Pacific Coast
Places Travel & Leisure

Off the Beaten Path: New adventures along the Pacific coast

September 8, 2022
This series is dedicated to emerging and exciting new wine regions, perhaps not as well known or explored by the mainstream consumer. Discover these wineries during your next Pacific coast adventure.

The road less traveled can offer the unexpected and open your eyes to new adventures. Places where those willing to embrace the new and honour the old, co-exist. The journey itself can be a treasure trove of eye-opening spectacle and might convince you that your comfort zone is a place to leave from time to time.

Read Also: Off the Beaten Path: Four up and coming wine regions to watch

Starting in San Diego and heading northwards, you will find enchanting locales that entertain, enlighten and offer time to absorb the nuances of less well-known places and people. They are easy to access and offer the adventurous some awe-inspiring landscapes, delicious cuisine, generous hospitality, and an accompaniment of wines for every taste. Visit some of them here on a whistle-stop tour along the Pacific coast.

San Diego, California

Traveling inland from the Pacific across hilly terrain with switchbacks, you will find yourself in the Ramona Valley. Steep hillsides and narrow roads are not for the faint of heart. In late spring, you’ll find the air a little warmer and the small vineyards that dot the landscape are littered across the hillsides. The views are spectacular and when the mists lift, the Pacific is easily visible.

Pacific Coast

The tasting room at Castelli Family Vineyards in San Diego.

This region is not its own AVA but is looking to become that. Almost all the wineries are family run, small enterprises that started out as a hobby and a front or back yard project. The Spanish who settled the area as far back as 1542 brought grapes to support their religious practices. Since then the area has become home to a wide variety of international grapes that thrive in the climate and soil types of the Ramona Valley.

Pacific Coast

Potato Chip Rock is a popular lookout spot along the Pacific coast.

Close to the peak of Mount Woodson, near Potato Chip Rock, about five miles east, is Castelli Family Vineyards. The hillside is neat rows of pinot noir, syrah, petite sirah, sangiovese, cabernet franc, and viognier. Tempranillo was planted a couple of years ago and is trying to grow despite local deer enjoying its trellised leaves. This is truly a family enterprise. Castelli makes between 700- 900 cases per year and uses a mobile bottling service. Winemaker Nelson Pizzaro and his father-in-law, Signor Castelli, planted, nurtured and grew this winery and home from bare dirt in 2012.

Using a mix of American, French and Hungarian oak barrels for fermentation and aging, Nelson crafts single varieties and blends unique bottles. His pinot noir is not traditional and later harvest allows him to create a slightly sweeter grape that develops a higher alcohol content. This does not detract from the freshness of the wine which still expresses ripe red fruits and some vanilla, toasty and smoky characters. Nelson also makes a fortified petite sirah using distilled spirit purchased from Sunmaid®. This dessert wine combines deeply sweet cherry and raspberry with a dark chocolate smoothness.

Paso Robles, California

Heading north towards the Central Coast of California it would be easy to miss an area known as Tin City in Paso Robles. South of downtown Paso, Tin City is occupied by an enclave of small entrepreneurial vintners experimenting with new techniques, tools, tastes, and full tilt personality. Among this group of enthusiastic and cooperative craftspeople is Desparada Wines. Vailia From, owner and winemaker, has a vision that evolves with her wines. She is fully engaged in the viticulture and viniculture of the landscape she tends and the vessels she uses to ferment the wines. It’s clear from the moment you step into the winery that she has imbued her care and attention into the winery and the wines.


Vailia is asking questions about the grapes she loves and seeking wine styles that are cutting edge, but also harken back to a bygone era. Using French oak, stainless steel and amphorae across differing fermentation times, she has developed wines that are fragrant, evocative, and distinctive all the while bringing a familiarity to the palate.

With wit and aspiration, Vailia has harnessed the essence of the sherry Solera method to develop a cabernet sauvignon that integrates wines born from the 2012 vintage and each subsequent year. She calls this Dress Maker and is something to be admired and enjoyed. Don’t rush past Desparada on your northward-bound journey. Stop and reflect on this winemaker’s creativity.

Willamette Valley, Oregon

It would be easy to skip across the landscape to a dozen or more vineyards along the Oregon Trail – each boasting the cream of the crop from award winning, red fruit, pinot noir to crispy and vibrant, green apple chardonnay. But to see all those exquisite settings, a place to rest and retreat is a must.

Abbey Road Farm

Abbey Road Farm, in Willamette Valley, Oregon.

From the warm hospitality you’ll find at the Abbey Road Farm you can visit a multitude of vineyards, wineries, food-forward, open-door, and welcoming establishments. Abbey Road Farms has its own 42 acre vineyard where they grow certified organic grapes, sustainably. The owners also co-own Quaintrelle that offers farm-to-table feasts for your gastronomic delight. In the autumn, my visit brought me face-to-face with chickens and rescued llama. This is a bucolic property that offers a warm experience of true Oregon hospitality.

This part of the Oregon coast is a training ground for chef’s honing their skills on visitors and locals alike. Venturing out from Abbey Road Farm you’ll find that wineries abound with varieties known to the Burgundy and Bordeaux lover alike. There are more than 400 AVA and over 225 vineyards spotted around the Willamette Valley. Among them are well-known names and hidden gems, most within an hour’s drive of Abbey Road Farm, and some cycling or walking distance – you’ll have a seemingly endless choice of unbeaten paths!

Abbey Road Farm

Pacific Coast wine trail: Abbey Road Farm.


Gillian Marks, MPH, Ph.D. is a Certified Sherry Wine Specialist (CSWS®) from the Wine Scholar Guild and has a Wine and Spirits Education Trust – Level 2 Certification in Wine. Her career in Nutrition, Toxicology and Risk Assessment has brought her from England to Southern California and she has lived and worked across the US, South Korea and Canada. Gillian is presently the Senior Director of Environment, Health & Safety and Risk Programs at San Diego State University, and when she is not fully engaged in keeping SDSU safe, she exercises her passion for Sherry and French wines seeking out opportunities to educate, write and learn as often as possible.

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