Ramona wineries are harvesting early because of the recent record-breaking heat wave.
With temperatures rising over 110 degrees, sugar levels in the grapes increased dramatically.
"We tested the grapes on August 30. They measured 20 Brix. When we tested it again 6 days later, the Brix were 27. That's absolutely unheard of," said Elaine Lyttleton, owner of Hatfield Creek Vineyards & Winery.
Lyttleton explained Brix levels normally increase by one or two a week. (Brix is a system to measure sugar content in wine grapes, which later determines alcohol content)
To make sure the crop is harvested in time, on Saturday, dozens of Lyttleton's friends and neighbors will wake up before dawn, to hand pick Petite Syrah and Zinfandel grapes at the winery.
On the other side of town, Alfredo Gallone runs Principe Di Tricase Winery on Highland Valley Road, which opened ten years ago.
"I bought the property just to make wine here," said Gallone. "I was inspired by a winery friend of mine that was making absolutely incredible wine in Ramona."
Gallone said 90 percent of the grapes produced at his winery are grown in Ramona.
Under San Diego County's boutique winery ordinance, at least 25 percent of the grapes used to make wines must be grown on site; another 50 percent of the grapes must be grown in the county.
"Because of the heat some of the grapes were two weeks early, some of them even a month early," said Gallone.
Gallone recently returned from Naples, Italy, where he grew up, and where he now receives wine making advice during his yearly visits.
"I do wine making the ancient way," explained Gallone. "So I go to the elderly to ask for information, to ask advice, and to try to follow those rules that they have."
The early harvest also means winemakers have to de-stem, ferment and store an unexpectedly large amount of grapes, very quickly, in limited space.
"I thought having a winery was going to be like a retirement job," Gallone said. "In fact, this is a full time job."
Gallone's daughter and son-in-law moved to Ramona from Italy two years ago to help him run the winery.
"Without them, I couldn't be here today."
Gallone added, owning and operating a winery is a labor of love.
Bill Schweitzer, president of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association (RVVA), said Ramona's decomposed granite soil, altitude, and proximity to both the ocean and desert, make the area an ideal place for wineries.
"The (Ramona) wine industry needs customers, so all those people in San Diego County that go other places to taste wine, ought to come here," said Schweitzer, who also owns Paccielo Vineyard.
On Saturday, RVVA is releasing a new brochure with an updated map that directs visitors to more than 30 wineries in Ramona and Highland Valley.
"Most (boutique winery owners) have day jobs, which is why wineries are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in general," explained Schweitzer. "We expect that as our reputation grows, more people who want to do a full-time winery will get started here."
Ramona is celebrating its fall grape harvest with a grape stomp competition Saturday at the Ramona Outdoor Community Center.