by Teri Kerns
Have you heard about Ramona, home of the fastest growing wine region in California, located just up the hill from the beautiful San Diego Bay? My guess is no. I’m excited to introduce you to the Valley we call home and the wine community we call family. It all started back in early 2000, when a group of grape-growers in this foothill community of Ramona formed an association the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, or RVVA, with the goal of developing a wine region. My husband, Micole, and I moved to Ramona in 2004 and quickly joined the effort, making our first wine, a Syrah, in 2005. In 2006, the RVVA successfully navigated the federal waters, and the Ramona Valley American Viticultural Area, or AVA, was born. We planted our first vineyard this same year. Having an AVA designated the Ramona Valley as a place where special grapes are grown and enables winemakers to specify the grapes were grown in the Ramona Valley AVA on their wine label. The Ramona AVA covers 89,000-acres spread over 139 square miles of primarily rural area and is home to more than 50 commercial vineyards, 25 bonded wineries, and a robust hiking and trail system.
Over the past 17 years, we’ve grown with the valley, transitioning our wine hobby into a growing business by opening to the public in 2012, and serving handcrafted wines made with grapes from the beautiful vineyards of San Diego County. We focus on vineyard-specific, single varietal wines like our Double-Gold Estate Tannat, Gold Medal-winning Reserve Sangiovese, and smooth drinking red blends. Our white wines include Sauvignon Blanc, a barrel-aged Viognier, and the food-friendly white wine, Albariño.
Sustainability and honoring our land is important to us. Ramona Ranch is San Diego’s only certified sustainable vineyard and winery, a distinction granted only after meeting a comprehensive set of standards set and measured by the California Wine Institute, based in San Francisco. Planting insect, bird and butterfly zones while installing owl boxes makes our winery more inviting to wildlife and helps us to be greener, while allowing us to enjoy time outside. Native, drought tolerant plants thrive and attract beneficial wildlife, while drip irrigation, composting, and hand management of our vineyards results in a balanced crop load and superior wines. At Ramona Ranch, these thoughtful vineyard practices coupled with energy saving measures, including wind-generation, solar and water sensors, creating an integrated wine. We believe our careful stewardship will benefit all creatures and our wines to come and that you can taste this in each glass of our wine.
As with any grassroots effort, those with a passion for the valley, grapes, and wine have come together from varied backgrounds, bringing their engineering, entrepreneurial and educational experiences as first-generation winemakers, establishing what is fast becoming known as a quality, hand-crafted wine experience. Growers focused on learning what thrives in the Ramona Valley, with the local ordinance requiring that if you are going to make wine commercially, you need to first grow the grapes. Ramona’s moderate winters and rainless summers are similar to the Mediterranean climate shared by the wine regions of the Southern Rhone Valley, Southern Italy, and Spain. The long growing season allows for extended hang-time, ideal ripeness, deep colors, and excellent balance; the epitome of winegrowing. Here at Ramona Ranch, we have found that varietals like Viognier, Tannat, and Merlot from France, Albarino and Tempranillo from Spain, and the Tuscany darlings, Aglianico and Sangiovese, thrive in Ramona’s rocky soils, warm days and cools nights, allowing us to make award winning wines with minimal intervention. We pick our grapes by hand, starting early in the morning and wait (and wait) for the natural or native yeast to start the fermentation process, rather than introducing a commercial product, with minimal use of sulfites to naturally preserve the wine. We age our reds, and sometimes our whites, in neutral oak barrels, allowing the angel’s share, or evaporation, to concentrate the flavors, and believe our policy against herbicides and pesticides results in a cleaner wine.
We are excited to share our passion with two neighboring new vineyards and future wineries, Lathom Farm & Vineyard and Voorhees Vines & Lavender, who are both experimenting with Biodynamic farming practices, which we in turn are learning more about. We are also collaborating with Andrew Lathom in making our first 100% natural wine, which means no intervention on the part of the winemaking. We laughingly call this wine “hippy wine” and look forward to sharing it one day at the San Diego natural wine festival, Nat Diego.
It’s often said, “you need great grapes to make great wine,” and it turns out, Ramona is ideally suited for great grape growing, with moderate ocean breezes tempering the hot summer days. A visit to the quaint tasting rooms of Ramona will allow you to step back to a time when things were less rushed. We encourage you to bring a picnic, perhaps your dog, and pull up a chair to really taste the care and commitment that went into the wine in your glass. Ask about the vineyard, how the grapes were grown, picked and processed, and what the winemaker is trying to convey in the wine. Is it made to enjoy with food, a nod to another region, or simply deliciousness in a glass?
Micole Moore, together with his wife, Teri Kerns, owns Ramona Ranch Winery, where he is the primary winemaker, and COO. Micole also provides vineyard and wine-making services, and is helping to guide winemaking decisions at several local wineries, experimenting with yeast strains, and learning what does best in our climate. Under his close watch, Teri also makes small batches of Ramona wine, and handles the barrel, and varietal selection as well as the marketing, tasting room and business side of this family adventure. Focusing on producing just 1,000 cases of wine annually, we encourage you to visit this gem of a winery, and take home something special. We are open Friday – Sunday, 11 to 6 pm. Learn more and plan your visit by visiting www.ramonaranchwines.com