Looking for Day Trips from San Diego?
Bernardo Winery is Just a Short Drive Away
If you’re on the lookout for day trips from San Diego less than hour away, you’ll love visiting Bernardo Winery, an amazing and historic destination.
It was founded in 1889 when it was discovered by Vincent Rizzo, the original owner, who happened upon the land on a hunting trip.
His son, Ross Rizzo, took over the family winery from his father, Vincent, in 1962, and turned it into what it is today, a destination rich in history that combines old world hospitality with vintage charm.
Bernardo Winery proudly holds the title as Southern California’s oldest, continuously operated winery and tasting room. Located on the edge of San Diego County, just 25 minutes from Downtown San Diego and Lindbergh International Airport, you will find this rustic treasure trove is actually a sprawling venue filled with artisan studios, vintage shops, Italian eateries and historic lore.
Ross Rizzo, Jr., took the reins in 2008 and has successfully continued the family business. The estate wines, made in the traditional style with no chemicals, are so popular now that they sell out each year.
One of their secrets is they take full advantage of the numerous micro-climate growing areas in and around San Diego, which allows them to source completely different varietals from different parts of the county.
But don’t confuse them with wines from Temecula, a wine growing region one hour north of San Diego, This area has different elevations and terrain compared to the valleys and hot temperatures of their competitors to the north. The result is there are no long truck rides for their grapes, they are harvested locally and delivered to the winery the same day.
Everyone at Bernardo Winery will tell you that they are not a competitive winery – yet they have award-winning wines. Their goal is more about the visitor experience, which starts in the tasting room. On the dry white wine menu, there are two selections to choose from – the 2013 Chablis, which is a blend of French Colombard and Chenin Blanc, and the 2013 Chardonnay.
Known predominantly for their red wines, Bernardo Winery offers a 2012 Burgundy, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Bernardo Estate Il Mulino Vineyard Syrah Private Reserve, 2010 Merlot, 2012 Sunfresh Vineyards Syrah Private Reserve, and a 2012 Winter Vineyard Petite Sirah Private Reserve.
On the sweet wine menu, you can choose from the 2013 White Zinfandel or the 2013 Riesling.
Sparkling wines include Champagne, Orange Moscato, Moscato Rose and a non-alcoholic Grape Juice. For those who truly appreciate a dessert wine, Bernardo Winery offers a 50 year old Chocolate Bar Port. Wine tasting flights start at $10 for five selections.
Old meets new at Bernardo Winery and they thrive beautifully together. A large part of its charm is its rustic architecture. Take a tour of the old wine processing area, and savor the 125-year old vat room outfitted with giant redwood tanks.
Bernardo Winery is the only winery that still has these types of tanks still intact. Besides a full time winemaking facility and tasting room, the winery is home to more than 12 Village Shops, artisan galleries and workshops.
The Olive & Cork provides visitors an opportunity to shop European-inspired, old California home décor, and partake in olive oil and vinegar sampling. For the sweet tooth, there is the BW Sweet Shoppe filled with wine-pairing chocolates, candy, nuts and dried fruits.
At the Icarus Art Studio & Gallery visitors can peruse local art, paintings and mosaics or sign up for their custom framing art classes. Botanicals by the Sea is a shop dedicated to natural botanical face and body skin care products.
The Cotton Cottage can outfit you in all the latest cotton resort and cruise wear. Salvageability is a shop geared specifically towards vintage inspired home and garden items. Clay Artists at the Vineyard is a collective of clay artists and their studios.
If you are a photo-bug, Brant Bender Studios provides professional photography and a photo gallery. When you get the urge to nibble or dine, the V’s Coffee Shoppe is the perfect place to enjoy wine-paired appetizers or classic Italian espresso and fresh baked pastries.
Cafe Merlot is the award-winning spot for contemporary cuisine serving both breakfast and lunch. Pamper yourself with a manicure, facial or hair cut at the full service Salon at the Vineyard. And for the active visitor, Soulscape Movement Center offers yoga, pilates, physical training and therapy.
The Jewel & Vine Jewelers offers full repairs, custom orders, appraisals and consignment. And cap off your visit to the Bernardo Winery with a tour of the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Museum, which is open Tuesday through Sunday.
To help carry all your trinkets and wine home, The Bag Cellar is a prefect stop for designer handbags and accessories.
Entertainment and Special Events play a big role in the attraction of visitors to the winery. Housed within the property is The Vine Theatre – a 50 seat theatre that is also home to the Mojalet Dance Collective.
An arts and crafts fair is held twice a year on Mother’s Day weekend and the third weekend in October. More than 130 vendors share their artisan wood work, jewelry, leather, photos and more. Holiday Nights is the winery’s popular December event complete with Santa, mulled wine, carriage rides and live music.
Weekends are by far the most popular time at Bernardo Winery. A farmers market is held each Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., where local San Diego vendors sell produce, homemade crepes, barbecue fixin’s and tamales.
Saturdays are a favorite for weddings and receptions, especially in the spring when vines are at their peak of color and beauty. The venue can accommodate groups from five to 300, and a dedicated special event and bridal department is located on site to assist you in making the day unique and memorable.
Live music on the patio is offered every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the winery hosts special “Lucky Listeners” private radio concerts with top name performing artists throughout the year.
Tucked into the architecture of the original century old winery buildings is this incredible experience you won’t want to miss while visiting San Diego.
The wine tasting room is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m; shops and artist studios are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but note individual shop times and vendors may vary by season. Check out their website for what’s happening when you come to town. Buon viaggio!
By: Pierre H. Charmasson
Contributions by Dawn-Renee Rice