Backcountry hidden pleasures: Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry
By Liz Orient
May 31, 2018 (Ramona) -- “We live a good life and people tend to pick up on that when they stay here,” says Arline Bartick, co-owner of Starry Night Inn. Upon arrival at Don and Arline Bartick’s charming bed and breakfast, I couldn’t have agreed more.
Located in the idyllic countryside of Ramona, California’s winemaking region, Starry Night Inn is an award-winning winery and guest house. From concept to fruition, Starry Night Inn has been a labor of love.
Don and Arline have been transforming the property into a peaceful retreat for 28 years. Sixteen years ago, they renovated the country home by adding two second-floor guest rooms, each furnished in Victorian-style furnishings and accessories. In 2014, an anniversary trip to Napa Valley sparked their ambition to open their bed and breakfast. The name was inspired by the clarity of the night sky, which Arline calls “amazing.”
Guests have access to nearly every space inside the home including a family room with comfortable leather sofa and wide-screen TV, dining room, kitchen, wide veranda porch, and more.
Common areas display vintage items such as Victorian dolls and a dress-maker’s form, while a dining table stands ready with lace table cloth, crystal and china; a second dining area has a brick-lined wall and cozy wood-burning stove. Details are authentic right down to a bath with pull-chain toilet.
As a dynamic duo, Don and Arline believe their mission is to make their guests feel welcome. After speaking with them about the services that they offer, I am hard-pressed to find the level of hospitality that Don and Arline provide anywhere else. Arline is proud of her personal touches: she brews fresh coffee and brings it upstairs each morning, she cooks and serves made-to-order breakfast, and she photographs guests during their stay so that they may have a keepsake to remember their experience.
Furthermore, Don and Arline work together to provide wine and cheese tastings at 4 p.m. each day. Their hospitality certainly does not go unnoticed; they have an impressive collection of gifts from visitors who have stayed with them over the years.
The property itself backs onto a nature preserve and two acres of vineyards surround the bed and breakfast. Don and Arline have designed several seating areas in the backyard and on the deck. They are planning to build an outdoor fire pit for future entertainment.
I was delighted to learn that a bubbling creek runs through the property in the spring and summer months. Starry Inn also has many touches of country character and charm. The quirky cow-print utility tank is impossible to overlook and the quilt motif on the side of the roof is a conversation piece. Other whimsical sites include a pump/fountain and a bathtub-turned-planter filled with red geraniums.
Visitors will notice that the Starry Night grounds are dotted with Christmas trees. In fact, Don and Arline plant a new one each year after the season is over. Woodpeckers and songbirds including bright yellow orioles can be spotted in the treetops.
It has taken a village to build the inn and to make it a place for all to enjoy. Arline mentions, “Friends and family help out … this place is a dream come true.”
Don was more than happy to give a tour and to teach me about the winemaking process. “Any good wine starts with good grapes,” he explained. “We do our best to keep our plants happy.” The Ramona Valley’s reputation as a wine region is “getting better and better,” he observes.
Arline chimed in, “The vines are just waking up at this time of year.” Don and Arline learned about winemaking through reading books, self-taught programs, and attending courses.
Don mentioned that growing grapes has not been without obstacles or harrowing events. In 2003, the Cedar Fire tore through the Ramona valley and left destruction and devastation in its wake. The Starry Night Inn miraculously survived, practically unscathed. Don humbly stated, “Mother Nature is the most important aspect to winemaking.”
Since the Cedar Fire, Don and Arline have diligently carried on to make varietals including merlot and cabernet franc. Their wine has won numerous awards in several county fairs. Notably, Don and Arline won a gold medal for their merlot in 2016 and won Best in Class with the Cabernet Franc in 2013. To add to their success, Don is the current chairman of the San Diego County Wine Competition.
The Starry Night Inn is a testament to industriousness, goodwill, hospitality, and as the name implies, a sanctuary where one can feel at home while seeking rest and relaxation beneath a twinkling canopy of stars.
Don and Arline are the most welcoming of hosts. They go the “extra mile” to create a unique and unforgettable experience for their guests.
Be sure to call ahead to inquire about availability and to make a reservation.Guest room prices vary from $139 to $149 depending on the room selected and the season.
Starry Night Inn
22465 Casa De Carol
Ramona, CA 92065
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the County of San Diego for providing a Community Enhancement Grant to support our “Backcountry Hidden Pleasures” weekend getaways coverage.