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By Gary Gorton, St. Pius X Wine Tasting Festival Committee

Photos, left and below right: Vineyards and tasting room at Granite Lion Cellars in Jamul

May 23, 2018 (Jamul) -- Jamul has always been identified as a wine rich region. Grapes and wine were introduced to California in San Diego at the site of the Mission de Alcala, the first of the California Missions by Father Junipero Sierra who established the first vineyard on the Mission Valley Property back in 1769. The first wine for sacramental use was made by the monks in 1774.

How appropriate, then, that it is St. Pius X in Jamul hosting the third-annual wine-tasting festival this year. The date is June 30, 2018 from 5:30pm to 9:00 pm. The festival will be sponsored by the Wineries on Highway 94 and is being hosted at Jamal’s own D&S Farms, home of Granite Lion Cellars.

Long time Jamul resident Ron Torretto recalls his Italian and French grandparents crafting their own wine at home when he was a child both in central Illinois and here in San Diego county. He has researched local table grape and wine production. In his youth he recalls the remnants of the vineyards that had been devastated by parasites and disease, including the area that became the route of Highway 8 through El Cajon, Encanto and elsewhere.

This blight, coupled with prohibition in the World War II era, destroyed the grape growing and wine industry in San Diego. It took years to have a resurgence during which the Napa/Sonoma Region came to be and grow to what it is today, a world-renown wine region. In the San Diego Region, only the Bernardo Winery and Ferrara Wineries survived the blight and prohibition.

In the early 1990’s the San Diego Wine Industry began to flourish again. Growth remained steady until the 2003 and 2007 wildfires destroyed many acres of alternative crops such as avocados. Since that time our industry has experienced an acceleration in activity as many of those acres have been replaced with drought tolerant grape vines.

According to M. A. (Manny) Melendrez, President, Spanish Peacock Winery in Jamul and a chemist who has traveled the world, our weather is similar to the Mediterranean which bodes well for producing grapes for wine. His research has also shown that Jamul emulates the wine country in northern Spain and southern France, hence, his choice of Jamul/San Diego County for his vineyard and winery.

He is certainly not alone. Today, in addition to the hundreds of vineyards in the area, Jamul is also home to more than 60 micro-vineyard growers. Hundreds more exist across the County of San Diego. A few have even grown into boutique wineries. Greg Maness of Maness Vineyard and Casa Cielo Winery has become quite the purveyor of wine in Jamul. Greg began growing grapes in Jamul over twenty years ago. In 2006 he began selling his estate-grown grapevines at local farmers markets promoting the emerging industry. In 2008 when the boutique winery ordinance was passed by East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Greg and his wife Dr. Paula Maness, along with business partners John and Lissy Keily, began installing and maintaining micro-vineyards at local family homes and across the county.

His long-term vision of Jamul would allow new grape growers the ability to sell their grapes to local wine makers supporting the industry in the future. To date they have consulted on over 80 micro vineyards and have personally installed over three dozen vineyards of various sizes, 12 in Jamul alone. The trend is very hot right now.

Greg, Manny and others already in the wine making business in Jamul and the greater San Diego area will be featured speakers at the upcoming third annual St. Pius X Wine Tasting Festival at D&S Farms, 2801 Jamul Highlands Road, Jamul, at their beautiful Park in the Grove.

Many great wines produced in Jamul and the surrounding area will be featured, to include: Campo Creek Winery, Casi Cielo Winery, Dulzura Winery, Granite Lion Cellars, Javalina Leap Winery, San Pasqual Winery, & Spanish Peacock Winery. Westfall Winery has agreed to pour. Presenters include: Greg Maness, Linda McWilliams, Former President San Diego County Vintners Association and David Whited, Sommelier for Trader Joe's. We also hope to have Wil the “Wine Guy” Burtner, The Fox5 host of Wine Wednesday.

This year’s event is going to feature “food pairing by the experts.” Desmond Fonseca, Director of Food Services for La Vida Real Senior Living in Rancho San Diego, Joe Coppola, local amateur chef extraordinaire and his Italian themed foods and Ferris of Crafted Greens will be joined by Jamul’s own Val of Valentin’s and many others in the Jamul area for a magnificent wine tasting and food-pairing experience. Also, Nova Brazil Brewery in Otay Lakes, the 8th fastest growing brewery in the nation will be there with their featured beers. All proceeds going to the Youth Services of St. Pius X.

The past has brought us to our current exciting time but what might the future have in store for the Jamul Wine community? We are so blessed to have D&S Farms in Jamul Highlands as a sponsor to St. Pius X in hosting the Wine Tasting Festival. It truly is a match made in heaven and we hope to have this wine experience at the beautiful home of Granite Lion Cellars, D&S Farms, for years to come. Jim Knudson, Resident Manager, has a desire to be a Jamul community asset as they implement their future growth plans. Surrounding the nine-acre vineyard is an orchard with recently planted figs, avocados, apples, pears and other fruits. They plan to make all their produce available for charitable support to the local non-profits like St. Pius X for harvesting to assist those in need in our community.

The winery, Granite Lion Cellars, is a small portion of the land use and the new wine-tasting room that will be constructed soon, will be a beautiful addition to their current “Park in the Grove.”

They also plan to drill into the adjacent mountain and build a cave for storing the wine in barrels for fermentation. The ultimate goal is to position a number of luxury homes amongst the grove and surrounding hills as exemplified in some of the more picturesque areas of the Napa/Sonoma wine country. Sandwiched between Rancho Jamul Estates and Jamul Highlands will be the site of this beautiful destination winery.

It is so cool to listen to Jim of Granite Lion and Manny Melendrez of Spanish Peacock talk about their dreams and agree that “What is good for Jamul is good for them.” For further information, look for our ad in the Shopper and go to the websites of St. Pius X, Jamul, or Spanish Peacock or Granite Lion. Feel free to call the St. Pius X office, 619-669-0085, for tickets to the Third Annual St. Pius X Wine Tasting Festival.

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