Orfila Vineyards and Winery: San Diego Sojourn

Orfila Vineyards and Winery
13455 San Pasqual Road, Escondido, California (map link)

Many boutique wineries are started by people going into a second career. Few, however, can claim a first career as exotic as Orfila’s founder Alejandro Orfila. He served in numerous diplomatic posts on behalf of Argentina including service as Ambassador to Japan and to the US, as well as serving two terms as Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Photos in a section of the tasting room show him with dignitaries such as Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, as well as with Jacqueline Kennedy and the Pope.

Orfila Winery
The photos are, of course, inside a giant wine barrel.

Not content with merely guiding and influencing world affairs, Orfila’s appreciation of wine ultimately led him to establish a winery in Escondido. And we’re glad he did! Orfila took over a winery that was one of only two in Escondido that had survived Prohibition.

Do these overalls make my feet look big?

The grounds are beautiful, with grapevine-covered rolling hills leading the eye to spectacular vistas. The estate, which is located on the same agricultural preserve as the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park, has plenty of room for weddings and other events. A large mixed-use building serves as a tasting room as well as housing barrels as far as the eye can see. Nikki adds: And the tasting room bar has purse hooks!

Nikki described Sheila, who poured for us, as a wine geek's dream. I agree!

The tasting room staff was friendly and knowledgeable and managed to give personal attention even though the room was quite busy. They pour for the love of the wine. Sheila, our tasting room associate, actually works full-time at the San Diego Zoo but took up pouring at Orfila because she liked the wine so much. We enjoyed our visit a great deal.

The Wines

2008 Viognier (San Pasqual Valley): This had a very mild aroma and an amazingly rich taste. A little sweet, smooth, with a touch of bitterness that holds it all together. Nikki says: It tasted like drinking orange blossoms; I could taste a hint of orange essence and a floral overtone.

2010 Viognier (San Pasqual Valley): A light crisp nose, with citrus and apple. This one’s rich like the ’08, but with more prominent fruit, particularly pear and apple. Nikki says: It’s like someone cranked the flavors in the ’08 up to 11!  Sheila described the richness as custard. I finally have a name to put with that flavor!

2008 Sangiovese (California): Dark in color, aroma and taste with notes of cedar and cherry, nicely structured with just the right amount of tannins. Nikki says; It smelled like the tannic parts of A-1 sauce. I really like A-1 sauce, so this is a compliment.

2009 Montepulciano (California): This was an enchanting swirl of cherry and licorice. Aromas of wood smoke and leaves imparted an autumnal quality to this wine. Nikki says: It tasted like frosted tannins!

2006 Estate Syrah (San Pasqual Valley): This Syrah was pretty tightly structured with a bit of bite. I found a nice cherry flavor in the fruit. I think this one would be great with bold dishes.

2006 Coastal Cuvée Syrah (California): The aroma brought to mind filet mignon on a cedar plank. The flavor was round and rich, with good tannic support. I really craved a nice steak after tasting this one. Nikki says: So did I – and I’m a vegetarian!

2008 Ambassador’s Reserve Estate Syrah (San Pasqual Valley): The grapes used in the ’08 Ambassador’s Reserve were growing during a nearby fire in 2007. The wine does seem to have been influenced. The aroma is earthy, with cedar and herbal notes. The flavor combines cherry and grape, with a nice tannic finish.

2008 Estate Petite Sirah (San Pasqual Valley): I detected holiday spice aromas and cherry in the nose. The flavor was fruity enough to be jammy, pulled together by an expert application of tannins.

California NV Tawny Port: The aroma was just what you hope for in a tawny port. Layers of prune and caramel with just a whiff of alcohol. The mouthfeel was incredibly rich and unctious. The flavor revealed prune, raisin and chocolate, and the intriguing finish was marked by an almost savory sensation of smoke, maybe even burnt gunpowder.

Orfila does it right. Great wines served in a fun, relaxed atmosphere amid beautiful surroundings. Yay!