Two Couples' Stories on Becoming Winemakers

By Lauren Mahan | January 30, 2016
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wine and tacos
Photo Credit: Mike Mahan

Grapes: Transforming North County’s Landscape, One Acre at a Time

Thanks to the worst drought in years—from which some predict we'll need decades to recover—more and more homeowners in North County agricultural areas are converting their citrus and avocado groves to less thirsty and more fire resistant vineyards. The following are two stories of couples with no previous viticulture experience whose landscaping transformation projects have transformed them into winemakers.
Vicki and Pete Montgomery
Valley Center
Pauma Vista Winery

In 2011, retired firefighter Pete Montgomery and his wife, Vicki, a high school counselor, removed one acre of existing citrus and avocado trees on their Valley Center property and converted it to a grape vineyard. "It was trial and error all the way," recalls Vicki, who is pursuing a certificate in oenology from UC Davis.

The Montgomerys do their own weed control and hire out for certain services, such as pest control. The rest of the maintenance and production work is shared with friends and fellow vintners. "Winemaking is a very noncompetitive business," says Pete. "Each wine has its own unique character. So we share the work, as well as the equipment, which most small wineries can't afford to purchase."

Today Pauma Vista Winery produces about 45 cases (approximately 100 gallons) of wine per year. "We currently produce Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel wines," Vicki adds. They recently added Tempranillo grapes, with the hope of producing more interesting varietals. Their wine tasting room will soon be completed. Stay tuned.

Marilyn and Steve Kahle
Woof 'n Rose Winery

Missouri natives Marilyn and Steve Kahle purchased their five-acre Ramona property in 1987 and decided to clear some of their property to plant grapes. As Marilyn recalls, "It was a fire retardant issue, as well as an esthetic one, since we love the appearance of the grapevines as landscaping." As the vines matured they sold their grapes to another winery in Ramona. It wasn't until 2007 that Woof 'n Rose Winery produced its own first vintage, which, at that time, included five Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) and Grenache Noir. Since then they have added Alicante Bouschet, Montepulciano and Carmenere.

The winery produces 300 to 350 cases per year, with bottling, labeling and boxing provided by a mobile bottling service. But the Kahles prefer to do vineyard maintenance and harvesting themselves. "It keeps us young," laughs Steve.

The Woof 'n Rose outdoor tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays 11am–5pm or weekdays by appointment.

Pauma Vista Winery
32261 Duncan Ter
Valley Center, California 92082

Woof 'n Rose Winery
17073 Garjan Lane, Ramona, CA 92065

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