San Diego wineries post record sales and thriving post-pandemic restrictions
According to a recent report, the local wine industry grew last year with an 11% increase in sales, marking an all-time high for the industry.
San Diego County wineries posted $49.1 million in gross sales, and the number of wineries — active and planned — grew to 166, according to the economic impact report released by the San Diego County Vintners Association.
Mike Weber, the vice president of the Vintners Association and the general manager of Orfila Vineyards & Winery, said COVID-19 did a number on the industry, but those pandemic changes are also helping the industry grow.
"We all remember that — that we had to go outside ... The wine business, in general, is an event type of business," he said. "You come here to drink and enjoy it, and having more room outside in a view like this, it is really enthralling for people.”
Orfila is located in Escondido's San Pasqual Valley with a sprawling view of the countryside and acres of grape vines. Wineries are spread out throughout the county, but most are in North County.
Edward Embly owns the nearby Hungry Hawk Vineyards & Winery. When the pandemic hit, the winery had operated for six years.
"It's kind of a sudden jolt to our business,” he said, but the outdoor dining COVID-19 guidelines also helped to expand his business.
“With that, really, we ended up hiring more employees," Embly said. "And those changes made a big change in our business, and it actually was a positive change ... we carried over a lot of those same procedures to today.”
According to the report, 45% of wineries have rebounded to the pre-pandemic level, and the industry has grown 6%, adding 709.5 jobs to the region.
Weber said the industry still faces some challenges in the recovery process. Wildfire insurance has grown by 54%, and competition from the growing liquor industry has also increased. San Diego County distilleries generated about $25.1 million in 2022, more than a $6 million jump over 2021.
And inflation is a continuous obstacle.
“Inflation has definitely hurt the wine biz in a very prominent way," Weber said. "But superseded that, we've hired more people collectively here in San Diego. It's just up, up, up and a very good trend.”
With nearly double the number of wineries as Riverside County, the wine industry is one of the top 10 agricultural industries in San Diego County.
Orfila Vineyards & Winery is a corporate partner of KPBS