Poppaea (full name Poppaea Sabina) was born in Pompeii in 30 AD, a town that was subsequently destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Most interestingly, excavations as recent as the 1970’s have uncovered details of a vineyard in Pompeii which includes trellis design, vine spacing and, with DNA evidence, the exact varietals planted there. Vineyard design throughout Italy developed from these early ideas and has been emulated at Poppaea Vineyard in Ramona. Poppaea married young (14 years old) but her own lust for power quickly saw her divorce her first two husbands; indeed, she only married her second husband, Otho, because of the latter’s friendship with the Emperor Nero. Using her charm and beauty, she seduced Nero into marrying her and together they ruled the Roman empire from 59 – 65 AD. She has been the subject of various artistic works but perhaps the most renown is an opera by Monteverdi (1642) entitled L’incoronazione di Poppaea – ‘The Coronation of Poppaea’.


The 6.4 acre parcel of land at 25643 Old Julian Highway was acquired in May, 2009 and the family-run company formed shortly afterwards. There are three co-owners: John, his wife Marion and their son Benjamin; Benjamin lives on site. The family relocated from England in 1995 for John to work in the Biotechnology industry (now retired) and have made San Diego their home.

The original property, known locally as Sky Island, was destroyed during the 2007 Witch Creek wild fire and was devoid of any building structures at the time the land was purchased. Importantly, however, a well capable of supplying all the needs for a vineyard with fresh water survived. Building began in 2011 with new structures appearing each year until 2014 when the facilities were deemed complete – a private house, a boutique winery and tasting room, a garage and storage area and the ‘pump’ room.

While construction of these buildings was underway, the vineyard was also being developed with the first planting taking place in Spring of 2010. Additional plantings have been made annually and the vineyard will be complete in 2015. As of January 2014, approximately 4 acres have been planted exclusively with Italian-style red grapes. Two varietals from Piedmonte, Barbera and Nebbiolo, two from Tuscany, Sangiovese and Montepulciano and one, Primativo (California's zinfandel), widely planted throughout Italy but dominant in Pulgia, are featured. But perhaps the 'flagship' of Poppaea will be Sagrantino which is localised to a small town in Umbria, Montefalco. Together with its various blends, this varietal can produce some of the most expressive red wines available usually requiring at least 2 years to age prior to release but which can continue to develop over two decades. To complement these plantings and enhance the scenic impact of the vineyard, an olive tree orchard was commenced in 2014 with varietals consistent of those seen in the wine growing regions of Italy mentioned above: frantoio, leccino and moraiolo.

The boutique winery consists of a tasting room, a preparation area, a laboratory and a temperature controlled ‘barrel’ room with maximum production set at around 8500 bottles (about 1700 gallons) projected for 2017-18. Informative tours will be offered during the open hours of the tasting room (or by appointment) when visitors will be able to learn of the detailed winemaking process from harvest to the bottled product. The tasting room has spectacular views towards Mount Woodson and the Pacific beyond. In addition, there will be outside seating areas located on two separate patios and a nearby part of the vineyard. We shall be offering visitors pre-packaged foods to accentuate the wine tasting experience.

The first production year was 2013 - the year the winery became bonded. With the intention of producing only quality grapes as the vines mature, this production was restricted to a low capacity harvest with just over 1000 bottles produced. It is hoped that this wine will be released (at the earliest) in the Autumn of 2015 after aging over oak for 12 months and then in bottles for a further 12 month period. All wine produced on site will be from estate grown grapes easily satisfying the criteria required by local viticultural rules – the Ramona Valley Viticultural Association (RVVA) – and will be bottled on site.