TIPSY TOURIST: Bernardo Winery

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Bernardo Winery, southern California’s oldest, has turned its property near San Diego into a lovely place to spend a day away,

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See what I mean? Even if you’ll never taste the wine, you’re gonna want to stop for a cup of coffee, a bit of lunch or a fun souvenir.

Even if you don’t like wine (I know there are some of you out there), you have to stop at Bernardo Winery just north of San Diego.

Southern California’s oldest winery is surrounded by vineyards — although far less than in the days before urban sprawl. But it’s also surrounded by a little village of shops and eateries. Why you can belly up to the tasting room bar, grab a taste of Bernardo’s Chardonnay or Burgundy and stroll the grounds.

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On the first day of spring, the vines were already sprouting leaves.

A tumble of weathered wooden buildings adorned with rusty tools and thingamajigs, and surrounded by a rainbow of flowers, Bernardo is a feast for the eyes. A casual stroll. A friend or two.

What could be better?

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At every turn, this old village has something to charm a visitor.

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Taste 5 wines for $12. Take all day if you like. You get your card punched so everyone can keep track.

The winery is open every day with tours of the facilities offered. Just ask. I happened to stop by on a very busy Saturday with a bridal shower and three groups who had already scheduled their tours but I was welcome to join any of the tours, if I liked.

Even though I declined, I was still given a quick tour so I’d know where the vineyards and the tank room were. And then there was the tasting room. For $12 you can choose 5. Some are sweet, most are dry. I was partial to a pink  Albarino/ Syrah Rosado with a floral bouquet and an inky dark, earthy burgundy. They even had bubble-wrap Wine Skins so I look them home.

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Artists work in the studio beyond the gift shop. Visitors can have their hair cut, buy a purse, find a great souvenir, have lunch or just coffee, pick out a bauble or a bouquet … as well as find some delightful wine.

Fortified by a bit of wine, I browsed through the shops, peeked in at artists at work at their easels, stopped for a snack at the coffee shop and perused the menu for lunch. (I had other plans for lunch, otherwise this sunny setting would have lured me in.)

You don’t have to like wine to like Bernardo Winery. The historic winery — it opened in 1889 — is certainly what drew me, but the setting, the shops and the warm, sunny surroundings kept me there for one delightful day away.

Text and photos by
Mary K. Tilghman

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