Visit Warner Springs in Southern California
By Krista Masella
Winemakers in the Northern San Diego County town of Warner Springs say the elevation, 3,000+ ft, rich mineral soil, and the effort it takes to grow on this terrain make their award-winning wines worth the trek. I say it’s because the nearest vineyards in the Temecula wine region, where the massive estates and congestion of almost two million annual visitors can be, let’s say, noisy. If you’re like me and prefer something quieter, Warner Springs is an alternative option where you can experience tastings in an intimate setting while getting to know the winemakers themselves. It is this atmosphere where the love for the work is evident and the passion for winemaking can be found in the stories that draw you in. While the environment never ceases to provide something to explore, you may find that there are reasons other than wine to visit this little-known gem.
Start a Unique Art Collection
Shadow Mountain Winery and Vineyards exists on a no-name dirt road off of HWY 79, just over the San Diego/Riverside county line. It is owned and operated by Alex and Pam McGeary who are always present for tastings. The owners will direct you out to quaint seating areas with wooden tables and retro wine décor, where you can enjoy a bottle under the shade of pepper trees. Pam is not only an excellent host but also a talented artist who creates all of their label designs. Each variety holds a different watercolor print that is indicative of daily life in this region. The designs make the bottles completely unique and ready for display (after some quick Etsy inspo of course). Build your collection over time or bring back a bottle to help a friend start their own – it makes the perfect gift and a great reason to go tasting!
Get Social! Come for Live Music or to Join a Wine Club
Now, I said the Warner Springs wine region was great for those looking to miss the crowds, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t social activities here. Hawk Watch Winery is perched at the top of a hill with views of the surrounding mountains. The property holds a barn-like structure filled with wine barrels and specialty foods – seemingly the ideal spot for a hoedown, where they host seasonal events featuring live music performances and parties. These special events include the Summer Concert Series, Post Harvest Celebration, Christmas events and more. Another way to get involved is to join a wine club (read discounts!). All of the wineries here have wine clubs that get you access and news about quarterly wine pick-up parties or receive priority invitations to wine release events. Events such as at La Serenissima, where owner Tony Tiso will serve curated pairings and delight you with stories of his Italian family’s long history in the wine business.
Take a Hike or Even a Glide
The Cleveland National Forest, Palomar Mountain and the Los Coyotes Reservation surround Warner Springs and hiking is abundant with the lush, rocky terrain, nearby lakes and a peppering of RV resorts. The Pacific Crest Trail or PCT is a 2,650-mile hike that runs from Mexico to Canada and is celebrating 50 years as a National Scenic Trail in 2018. This grueling adventure is not for the faint of heart and takes an average of five months to complete. However, it also runs right through Warner Springs and the resource center there will provide you with all of the information you need to take a day hike among the pros. If walking isn’t your style, why not try a glide at the Warner Springs Glider Port? Glider planes make a great couples or family experience – I would suggest going in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Wake Up on a Vineyard
You may be used to the luxury amenities of larger wineries, but you won’t find that here. Here you will find real tranquility when you rent one of only a few bungalows that sit at the doorstep of the vineyards at Shadow Mountain. But don’t think spa and turndown service, think yurt but square with AC – almost glamping if you will. Each bungalow has refined but rustic décor and features a private wooden porch for afternoons watching sunsets and having a glass, or bottle, of your favorite varietal.
Now you know so don’t forget to share with your friends and family, you are sure to get extra kudos for your insight on this little known California gem.
Shadow Mountain: http://shadowmountainvineyards.com/vineyard/
Hawk Watch: https://hawkwatchwinery.com/
La Serenissima: http://vinotiso.com/