Food Observations

A blog for eaters

Archive for the tag “wine”

Opolo Vineyards

Outstanding pizza and wines at Opolo in Paso Robles, CA! Just driving out to this winery is a treat. Two lane winding road through California’s beautiful central coast heartland. Fantastic tasting rooms that include spirits, etc.

North Italia

My favorite Italian restaurant in El Segundo is finally open in San Diego! North Italia recently opened two locations, in Fashion Valley Mall and Del Mar. This place really specializes in a hand crafted experience in all they do. The kitchen is open and everything, and their pasta is handmade from scratch daily. Here’s their house specialty, Bolognese. Traditional meat sauce with tagliatelle pasta and grana padano cheese. Simply outstanding!

Reds, Whites & Brews

Reds Whites & Brews is my favorite beer & wine bar in SoCal! They’re located in what was once called the “Pioneer Store,” a historical building on Main St. in Ramona, CA. It is the oldest structure in Old Town Ramona with its original construction dating back to 1883. It previously served as a waypoint for gold miners traveling from San Diego to Julian.

Such a comfortable and relaxing place with a perfect selection of local Ramona wines coupled with SoCal craft beers, including Ramona’s own Smoking Cannon Brewery. This time I had an excellent Mike Hess Double IPA, then an outstanding peanut butter stout. Everyone working there was genuine, knowledgable and sweet. Open daily at 2:00 pm (Saturdays at noon). Totally worth checking out if you’re never been.

Reds, Whites & Brews

Reds Whites & Brews is one of my new favorite adult beverage purveyors in Ramona! They’re located in what was once called the “Pioneer Store,” a historical building on Main St. in Ramona, CA. It is the oldest structure in Old Town with its original construction dating back to 1883. It previously served as a waypoint for gold miners traveling from San Diego to Julian.

Such a comfortable and relaxing place with a perfect selection of local Ramona wines coupled with SoCal craft beers. I had an excellent hard cider from Turqouise Barn Cider, then an outstanding peanut butter stout. Everyone working there was genuine, knowledgable and sweet. Open 7 days a week. Totally worth checking out if you’re never been.

Barrel 1 Winery 

Recently we visited Barrel 1 Winery and had an outstanding time! A beautiful sprawling, flat estate covering about 17 acres located at 1007 Magnolia Ave in Ramona. Supposedly the soil is “volcanic” and produces rich, high quality grapes. The dog friendly tasting room, which evokes a Tuscan ranch style atmosphere, is open Saturdays & Sundays 12-6pm. They have five wine varieties including a cabernet, merlot, muscat, etc. All were good and palatable. According to the gal running the tasting bar, all are made with local estate grown grapes. Not the most breathtaking setting, but cool and comfortable nonetheless.

After the tasting I wound up buying a bottle of their infamous Black Widow Merlot. Only 12.5% ABV, but very good and smooth. Amazing thing is, this is the first Ramona wine I’ve seen carried at Costco! Worst part was paying $9 a bottle more than the Costco price! However the visit to the winery was far more enjoyable than going to Costco, which usually gives me some degree of anxiety, dry mouth and occasional loose stool.






Vineyard Grant James 

Recently we visited Vineyard Grant James and had an outstanding time! Upon arriving I observed so many people I thought there must have been some private party going on. No. This place is just that popular. And despite the amount of wine folks there, we were treated so nice and personably! Tony was great – also met the gracious owners.At Vineyard Grant James they are strong advocates of wine blending. One single varietal can often be offensive or too intense, but with the proper blend the wines taste both smooth and complex. There is one white (Bellatrix) and a few reds. I tried several and nothing disappointed.  

They have a huge shaded stone veranda with misters to keep things comfortable during the heat. Ample seating, tables, etc. Not the most breathtaking vistas I’ve experienced, but a nice setting nonetheless, particularly with sweeping views of their vineyard. This place is so laid back and free flowing. Not at all rigid & tight like you’re being served by the winery accountant. 

