It’s tough to compete for attention when a town is close to both Los Angeles and San Diego. There are so many choices for a wine country getaway in Southern California that Temecula could be overlooked.
A taste of the old west
Temecula was the site of the expansive Vail Cattle Ranch for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the ranch was sold to developers in 1964 that Temecula’s future started to unfold. When Temecula was officially recognized as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1984, interest in the region accelerated.
Currently, Temecula has over 40 wineries of various sizes. You shouldn’t be surprised that some of the smaller wineries are producing high quality wines. Take for instance Vindemia Vineyard and Estate Winery. At Vindemia, owners David and Gail Bradley are all about quality wine without the glitz. Don’t expect to find an expensive complex of buildings and a tasting room selling T-shirts and souvenirs. At Vindemia, you will get a comfortable outdoor natural setting with high quality wines and low-key staff explaining their mission. Come taste their wines, then buy a bottle to drink onsite in a semi-private patio area. Vindemia has a great view and one of the most relaxing places to drink up the essence of Temecula. Open daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. stop by and taste for yourself an excellent line up of estate wines.
If you like great wine and motorcycles, then a visit to Doffo Winery is a must. Doffo is another family run winery, but with deep roots in Italy and Argentina. This winery was founded by Marcelo Doffo in 1997. Marcelo and his son Damian (assistant winemaker) have collected more than 100 classic or racing motorcycles. Most of these motorcycles are on display in and around the Doffo barrel room.
Come see the motorcycles and taste their delicious old world style wines. Although they are most well known for their red wines, the 2014 Viognier and the Paulina Sparkling are quite good. Most visitors will overlook the hilltop picnic area. This lofty perch rewards guests with sweeping views of the winery and valley. Bring a picnic and plan to spend an hour or so relaxing in one of the best kept secrets around.
For a bigtime winery visit be sure checkout Wilson Creek Winery. Here you will find expansive grounds that include: picnic areas, playground for children, Creekside Grille, several event venues for weddings or parties, a ground floor tasting room, and soon-to-open upstairs premium tasting room. Although this is one of the big wineries, it is also a family run venture. Most days, the elder Wilson’s, Gerry and Rosie, are onsite welcoming visitors in a warm, family style.
Wilson Creek Winery has a large lineup of wines that ship to several U.S. states. One of their most popular is an almond flavored, white sparkling wine. My favorites were their 2013 Petite Sirah and the “Yes Dear” Chardonnay. It’s easy to spend an hour or two on this extensively landscaped winery, so plan accordingly. They also have a lavish lodging venue, the Wilson Creek Manor, if you want to spend an unforgettable night in a former mansion across the street.
Shopping and dining
There’s more than just wineries in Temecula. Check out the historic downtown for a look and feel of the old west. This vibrant shopping and dining area features a local olive oil shop, cheese shop, Temecula Lavender Company, and more. You will find excellent restaurants in old town for every taste and budget. For some of the best farm-to-table cuisine in the U.S., go to E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) where chef Leah and crew will spoil you. E.A.T. is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For award winning burgers, try Mad Madeline’s and grab a seat in their outdoor area for a juicy burger and people watching. A couple of miles from old town is the Temecula Creek Inn where Cork Fire Kitchen overlooks one of the most gorgeous golf courses in Southern California. Here you will find great fine dining, both indoors and outdoors, with an extensive wine, cocktail, and beer list.
Other entertainment options include the Pechanga Resort and Casino with 188,000 sq. ft./17,466 sq. m. of gaming space, eleven restaurants, lodging, and spa services. Balloon rides over the vineyards offer a bird’s eye view of the Temecula Valley and mountains surrounding it. Horseback riding is also a popular way to see the area.
Go for a hike
To break away from the crowd, consider heading up to the Santa Rosa Plateau where you can hike over 40 miles (64.3 km) of trails on 9,000 acres/3,642 hectares of undeveloped land. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat for your comfort and safety. Pay attention to the rattlesnake warning signs. If you stay on the trail, it is highly unlikely you would have a dangerous encounter with these resident rodent control specialists. The fee is a paltry 3 USD and is good for the whole day. Over 200 species of native birds, plus rare animal and plant species might be viewed at this amazing reserve. Please note that dogs are not permitted.
Visit Temecula soon
When you add it all up: great wineries, delicious dining options, lots of entertainment choices, and old west outdoor adventures, Temecula should be on your list of places to visit soon.