San Diego was California’s First Wine County
California’s multi-billion dollar wine industry traces its roots to San Diego County. Father Junipero Serra established San Diego de Alcala, California’s first mission located about 23 miles south of Orfila Vineyards and Winery, and planted vines there in 1769. Grapes have been growing at this location since 1973, initially as the San Pasqual Winery and then as Thomas Jaeger Winery. Orfila Vineyards and Winery was established in 1993 when Proprietor Ambassador Alejandro Orfila purchased Thomas Jaeger Winery.
Orfila Vineyards is a 70-acre estate that grows premium wine grapes in the San Pasqual Valley, located in a 10,000-acre agricultural preserve owned by the City of San Diego. The picturesque hillside estate is 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 500 feet. The cool ocean breezes and morning fog create classic wine growing conditions.
Extensive research and experimentation has resulted in the current successful vineyard configuration. Because of such attention to detail and appreciation of the best way to use this land, Orfila Vineyards has astounded the wine industry with the quality of wines produced with San Diego County grapes.
In 2009, Orfila Vineyards & Winery lost our founding winemaker and friend, Leon Santoro. Santoro is largely credited for putting San Diego County on the international wine map. He understood all aspects of the San Pasqual Valley terroir and changed the emphasis of the vineyard from predominantly Chardonnay to Rhône style varietals. Ambassador Orfila notes Leon as the first in the region to recognize the vast potential for Rhône style wines, having determined that the soil conditions were similar to the Mediterranean region. More than 40 acres of the Orfila estate are now dedicated to Syrah, Sangiovese, Merlot, Montepulciano, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.
During his career at Orfila, Leon and his team produced exceptional award-winning wines, proving that fine wines could indeed be produced in Southern California. Leon was an important member of our community and will be remembered for his vision and passion for wine making, a legacy that will live on at Orfila.
Winemaker Justin Mund maintains dedication to our estate to ensure that the vineyard will continue to produce wines of exceptional quality. To date, our winery has been awarded more than 1,300 medals in national and international wine competitions and has been favorably reviewed in many prestigious wine publications.
On October 25, 2011, Orfila Vineyards & Winery lost a valued employee and friend, Benjamin Zaragoza. Benjamin has been a beloved part of the Orfila team since it’s inception in 1993. Whether he was hand-constructing Orfila’s stone walls, tending to our beautiful Estate Vineyard or leading tractor rides at our annual Grape Stomp, Benjamin would always pause to greet you with a friendly wave and a smile. He will be greatly missed.