When asked about California wine country, my thoughts quickly go to Sonoma and Napa Valleys, but there are many areas of California where good wines are grown. One relatively new area is Temecula Valley in Southern California, about an hour north of San Diego.
Commercial vineyards were established in Temecula in the late 1960s, and the wines continue to improve with age. In 2019, Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Temecula Valley one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations. Grape varietals common in the area are like those found in the Mediterranean since the climate is very similar. (While the weather may be cool in San Diego, Temecula Valley may be warm or even hot, so layer clothing if you plan to visit.) Sangiovese, Syrah, Montepulciano, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo are among the most common grapes. As the vineyards have aged, the red wines have caught up to the quality of the whites and now the reds consistently garner awards in state and national competitions.
Some of the wineries recommended by Food & Wine are Baily Vineyard and Winery, one of my favorites when we visited, Briar Rose, whose buildings were constructed as replicas of Snow White’s cottages in the 1937 Disney cartoon, and Callaway, which was started by Ely Callaway, the golf gear legend. Cougar also features the Arneis grape which is used in Pinot Grigio and is a new star in Temecula Valley.
Each of the wineries has its own distinct atmosphere and wines. Some offer European type settings with sweeping views over the valley. Others are cozy, rustic operations. Many offer snacks, food trucks, or fine dining. Some provide wedding and catering venues. Concerts are frequent at the vineyards, especially on the busy weekends.
Our son introduced us to Temecula wineries during their annual January barrel and tank tasting. With a ticket, visitors received tastings of three wines. One of these wines had to be unbottled, straight from the barrel or tank. The wineries also paired their wines with food samplings. (One winery served Hungarian fried bread that still makes me drool to remember.) We bought the single day ticket, but a two-day ticket is also available. Be forewarned… the one-day ticket allows you to visit 18 wineries, too many to drive yourself!
Temecula has diverse opportunities for wine lovers. You can take a self-guided tour of the 30+ wineries, take a guided tour that provides transportation, stay at a winery B&B, pedal yourself on a bicycle, or float peacefully above the valley in a hot air balloon. If you need more excitement, Pechanga Resort and Casino is also nearby.
– Candace Ahlfinger has loved traveling since she was little and has always been on the go whenever possible. Now she is retired and gets to do what she loves best… TRAVEL! Whether it’s traveling with her wonderful husband, or our children and grandchildren, traveling is a great experience that enriches her life. Because she always enjoys reading and hearing about others’ travel experiences, she wants to share her travels with the Ellis DownHome readers.