Beach House Winery Blazing the Trail in Oceanside
“We are the trailblazers,” said George with a twinkle in his eye. “The naysayers said grapes would not grow well in this region. Well, they did and they do. We’re doing something here that’s never been done before. Beach House Winery is the first vineyard-winery in the city of Oceanside since Prohibition.”
Located ten miles inland from the coast on a bucolic, picturesque winding road, the winery offers stunning panoramic views of North County and the Pacific Ocean. Their hilltop vista overlooks rolling hills with verdant green patches of agriculture and grapevine-covered land. The views from the winery’s rooftop patio are even more spectacular.
George and Kimberly Murray have always loved making wine, even back in 1998 when it started as a hobby in their Oceanside home, just a few blocks from the beach.
Both George and Kimberly were employed as high-level managers at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. With the announcement of its imminent closing, the couple took this as a sign that it was time to get serious about winemaking.
Kimberly owned property with a massive avocado grove in Oceanside’s agricultural community of South Morro. She and George formulated a plan to organically decompose the avocado trees on site for natural fertilizer and then plant grapevines. They took winemaking courses through the University of California at Davis.
Their dream became reality and Oceanside’s first vineyard and winery opened in 2010. For a small boutique winery, Beach House’s wine list is impressively extensive with sixteen varietals of whites and reds, though reds reign supreme here. Grapes are harvested from San Diego County, Sonoma County and Valle de Guadalupe.
According to Kimberly, the current plan is to greatly expand their sourcing of local grapes. The entire wine production process—from grape selection, to winemaking, to bottling and labeling—is done by the Murrays. Even the winery’s artistic label was designed by George with his son’s colored pencils.
From the start, the Murrays were serious about producing the very best wines, using only quality grapes and quality barrels. Their efforts have paid off with their wines winning numerous medals in several national, international and commercial winemaking competitions.
But the accolades don’t stop with their award-winning wines. Through the Murrays’ collaborative efforts, more farmers are clearing their lands and planting grapes in South Morro. The couple is already working with three local farmers who are growing grapes for the Murrays, and more landowners are jumping on board. Kimberly says, “It takes about two to three years until planted grapes are ready for harvest and there are even a handful of new wineries coming to Oceanside soon. We couldn’t be happier.”
The Murrays are extremely active in the San Diego Vintners Association and are members of the local Farm Bureau. “But what’s really great,” adds Kimberly, “is that we’re working with the city of Oceanside, a consultant from UC Davis and local farms on a brand new agritourism project to bring more visitors to our beach town’s countryside as we continue to develop more wineries and increase marketing of our agricultural products.”
As George points out with a good deal of pride, “No, this isn’t just a hobby anymore.” Even though future growth may entail opening a wine tasting room in downtown Oceanside, the Murrays want the winery to remain boutique. Smiling as she swirls a glass of one of her favorite Beach House whites, Kimberly adds, “there’s a wave of change happening here in Oceanside and it’s really great stuff.”