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.

Danza del Sol Winery

Photo by: Visit California

Visit California

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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.

Wine Tastings

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:

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red roses, Temecula vineyard, white fence, cypress trees, wine country

Photo by: ©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

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.

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Temecula, hot air balloons

Photo by: Visit California

Visit California

Equestrian Tours

Explore one of the many Temecula Valley trails on horseback, and sample some grapes straight from the vines on your journey.

Bike Trails

Stretch those legs, folks. There are more than 90 miles of bike trails in Temecula Valley for cyclists of all levels.

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Temecula vineyard, wine country, looking through trees, mountains, winding road, windswept trees

Photo by: ©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

Hiking

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).

Agriculture Tours

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.

Old Town

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Historic old town Temecula main street, California

Photo by: ©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

©istockphoto.com/Ron Thomas

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.

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Temecula, California, USA- May 31,2015.Colorful hot air balloons soar over Temecula wine country at the 2015 Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival. The Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival takes place in the spring at Lake Skinner in the Temecula wine country about 2 hours from Los Angeles.

Photo by: ©istockphoto.com/KGrif

©istockphoto.com/KGrif

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Temecula, hot air balloons

Photo by: Visit California

Visit California

Head North to Napa + Sonoma

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Visit the region's best wineries on a road trip through Northern California's wine country.

Highway 29

Take California State Route 29 to see some of the region’s best vineyards and wineries. Through Napa Valley, Highway 29 passes through Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville and Napa.

Silverado Trail

Hit the road early to capture the serene vineyards along the Silverado Trail, a scenic route along the eastern edge of Napa Valley. Most locals suggest taking this route to avoid traffic on California State Route 29, which runs parallel to the Trail.

Photo By: seligmanwaite, Flickr

Wine Country

Northern California's wine country beckons visitors with hundreds of wineries spread across 3 counties.

Photo By: By John Morgan [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Photo By: Jim G., Flickr

Cabernet

Northern California's climate is ideal for growing grapes like these ripe ones used to make a fine cabernet.

Photo By: By Jakob federer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Beringer Rhine House

Make a stop at the Beringer Rhine House -- Napa Valley’s oldest continuously operating winery. Enjoy the award-winning wines, rich history and beautifully landscaped grounds.

Photo By: Chuck O'Rear

California Wine

The best way to appreciate Northern California's wine country is to sample the goods along the way.

Photo By: By Brian Solis [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Old Faithful Geyser of California

While you’re on your road trip, we suggestion stopping by the Old Faithful Geyser of California, located in Calistoga, CA. It’s just one of many roadside attractions you’ll see along the way.

Photo By: Kunal Mukherjee, flickr

Picturesque Vineyards

Bring along a camera for photo opportunities in the acres of rolling vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Photo By: By Rennett Stowe from USA (Napa Valley Vineyard) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Photo By: Kopol Bonick Studio

Wine Production

These terraced vineyards in Sonoma rely on biodynamic agricultural techniques to produce local wine.

Photo By: Lynn Betts / Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service., via Wikimedia Commons

Oxbow Public Market

Go local! Visit the Oxbow Public Market in Napa Valley to sample the local community’s best, including fresh food, wine and cheese. Take Highway 29 to the city of Napa; take the 1st Street Exit (bear right to head east); and look for signs marked ‘Oxbow Public Market’.

Photo By: Oxbow Public Market

Merlot

Pre-veraison, these grapes will be used to make Merlot once they ripen.

Photo By: By David Huang (Flickr: Merlot) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sterling Vineyard

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.

Photo By: Jim G., Flickr

Years of Preparation

These vines in Sonoma have been used for growing grapes for nearly 90 years.

Photo By: By dynamosquito (Flickr: Ceps) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Photo By: collectmoments, Flickr

The Grapes

These grapes may become a bottle of your favorite California wine, but you'll have to wait a few years to try it.

Photo By: By Tomás Castelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Downtown Napa

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.

Photo By: Napa Downtown Association

Mud Bath

Unwind and relax with a mud bath at one of several spas located in Napa Valley, including Meadowood, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs, Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Indian Springs Resort and Roman Spa Motel.

Photo By: Getty Images

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