Are you visiting San Diego, Palm Springs, or Los Angeles and a wine lover, to boot? Enjoy a day or weekend of wine tasting in Temecula, California. Warm, surrounded by mountain peaks, Temecula is a delightful getaway just about an hour away from most everything in Southern California. The only challenge is, there are so many wineries - what's a wine lover to do? First, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. Are you interested in a few tastes at really great wineries? or are you interested in eating a great meal as well? Either way, your palette won't be disappointed. Due to the unique climate, Temecula is most amenable to the Italian reds. A climate that is warm in the day, cool at night, with the ocean breezes and misty mornings, it is the perfect combination for the Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet, and Barbera grape varietals. What does this mean to you? It means that one does not need to drive eight hours up the coast to Napa or Sonoma to taste fine wine or to fill your cellars with pricey "brand names." A tour of Temecula Wineries is just the thing to get you in the spirits for this holiday season. The best day to go wine tasting is Monday through Thursday. Come on a weekend, if you must; but wine tasting on a weekday will all but guarantee that you will actually get more out of your tasting experience than arm-wrestling with a limo full of tipsy bachelorettes jockeying for elbowroom at the tasting bars.
For the most relaxing, yet sensory experience, start with an early lunch at Ponte Winery, a favorite outdoor lunchtime spot. Ponte boasts excellent food and wine pairings. From there, you can either enjoy tastes at the lovely tasting room there, or move on to some of the others.
The nearby South Coast Winery is truly a destination in and of itself. It boasts a fantastic, sweeping landscape - villas where one can enjoy all of the pampering of a 5 star spa - and a heated pool to bask in the sun while sipping Chardonnay. Their dining experience is a must for a night on the town, save for the cheesy player-less piano music - and you can book ahead for private or patio dining. This is a fabulous way to end up your trip if you don't want to drive home. For day tasting, however, the tasting room is a bit cavernous; though their wine is spectacular. The Cabernet is not to be missed, and the Ruby Cuvee (a sparkling Syrah) is the new “Must Try” of the valley.
Wilson Creek, at the far end of Rancho California road recently redesigned their tasting room to accommodate the blossoming crowds that flock to this popular stop. Famous for their dessert wines, the Almond Champagne is a favorite local way to toast the incoming new year. Be sure and take a bottle home! The port is also quite lovely, and addictive.
Stewart Cellars offers a fantastic Cabernet, among other things, and has the feel of one of the "old" Temecula wineries. The staff is quite knowledgeable and you might learn a thing or two while sipping.
On your way out, stop by Hart Winery for a taste of OLD Temecula, one of the first wineries, and the owners are usually mulling about. The Hart Barbera is a delightful example of this varietal. Plus, the rustic atmosphere of the tasting room will immerse you in old Temecula!
PLACES TO STAY:
Remember, while you’re tasting wine, you’re also consuming a wide variety of alcohol. By the time you’re done, you more than likely will feel the effects. There are many transportation options locally, as well as wonderful places to stay the night. Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast is charming, and offers a lovely bottle of Sherry in each room. Other bed and breakfasts dot the valley, from the tiny to the hotel sized Churon Winery. There are also a plethora of hotels ranging from inexpensive Holiday Inn Express to the Temecula Creek Inn.
The Grapeline offers stops at wineries throughout - or you can plan a private tour through Destination Temecula Tours.
Remember, always have a designated driver, or look up a ride from one of the many places to stay in town.