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Wine Time: A Guide to Temecula Wine Country

Tuscany, Napa, Sonoma, and . . . Temecula? Yes, Temecula! The San Diego area has its very own distinctive and lush wine country, replete with wineries of all sizes—from small, boutique family operations to acreage-rich wineries perfect for large wedding parties and corporate events. Dotting the gently rolling hills of Temecula, these wineries produce a wide variety of grapes to satisfy the most sophisticated oenophile’s tastes—from sparkling to red and everything in between.

You’ll be happily surprised to know that Temecula Valley wine country offers so much more than just wine. You’ll find luxe resort accommodations, fine dining, entertaining live music, and more. So whether you like your vino crisp and light or earthy and bold, you’ll find it—along with food, fun, and romance—just over an hour away.

The Insiders Guide to Temecula Valley

Where to dine, drink, play, and slumber

Experience Temecula

Experience Temecula

The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn

The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn

Foodie Heaven

For much of history, wine has been paired with food, and there’s good reason: There’s no better accompaniment to a delicious meal than a flavorful, complementary wine. From casual to upscale and everything in between, Temecula valley wineries can satiate any craving.

Noted Temecula winery Ponte Winery features an array of dining options. Snagging top-50 outdoor eatery honors, The Restaurant at Ponte draws visitors from near and far who enjoy locally grown produce, meats, cheeses and a frequently changing seasonal menu—all ensconced in lush outdoor garden dining area. For special occasions that call for a fine dining experience, Ponte Vineyard Inn houses Bouquet Restaurant. And for craft cocktails and small plates, served with a side of nightlife, you can’t miss The Cellar Lounge at Ponte Vineyard Inn—the only cocktail bar in Temecula wine country.

If you’re itching to check out Mediterranean cuisine (and a stunning hilltop view), make a stop at Meritage at Callaway Winery, where sweeping views of rolling hills and vineyards make a meal here a sumptuous experience. And there’s no mystery where ingredient sourcing is concerned: Meritage sources seasonal, sustainable food from local farmers.

One of the newest culinary additions to Temecula wine country is Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery. Enjoy the “Bubble Brunch Buffet” on Sunday or the seasonal farm-to-table menu with upscale burgers, healthy salads, and gluten-free options. Not sure which wine goes with your dish? Luckily, Temecula wineries have expert sommeliers that can help you find the perfect pairing. Just ask!

Ask the Winemaker

Q&A with Julie Holme, Ponte Family Estate Winemaker

We asked Ponte Winemaker Julie Holme for wine-tasting tips to make the most of a Temecula Valley visit. We learned a lot, including how to neutralize the palate in between wines.

Q:  What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a first-time wine-tasting visitor?

A: Taste around. The wine industry offers an extraordinary opportunity to taste the wines before you buy. Temecula Valley produces a wide range of wines and one is bound to suit your preference.

Q: What’s the basic process of tasting and how does this lend itself to “successful” tasting, particularly when tasting multiple wines at multiple wineries?

A: All wines have different colors, aromas and characteristics that enhance the wine-tasting experience. The main tasting happens in the mouth, so make sure to draw in enough liquid to thoroughly coat all of the taste buds. Because wine tannin builds on top of itself—making the second wine seem bigger and more tannic than the first—give some time in between wines for the proteins, or saliva, to build back up in your mouth, neutralizing the palate.

Q: What are the top characteristics to look for when tasting wine?

A: Pay attention to different wine styles (white, red, sweet, dry) so you become familiar with what you like. Perhaps you like a wide range of wine styles. My preference is determined by my mood or where I’m enjoying it (by the pool, with food or a nightcap). Knowing what to ask for at the tasting bar to stock in my cellar helps me to enjoy wine more thoroughly because I always have the right wine for various occasions.

Experience Temecula

Experience Temecula

Wiens Family Cellars

Wiens Family Cellars

Winery Weddings

Is there a more beautiful backdrop to a wedding than lush vineyards, gently rolling green hills, blue skies, and breathtaking sunsets? Not in our opinion. Temecula valley wineries provide unparalleled wedding options for wedding parties of all sizes, whether you’re hosting a cozy 50-person affair or a lavish 500-guest extravaganza.  At South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, the famed 38-acre vineyard estate can accommodate wedding parties from 50 to 500, in addition to hosting bridal party stays at the luxurious resort with pre- or post-wedding relaxation at South Coast’s GrapeSeed Spa. For ceremonies, the ultra-romantic Rose Arbor and elegant Vintners Garden are two options, while reception sites include the intimate Gold Room and expansive Banquet Room.

Falkner Winery offers an award-winning five-star wedding experience with both indoor and outdoor wedding options at the Pinnacle Restaurant and Yard Garden, respectively. “Rustic,” “magical,” “gorgeous and fun-filled,” are just some of the reviews this top-rated wedding winery has recently received. If you’re looking for an amazing garden ceremony and a picturesque reception, check out Falkner Winery.

Monte De Oro Winery & Vineyards boasts ­an OldWorld Tuscan surrounding that will transport you and your wedding guests to another time and place. Their wedding experts can create an upscale affair for brides and grooms. Monte De Oro ceremony and reception facilities ranging from the unique subterranean barrel room to the main tasting room to the expansive outdoor patio can accommodate wedding parties from 60 to 500, all of which provide an unforgettable experience.

