San Diego is not world-renowned for its wines, however, the South California wine region is and while the wineries of San Diego are less known than some of the region’s other valleys they can still hold their own. There are many different Wineries operating in San Diego and most are small-scale boutique operators perfect for getting out a tasting a little of what the Region can offer.
An Afternoon in the sun tasting some great wine can be the perfect tonic from the stress of real-life or even the exertion of hitting all of San Diego’s Famous attractions. The Wineries on offer all have relaxed no-pressure tastings where you are provided a generous splash of several wines of your choice from their tasting menus and the chance to explore the setting, purchase some wine, or dine in an on-site restaurant. It really is a civilized way to spend the afternoon.
California Wine Production
If California was a country it would be the 4th biggest Wine Maker in the world (after Italy, Spain, and France) and is easily the biggest New World wine producer globally. Napa Valley and Sonoma County take all the plaudits, with good reason but they are not alone.
There are 4 distinct regions that Produce grapes in California.
North Coast – Napa and Sonoma – The Region that put Cali wine on the Map. Napa is the most famous but produces very little of California’s wine! Still, what it does make is top quality.
Central Coast – Sants Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara, Lesser known than its northern neighbor but still a top producer
Central Valley – The least known but biggest producer, Two-thirds of US Grapes are grown in the Central Valley. This area is responsible for the cheaper end of the market wines (think Barefoot)
South Coast – Temecula, San Pasqual, and Romona Valleys – Where we are for this article. Temecula Gets the glory down this way with many claiming it to have better wines than Napa.
San Diego – being a Built-up urban area does not have the land or quite the climate to produce grapes. However, it has everything you need for great Wineries. These Urban Wineries procure their grapes from the surrounding regions, Temecula San Pasqual and Romana, and take advantage of the transport, Communications, and Market infrastructure being in a big city can offer!
Serious Wine Drinkers may enjoy heading out to Temecula for a serious wine experience but those just looking for a relaxed afternoon will find everything they want in a short trip or less from the City
Best Wine Tasting in San Diego
- Tasting – $25 for 5
- Location – Rancho Bernado
As we said you won’t find a Vin-yard in the immediate San Diego area, But the Bernado Winery is a really close second. They still grow grapes here and you can visit the vines, but they no longer have the acreage to support the winery so most of the grapes are shipped in. What you do get is a stunning location, great wines, and one of the most relaxed, grown-up afternoons you can find in San Diego!
The setting is far more Rural than the others on the list and the grounds are stunning. The 5 wines are generous pours and are paired with a chocolate tasting. The Winery is one of the oldest in the states and the grounds are littered with antique winemaking equipment and artifacts from the decades of winemaking. Exotic plants and flowers line the paths and walkways while hummingbirds buzz around sipping the nectar as you sip yours.
The Kitchen is the on-site restaurant and obviously has a wine list made up of Bernados wines, There is a Coffee shop (someone has to drive!) along with 12 Village shops selling all manner of artisan goodies. And of course, you can purchase a bottle or two (Dozen cases?) of the wine when you are done!
This is the quintessential Urban Winery. The location leaves a lot to be desired, on a nondescript strip mall on the side of the road, it is however close to most places. The Bar area is nice and the team is very friendly and as it is an active brewery they are happy to show you the winemaking process. The Focus at Blue Door is the Wine!
They really make some very good wines indeed. Whether you opt for the tasting or just hit the bar and get some guzzling done. They offer some particularly good reds and excellent Ice Cold Sangria. There is no restaurant but they offer bar nibbles.
With three locations and a great selection of Wines, the San Pasqual is one of the best Wineries in the area. The La Mesa locations are a little way out, located at either their actual winery or their tasting foom and Gallery. The Seaport location is a real favorite though as it is centrally located and does not require any driving. So once you have enjoyed your tasting you can enjoy your favorite bottle right by the seafront!
