Ah, Orange County – – the beaches, the vistas, the wineries…
Wait, the wineries?! Yes, you can walk beautiful vineyards and go wine tasting right here in Orange County. The Orange County Winery Loop has been here for years, but is quickly coming of age. There is no need to trek to Temecula for a wine tasting experience. In less than 30 minutes from San Clemente, 20 minutes from Orange, and 15 minutes from Coto De Caza, you could be sipping on award-winning, Orange County wines.
I originally wrote this story for the inaugural edition of OC South, a glossy print magazine for South Orange County . This is an expanded edition of that story, with extra wineries, pictures and tips. Check out OC South Magazine.
Some of Orange County Wineries actually grow their own grapes for their estate blends, other excel at wine making using fruit from the best growing region. So, buckle up and top down, because I’m going to send you on the perfect South Orange County wine tasting experience.
Day 1 – Orange County Canyon Wineries
Day one of your Orange County wine loop adventure begins in the Trabuco and Silverado Canyons. This area feels like you took a plane ride to a different state, even though you are less than a 15 minutes ride from the City of Orange. The rustic and warm environment is perfect for growing hardy red grapes.
Giracci Vineyards and Farms
Your first stop is Giracci Vineyards and Farms, located at 16162 Jackson Ranch Rd., Silverado Canyon. When you pull into Giracci, you feel like you are pulling up into a Napa Valley farm, complete with horses and historic buildings. Giracci has a stately tasting room, and the staff will make you feel like family.
Their award-winning wines are made in the Italian style and are very delicious and fruit forward. I recommend the 2010 Syrah.
Giracci Vineyards and Farms Details
- Address: 16162 Jackson Ranch Rd., Silverado Canyon
- Wine Tasting (Walk-ins Welcome): Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.11:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Cowboy Canyon Winery
The next winery, Cowboy Canyon Winery, is located on Giracci’s 10-acre farm. You can roll out of one tasting room and into another. Although Giracci and Cowboy Canyon are affiliated, they each provide an entirely different wine tasting experience. Cowboy Canyon has a rock and roll cowboy attitude, and their wines have a little kick as well. My favorite is the 2011 “8 Second Ride” Sangiovese.
Cowboy Canyon Winery Details
- Address: 6162 Jackson Ranch Rd., Silverado Canyon
- Open for walk-ins: 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday
Hamilton Oaks Winery
Our third stop is Hamilton Oaks Winery, located at 31111 Hamilton Trail, Trabuco Canyon. Theirs is an exclusive experience, and reservations are required. Hamilton Oaks has hosted celebrities and foreign dignitaries, and their wines have won multiple awards.
What I like about Hamilton Oaks is that you can sip your wine under the oak trees while gazing at the canyon vineyard. The wines at Hamilton Oaks are delicious and sophisticated, I highly recommend their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Hamilton Oaks Winery Details
- Two Locations
- Tasting Room at the Historical Swammer House 29943 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
- Open for walkins:
- Friday October 31 Noon – 5 p.m.
- Saturday November 1 m. – 3 p.m.
- Saturday November 22 Noon – 4 p.m
- Hamilton Oaks Estate Tasting Room and Vineyard
- 31111 Hamilton Trail, Trabuco Canyon. Reservations Required, plan ahead
- Appointments available – Tuesday through Sunday 11 am to 7pm
- Call (949) 459-6913 to schedule an appointment.
Eat or Play?
If your date is feeling wine frisky, perhaps it is a great time to head home ;). Perhaps your body is feeling another carnal emotion, hunger. If the later is the case, then dinner at Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse is a must.
It’s one my top 10 steakhouses of Orange County and is a short ride from Hamilton Oaks. The food and ambiance are rustic; hickory smoked steaks and an oak tree growing through the center of the dining room complete the experience. This place is popular, so reservations are recommended.
I suggest scheduling dinner reservations two hours after your Hamilton Oaks wine tasting reservation. A fair bit of warning, if you show up to Hamilton Oaks with a tie on, it will be cut off and stapled to the wall with your business card. I, usually, bring a tie for this reason.