Ever dreamt of dancing among the barrels? At Wiens Family Cellars, that dream can be a reality with a wedding reception in their popular Cellar Room, lined with French and American oak barrels for a unique wedding sure to wow guests. For an outdoor ceremony and reception, Wiens’ Mountain View Amphitheatre and Patio can host larger wedding parties who’ll be dancing the night away with the vineyards in the distance. Now that’s happily every after.

Making It Personal: Wondering how to make your wedding day as “you” as possible? Miramonte Winery, a premier artisan winery in the heart of Temecula Valley, offers 100 percent handmade logo-etched wine and Champagne bottles for your wedding (or for any special occasion). Choose from multiple fonts and styles, and send your wedding guests home with a truly irreplaceable memory.

Temecula Facts

Where: Less than 65 miles from San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs; 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Exit I-15 at Rancho California Road in south Riverside County.

Who: 30 wineries; 60 growers.

Size: 33,000 acres; 1,300 acres planted in commercial vineyards.

Elevation: 1,500 feet.

Established: The first vineyards were established in 1820 and planted by mission padres.

– Temecula Valley Winegrowers’ Association. More Info

Experience Temecula

Experience Temecula

Monte De Oro Winery & Vineyards

Monte De Oro Winery & Vineyards

Spa Time in Wine Country

Continue your hedonistic tour through wine country by indulging in a decadent spa treatment at a Temecula winery resort. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa offers grapes of a different sort: results-oriented vine based face and body treatments. Enjoy facials such as the “Gorgeous GrapeSeed Facial,” one of South Coast’s signature treatments, and luxurious body treatments such the “South Coast Classic” massage. What a way to un”wine”d after an exhausting day tasting exquisite vino!

Music Among the Vines

As if you needed more incentive to visit Temecula Valley wine country, the vibrant live music scene leaves no doubt. Musical acts large and small visit Temecula wine country, and you’d be remiss not to catch one on your next visit.

Callaway Winery really knows how to reel in music and wine lovers: Every Friday night is “Live Music Fridays,” when local singers and songwriters perform both original and cover songs. The wafting musical notes are accompanied by wine, tapas, and house-made desserts for an unforgettable sensory experience.

Music lovers also head over to Miramonte Winery, the boutique artisan winery with gorgeous garden verandas, where the crammed musical calendar boasts shows that feature Latin dancing, rock from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and top blues acts. Every Friday and Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., check out these fine musical acts while enjoying wine, beer, and exquisite charcuterie and cheese boards.

Celebrate: South Coast Winery Events and Specials

South Coast Winery will ensure your summer is full of wine, friends and merriment.

Summer Wine Series

Bring your friends and join South Coast for extended after hours in the tasting room Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 6pm. Plus take home a selected bottle of South Coast Winery wine.

Behind The Scenes Wine Tour

Learn more about the winery from vineyards to crush pad. Each tour ends with a specially prepared wine and food pairing. 11am, 1pm and 3pm, Monday through Sunday.

Happiest Hours

Whet your appetite for dinner with discounted appetizers, local draft beers and select South Coast wines in the Vineyard Rose Lounge. 3-5:30pm Monday through Friday.

Private Chef’s Table Dinner

Impress your date or your family with a special customized five-course meal personally served to you by the Vineyard Rose Restaurant Chef. This dinner pairs fresh meat, seafood and locally grown produce with specially selected South Coast wines. Year round.

Intimate Winemakers’ Dinner

Get up close and personal with South Coast’s chefs and winemakers who will be serving up seven courses, each spectacularly paired with the winery’s famous wines. Only two of these dinners held per year! Next one: August 1st, 6pm.

Sweet Slumber

Why go home after a perfect day in wine country? Relax with a stay at a top resort where you feel worlds away from home. At Temecula Creek Inn, sink into plush bedding in a room type of your choice, whether that’s a deluxe room, a one-bedroom suite, or even the private Creekside Guest House, where you can bring your entire group. Enjoy views of the golf course greens, a round of golf, or a dip in the pool. And if Fido wants to come, bring him along: Temecula Creek Inn’s pet-friendly.

Ponte Vineyard Inn, just next to Ponte Winery, is one of Temecula Valley wine country’s newest inns and the only AAA Four Diamond Hotel in Temecula. Combining an Old World feel with modern amenities, this inn offers a luxurious experience replete with amenities like fine dining, expansive meeting and event space, fitness room, and in-room spa services. And all 60 plush rooms have private patios or balconies that overlook 300 acres of vineyards.

Privacy, Please

If you like to imbibe privately, Temecula wineries happily offer that option. Wilson Creek Winery hosts private wine tastings for groups of 20 or more, with a private bartender. This includes a sampling of five premium wines and sparkling wine with a private bar for your group set up in a private area or covered gazebo. And if all that revelry and wine makes your party hungry, Wilson Creek provides “Wine Country Lunch” with your choice of buffet, making for a truly special event.

Follow the De Portola WineTrail

The De Portola Wine Trail, nestled among the rolling hills on De Portola Road and made up of 10 family wineries, is considered the new “Wine Row” in Temecula Valley.  Get a truly personal wine tasting experience at one of the trail wineries, where the owners are happy to give you a first-hand look at the wine making process, and discover the history behind each one and their individual wine making styles. Following a trail has never been easier.

Cougar Vineyards

Danza del Sol Winery

Fazeli Cellars

Frangipani Estate Winery

Gershon Bachus Vitners

Keyway Vineyard & Winery

Leoness Cellars

Masia de la Vinya Winery

Oak Mountain Winery

Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Experience Temecula

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