- Tasting – $17 for 5
- Location – San Pasqual
We can try and keep this one short. Stunning Views, Sunshine, Great wine, and Woodfired Pizza! There is a lot to like. The only downside is the distance out from town. The Cordiano is perfect for combining with the Bernado Winery, but it means the designated driver is going to miss out on two stunning wine tastings. Still, the views and Pizza should help make up for it, and you can always spit!
TIP – San Diego Beers Wines & Spirits Tours, who run the Wine train Tour below also offer a chauffeured tour that will usually end up here!
- Tasting – $22 for 6
- Location – Carlsbad
All the way up in Carlsbad the Witch Creek Winery is a great stop if you are heading up to the Flower Feilds or just exploring the Coastline on the Coaster Railway. Having Direct Rail links to San Diego helps avoid the Driving Dilemma.
Witch Creek is just a block back from the Ocean and has a strikingly decorated tasting room. The Wineries brand is very modern and the wines are excellent.
- Tasting – $20 for 6
- Location – Solano Beach
Another Stop worth seeing in the Coaster train is Solano Beach and Another Winery Tasting is the Solano Beach Tasting room at the Carruth Cellars Winery. Another hip and young winery with a fun and vibrant brand. The Wines have won plenty of awards and plaudits and the Winery is worth heading out to all by itself.
Combine it with Witch Creek in Carlsbad on the Coaster train and you have a wonderful afternoon in two beautiful coastal towns with some top-drawer wine! If that doesn’t make you happy, well you could always try SeaWorld…!
- Tasting – $15 for 5
- Location – Old Town San Diego
We include Roses for a couple of reasons. First, the location right in the heart of Old Town San Diego is really charming. It also offers Beer Tasting as well as Wine. So if one of your group just doesn’t like wine and has no interest in tearing around the city doing wine tastings then you can convince them to try here for the Beers!
Roses is not a Winery but instead offers a selection of local Wines along with the odd guest one. It is also positioned near the Old Town stop of the Coaster line, meaning it is easy to add a third tasting to your tour!
San Diego Winery Train Tour – San Diego Beers Wines & Spirits Tours
2023 UPDATE: The trains are still not running due to Covid- 19 restrictions. However, the Winery is offering a chauffeured tour for $149 per person.
- Price – $98 (+$15 for the Train )Includes Tour Guide, Lunch Nibbles and 15 Tastings!
- Location – Varied – Uses Coaster Train that runs up the spectacular Pacific Coastline between Old Town and Carlsbad (Stopping off at Solano Beach).
We have been less than subtle in suggesting a DIY Winery Train tour in this article and the truth is the route has been used for years by San Diego Beers Wines & Spirits Tours who take you up and down the coastline on a fantastic Winery tour. Yes, it is quite easy to do this tour by yourself without a tour guide. However, you will miss out on a lot.
San Diego Beers Wines & Spirits Tours Guides have been doing this for years and know all the tips and tricks to get you the best tastings. If you DIY it, you will spend around to $50-70 (Not including the Rail Fare, $15) depending on where you dine. So $98 is a really decent price considering the inside knowledge you are getting. The guides know tons of information about the Wineries, the Wines, the South Coast AVA (American Viticulture Area, or Wine Region), and the area in general. It is a brilliant tour and one we whole heartily recommend.
In fact, we really only recommend DIYing it if you are more interested in checking out the Areas around Carlsbad and Solano Beach. In this case, the tour may be too restrictive. While you get a 15-minute walking tour of each area, it is fairly limited and you are focused mainly on the wines. If you want to explore more, just jump on the Coaster and get exploring!
Other than that the Winery Train Tour is great. As you are usually in a small group the atmosphere is really fun as everyone gets tipsy and starts to loosen up. They also offer beer-tasting tours and a Chauffeured winery tour that takes you out into the countryside.
Most Wineries Promote themselves on Groupon and you can get some real bargains. There is nothing better than a great deal on cheap wine!
Have Your Say
Been to any of San Diego’s Wine Tasting Rooms? What did you think? Were the wines up to muster and did you feel you got good value out of the Tastings? Were you let down by anything? Let us know in the comments below. Also, fire away if you have any questions about Wine Tasting in San Diego!