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Meet Elaine Lyttleton and Norm Case of Hatfield Creek Winery in Ramona

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elaine Lyttleton and Norm Case.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Norm and Elaine bought the 6 acre property in the Ramona AVA in 2006, the year the region was designated by the Federal government as the Ramona Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area).

Elaine works endlessly marketing and promoting the Ramona Valley wineries, as well as their own enterprise. She is the Wine Maker, Outside Sales Rep, Tasting Room Manager, Marketing & Promotions Manager, Assistant Bookkeeper, and Vineyard Manager. Elaine studied and received her Certificate in Wine Technology from Mira Costa College in 2011 and is a retired Enrolled Agent, formerly a partner in a tax practice in Carlsbad CA.

She is President of the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Mural Project, and serves on the Program Committee of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association. She’s on the Board of Directors of both the San Diego County Farm Bureau and the San Diego Regional Irrigated Lands Group.

Norm Case retired from the Monterey Park Fire Department after 32 years and continued his work buying, selling, maintaining, rehabilitating and managing apartment buildings. He is bringing these valuable talents as well as his experience as an owner of 2 successful restaurants, to Hatfield Creek Vineyards & Winery. Norm has led the installation of the 3 acre vineyard, built a water tower which is the keystone of the irrigation system and has built many “Destination Resorts” around the property for the pleasure of guests, and while local contractor Bill Freeman built the Barn with the Wine Cellar downstairs &Tasting Room upstairs, Norm has finished the interior himself. A garage wing has recently been completed, housing Norm’s workshop and a Carriage House aka “Norm’s Museum”.

The 2016 acquisition of an adjacent property in conjunction with other family members will expand the vineyards by another 2 acres.

The specialty is red wines (Estate grown Zinfandel & Petite Sirah) as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese and Merlot grapes sourced from other Ramona AVA vineyards. Every wine they have entered into competition has won medals, including in major international competitions. Their main goal is to create a beautiful destination. Their Wine Club has doubled in the past year, with many new friends from “down the hill” coming to enjoy the peaceful ambiance and history on the property – antiques inside and remnants of an ancient native village, and a 1961 Navy Jet crash outside in the vineyard.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The staff at the County of San Diego doesn’t understand that we are NOT Napa Valley billionaires looking to make a million in the wine industry. The reason most of the 35 wineries in our Valley are only open on weekends, is that everyone has day jobs to support their winery habit! Norm and I are maxing out the corporate credit card, spending our pension checks and children’s inheritance to try to make this dream a reality.

Another major threat to our existence and the industry as a whole in San Diego, is lack of mortgage financing. As soon as an agriculture venture is established on a previously single family home property, the banks walk away. There are currently 4 vineyard (some with a winery) properties on the market in the area, languishing because no one can get a loan to buy them. Why? It makes no sense to be adding value to a property and earning income from it, to be ignored and denied by lenders.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
If we could refinance, and get a 2nd mortgage, we’d build a production winery building to increase our production and install another 2-acre vineyard. We hope to be profitable one day, and are already proud of the jobs we’ve created with field help, and tasting room staff.

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Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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