If you’re looking for a romantic wine country getaway or want to spend the weekend celebrating, you don’t have to board a plane or exhaust the odometer. Just east of I-15 in Riverside County, Temecula is situated almost equidistant between Los Angeles and San Diego. Book a night or two at a quaint inn downtown or splurge on one of Temecula’s luxurious resorts like South Coast Winery.
Even if you start early and spend the weekend you won’t manage to get through all of Temecula’s diverse offerings. Drive or take a tour through the rolling hills and scenic vineyards, or keep it walk-able in Old Town. Visit Temecula's spectacular man made wine cave at Oak Mountain Winery. A must visit for any visitor!
At a relatively high elevation of 1,500 feet atop well-drained decomposed granitic soil, Temecula Valley’s unique appellation produces mineral-rich, tannic wines. Over 50 grape varieties grow in Temecula, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Viognier grapes.
Get acquainted with Temecula’s wine offerings by starting with the classics.
Mount Palomar Winery is named for the State Park immediately southeast of Temecula Valley. The first vine plantings date back to around 1970. It was the first vineyard in the area to push for Mediterranean varietals; they prize cortese and viognier among their estate grapes. The tasting room feels like a wine cave. The cool and dark space is a great place to hide from the hot afternoon sun. Mount Palomar also offers cream sherry and port wines, great for sampling after a day of tasting.
Bella Vista Winery’s land has been used for vineyards since the same time, but the current owners purchased the estate in the late 90s. The selections are popular and affordable and range from petite syrah rose to cabernet franc. A personable staff operates the approachable tasting room. As a bonus, you can take your wine up to the picnic area that is located up the hill behind the tasting room. The fixtures in the picnic area are a bit weathered, but there is an amazing view, a quaint pond and some lively ducks and geese to entertain you as sip on some award winning wine.
Founded in 2000, Miramonte is one of the most elegant and panoramic wineries in Temecula. From the sweeping views to the friendly estate dog, Mojo, Miramonte leaves an impact. The price point on their offerings is slightly higher than neighboring wineries, but it’s a reflection of the meticulous attention the winemakers pay to their work. To celebrate an occasion -- birthday, wedding, anniversary -- Miramonte offers customized etched bottles.
Callaway Winery is another can't miss on your tour of Temecula Wineries. The minimalist design provides a stark contrast to the chaparral covered hillsides surrounding it. There is a sleek tasting room with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the valley and a Mediterranean restaurant that boasts sweeping views of the valley. The restaurant, Meritage, is a great place to enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights. If you appreciate modern architecture, this is a good stop to add to your tour.
Drive to the northeast border of Temecula wine country and you’ll find Doffo Wines, the region’s best known small-production winery. This traditional, family-operated establishment uses 15 carefully managed acres of vines to supply their practice. Doffo only produces around 2,000 cases a year, making their unique wines worth the drive. The tasting room staff is very knowledgeable and the third generation wine maker is known to mingle with guests as they sample his wines. Also, make sure you try the traditional Argentine chimichurri after your tasting.
Head back toward Old Town and you will pass Ponte Winery. Ponte has a modern farmhouse feel. The recently redesigned tasting room lifts your spirits as you enter. It feels airy and expansive with a massive vaulted ceiling. The walls are lined with wine that run almost as high as the ceiling. The tasting room staff are very accommodating and will often suggest wines that aren't on the current tasting menu.
You shouldn't feel like you have to spend the day in the car in order to taste through Temecula. Wander through Old Town to Fazeli Cellars on 4th street for exceptional service and live music. Two blocks away, step into Lorimar Loft Old Town, where the small but elegant tasting room features a full lineup of popular sweet wines. If you’re looking for a bite and a change of pace, head to Crush & Brew where a full lineup of regional craft beers will whet your appetite for the gastropub menu. If you want to stick with wine, enjoy a wide selection of the Temecula’s best. Close the day with the boisterous crowd at Temecula Wine and Beer Garden where live bands keep people pumped through the night.
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