Make reservations early in the day or the day before if possible. (949) 586-0722
20782 Trabuco Oaks Dr, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
Day 2 –Coastal Orange County Wineries
Day two of cruising Orange County’s wine loop takes us on the coastal route. Some stops are more exclusive than others, so a little planning is required, just like the canyon wineries.
Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery
Perhaps you want to show off your insider connections to your friends, then securing a private tasting at Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery is the uber experience. Although Newport Beach Vineyards and winery is closed to the public, you could score an exclusive wine tasting and cheese pairing if you can gather up 8 of your friends. I guarantee you will be the envy of your group after sipping wines in Orange County’s only wine cave. I recommend the 2010 OC Estate Unobtainium, a meritage blend made using fruit from the Newport Beach vineyard.
Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery Details
- 2128 Mesa Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
- Call to make a reservation for your group (949) 630-8662
Orange Coast Winery
While you are in the neighborhood, I recommend a stop at Orange Coast Winery. Orange Coast Winery is tucked away in an industrial area of Newport Beach. The winemaker is part of the Weens family, who operates as the winemaker at Weens family Vineyards in Temecula.
The wines are made onsite using fruit from all over California. The Weens family winemaking style is evident in the wine, but their wines are nothing like their Temecula cousins. The wines are good and the staff is friendly. I recommend the 2013 Primitivo reserve, which uses grapes from Lodi.
I have gone back and forth on this winery. I loved it, then was disappointed during the change of ownership. I recently fell in love with it again during a recent incognito visit.
Orange Coast Winery Details
- Orange Coast Winery Address Two Locations
- 869 West 16th Street, Newport Beach
- 3734 E. Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar
- Wine Tasting Hours (both locations)
- Thursday and Friday: 4:00 – 9:00 pm
- Saturday: Noon – 9:00 pm
- Sunday: 2:00 – 8:00 pm
Laguna Canyon Winery
Your last wine frolicking stop for the day is Laguna Canyon Winery, right in the heart of Laguna Canyon Road. I have visited this winery for years and they do a wonderful job of making California wines with a subtle French and Italian influence. Located at 2133 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach, this winery is a hidden gem.
Their wine tasting fees are $2 per 2 ounce pour, with fee waived per bottle. Although, I recommend their 1st Friday of the Month Wine Tasting party, which includes 10 one ounce pours for $40. It also includes food and live music!
If you are still rolling with the group from Newport Beach Vineyards, then schedule a group barrel tasting experience. For $35 a person, you can taste four red wines directly from their French oak barrels. Food can be ordered, and is encouraged, during the barrel tasting. http://www.lagunacanyonwinery.com/
Laguna Canyon Winery Details
- 2133 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach, CA 92651
- Call for Barrel Tasting reservations: (949) 715-9463
- Tasting Room Hours
- Open Daily 11am – 6pm, closed Monday & holidays
- Next 1st Friday of the month Wine Tasting Party
- December 5th – 6-9 pm
Other Orange County Wineries, perhaps another article
I highly encourage you to visit http://www.ocwinetrail.com/ it is a great site that chronicles Orange County’s Wineries. The folks at Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery referred me to this great resource. As a group, they are starting to get organized, resulting in more locally made wine right here in OC.
Pozzouli Vineyard and Winery
- 5481 Red Hill Ave. Suite C, Tustin CA 92780
- W,TH. 4PM-8PM, F, SA. 11AM-8PM
Rancho Capistrano Winery
26755 Verdugo St. #100, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Hours: Opening Soon!
Ph. 949-307-7736. Email. [email protected]
Frisby Cellars Winery
20331 Lake Forest Dr. Suite C-3, Lake Forest, CA 92630
Hours: Saturday & Sunday 12PM-5PM
Winery on Main Street
4861 Main Street, Yorba Linda , California 92886 , USA
Hours: Closed Sun. & Mon
Tue. to Thru. 4:00pm to 9:00pm
Fri. 4:00pm to 11:00pm
Sat. 1:00pm to 11:00pm
Telephone : 1-(714)-777-WINE (9463)