For San Diego urbanites, the thought of exploring Rancho Bernardo for the day might conjure up images of well-landscaped retirement communities, golf courses and luxury inns with fine dining to match. And while Rancho Bernardo is home to all of those things, it boasts historic wonders like Bernardo Winery, which opened in 1889; shopping for arts, crafts and other handmade goods; progressive dining and drinking options; and natural beauty brimming with wildlife at Lake Hodges. The next time you're driving on Interstate 15, don't pass up Rancho Bernardo for its outwardly suburban, big box retailer appearance. Venture a little deeper to discover the heart of this east North County enclave.
Hike, bike and frolic with your pup at Lake Hodges
From Rancho Bernardo Community Park, which includes a 2-acre off-leash dog run, you can access Lake Hodges via multiple trailheads, whether you're looking for a leisurely bird-watching stroll or a mountain bike ride. Fishing season doesn't start again until February. For more information on the 55-mile San Dieguito River Park, which includes Lake Hodges, visit sdrp.org. 18448 W Bernardo Dr., Rancho Bernardo (858) 538-8129, rbcommunitypark.com.
Visit Bernardo Winery
In 1889, Sicilian immigrants opened Bernardo Winery, making it the oldest vineyard in San Diego. It wasn't until 1927 that Vincenzo Rizzo purchased the winery. Today, it remains in the family three generations later. Besides a tasting room, retail shop and tranquil, shaded patio seating with the sound of fountains adding to the relaxing vibe, the winery shares its sprawling, 11-acre property with art galleries and studios, plus boutique shopping - all of which you can peruse with wine in hand. And you learn something while you're at it: the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Museum is also located on the winery's grounds.
While you're there, be sure to check out these shops in Bernardo Winery's peaceful village setting:
V's Coffee Shoppe
Italian-inspired espresso bar with light snacks and artisan cheese plates for wine pairings; the tasting room and its expansive patio are within steps of this cute café, which has its own patio seating as well.
BW Sweet Shoppe
With a glass of vino in tow, score complimentary chocolate pairings. There's also a selection of local nuts, dried fruits and more edible delights.
The Bag Cellar
There's a purse or bag for everyone at this carefully curated boutique. With a range of styles, prices - and great sales - shop for your next elegant clutch, or everyday tote at this friendly retail shop. (858) 487-2224.
Icarus Studio and Gallery
Get expert instruction on how to create a mosaic mandala-or perhaps an oil painting class is your cup of wine. Either way, this art studio, frame shop and gallery is a wondrous place to shop for eclectic, handmade gifts from around the world. (858) 312-1277. Bernardo Winery is located at 13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte, Rancho Bernardo. (858) 487-1866, bernardowinery.com
Eat an abnormally delicious meal
Where can you find a small batch brewery, winery and restaurant - whose focus is San Diego-style cuisine - all under the same roof? Believe it or not, this progressive concept is located in an unsuspecting R.B. business park, where The Cork & Craft restaurant, Abnormal Beer Company and Abnormal Wine Company all share what reveals itself to be a gorgeous space. With Executive Chef Phillip Esteban's pristine kitchen on display and nine, reduced gluten housemade beers to choose from, including collaborations with heavy weights Green Flash and a mocha stout made with Mostra coffee, the Cork & Craft goes off for its weekend brunch, lunch and dinner services. Word is out about this hidden gem, so be sure to check out its upcoming Abnormal Dinner Series events, which invites a guest chef to cook alongside Esteban for eight original courses, with pairings. Follow @abnormalbeerco on Instagram for event updates and promo codes for special events. 16990 Via Tazon, Rancho Bernardo. (858) 618-2463, Abnormalbeerco.com