Weekend adventurer: Temecula

Temecula Valley, Southern California's Wine Country, located 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles and one hour north of San Diego, attracts over a million visitors each year.

Temecula Valley, Southern California’s Wine Country, located 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles and one hour north of San Diego, attracts over a million visitors each year.

(George Rose / Getty Images)

When you say the words Temecula Valley, one word immediately springs to mind: wine. Located just an hour north of San Diego, the wine country in and surrounding Temecula has exploded into over 40 wineries with sprawling estates along with a range of impressive restaurants to tempt the palate.

With granite soil and a micro climate that includes morning mist and warm mid-day sun, the area specializes in syrah, cabernet, zinfandel and chardonnay varietals. Tailor made for a weekend getaway, the landscape beckons San Diegans from the coastal scene into the countryside.

What to do

Wine tasting: It’s no secret, wine reigns supreme in the area. Take your pick from a plethora of wineries, many located along Rancho California Road, for ease of visiting and travel plans. Try Baily, Briar Rose and Callaway, to name a few, then try your palate along the De Portola Wine Trail, which includes Leoness and eight other wineries. No matter what time of year you visit, there are a range of seasonal events, including Autumnfest from Sept. 1-Nov. 30, live country music shows via Country Live at The Merc (Old Town Community Theater), and a selection of rotating music at wineries.

Galway Spirits Distillery: Need a break from the vino? Take a whiskey (or vodka) break with a selection of craft spirits, including their bourbon, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and orange, their whiskey, with aromas of honey and tobacco, and their coffee, mango, and blood orange flavored vodkas.

42065 Zevo Dr. #7, Temecula, 951.795.5955,

Hot air balloon ride: Fly high over the picturesque wine country aboard a hot air balloon. Sound like perfection? Due to winds in the afternoon and evenings, adventurers will have to rise with the rooster, as rides depart year round at sunrise only. Choose from three companies, California Dreamin’, Magical Adventures and A Grape Escape for this aerial adventure. Magical Adventures offers a range of options including a budget friendly 30-minute ride for $109, an engagement flight, private and semi-private, and even a darkness to day flight, with amenities including champagne, chocolate, breakfast items and souvenir pictures. Prices range from $190-$1250 depending on the package.

Where to eat

The Goat and Vine: This top-rated restaurant gains loyal followers with its mouth-watering array of unique pizzas, salads, sandwiches and shared plates. It will be an excruciating culinary decision, but possible pizza options include the Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie with roasted potato, dinosaur kale, Calabrian chiles, Spanish chorizo, Manchego and chipotle crema; the Jalapeno Lime Carnitas with slow roasted pork shoulder, cotija cheese, jalapeno lime crema, and avocado; or the Thailand with oven roasted chicken, roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, jalapenos and sweet chili sauce.

41911 Fifth St. #100, Temecula, 951.695.5600,

Bluewater Grill: Seafood lovers will swoon at the impressive variety of fresh and sustainable options for lunch and dinner. Take a midday break of tasting wines and try the “Just for Lunch” options, such as the lobster roll in brioche, the Crab “BLTA” with avocado on sourdough, the grilled salmon ciabatta with arugula and citrus aioli, or go homestyle with the Old Bay fried chicken sandwich with Sriracha coleslaw.

26700 Ynez Ct., Temecula, 951.506.2899,

Cheflavor Curated Provisions: Cheese and wine go together like peanut butter and jelly. To satisfy this natural craving, this wine country shop/eatery creates a rustic environment for gastronomic pleasure. Offering cheese platters, a warm baked petit marin brie topped with cabernet-soaked cherries, warm Bavarian pretzels in craft beer cheese dip, and a three-cheese sandwich on the menu, it’s heaven for fromage fans. Lighten the meal with the wild mushroom arugula or grilled vegetable salad.

32119 Temecula Pkwy., Temecula, 951.972.4935,

Bushfire Kitchen: Paying special attention to dietary options, this mindful restaurant (with a Del Mar outpost) offers a range of gluten-free and vegetarian choices, including a quinoa veggie burger with sharp organic local avocado, wild baby arugula, house-pickled red onions, grilled zucchini, and basil pesto aioli. From bowls and braises, to burgers and entrees, Bushfire has something for everyone.

40665 Winchester Rd., Temecula, 951.296.0190,

Where to stay

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa: Go luxe at this retreat complete with an outdoor heated saltwater pool, services at GrapeSeed Spa, and wine country cuisine at The Vineyard Rose Restaurant. Choose from a selection of villas, including the Mountain View King from $329/night, and suites including the Syrah from $259/night and Winemaker’s from $359/night.

34843 Rancho California Rd., Temecula, 951.566.4622,

Carter Estate Winery and Resort: Sleep in SoCal tranquility in one of the vineyard bungalows, which come with two complimentary tasting tickets and complimentary continental breakfast for two, a private patio or overlook the vineyard in a suite, and lounge in your own private cabana by the pool (from $199/night).

34450 Rancho California Rd., Temecula, 844.851.2138,

The entrance to Europa Village in Temecula.

The entrance to Europa Village in Temecula.

(George Rose / Getty Images)

Inn at Europa Village: For a bed and breakfast experience, head to this hilltop locale for a serene wine country getaway. Run by award winning executive chef Dean Thomas and his wife Nicole, the Inn treats guests to world class cuisine, daily sangria welcome, wine tasting discounts and a variety of room options, including the Cabernet, Tempranillo, Pinot Grigio, and even a racy Libido. Rooms start at $210/night. You can even hop onto a hot air balloon ride from nearby Europa Village.

33350 La Serena Way, Temecula, 951.676.7047,


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