Source: Valley Roadrunner

Historic Melrose Ranch opening to public, Nov. 2

by Lisa Rose

October 09, 2013

Nestled in verdant hills off Guejito Road, lies the historic Melrose Ranch, an estate stretched over more than 640 acres, with a noteworthy yet little-known history of prior owners and incarnations.

The land had been used to raise cattle since the late 1800’s. In 1925, it was sold to Lord Somerville, a Scottish member of the British aristocracy, who developed the property with the construction of a 6,000 square-feet Mediterranean villa, barns, guest houses, servants’ quarters, abundant gardens and vineyards.

Once considered the most expensive residential property in San Diego County, the estate has been called “one of the greatest showplaces in the entire west” by local press. In 1933, Somerville hosted King Edward VIII, who later abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. It was reported that he courted Simpson while staying at Melrose Ranch.

The vineyards of the estate resemble those of the French countryside and for that, the location was chosen for scenes in the 1944 Warner Bros film, Uncertain Glory, starring Errol Flynn.

Since 1997, Melrose Ranch has been the home of businessman, former dairy farmer and philanthropist, Arie de Jong and his wife, Anneke. De Jong embarked on an overhaul of the property in the last decade, with remodels of the buildings and lush garden installations. Today, it is a working ranch where Texas long-horn cattle roam the hillsides. Groundskeepers tend to the expansive grassy areas surrounded by ponds, waterfalls, trellises, mature palms, birds-of-Paradise and pomegranate trees.

Syrah, chardonnay, cabernet and viognier grapes from the vineyards are sold to several local wineries.

Restoring the property has led de Jong to his newest business venture. The beauty of the estate can now be appreciated by the greater community by providing indoor and outdoor spaces for weddings, meetings, parties and other special occasions. It has also become an ideal backdrop for photographers to shoot portraits.

On Nov. 2, Melrose Ranch will host a Harvest Dinner and Dance Party, a benefit for local nonprofit groups in Valley Center, such as the Valley Center Rotary, the Garden Club, Multiple Sclerosis Society, VCHS Foundation and more. According to Julie Stroh, director of special events, “The event will feature a barbecue with farm-to-table food that is sourced locally. We will also have a chocolate fondue bar.

“We’re going to have an awesome, 20-piece, big-band that will play jazz during dinner and then they’re going to hit the rock and roll with songs people like to dance to,” she added. “This band is very popular in the San Diego area and plays at events all over the county. They’re amazing. And during their break we’ll have a DJ that’s going to play popular, upbeat country songs.”

Attire is casual and anything goes, according to Stroh. “If people want to wear cowboy hats and western gear, great. Some people might want to wear poodle skirts. Whatever they feel comfortable in.

“This is going to be a really fun community event that we hope to host on an annual basis,” she added. “And the location is spectacular. We were recently featured in San Diego Style Wedding magazine, and Melrose Ranch was chosen as a top wedding spot. And that goes for any event held here. We want people to enjoy the experience and come away remembering what a fantastic time they had.”

Nonprofits that are a 501©(3) are welcome to sell tickets to raise money for their organization. Tickets are $40 per person pre-sale ($50 at the door) and will be on sale at the following businesses: A-1 Irrigation, Armstrong Feed & Supply, Country Junction Deli, Momma’s Coffee House, Pauma/Valley Insurance, the Valley Center Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Roadrunner office. You can also buy tickets from members of the Valley Center Rotary, Garden Club, MS Society and VCHS Foundation. For more information, call 760-390-9277.