Temecula Valley Wine Country: A Hidden SoCal Gem
With Los Angeles and San Diego both less than 100 miles away, Temecula's rolling vineyards are a true escape from the hustle and bustle.
When my best friend said she was getting married in wine country, I immediately pictured Northern California wine trails. What I got, though, was a spectacular hidden gem just 60 miles north of San Diego.
Temecula is a quiet city in southwestern Riverside County, Calif., that has only recently become a tourist destination. And when I say recently, I mean a few decades. Although the Temecula Valley has been producing wine since the '70s, many still find it shocking to find rows and rows of vineyards just outside the desert. There are more than 40 wineries and 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Temecula Valley, creating more than 50 varietals, from Chardonnay to Syrah. But it's not just the wine that sets this quaint city apart — it's the tasting experiences. Don't leave Temecula without doing one (or all) of these.
You have more than 40 to choose from, so you better get started! Here are few picks from a Temecula local to help you begin on your journey:
Must-Do: Hot-Air Ballooning
The best way to see Temecula? By hot-air balloon, of course! Soak up the incredible vineyards and immaculate scenery from 1,500 feet in the sky. The tours are available year-round, so you can observe the seasonal changes in the landscape.
Explore one of the many Temecula Valley trails on horseback, and sample some grapes straight from the vines on your journey.
Stretch those legs, folks. There are more than 90 miles of bike trails in Temecula Valley for cyclists of all levels.
Plus, you can find 39 parks and more than 20 miles of trails perfect for leisurely and more high-intensity hikes (and with the best scenery around).
Grapes may be the most popular crop in Temecula Valley, but you'll still find an abundance of fruits and veggies covering the land, thanks to that year-round sunshine. Get a custom farm tour, pick local harvest and take cooking classes by local chefs using the region's best ingredients.
Explore Old Town Temecula and take a step back into the Old West. This is the perfect place to grab wine by the glass and visit small tasting rooms with varietals from growers right down the road.
Don't Miss This: Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival
TVBWF is the event to attend in Temecula Valley in June. Observe sunrise and sunset balloon launches, live entertainment, free tethered balloon flights, wine (duh!), food, art, crafts and more. I mean, just imagine striped balloons free-floating over the California vineyards at sunset. I can't even.
Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa Winery is located near Calistoga, CA. The 121,000-square-foot medieval replica castle includes 107 rooms and 8 levels above and below ground. Among its many features, it has a moat, drawbridge, defensive towers, interior courtyard, chapel, torture chamber and a great hall. Visitors to the vineyard can sample the wines sold at the castle.
Staglin Family Vineyard
The Staglin Family Vineyard, a family-owned Napa Valley winery in Rutherford, CA, produces a variety of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sangiovese and a Bordeaux-style blend. Take a guided tour of the winery, and then at the end of the tour, experience an intimate tasting of Cabernet Sauvignons produced on the estate.
Several vineyards, including the Sterling Vineyard (pictured) in Calistoga, CA, are fun getaways for tourists. See picturesque views from their aerial tram. Guests can also travel the grounds by foot. And with a glass of wine in hand, stroll through art galleries and elevated walkways that allow visitors to see the winemaking process from grape to glass.
Di Rosa Preserve
While you’re on the road, we suggest you visit the Di Rosa Preserve, a 35-acre lake and wildlife. The area is not only rich in an array of flora, fauna and wildlife, but it’s also the canvas to display a broad range of art created by Bay Area artists. Art aficionados can walk the grounds to see art work in the Main Gallery, Gatehouse Gallery, Historic Residence, Courtyard, North Lawn and Sculpture Meadow. It’s an art lover’s paradise.
If wine tasting and tours isn’t you’re thing, then make a pit stop in Downtown Napa. The area has dozens of shops, dessert cafes, bars, restaurants and spas. Hotels and B&Bs are available in the area. It’s a perfect home-base location for visitors to explore nearby vineyards and mix with the locals.