Ramona’s Rising Star

Milagro is rewriting the rules for making wine in Southern California

Jim Hart next to wine aging tank/fermenter.

Winemaker Jim Hart standing beside one of the temperature controlled aging tanks. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

Tucked away past the Wild Animal Park is a fledgling winery poised to change all the rules for winemaking in Southern California. The winery is Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery and they are crafting some exceptional wines.

Milagro’s winemaking efforts lead by Jim Hart, and yes that last name is one and the same as Hart Winery in Temecula. Jim is Joe Hart’s son, someone who he attributes all of his success as a wine maker.

Jim grew up in the wine business and has been involved with winemaking most of his life – from planting vines as a small boy, to the cellar, and then on to Assistant Winemaker at the family winery.

Jim also believes in sharing with the next generation of wine makers and is an instructor at Mira Costa College’s Wine Making Technology program.

Milagro is owned by Kit and Karen Sickels, La Jolla residents, real estate developer and former teachers. They have placed a great deal of care and thought into the property, and they are not afraid to invest money in areas that impact quality.

The underground cave where the wine silently slumbers. Jim Hart has the key. A unique feature to the cave are antique doors from an old Mission. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

One of the first things you notice on the farm are wild Turkeys. These birds are for more than just making a fantastic Thanksgiving meal, they are natural predators to rattlesnakes and help to keep the snake population under control. Quite a few farms are using Turkeys this way, an inexpensive and natural solution to dangerous snakes.

Some interesting facts about Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery

  • They produce an exquisite olive oil, which is not yet available for sale, but like their wines, is sublime.
  • All irrigation on the property is provided by natural springs, which in turn are fed into a large reservoir.
  • Viticulture techniques encourage low yields, stress on the vines due to rocky soil
  • At 2,400 feet of elevation the vineyard enjoys an interesting mesoclimate with lower daytime highs than neighboring Temecula and a large diurnal temperature range.
  • In addition to grape vines and olives there is an apple orchard on property
  • Free range Turkeys and Pheasants are allowed to roam the property.

Reservoir for the irrigation system, pretty nice picnic spot as well. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

Olive trees grace the main drive, and they produce one of the most refined oils around. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

The wine is made with a dedication to quality throughout the process from low yield-high quality fruit viticulture to small-batch winemaking and aging underground in a cave.

Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in the cave. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

2009 Sauvignon Blanc (40 cases remaining – first vintage) This wine was the biggest surprise of all the Milagro wines tasted. Fist off it has a classic nose–not California Classic–but in the style of Sancerre and the Loire. This wine is almost colorless, not sure if this is a filtration issue, or owning to the young age of the vines. The taste was clean and crisp, citrus notes, minerality peeking through, good hit of acidity, luscious mouth feel. $15.00

Some of these wines will be bottled shortly, until then they rest at a constant temperature year round in the underground cave. Photo by Trasier Schuyler

2008 Chardonnay (170 cases – third vintage) Classic Chardonnay nose, apple, bosc pear, hint of orange blossom, star-fruit, vanilla notes. Rich and creamy mouthfeel, lingering finish. Excellent balance, would be interesting to taste with no oak. 30% of this wine spent 5 months on new oak to undergo malolactic fermentation, the balance was kept in stainless steel to preserve the fruit texture. This wine redefines Chardonnay from Southern California! $18.00

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (240 cases – second vintage) Alfalfa (hay), red berries, a little alcohol poking through, mild spice, mellow tannins, ready to drink now. Perfectly balanced, lingering finish. Drinks like a cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon, amazing example of what can be done in this region. Spent 26 months on European Oak. $22.50

Overall, I have tasted Milagro’s wines three times now, and believe that they are offering a phenomenal value for the quality you are receiving. If you are not familiar with Milagro yet, you will be soon. They are the flagship winery that is going to launch the Ramona AVA into public view.

For the near future, there are quite a few Italian varietals slowly aging away in the cellar, and an exceptional port-style wine is just about ready to bottle.

When can I visit?

Unfortunately San Diego county has draconian laws on the books, making life as hard as possible for wineries to sell wine or even have people on the property to visit. Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery is currently in the permitting stage for adding a tasting room and new production facility. We will let you know when this happens. Until then you can enjoy their wine at these establishments, and it also should be available for purchase at Baron’s Marketplace (but as of writing it is still not present on the shelves in Temecula).
Milagro is closed to the public, but if you are persistent enough who knows…and this is one place that you do want to visit!

There are talks of a winemakers dinner in the near future, this will be a can’t miss event.

Current production building. Photo by Trasier Schuyler


(858) 456-9463

2 thoughts on “Ramona’s Rising Star

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