I’m always pleased when I discover bits of The Inland Empire’s rich and colorful history that not only have survived but are flourishing. That’s exactly what I found when I visited the Joseph Filippi Winery and Vineyards in Rancho Cucamonga.
Located along Base Line Road a few blocks west of Etiwanda Avenue, I first notice the family’s attention to detail from the moment I turn into the parking lot. The colorful entrance sign is made from an old redwood wine vat, framed by bougainvillea and its red flowers. There are well-maintained grounds, and for patrons a picnic area which includes redwood picnic tables made from old wine casks. Rose bushes and black walnut trees accent the area.
The entrance to the winery is through a large tasting room, wonderfully decorated with art, antiques, old Filippi family photos and memorabilia. Sitting chairs and tables are plentiful. In the center of the room is a large circular tasting bar made from a cut-down redwood wine vat where visitors can step up and sample a variety of Filippi wines for a nominal fee.
But the Joseph Filippi Winery is more than just a tasting room; it is a working vineyard. Grapes are harvested by hand on the property. Every step in the wine making process is done at the facility, from growing premium wine grapes to crushing, destemming and fermentation, then aging wine in oak casks and finally bottling.
The winery offers free guided tours Wednesday through Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and on the day of my visit in late July the guide happens to be a member of the Filippi family; Kristina Filippi, a winemaker in her own right.
There are about a dozen of us taking the tour, with Kristina first escorting us outside to show the vines growing in well-maintained rows on about 12 acres. She bends down to point out the grape clusters hiding under the leaves.
Then she takes us inside to see how wine is made. Harvesting hasn’t started yet, she explains, although the season is close. Probably in August the winery will come alive with the smells of grapes being crushed and juice being pumped into large fermentation vats. They harvest between 100 to 150 tons of grapes a season. She explains the process, stopping to talk next to rows of fermentation vats, and then on to the bottling area. It’s quite an enterprise.
The Filippi family has for five generations been making wine in the Cucamonga area, starting in 1922. The family’s winery along Base Line Road actually is the site of the old Ellena Bros./Regina Winery. The building has been there since 1908. The Filippi family moved into the old Regina winery in 1993.
If you’d like a unique experience and a chance to peek into Cucamonga Valley’s wonderful wine producing history, take a tour and see how wines are lovingly made.