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College took Broomell to Santa Barbara to study horticulture. From there, he started in at Jaffurs, working every aspect of the business at the tiny operation — even tasting samples with the owner when it came time to do the final blends. Then, early in 2008, he headed south to work the harvest in Australia. “One of my jobs was to go around to vineyards and pull samples. I’d spend 12 hours a day driving around and pulling grapes — 100-year-old Shiraz, all that kind of stuff. We had our basic instruments — refractometers, pH meters — and we were collecting samples to send off to a lab for complete spectrum analysis.

“But when you’re spending 12 hours a day in the vineyard, you start playing games with the guy next to you. Tasting grapes, guessing the brix” — a measure of sugar concentration — “the acid, all that. Your palate gets educated; you run the tests and see where you were off. You learn to evaluate quality. As soon as I came back, I went around San Diego as much as possible, tasting grapes. And I was tasting some really good things. I knew there was potential here for really good wines” — including wines from Triple B. Hagata’s Las Piedras Syrah served to confirm his suspicions: “About two years ago, I opened a bottle of the 2000” — made in part from Triple B fruit. “It was eight years old, and it was showing really well.”

The family had long considered putting in a winery on the property, and in spring of ’08, they accepted the returning son’s proposal to convert one of the barns and start things fermenting. “This last year we did 1600 cases. By the end, the winery’s capacity is going to be 2500–3000 cases. All estate wines, made from grapes we’ve planted.” They’ll be ready for sale in 2011; in the meantime, “We’re still selling grapes.”

Triple B is the family business; Broomell works as the winemaker. Vesper Vineyards, on the other hand, “is the label I have with my fiancé, Alysha Stehle. She graduated from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology two years ago. She went to Sonoma and worked the harvest there, and now we’re both down here. We make San Diego vineyard-designate wines, but we don’t own any vineyards. I go around and taste grapes, and if I really like the vineyard, I try to get some fruit and make wine from it. I should have some wines on the market in May — I’m trying to get them ready for that wine competition Ramona does each year. This year, I’ve got grapes in from Potrero, from Warner Springs, from Rancho Santa Fe, Ramona, Pamo Valley…It gets me off the property, gets me out and about.”

And what does Broomell see on his travels? More than a few admirable wines and lots of good grapes. But his overall impression is that “San Diego is kind of like an industry in its infancy. You have a lot of homeowners putting in one- or two-acre vineyards in their backyards. But they don’t have a farming background, and they aren’t even aware of FDA regulations. When their fruit becomes an agricultural product, they can’t go to Home Depot and buy Roundup for their vineyards. We have to keep records of everything we put in a wine. If something happens in a winery’s fermenter, it all gets traced back to the vineyard. We’ll go back to them and ask, ‘Okay, where’s your pest report?’ So in certain things, you have to start with step one. But the Ramona group is really good about that — they want to make high-quality stuff, which is good. I got some grapes this year from their president, Richard McClellan. Marsanne and Roussane. He’s doing a really nice job.”

The Garagistes of Ramona, California

“The Ramona group” is the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association. According to president McClellan, it exists to “promote the Ramona Valley wine and grape business — I think nearly every winery in Ramona Valley is also a member of our organization. Also, to educate people about growing good grapes. Right now, in the Ramona American Viticultural Area, we have 42 vineyards, and as best as we can tell, that’s 50–60 acres under vine. Five have just been planted, and two more have been planted but are too young for harvesting. And one is established but had no harvest because the goats ate the production.”

Unlike some of his fellows, McClellan did come from a farming background. Also, from Yuma. “I used to come to San Diego in the summertime, trying to find someplace that wasn’t 115 degrees.” Between Yuma and Ramona was a 25-year detour in Sonoma, where he saw “what viticulture did for some of the more rural areas of the county. They were just little farm towns, and now they’re destinations.” And Ramona could stand to become a destination. “We were struggling even before the recession hit. If you drive down Main Street, good Lord — every other building is for rent.”

He arrived in town “about five years ago, wanting to grow something. I started off looking at avocados.” But grapes looked like a better bet, in part because of water issues. “Particularly in the Highland Valley area, there are quite a few avocados, and I know some of the growers are considering a switch to grapes. I’ve had a lot of them talk to me about it, and I know one vineyard that was an avocado orchard around ten years ago.” So, in 2007, he put in almost 2000 vines on a three-acre parcel, “divided up between eight or nine varietals.” As Broomell noted earlier, “We don’t have an established varietal in this area” — the field is still wide open. “So I wanted to find out what does well here and what I like. Personally, I think Ramona Valley is kind of a warmish climate, conducive to Rhone varietals” — hence the Marsanne, the Roussane, and the Grenache, which he likes as a rosé. “And Petite Sirah is doing well here. Victor Edwards at Edwards Vineyards & Winery makes a superb wine.”

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wineguy April 16, 2010 @ 11:06 a.m.

Nice article. As a retailer of fine wines, here's my reality about 99% of local wines (South Coast AVA & Guadalupe Valley): When they're good, they're too expensive. When they're cheap, they're awful. Stick to building your wine clubs for your revenue until your costs, and eventually your pricing, get in line with the rest of the world. Cheers!


himichael April 19, 2010 @ 10:53 a.m.

Hey wineguy,

I basically agree with you; when the local wines are cheap they are awful. Sometimes they are awful even when they aren't cheap. However, they good ones are only "too expensive" because of market conditions. I have never seen a San Diego wine retailing for more than $35/bottle. But I have tasted some that are better than $100 bottles of Napa. In other words, some of our wines have the quality and rarity to command high prices. The difference is that they don't have the reputation or the marketing to support those prices. That is going to change.


cabanagirl127 May 2, 2010 @ 11:25 p.m.

wineguy and himichael,

I love a good, (sadly, always expensive) Cabernet. My latest taste is for Silver Oak Cab...can you recommend something in San Diego County or even Ramona that is really THAT good? I'd love to have a new, local favorite and price is not an issue, just quality. I'd like to keep my dollars up here in Ramona, local purchasing - or at least in the county. Love to hear some responses! What is your favorite, local, Cabernet? =)


lroy479 May 26, 2010 @ 9:17 a.m.

My husband and I love sangiovese; and feel like the Ramona area should be producing a good sangiovese, as the terrain resembles the Chianti area in Italy (to our untrained eyes). Our budget is between $ 13 and $ 21 and sadly as soon as we find one we really love; it quickly passes the $ 25 per bottle that makes it out of reach for our everyday table. We have always been more frugal; preferring to splurge only on special occasions with a $ 50 or above red or other varietal; but we like to have wine at every meal; and the California pinot grigio or chianti, merlot or syrah that hits around the $ 13 mark is eluding us. We have a cellar full of special occasion wine and want to find a local everyday wine to buy cases of. We want to support local growers, but find that the good wines are too expensive though really good, and like mentioned above, the cheap wines are awful. There must be some way to hit that midpoint? Most Bevmo specials are awful; as is 2buck, but somehow they keep long lines. Get behind this trend of more wine- more often- more affordable and you will have a huge local audience; even door to door. The internet will grow a business like crazy; using people like us who find it, enjoy it, serve it, write about it and talk about it. Most people do not have the elevated palate or even want to be wine snobs; most just want a great mouthfeel and flavor to pair with take-out pizza; or 30-minute grill meals.


barbarabaxter March 14, 2011 @ 3:18 p.m.

crush articles are so great is matthew still writing them


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