AWG Correspondent

Julie Dorris

Bernardo Winery Photos

Bernardo Winery Review

Regions: South Coast and S. California, California

Reviewed: July 31, 2012 by Julie Dorris
Published: August 3, 2012

Imagine a small village complete with galleries, shops, cafés, and even a salon that revolve around a winery; a place where families congregate, pets are welcome, and the coffee shop keeps personalized mugs for locals. What sounds like an oenophile’s dream actually exists at Bernardo Winery. This special place is located on the outskirts of San Diego and dates back to 1889 when it was founded on a Spanish Land Grant. The Rizzo family bought the winery in 1927, and today it still remains a family legacy, run by the third generation winemaker Ross Rizzo. Over the years, Bernardo has grown into a community and has gained popularity as a both a local and tourist destination, but it has retained its small, family-owned feel.

The Place:  Bernardo is located off Highway 15, about 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego. As we wound through a residential neighborhood and pulled into the unpaved parking area, I could already see that this wasn’t a typical winery. The 11-acre property features the Merlot Café, Sweet Pea Coffee Cottage, artists’ studios, a museum, a sweet shop, event space, and the tasting room in addition to its vineyards. The buildings are rustic and dripping with California foliage, and there is ample patio seating for enjoying the sublime weather. I watched as guests with their pets and children strolled slowly along the cobblestone paths; Bernardo is romantic, relaxed, picturesque, and unique. It is more than just a winery, it is a destination, and visitors should plan on spending a few hours exploring the village.

The Experience:  At Bernardo, it is easy to get distracted by the quaint shops, rustic architecture, fascinating history, and a bustling atmosphere of happy, relaxed people. But at the heart of the community is the tasting room, where a friendly staff is eager to impart their knowledge of wines made predominately from San Diego grapes. Well-dressed wedding goers, casual locals, and wide-eyed tourists flow in and out of the room from the bar to the patio. The indoor space isn’t very bright and has an old-school vibe, but since you are given a tasting card, you can go at your own pace and spend some time outdoors in between sips. You can even carry your taste with you as you wander around the grounds. Weekends get crowded and many people linger on the patio ordering wine by the glass or the bottle. Still, the servers seem to know how to handle a crowd and give you their attention at the same time.

The Wines:  Bernardo strives to produce their wines from locally sourced grapes, many of which are grown on the estate. You will find mainly Italian and Rhone varietals here, but also a wine named "Burgundy" which is a blend of Barbera and Mourvèdre and a surprising standout. The tasting fee is $10 for five wines.

Extras:  On Sundays from March through November, Bernardo hosts live jazz on the Tasting Room Patio from 2 to 5 pm. On Friday mornings there is a farmers market on the grounds.

Address & Contact Information: 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte San Diego, California 92128. Telephone: 858-487-1866, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-5:00, Sat-Sun 9:00-6:00 (Winter: Daily 9:00-5:00).

Overall Rating:  

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