; the couple took this as a sign that it was time to really get serious about making wine.
Kimberly’s family owned property with a massive avocado grove in the agricultural community of South Morro. Their plan was to start planting grapevines while allowing the avocado trees to organically decompose on site for their natural fertilizer. The Murrays took winemaking courses through the University of California at Davis. Dream became reality and Oceanside’s first winery and vineyard opened in 2010.
“We are the trailblazers” said George. “The naysayers said grapes would not grow well in this region. Well they did, and they do. We’ve done something here that’s never been done before”. Beach House Winery is a “Vigna al Mare” (Vineyard at the Sea).
From the start, the Murrays were serious about producing the very the best wines using only quality grapes and quality barrels. Expressing some of the uncertainty and trepidation of starting a new business, Kimberly humorously offered that “we make wines the way we like to drink them, because at the end of the day, we knew we may have to drink the wine ourselves”. And they do, but fortunately, so do many others.
Though located 13 miles inland from the coast, on a bucolic, picturesque winding road, the winery offers stunning, panoramic views of North County and the Pacific Ocean. A wrought iron spiral staircase leads to a rooftop patio enabling patrons to sip their wine while enjoying warm ocean breezes and sunset ocean views. The spectacular hilltop vista of rolling hills with verdant green patches of land adds an element of quintessential California to the moment.
Beach House Winery uses only local grapes for their wines currently aging in French oak barrels. And they have been collaborating with local farms to plant even more grapes on their properties. The ultimate goal according to the Murrays is to re-establish the wine industry in north San Diego County and get the vineyards and wineries back to where they were prior to the Prohibition era. “And this is going to take a team effort and we’re thrilled to be leading that charge”.
For a small boutique winery, Beach House’s wine tasting list is impressively extensive with sixteen varietals of whites and reds available to taste and purchase. Kimberly explains that “we wanted people to come and enjoy themselves, so, we’ve created something for everyone’s tastes.”
It was a sunny, warm southern California afternoon on the day of our visit and I particularly enjoyed the 2012 Shades of White, a lushly refreshing Viognier/Chardonnay blend with a perfect balance of fruit and oak characteristics. Kimberly chuckled, responding “this one is so popular with our white wine drinkers. We call it our mistake that went very well”. She went on to explain how one day while sipping their wines, the two varietals were inadvertently mixed together and Kimberly loved the resulting flavor. Hence, Shades of White was born!
Reds, however, reign supreme on the wine list and varietals include thirteen reds ranging from a Sangiovese to their Late Harvest Merlot. My partner loved the 2012 Zin on the Beach, a complex, full-bodied blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petite Syrah. Barrel aged for two years, this exquisite red blend displayed strong aromas and flavors of berries nicely accented with slight hints of spice.
Several of the winery’s reds have won medals in Sommelier Challenges and San Diego County Fair contests. The Murray’s first Estate Wine is still barrel aging, but is due to be bottled within the next few months. Its arrival is ardently awaited by their avid friends and club members.
Wine production has increased to 2,000 cases a year. Thus far, the Murrays have been able to handle all the winemaking, bottling and labeling themselves. Even the winery’s artistic label was created by George using his son’s colored pencils. More red blends are being planned, catering to the preferences of their wine patrons.
The Beach House Wine Club is also unique in that customers choose their own selection of wines. Even with plans to grow more grapes, the Murrays want the winery to remain boutique. Future growth according to Kimberly may include opening a tasting room in downtown Oceanside.
As George pointed out with a great deal of pride, “No, this isn’t just a hobby anymore”. Their passion for making wine and working to develop more wineries in the region has caught fire in this north county region. And this can only make wine connoisseurs even happier.
Beach House Winery is located at 1534 Sleeping Indian Road, Oceanside, CA. Hours of operation are Saturday and Sunday noon to 4:00pm. All other days/hours are by appointment only.