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By Miriam Raftery

February 10, 2013 (Ramona) – Milagro Farms Vineyards and Winery owners Kit and Karen Sickels have plenty to celebrate. At a Mardi Gras party for wine club members yesterday,  Kit Sickels (right) and winemaker Jim Hart shared news that their boutique winery took home top honors in the 2013 Winemakers Challenge International  Wine Competition in late January, beating out big-name winemakers.

The Mardi Gras festivities—complete with live band, prize drawings, lunch and of course, wine tasting—were all part of the perks available to the winery’s more than 200 wine club members.

Wine clubs are gaining popularity across East County as a growing number of wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms have taken root.

Sickels was concerned that stormy weather might keep folks away—but instead, more than a hundred guests turned out  to celebrate in style. Prizes were given to guests with the best masks. In addition, drawings were held  to give away gifts of wine and wine accessories.  The winery hosts special events quarterly for wine club members to pick up three bottles of wine, mix and mingle with other wine aficionados while partying hearty.

Membership in Milagro’s wine club is free. Members agree to purchase three bottles quarterly, at 20% discounts, picked up at the winery.  (Choose from reds, whites, or mixed.) Members also receive invites to private events and private winery tours (most popular was a BBQ and tastings in a wine cave), as well as free wine tastings for up to four people. There are also incentives –gifts of wine—for referring new members.

(Please note: If you join  Milagro's wine club and write on your application that you were referred by East County Magazine’s editor, Miriam Raftery, a gift of wine will be donated to ECM in your honor. What better way to support nonproifit independent media? Cheers!)

Milagro, which means “miracle” in Spanish, is an apt name for this Ramona vineyard and winery.  A prior owner of the property left after failing to find water.  But with a deeper well, the Sickels found water and established the 110-acre vineyard and winery.

But in 2007, disaster struck.  The Witch Creek Fire blazed through the region, destroying 1,500 grape vines as well as thousands of avocado trees and olive trees on the Sickels’ property.  But the couple stood firm and replanted, soon expanding to 11 varietals and winning a slew of top awards with help from winemaker Jim Hart – who learned his craft from his father at the family’s well known Hart Winery in Temecula.

In the 2013 Winemaker Challenge, Milagro took home best of show and best of class awards for its 2012 2012 Rose of Sangiovese and 2012 Sauvignon Blanc,  as well as a gold medal for its Barbera wine and a silver for Meritage.  Made with estate grown local grapes,  Milagro’s wines have also picked up many other awards in competitions ranging from the San Diego County Fair to the Pacific Rim and San Francisco international wine competitions. 

The winery ‘s successes are fast dispelling the conventional wisdom that San Diego is best suited as a red wine grape growing region.  Last year, Milagro’s celebrated sauvignon blanc, made with its own estate-grown grapes in Ramona, even beat out French vintages in a blind tasting competition. View a full list of varietals grown at Milagro:

The winery boasts one of the largest tasting rooms in San Diego County, perched on a hill at about 2400 feet in elevation just behind another local landmark, the Oasis Camel Dairy at the northern edge of Ramona.  You can also visit the barrel room, tour the winery, and shop at a gift store with an assortment of wares for wine aficionados--as well as a spirited group of wine club members who savored the Mardi Gras festiviteis in style.

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