How to Wine Your Way Through Southern California

Southern California boasts its fair share of stunning and unique vineyards
Southern California boasts its fair share of stunning and unique vineyards | © Anthony Arendt / Alamy Stock Photo
Katie Watkins

Southern California has its own wine scene, stretching from San Diego to Santa Barbara – and its reputation continues to grow. It has some of the ideal conditions for growing grapes that equals to those in Napa and Sonoma. When most people hear the phrase “California wine” instantly think of Napa Valley, but nowadays, winemakers in Southern California are seriously working to change that. Start wine-ing your way through SoCal with these wineries.

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Domaine Artefact

Family-owned and operated, the founders of Domaine Artefact – Mark and Lynn – met while they were undergrads at UCLA. Their 30-acre (12ha) estate sits above Escondido’s San Pasqual Valley, and they specialize in Rhône-style wines. Several of their varieties have won international awards. After stopping by the tasting room, you can have a picnic or stroll through the grounds, which also includes an organic olive orchard.

Briar Rose Winery

Visiting Briar Rose Winery feels like stepping into a fairytale, and for good reason. In the 1970s, a man named Beldon Fields bought property in Temecula where he built replicas of Snow White’s cottage for his wife. An employee of Disney, Fields was one of the artisans who built Fantasyland and Toon Town. Today, the Snow White cottages remain, although the land is now home to the boutique winery run by Les and Dorian Linkogle. Among their specialties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Merlot. Reservations are required to visit the storybook tasting room.

Ponte Winery

With over 300 acres (120ha) of vineyards, Ponte Winery is one of the biggest in Temecula. Ponte started harvesting grapes in 1984, opened a winery in 2003, and expanded to include an inn on the property in 2012. They grow 23 varieties of grapes, and you can also sign up to tour the grounds and winemaking facilities. An on-site restaurant offers scenic outdoor dining surrounded by the gardens and vineyards. Every Friday and Saturday evening, the restaurant also hosts live music. Ponte Winery is one of nine stops on Temecula’s Rancho California Trail East wine trail.

Malibu Wines

Located in the Malibu countryside, this entirely outdoor winery gets packed on the weekend when there’s live music on both Saturday and Sunday. While they don’t serve food, guests are allowed to bring their own snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. There’s an option to reserve wooden picnic tables or bring blankets to sit on. Malibu Wines grow their grapes at the nearby Saddlerock Ranch, which also offers its own set of unique wine tours, including a wine safari, boat ride and hiking options.

Rideau Vineyard

Located in the Danish town of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley, Rideau Vineyard has been producing wine since 1997. The tasting room – El Alamo Pintado Adobe – was built in the 1800s, once serving as an inn for tired stagecoach travelers. Today, those who visit the tasting room receive a complimentary tour of the vineyard and winery. Rideau also frequently hosts events, including live music and outdoor movie screenings. It sits on the Santa Ynez wine trail.

Whitcraft Winery

While the valleys surrounding Santa Barbara are home to expansive vineyards, the city itself has a vibrant wine tasting scene in an area known as the Funk Zone, where Whitcraft Winery sits. In the Funk Zone, wine tasting rooms sit adjacent to art galleries, restaurants and surfboard shapers. One of Santa Barbara’s oldest wineries, Whitcraft was founded in 1985 by Chris Whitcraft, who hosted a local wine radio program in Santa Barbara. Whitcraft specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, and is located on the city’s Urban Wine Trail.

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