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First Person: A Look at O.C.'s New Wine-Tasting Room

A Trabuco Canyon winery sets up shop at a historic home in San Juan Capistrano.

A wine-tasting room in a historic house is soooo San Juan Capistrano. It's just bound to be a destination outing.

So, when a friend told me Hamilton Oaks Vineyard and Winery was finally open at the Swanner House – and we’re welcome to bring our own munchies – the incredibly handsome husband and I packed up a baguette, goat cheese and chocolate (because, really, is there anything more delicious with wine?) and made the couple-mile drive.

The city’s been clamoring to rent out the house, which it owns and had previously leased to a family for a few years, to a winery. Even City Councilman Derek Reeve, who admits to be more partial to the suds, got in the act.

After taking possession in June, owners Ron and Connie Tamez have been busy cleaning up the orange orchard, preparing the house for company and turning the iconic water tower into a cozy nook now dubbed the “engagement room.” And yes, if you need a spot to pop the question, this might be the place if you’re fond of the rustic look, candlelight and wine.

Lots and lots of wine! For $15, we were poured our choice of five wines. Because there were more than five from which to choose, my selection didn’t always match that of the hunky hubby. We both started with the chardonnay, which has a great oaky flavor.

This is as good a place as any to mention that while I used to be a personal chef and am usually very snobby when it comes to food, I’m no sommelier. As with most of us who drink wine, I just like what I like.

There was a private event going on in the coach house, so we couldn’t take a closer look. But I saw some TV screens. And a lot of people having a good time. And even a friend, who joined us after the party wound down.

The front porch is another great spot to cozy up with your wine and your loved one. The Tamezes are now working on their events area where they plan to host weddings.

Because of the house's historic designation, the kitchen cannot be converted into a commercial kitchen, our wine pourer informed us. So that’s why we’re welcome to bring our own food to wine pair. Events will necessarily be catered.

My personal favorite was the Malbec, but it’s not for everyone. Our server said most people don’t like the bold tannins, but I embraced them and heartily recommend you bring a good gorgonzola with you. My husband liked the Barbera best.

Hamilton Oaks is based out of Trabuco Canyon and was the first modern-day winery to open in the county. The tie to San Juan works, Ron Tamez has said, because wine grapes were first harvested in the state at Mission San Juan Capistrano long before the industry moved to Napa.  

He is planning a small demonstration vineyard of Mission grapes, as is the city next to the Blas Aguilar. In addition, another new wine-tasting room is scheduled to open soon across from the Regency theaters. Making San Juan the next Napa?

I’ll drink to that!

  • Hamilton Oaks Vineyard and Winery's wine-tasting room is located at 29943 Camino Capistrano, across the road from the Mountain Pines Christmas Tree Farm not far from the border with Laguna Niguel. It's closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday and Thursday, the hours are 2-6 p.m., noon to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and open Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Alberto Barrera November 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM
"We never let business interfere with our drinking!"- The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Penny Arévalo November 19, 2012 at 11:53 PM
You guys crack me up!
Clint Worthington November 20, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Sometimes you just have to take off the battle gear, make a toast, and enjoy a nice glass of wine.
Lon Uso November 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Amen brother!!!!!!!!!! See Penny, there is yet hope for San Juan.
Penny Arévalo November 26, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Found a Groupon for Hamilton Oaks. Good for the next 3 1/2 days http://www.groupon.com/deals/hamilton-oaks-vineyard-3?utm_campaign=UserReferral&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=uu33482147

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