Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Monserate Winery opening in fall, Fallbrook Winery for sale

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Fallbrook has a growing reputation as a destination for wine tasting. Ten wineries are operating now, but come this fall, the size of No. 11 may surpass all the others combined.

Monserate Winery, a 116-acre property in Gird Valley, was a public golf course for 56 years. Long-time Fallbrook residents Jade and Julie Work purchased it in 2016 for $4.1 million with the desire to preserve the beauty and integrity of the land, dotted with 100-year-old oaks and towering sycamore trees.

It struggled financially as a golf course and after closing, developers eyed the property for homes. Ironically, Jade Work is a retired pro golfer and owned a golf course development company. The couple bought the property with the intention of building a winery.

"We plan on opening early fall with a food trailer and a wine tasting room," said Julie Work. "We are starting to book weddings, and our venue is just about completely built and ready to go."

Monserate will be one of the largest wineries in Southern California with about 90 acres of vines.

For comparison, Fallbrook Winery is located on 22 acres with another 50 acres growing nearby.

Fallbrook Winery is for sale, listed at $9 million.

Most of the other wineries in town are small boutique style establishments, which will be profiled in next week's issue.

Ira Gourvitz, 82, and Rebecca "Pepper" Wood, 76, are ready to retire as owners of Fallbrook Winery.

"If it wasn't for our age, we'd be here another 20 years," Wood said. "We've talked to potential buyers but it's not a rush. We love what we do."

The couple bought the property in the mid 1990s. Gourvitz owned a Sonoma vineyard in the 1980s and relocated to start something new with Wood. His passion lies in the production and sales of award-winning wines, while Wood oversees the winery's finances.

The property previously was a citrus grove and it has well water available. However, they find that water to be a little salty when you want to grow quality grapes, said Euan Parker, winemaker.

Wood and Gourvitz own the Fallbrook vineyard, located at 2430 Via Rancheros in Fallbrook. They recently built a home on a hill above the vineyards. Fallbrook Winery produces about 13,000 cases a year.

"Business fell off the map in the beginning of Covid," he said, "but direct to consumer sales did well. We had a lot of on-line sales with people picking up here. The last couple of months have seen record sales."

Also recently, for the first time, their weekend wine tastings have sold out.

The winery is known for its Red Blend and its flagship BDX. Their 33° North label refers to the winery's location, on the 33°N Parallel.

Fallbrook Winery has won numerous awards over the last dozen or so years. Some of the most recent are at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, receiving double gold for its Fallbrook Winery Merlot 2017 and a gold for its 33°North Rosé 2020. At the same event in 2020, the winery received double gold for its 33° North Merlot 2015.

"We love visitors but are very busy crafting our wines!" Parker said. "We offer tours by reservation only. Please call us, send us an email or make an online reservation prior to your visit, where you'll sip up to five of our award-winning wines while touring our facility."

He said visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy it on their deck in the shade of avocado trees. They don't offer any food for purchase but have an idyllic setting and delicious wine to go with your picnic.

Lila MacDonald, CEO of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the new winery as well as the other 10 in the community.

"I'm very passionate about agriculture in the community," she said. "Avocados, oranges and nurseries are all important, but wineries are different because they promote tourism."

Grape vines also use less water than citrus or avocados, making wine more attractive.

Fallbrook also has a strong history with olives and lemons. It was the lemon industry that brought us the moniker of "Friendly Village" when visitors were invited to come and have a free drink of lemonade, MacDonald said.

Monserate Winery is building a restaurant on its property, as well as a large wedding venue.

"We have 15 varieties of vines on the property now," Julie Work said. "Montepulciano, Petite Syrah, Primitivo, Negroamaro, Aglianico, Sagrantino, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Grenache Noir are our reds, and our whites are Falanghina, Greco Di Tufo, Fiano, Malvasia Bianca, and Vermentino."

Those are all Italian varietals, but she said they will also have a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a Rosé.

"Water prices are not a problem because we have wells on the property," Work added.

The winery had its first harvest and produced its first vintage of wine in 2019. The next year, the Major Use Permit was approved by the county, allowing the vision for Monserate Winery to move forward. And in 2021, the first vintages of wine were bottled.

"As far as the other Fallbrook wineries go, we have only really talked to Fallbrook Winery and you can say we consider them a friend," she added. "The only thing left to say is after five years of working extremely hard, we truly can't wait to see everyone who has been waiting to come and enjoy."

The San Diego County Vintners Association, a trade organization dedicated to supporting the winemaking community, released its 2021 county economic of wineries report in March. Like numerous other business sectors, the COVID-19 crisis negatively impacted the San Diego County wine industry.

According to the report, county wineries realized about $37.1 million in gross sales last year, a 19.6% decline from an all-time-high of sales reached in 2019 ($46.2 million). Simultaneously, the number of wineries rose to 150 in the county over the same time.

San Diego County vineyards harvested 3,596 tons of wine grapes in 2019, generating a $5.58 million production value, with a sales price of $1,552 per ton, a record amount achieved in the region. The top five varieties grown, cultivated and/or sold in the region were Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The number of wineries and vineyards in the region has steadily grown over the past few years. Another large winery is opening in September or October.


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