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Friday, Jun 14, 2024
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Altipiano Vineyard And Winery Takes Tasting Outdoors

On a typical weekend, Altipiano Vineyard and Winery, headquartered in Escondido and with three employees, hosts roughly over 100 guests. And, at least once a quarter, it honors its almost 500 club members with a private catered event, according to Denise Clarke, co-owner and winemaker, as a “thank you” for their commitment and support.

But the 500-acre lot it sits on not only houses the Clarke family businesses, it also serves as the Clarke family home; Clarke shares the main house with husband and Altipiano co-founder Peter Clarke, while her daughter, son-in-law, four grandchildren, a handful of pet chickens and an Australian Shepherd live elsewhere on the property.

So, when San Diego wineries were given the green light to reopen back in May, Clarke decided to take her time before welcoming back guests in order to implement a number of necessary safety measures, including moving her entire tasting room outdoors and launching a reservation-only system, among other modifications.

Tastings Outside

“All of our tastings are outside,” said 64-year-old Clarke, adding that the winery has over 4,000 grapevines and grows a number of varietals, including petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. “We closed our tasting room other than to employees or for customers to use the restroom. We went to Open Table and are taking reservations only. We also changed our winery age limit to 21 and over. Seating is less and six feet apart. We also invested in take-away, reusable souvenir glasses so that the staff doesn’t have to touch the used glasses as guests can take them home.”

Altipiano eventually reopened on June 27, hosting at least 120 people that weekend, said Clarke.

Witch Creek Fire

Named after the Italian word meaning “plateau”, Altipiano was an avocado farm that perished in the Witch Creek Fire of 2007. Inspired by a trip to Italy, Clarke and her husband decided they’d start over as winemakers.

Today, Clarke is the only black female-owner of a winery in all of Southern California and, as a result, a rich part of San Diego’s history.

Inspire Others

Consequently, she’s inspired others that identify with her to follow in her footsteps and enter the local wine scene.

Cassandra Schaeg said she was encouraged to open her business, SIP Wine & Beer LLC, the only wine bar in the city of Escondido, after learning of Clarke and her success.

“She is the only black female winemaker in Southern California,” she said. “Women and minorities only account for 4% of the alcohol beverage industry in the U.S. My goal is to increase local representation, call attention to notables in the industry, and support the San Diego wine economy.”

Building a Legacy

Altipiano may serve as a place of inspiration for others, but, for Clarke, it is all about building a legacy for her family and a safe place for her guests.

“When people come to our place, they come here for the experience,” said Clarke, whose daughter also works at the winery. “We are not a bar. We offer a slice of paradise. You can bring your picnic, sit, laugh, talk and take a minute to slow down.”

Altipiano Vineyard and Winery is open from Saturday to Sunday, noon to six.

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