SAN DIEGO — San Diego County is a vast area of more than 4,500 square miles. It could take you a lifetime to wine and dine at every special spot so it's no surprise to me that I can visit an iconic San Diego site for the first time.
"Where am I?" I joke.
"Where are you? It looks like a little Italian village, huh?" Ross Rizzo Jr. responds. "This is the Bernardo Winery. We are the oldest winery in Southern California."
Ross Rizzo Jr. offers me a tour of the working winery that's been here for 130 years.
"We are called Bernardo Winery, not Rancho Bernardo Winery. We've been here far longer than Ranch Bernardo existed," says Rizzo Jr.
He takes me to their vineyard.
"Wine is delicious. Wine means more when it comes from your backyard," he says.
Rizzo Jr.'s grandfather bought the place in 1927, his father took over in the 1960s and now Ross runs it with his two sisters.
"That sounds complicated," I say.
"Yeah, you know it is a blessing and a curse - way more of a blessing," Rizzo Jr. says. "My sisters are incredible and especially being Sicilian - your family always has your back."
Sicilian code states there's nothing more important than the family business.
"Do you feel the pressure to keep it going?" I ask.
"Definitely. Absolutely," says Rizzo Jr. whose father passed away in 2008. "He would think I'm nuts. Completely crazy. There are old-timers who come here and tell me stories about how they would show up to Bernardo Winery in the '60s and '70s and they would find my dad taking a nap in his jeep. You would wake him up and you would buy wine from him and that is how mellow it was."
In other words, the grapes are still growing and so is the 13-acre spread. Although most people come for the wine tasting, the winery offers corporate events, parties, weddings and more.
I go to all of the places I see in the winery and to save time I blurt out, "Chocolate shop, two gift shops, lotion shop, award-winning restaurant, and a flower shop."
Not to mention a Farmer's Market every Friday.
They've grown from 12 employees to 50, so what would Ross Rizzo Jr.'s father think?
"I think he would be wildly proud, I think he would be wildly proud," says Rizzo Jr.
Rizzo Jr. is the wine maker now and he continues to make three generations of family dreams come true.
"It's kind of selfish but it's incredible how romantic this place can be," says Rizzo Jr. "We share wine, we share food with people, we make people happy, you know?"
If you'd like to learn more about the Bernardo Winery, including information on live music on the weekends, go to BernardoWinery.com.