We paid a visit to Ramona Valley in advance of the Holiday Wine Trail, scheduled for the first three weekends of December. We stopped at five wineries to find what each had in store for the upcoming festivities. Although slightly overcast, temperatures were in the 80s and it was a delightful day to explore the picturesque and captivating Ramona Valley.
As we approached Woof ‘n Rose Winery, our first stop, I looked up to see Marilyn Kahle welcoming me with a wave and a smile. I had met Marilyn when I visited the winery four or five years ago and was delighted she remembered me. She and husband Steve opened their doors in 2007, but have been growing grapes since 1995. What began as a landscaping project turned into a winery after they planted grapes because they thought they would look nice. We visited while we tasted five new releases, starting with the 2015 Estate Grenache Noir. The wines are lovely, well-balanced and easy drinking. We also tried their Puppy Love, a blend of Grenache Noir and Alicante Bouschet, the 100% Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Franc and Eglantine, a Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauv and Merlot blend. Marilyn and Steve will offer Holiday Wine Trail guests specially created Cheryl’s Caramels made to pair with their wines.
We made our way into downtown Ramona, a quaint and charming town with an old-timey feeling. Aubry was waiting for us at Pamo Valley Winery. We felt a connection with Aubry instantly. She’s charming and made us feel like guests in her home. She poured us their Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah, all made with 100% estate fruit and each one excellent. We also tried their yummy house made red and white Sangria. Pamo Valley was the only tasting room open on Main Street until Reds, Whites and Brews recently opened. Check their website to see what they have in store for the Holiday Wine Trail.
Correcaminos Vineyard is one of the new kids on the block in Ramona Valley. We drove up and met owners Sue and Doug Robinson. The open air tasting room is very relaxed, and again we felt right at home as they shared every one of their eight wines with us. First Note is made from the Symphony grape and is slightly sweet, but refreshing and not at all cloying. Doña Sue’s White Blend is mostly Viognier and is excellent. Their Primero Cabernet Sauvignon is very light-bodied, low in alcohol and easy drinking. We tasted through Merlot, Fiesta, their Malbec, their Super Tuscan Spaghetti Strap, Besos Barbera and finally Amigos Sangiovese rosé. All their wines were food-friendly and paired very well with the picnic lunch I prepared. Doug and Sue purchased their property in 2009, planted in 2011 and opened earlier this year. As with many winery owners I’ve met, they planned on simply selling their fruit before they took the plunge and started the winery. They produce 300 – 350 cases annually. For the Holiday Wine Trail they will offer wine and chocolate pairings the first weekend, wine and gingerbread and ginger snaps the second weekend and wine and Christmas cookies the final weekend.
La Finquita was our fourth stop. Tasting room manager Jeff Carey welcomed us with a taste of Sangiovese and invited us to explore the property. Very family friendly, scores of guests young and old alike were enjoying the sun drenched patio. We ventured down the stairs to La Finquita’s wine cave and admired the hundreds of bottles adorning the walls. We saw several guests enjoying wine slashes and we just had to see what all the fuss was about. They were indeed very refreshing. Owners Charlie and Jess Koehler have created a very inviting spot to unwind, soak in the views and enjoy some tasty wines. For Holiday Wine Trail they’re offering commemorative glasses, discounts, Santa in the wine cave from noon – two on the 8th and 16th and mulled wine they call Christmas In A Glass. They’ll also be collecting for Toys for Tots through December 16 and offering 15% off bottle prices.
We ended this delightful afternoon with a stop at Poppaea Vineyard. Father and son team John and Ben own and operate the winery along with John’s wife Marion. Hailing from Great Britain, John came to the U.S. for a job in the pharmaceutical industry and retired four years ago. They planted six acres to 3,000 vines in 2010 – 2011. Featuring 100% Italian varieties made from 100% estate fruit, the wines are excellent. I loved the Sagrantino, having first experienced it in Umbria, Italy. We also got to taste the as yet unreleased Montepulciano. The name Poppaea came from the Princess Poppaea Sabina, born in Pompeii in 30 AD. It was after John and Marion saw the Monteverdi opera The Coronation of Poppaea that they were inspired to name the winery after the beautiful but naughty princess. They will offer British delicacies, including Toad In The Hole, during Holiday Wine Trail, will launch the Poppaea Nouveau and offer personalized wine labels.
Holiday Wine Trail passports are $10 and can be purchased by following this link.
Tom Plant launched WINEormous in 2009 and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association. Based in Temecula, California, he offers intimate winery tours for no more than seven people. Tour details and pricing are available at www.temecula-tours.com. WINEormous is the recipient of the Luxury Travel Guide’s Wine Tour Operator of the Year award for Temecula 2017. Call now to book your Temecula Winery Tour at (951) 907-9701. Ask about special discounts.