Wineries are not a new phenomenon to San Diego County, despite it not being the first place people think of when they consider California wine. In recent decades, after years of other crops taking center stage, the closest winery to San Diego proper has now finally opened for a special group of homeowners.
Pacifica Companies, which owns La Valencia Hotel, has created a vineyard-adjacent lifestyle for residents of its Trevi Hills community, which is in the historic rural Muth Valley near Lakeside. “It’s up on a hill and it looks down on Lakeside and Santee,” says Michael Larrañaga, the director of winery operations and a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. “I can see the hills of Mexico, the Coronado Islands off Ensenada, Downtown San Diego, and La Jolla. I knew San Diego had great views — but nothing like this. And I’m born and raised here!” he says.
What separates this community from others is a built-in vineyard feature. Homeowners are able to set aside part of their property for vineyards, specifically. Those who choose to do so will have that part of their property managed by Trevi Hills Winery, which is ensconced within the community. In addition to tending to the vines and making the wine, the winery also splits half of the final bounty with the homeowner. This way, the homeowner can enjoy all the benefits of living on a vineyard with as little or as much effort as they want.
“Some people want to be involved every step of the way,” says Larrañaga. “Others just want the finished product, and that’s fine, too! That’s why I’m here,” he says. So far, all 18 homeowners have opted to participate in the Trevi Hills Vineyard Co-Op Program. They are growing 50 to 350 vines on their properties, which average one to two acres.
Larrañaga coordinates the vineyard program and helps homeowners select the proper grapes according to their soil and location. Even within microclimates and properties, different vine placements can yield different results, so it’s an incredibly specific experience for every property. The soil here, Larrañaga says, is all “DG,” which is vineyard-speak for decomposed granite. “It’s just beautiful soil for grapes — the vines have to dig for water, weave around these rocks,” he says. “Stressed vines make for better wines.”
At present, he and the homeowners are growing a selection of Mediterranean-style varieties, including syrah, sangiovese, primitivo (almost identical to zinfandel), sauvignon blanc, Montepulciano, grenache, tempranillo, Mourvèdre, malbec, petite sirah, and merlot. He is currently making six wines — red, white, a rosé, and a Port style that has been in barrel for three years, so far.
Trevi Hills Winery is a licensed, full-scale winery that is also building an outdoor event venue that will seat 250 for dinner or more for receptions — all with Pacific Ocean views. 619.938.4221, trevihillsliving.com