San Diego’s Oldest Vineyard and Winery

Bernardo Winery

Located in San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo neighborhood is the city’s oldest operating vineyard and winery. Purchased in 1927 from five business owners on a Spanish Land Grant, Vincent Rizzo transformed the winery into a profitable wine and olive oil business. By the late 1940s Bernardo Winery was producing over 150,000 gallons of wine and became one of San Diego County’s main wine supplier.

Today the winery is still family owned and operated, but now by third generation Rizzo’s. After the passing of Vincent’s predecessor in 2008 the “kids took over and sort of launched it into high gear,” shares Samantha Pewitt, Bernardo Winery’s marketing and advertising director and family member.

Despite a shift of gears that encouraged significant wine production rates, the third generation has held onto the old ambiance. That old ambiance is comprised of a sprawling complex of vineyards, tasting room, olive trees, 12 Village Shops, coffee shop, award winning café and artisan galleries and workspaces.  Nestled among original century old winery buildings, Bernardo Winery has a way of distinguishing itself from surrounding suburbia.

“People say if we had overnight accommodations we’d have everything; we have our own little town,” Pewitt adds. “People come here and they get a sense of family, they feel like they belong and they don’t want to leave.”

Families are always encouraged here, a characteristic that sets them apart from other commercial wineries: “People come here and go wow I can really bring my whole family and feel comfortable. My kids can grab a smoothie from the coffee shop and I can grab a glass of wine and we can enjoy it together; I feel I’m not just here for the wine tasting,” Pewitt reiterates common guest compliments.

An upcoming event for families and wine lovers alike are Holiday Nights! at Bernardo Winery, December 11th-14th. Those four nights the winery is open until 9p.m. so guests have ample time to enjoy the twinkling lights and holiday fun. Onsite will be Santa and Mrs. Claus, carolers, arts and crafts, Joe Micelli’s Miniature Trains and the Bernardo Winery Express that goes around the entire property and more.

“During that time we sell our hot mulled wine. It’s an old family recipe from our Italian grandma and we still make the same recipe and serve it those nights,” Pewitt proudly shares. “It’s addicting!”

To continue on the subject of holiday wine I had to ask Pewitt what other wines of theirs are most popular this holiday season. She suggested their champagne, since it’s well-rounded champagne that’s plenty drinkable and crisp. For a sweet wine that pairs well with winter foods Pewitt suggests the Petite Sirah because of its dark summer berry qualities.

Bernardo Winery hosts activities and special events year-round. This wonderful space will keep you merry long after the holidays have ended. For memorable family friendly and individual guest experiences don’t forget about the winery’s Farmer’s Market Fridays, live music on the Tasting Room Patio every Sunday and entertainment at the Vine Theater.

Over 125 years old, Bernardo Winery just 25 miles north of downtown San Diego is the perfect all in one location to eat an award winning meal, sip classic and new varietals or styles or wine and let your kids loose on the ground’s big grassy area. If you live in California or will be visiting the area be sure to reserve a day to check out for yourself just how spectacular this place is.




Jeannette Swanson is a freelance writer who found her love for the media field in Chicago. She lives in California and contributes to a handful of online publications both in and out of state. When she's not trailing behind her two-year-old son or making sure the house is mess free by the time Mr. Swanson comes home you’ll find her with a crochet project in lap.

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