Founded in 1889 on what was a Spanish Land Grant, five business partners opened the Winery. With the start of the prohibition, the wine business diminished dramatically. Vincent Rizzo, first generation Rizzo owner, had the forethought to buy the winery during the prohibition from the dwindling partnership and continue production of sacramental wine and grape juice guaranteed to ferment by the end of the road.
The Rizzo Family circa 1954
Moving from Sicily to the land of opportunity in 1905, Vincent made a living building fruit boxes in Detroit. An opportunity arose to move to Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, and open a few bars. On visiting the Bernardo land grant for a hunting trip, he noticed the winery was for sale.
Vincent Rizzo bought the Bernardo Winery from the original five partners in 1927. The valley that the winery is located in was covered in vineyard, not a house was in sight and the closest town was Escondido. Producing over 150,000 gallons of wine in the late 1940′s, The Bernardo Winery was a major wine supplier of San Diego County. As well as wine, the winery produced Cold Pressed Virgin Olive Oil from the many olive trees that were located on the property, supplying much of the tuna canneries in downtown San Diego.
A north-facing shot of the winery in the early 1960′s
Ross Rizzo took over the family winery from his father, Vincent in 1962. With much ambition, Ross has turned the winery into what it is today, a winery and destination rich in history and old world hospitality and charm. With the passing of Ross in 2008, the family tradition was passed to Ross Rizzo Jr. who is continuing the family business and increasing the wine production in an ever growing San Diego wine region, adding new varietals and adapting new winemaking techniques while preserving the traditions of his ancestors. Old meets new at Bernardo Winery and thrive together.
Besides the grapes produced in the estate vineyards, Bernardo Winery also sources grapes from other San Diego Vineyards across the county in a variety of often quite different micro-climates. No long truck rides, the grapes are harvested locally and trucked to the winery same day.
Besides a full time winemaking facility and tasting room, the winery is home to more than 12 Village Shops, artisan galleries and workspaces, a coffee shop, full service salon, and an award winning cafe, all tucked into the architecture of the original century old winery buildings. Complete the picture with the stunning backdrop of the vineyards, gardens, unique event spaces and old world feel the winery is known for and you will find yourself at the winery time and time again. Be our guest.