San Diego hidden gems: Triple B Ranches Winery
Triple B Ranches is a small family-owned winery tucked away amidst the fields of Valley Center, near Escondido. Owners Gary and Sheila Broomell just entered the local winery business this past November, with three generations of family all involved in operation. They are dedicated to local, sustainable agriculture and all of the grapes for their Triple B Ranches label are estate-grown fruit. Their grandson, Chris Broomell, is the winemaker, started out working with Jaffurs Wine Cellars in Santa Barbara and doing a harvest stint in South Australia. In addition to Triple B Ranches, Chris puts out his own Vesper label, which are all sourced from single vineyards in various microclimates around San Diego County, including the McCormick Ranch near Mt. Palomar, and the Highland Hills Vineyard in the Ramona Valley AVA.
We pulled up to the old country house where tastings are available for the public Fridays through Sundays. This is not one of those touristy McMansion wineries you might find in places like Temecula….this is no place for tour buses and they don’t have a big retail shop full of those sparkly blouses reading “Got Wine?” (or other once-snarky wine-related puns). You’re likely to be among the few small groups visiting at any moment. We were greeted by Debbie Broomell (mother of winemaker Chris),who prepared some bites to go with our tastings, and was happy to talk about the family’s farming background. They don’t have a very extensive wine tasting list, since this is a small operation and many wines have sold out or very few bottles remain for sale.
All of the wines were solid and impressive–proof that San Diego County can rank right along better known wine regions if the varietals are selected carefully for the climate and given the right amount of attention in the winemaking process. We especially enjoyed the 2008 Triple B Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon–great, medium bodied food-friendly wine, the 2008 Merlot–fruit forward with notes of strawberry rhubarb pie, and the Vesper 2009 Alcalà (white Rhone-style wine, 55% Marsanne/45% Roussanne)–refreshing and crisp with notes of honeysuckle and apricot.
The next time you’re out on weekend in the backwoods of North County, stop by Triple B Ranches. When they have new vintages bottled and ready for sale, you might also catch them at the Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
15030 Vesper Road, Valley Center, CA 92082
Keepin’ it real on a Monday night: Cline Oakley Five Reds
Uncorked this inexpensive red blend for dinner tonight (veggie pizza & samosas from Trader Joe’s). Picked this up at Cline Cellars in the Carneros region just outside of the town of Sonoma (where I’ve been a wine club member since 2008), but the grapes all come from the Oakley area in Contra Costa County, where the Cline family has been producing wine grapes for years, including many of their near-famous old vine Zinfandels.
This is probably the least expensive wine in their catalogue, an everyday table wine blended from Merlot, Syrah, Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouschet. The color is a deep dark red, owing much of its depth to the Alicante Bouschet, a grape varietal you don’t hear much about but was widely planted in this part of California during Prohibition years, when its tough skins and high wine yields made it a popular grape for exporting to the east coast (it was legal for each household to produce up to 200 gallons of wine per year for their own consumption).
I find this wine to be a very good buy for a table wine blend. It’s got notes of blackberries and plums, with a peppery finish and just a slight tannic bite. If you like a bold Syrah or medium-bodied Zinfandel you will probably like this wine for its value. Unlike a lot of inexpensive red blends out there, this one has very little vegetal character and the tannins are fairly balanced with the fruit, for some nice casual drinking. Under $10, find it at Cost Plus World Market.