Grape crush is on at San Diego County’s 115 wineries

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — San Diego County may be known as the "craft beer capital" of the U.S. but it is also home to a thriving wine industry.

There are more than 115 wineries in the region, which according to the San Diego County Vintners Association, generate millions of dollars a year to the local economy.

It’s a busy day at Solterra Winery & Kitchen in Encinitas. Owner and winemaker Chris Van Alyea, the guy driving the lift-truck just received his latest fall bounty.
"We just got in about 15 tons of fruit from the Russian River, Willamette Valley, Oregon and Sierra Foothills," Van Alyea said.

Van Alyea opened his urban winery two blocks from the beach off Coast Highway four years ago. He grew up in northern California wine country where his father has a vineyard. He’s been making wines for 16 years and said crushing grapes never gets old.
"It’s very exciting to get the fruit in. It’s one of our last big days of the year so we’re really glad you guys got to come out," Van Alyea said. 

Today it’s all hands on deck.
"We’re basically dumping the grapes thru the elevator, taking the stems off and putting a little crush on them.  Then it will ferment on the skins for about a week or so. That allows extra time to extract some color, flavor and tannin from the skins," Van Alyea said.  
Once the grapes are crushed and processed, it takes about two years before they wind up in a bottle.  Right now, there are 40 different bottles on the Solterra tasting menu, the most popular being Merlot. 
"I definitely like to have more fruit forward wine but I make varying styles from a little more earthy to bigger riper fully bodies wines which the majority of people tend to drink," Van Alyea said. 

Solterra’s wines pair well with the Mediterranean Tapas served in the adjoining restaurant and have garnered "gold" and "best of class" awards in competitions across the state. which keeps this urban winery bustling. 

Which is exactly what you could say about San Diego County’s wine industry.

Van Alyea said he buys many of his grapes from local growers. The climate is perfect.  There are 60 varieties grown in the region, many on vineyard properties in rural areas like Julian and Ramona, that offer tasting rooms which are a great way to spend the weekend.   

In addition to the Encinitas location, Solterra will soon be opening a tasting room in Carlsbad. 

For more information about all of San Diego County’s wineries, go to

Categories: Local San Diego News