September 7, 2012

by Sienna Spencer

Now more than ever, Temecula Valley is poised to welcome snowbirds to Southern California’s wine country.  With four excellent lodging options in wine country and a number of popular RV Parks nearby, wine-loving travelers can easily fill an entire weekend with activities ranging from wining, dining, and ballooning.

Temecula Valley wine country can be described as one large winery loop.  There are two main streets: Rancho California Road and the De Portola Trail.  All 35 member wineries are situated around these two roads, so navigating is easy and stress-free.  If given a choice, visitors are encouraged to do a mid-week visit for more one-on-one attention at the tasting bars!

Day 1

Arrive in Temecula Valley and start your wine tasting on De Portola, the less-crowded trail out of the two main winery roads. 

Make Doffo Vineyard & Winery your first stop to get a sense of authenticity from the wine region.  This boutique winery is family-owned and operated by the Argentinean Doffo family, who are serious about making good wine.  Be sure to taste through their library reds, especially the lesser-known but delicious Malbec.

If you’re a fan of the bubbly, pop into the small and lovely Danza del Sol Winery.  Ask for a flight that includes their famous Blanc de Blanc.  They have a large selection of quality whites, too.  Nab a quaint picnic area outside to enjoy your bottle in the shady vineyard setting.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is a popular stop for SoCal wine-lovers - they’ve got a great selection of Italian varietals and friendly winery dogs to greet you at the door.  Offering tours, 2 for 1 tasting coupons and fun special events daily.

If you’re touring the De Portola trail on a weekend, then The Restaurant at Leoness is your best choice for lunch or dinner.  Enjoy California cuisine al fresco style.  Restaurant hours: Fri/Sat - 11:30am-9:30pm; Sun - 11:30am-6pm.  Don’t forget to visit the sophisticated tasting room and taste through a flight; also consider joining their wine club, which throws cool soirees in the hip barrel room lounge.  Leoness is considered one of the most romantic wineries, perfect for those special occasion trips.  

In the afternoon, be sure to check out TemeculaWines.org for a round-up of all the winery events.  If the timing is right, you could catch an outdoor music concert, a theater production, jazz show, or even a movie in the vineyards.

Most of the tasting rooms in wine country close between 5-6pm, but if you’re still haven’t gotten your vino fix, head to Oldtown Temecula.  Just 15 minutes down Rancho California Road, Lorimar Winery off Main Street offers tastings throughout the evening.

In Temecula Valley, there are plenty of options for an evening gourmet meal with vineyard views.  Book a dinner reservation at one of the Ponte Family Estate’s restaurants or The Vineyard Rose at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. 

Day 2

Start your day with a balloon ride above the vineyards, courtesy of California Dreamin’.  Dave & Gail Bradley own & operate their own winery (Vindemia) and balloon company.  A sparkling wine breakfast is waiting for you back on the ground.

If sleeping in is more your speed, schedule breakfast or brunch at one of the excellent wine country hotel restaurants.  You’re going to need it!  Bouquet, the new restaurant at Ponte Vineyard Inn (opened summer 2012), offers a beautiful atmosphere and delicious morning menu.  There’s always Temecula Creek Inn or The Vineyard Rose, if you didn’t get to dine there for dinner.

(If breakfast is your main concern, why not stay the night at The Inn at Europa?  Chef Dean Thomas will fill your belly with multiple wine country courses, locally sourced and served personally.)

Staying on Rancho California Road for the day, make your first stop on Day 2 the modern Monte de Oro Winery, one of the newest and largest wineries in the region.  Marvel at the glass floor exposing the barrel room underneath and expansive patio with rectangular fountain overlooking the vineyard valley.

If it’s time for lunch, grab an outdoor table at The Creekside Grill.  This long-time Wilson Creek Winery restaurant offers California cuisine at its finest.  Be sure to ask about the daily specials and don’t forget to leave room for dessert - and a wine flight after your meal. 

Ponte Winery offers the quintessential “day in the country” experience.  This well-known establishment has a delightful gift shop and exciting wine club member benefits.  Enjoy a stroll around the grounds, which are popular for weddings throughout the year.  A must-visit!

Hart Winery is one of the originals, established in 1980.  Owners Joe & Nancy take pride in the quality vino they’ve been producing for decades.  If you like reds poured by friendly folks, then you’ve come to the right spot.

Sidebar

*A great resource for visitors is the wine region's website: TemeculaWines.org.  Here are some particularly helpful links --

Winery Directory

http://www.temeculawines.org/wineries-vineyards/

Winery Tour Suggestions

http://www.temeculawines.org/winery-tours/

Accommodations, Transportation & Dining

http://www.temeculawines.org/plan-your-trip/

Wine Country Map (for printing)

http://www.temeculawines.org/about-us/maps.php

Discounts & Tasting Coupons

http://www.temeculawines.org/wineries-vineyards/coupons.php

Hot-air Balloon Rides

California Dreamin’

http://www.temeculawines.org/plan-your-trip/activities.php

Links to RV Park info:

http://www.rvparking.com/CA/Temecula - I recommend Pechanga, it’s 15 minutes from wine country.

http://www.rvparking.com/CA/Hemet

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/rv-parks-hemet-california-51607.html

September 7, 2012

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