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Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 30, 2018 (Spring Valley) – Vineyard Hacienda, a 13,000 square-foot adobe estate home built in the 1930s in old-style Spanish tradition on a nine-acre property, is secluded retreat that also serves as an idyllic base for guests seeking to explore historic Highway 94.

“As soon as you drive down our driveway, you escape into a little paradise,” says Joseph Harmes III, proprietor.

Guests can rent any of several themed rooms (Bordeaux, Merlot, Champagne, Wedgewood or International) through an Air B&B model that includes packaged food items such as bagels, Danish and fresh fruit. You can also reserve the entire estate for a corporate retreat, wedding, or other special occasion.

Harmes worked with his mother, Gladys Novinger, and her late father to create the lushly landscaped grounds of Vineyard Hacienda to complement the grand hacienda style. Guests can picnic in a gazebo, enjoy a pool and two spas, hike along a trail abundant with wildlife, since the estate borders a nature preserve at the base of Mount Miguel.  Deer, coyotes, raccoons, tree frogs, hawks, falcons, owls, and herons are among the creatures you may see and hear on your visit.

The property also has a koi pond, large lawn and shady oaks, rose garden, meditation area, vineyards, two orchards and a cactus garden, plus a pool house with pool table, poker table and other amenities (also used by groomsmen during weddings).

The hacienda home has wood floors, a red-tiled roof, thick adobe walls and a wrap-around shaded porch.  Each room is equipped with beautiful furnishings, private bath, refrigerator, wifi and cable TV channels. Common areas include a well-stocked library perfect for cozy reading. There’s even a hand-hewn stone wine cellar.

Guests can taste Vineyard Hacienda’s Boredeaux blend wine (a combination of four reds:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Franc). The wines are sold only at the estate, so you may want to take home a bottle or a case for savoring in the future.

The estate opened for guests starting in 2014. Gladys, who is of Peruvian and Spanish descent, helped found the House of Peru in Balboa Park. Her husband, diplomat George Novinger, represented the U.S. around the world.  The couple was noted for their gracious hospitality.

Since their deaths in 2017, the operation has been run by Harmes, who previously managed a winery in Ramona and holds a degree in business management.

There is no minimum nights’ stay, though the establishment does book up with visitors from around the world. Harmes says Vineyard  Hacienda has had guests from every continent except Antarctica! To preserve tranquility for guests, children under 12 are not allowed.

Vineyard Hacienda is located just off Historic Highway 94 (also called Campo Road along this stretch)  in Spring Valley, California, gateway to the wineries along Highway 94. Vineyard Hacienda has partnered with other local wineries and can arrange wine-tasting tours for guests. 

There are three fine golf courses nearby:  Cottonwood, Steele Canyon and Sycuan Golf (formerly known as Singing Hills).

Nearby, just north of the turnoff for Vineyard Hacienda, the Rancho San Diego shopping center has a movie theatre, many shops and restaurants, notably including Hooley’s Irish Pub and Grill, voted best Irish pub outside of Ireland by an international association of Irish pub owners. Across the street from the shopping center, the Steele Canyon Bridge has a pathway leading into the Sweetwater national wildlife preserve.

South of the Vineyard Hacienda turnoff, Highway 94 leads to several other wineries, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, a popular Italian restaurant, the small town of Jamul, and the Jamul Casino and Resort which has a top-floor steakhouse with view. 

But you may simply wish to stay on the grounds at Vineyard Hacienda, a beautiful retreat just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, though it feels like a world away--a step back into the architectural style of early California, with modern luxuries added for your comfort.

Important information:

Vineyard Hacienda

12685 Campo Road

Spring Valley, CA 91978

(619) 289-7250

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.

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