One of the highlights was meeting Kim from “Cheeses from the Cave” and sampling some of her artisan cheese made right here in Ramona!  

Vineyard Grant James is located at 25260 East Old Julian Hwy in Ramona and is open Fri-Sun 12-5.




Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery 

Quick visit to another local winery. This time Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery. TRR came to fruition after the devastation of the 2007 Witch Creek wildfire. While growing grapes had always been an idea, now the land and space was cleared in order to make it a reality. For years the owners had studied different varieties of grapes and what would thrive in the Ramona Valley.

TRR is situated along Vista Ramona Rd and is fairly easy to find. Tasting area is huge with ample, comfortable seating. All shaded during the evening hours. They are clearly setup to handle larger groups and a multitude of visitors. I will say, not the most breathtaking views compared to other wineries in the area. I did appreciate their more flexible tasting options. $6 for 3 tastes, or $12 for 6 tastes.

Gail had a glass of the “Hello Love – White Wine Blend 2013″. She might have a remark below, I don’t know. I had a glass of the “Hello Sexy Winemakers Blend 2012”. 69% cabernet/31% merlot. It was outstanding, that I can tell you! I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, I just like saying “hello sexy”.


La Finquita Winery & Vineyard 

Let me start by saying I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I do like visiting wineries. We’re going to slowly start branching out into reviewing wineries. After all, it’s a fact that there are more wineries than taco shops in Ramona!Back in the day I visited and reviewed Edwards Vineyard & Cellars. This time we started close to home. Less than 10 minutes away is La FinquitaWinery, 23123 Vista Ramona Road. La Finquita, meaning “the little farm.” Not sure what language, but it sounds neat.

The property was originally developed in 1988 and subsequently established as a winery in 2007. The property was purchased by the current owners in December 2013, and reopened to the public as La Finquita Winery & Vineyard, Inc. on May 31, 2014.

We visited the tasting room which is open weekends, 11am-6pm, and during the week by appointment. A tasting of 5-6 varieties of wine costs $10-12.  

Might be hard to find depending on which way you’re driving in. Signage is fairly sparse. Once there you’re welcomed by a serene atmosphere with expansive views of the southern Ramona valley. Tasting room is large, modern, comfortable and accommodating. Staff is friendly and engaging.  

Gail, being new to wine in general, particularly appreciated this wine slushy thing they had called “Lucious Slushes”. Dispensed out of a slurpee like machine, it was all icy, etc. Perfect for the hot summer months approaching.  

There is ample, comfortable seating outside on their patio if you just want to stop by and hang out for a while with a nice glass of wine.  

I’m not gonna sugar coat it. The only wines I personally found palatable were the Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. I didn’t really care for any of the other choices which included a muscat; malbec; zinfandel; etc.

They also do custom bottle etching and I saw some pretty cool looking examples.  

As you can tell, I’m by no means a wine expert! With all the wineries in Ramona I don’t know where to go next. Comment and let me know if you have any tips or ideas. If they have food, that’s of course a plus!

Starbucks

Back to Starbucks to try another of their “Evenings” food items.  This time a chicken sausage flatbread thing.  It’s layered with chicken sausage, oven roasted maters, diced cherry peppers, mushrooms, etc.  it was tasty, but I’m not gonna sugarcoat it!  I’d have been happier with a $5 Hot & Ready from Little Caesars. 

Edwards Vineyard & Cellars

Nestled along Hwy 78 about half way between town and Santa Ysabel is the charming Edwards Vineyard & Cellars (no relation). They offer tastings every Saturday & Sunday from 11am-5pm in a comfortable patio setting. I sampled their Syrah today, as well as buying a bottle. I can’t begin to describe the taste using all the adjectives of a sommelier or wine snob… I’ll just say it was very good! The setting is so beautiful, you just want to sit and hang out. It was a joy visiting with proprietor Beth and her noble canine…

  

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